7 Essential Keys to an Efficient Multilingual Customer Support

multilingual-customer-supportAs markets become more and more diverse, it becomes a necessity for businesses to communicate with customers across language barriers. Being able to speak to someone in their language establishes trust, which is essential at all stages of the purchasing cycle, including customer support.
In fact, a report from Common Sense Advisory (CSA) revealed that 74% of customers are more likely to purchase from the same company again if the post-sales support is in their language.
As a company who thrives in the multilingual customer support industry, we learned a lot about how to maintain a multi-cultural and multilingual support system through the years.
If you’re looking to employ multilingual customer support in your operation, here are seven things you need to know in order to succeed.

1. Identify level of support needed

Jeff Mills, CEO of human translation service, Gengo, says the primary step to multilingual support is to consider various factors such as target markets and the depth of presence.
For larger businesses and those with more mature market presence, you’ll likely need a support staff of native speakers within the country. For smaller teams or start-up companies, you can integrate low-cost alternatives such as a translation service within your ticketing system.
You should also decide on which languages you’ll need to offer, when to implement such and how much it would cost (i.e. 24/7, by time zone, etc.). The best way to reach a sound and strategic decision is to analyze the target market and current customer base.

2. Analyze the scope of customer queries

BusinessNewsDaily recommends assessing customer queries in developing a multilingual and multicultural customer service plan. Customer queries typically fall into four categories with increasing complexity: informational (“Where can I find my billing statement online?”), transactional (“Can you remove my plan add-on?”), advice-related (“What is the best cable broadband plan for my family?”), and diagnostic (“My internet connection is not working”).
“The more complex the queries are, the greater the need is for multilingual support,” BusinessNewsDaily explains. “On average, transactional, diagnostic, and advice-related queries present more service differentiation opportunities through multilingual support than informational ones.”

3. Hire and train staff with the right cultural fit

While it is, of course, crucial to evaluate candidates through oral and written language tests, it’s just as important to hire individuals with the right cultural fit. Your support team will have to provide customer service for people not only speaking different languages but also belonging to a different culture—who might have particular expectations for customer service.
Cross-cultural communication is also a vital aspect of every agent’s training. It’s important to cover topics such as vocabulary, tone, and cultural etiquette. Clearly, this is more important in phone interactions than in other channels such as email due to its real-time and high-touch nature. This should be supplemented with voice modulation training and accent neutralization for offshore phone agents.

4. Implement cross-cultural policies and practices

Customer service is often employed with little or no consideration to cultural aspects, and an effective multilingual support team should definitely do so. For example, think twice before implementing cross-selling or upselling.
In some countries, it may not be polite to cross-sell even at the end of a successful customer service interaction. Likewise, a 48-hour response time for email queries may be acceptable in some cultures, but tantamount to ignoring them in others.
The key is to take a look at the local cultures of the native language you’ll be providing support for, and integrate those into your operations. At the most fundamental level, this involves creating policies and guidelines for using clear and simple language easily understood by non-native speakers.

5. Localize customer support pages

It’s critical to give customers a way to help themselves before turning to support. Ensure that customer support pages are localized and that guidelines, how-to lists, and FAQs are available in all supported languages.
Support pages offer your customers their first opportunity to find answers to their queries and the tools for on-boarding. Any content available in your primary language, which customers must understand should be localized.

6. Translate the knowledge base

Matthew Chabrier of Salesforce emphasizes that knowledge is power, especially for a multilingual support team. The knowledge base is the backbone of any support operation, as it enables your agents to serve customers with confidence. It’s also a primary source of learning and reference for new employees.
Offering support in multiple languages compounds the challenge of keeping knowledge relevant and accurate. To combat this, the support manager must be able to monitor who updates content, what content has been updated, and which translations are out of date. Only with visibility and control can they ensure content is a valuable resource rather than forgotten text.

7. Communicate multilingual support availability

Managing expectations is an important key for succeeding in multilingual customer support. Most customers won’t expect that you offer support across all channels, hours, and languages. Still, to avoid unnecessary frustration and disappointment, proactively communicate what you do and don’t provide.
With these seven simple steps, organizations of different sizes can be assured that their multilingual customer support would be an advantage to their operation. Just take all these into account to deliver high-quality customer service, which consumers would highly appreciate.
Image credit: Speedlinesolutions.com