Mastering Multilingual Customer Service

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We live in a globalized world — and that makes multilingual customer service a must. Here’s how to level up your support offering and master multilingual customer service.

Why multilingual customer service is so important

Want to know why you should care about providing native-level support in your customers’ languages of choice? Basically, it’s all about the bottom line. This CSA research on multilingual customer service found that 75% of customers will be loyal to brands that offer support in their native language. And retailers that offer higher levels of language accessibility are rewarded with the highest growth rates over a 5-year period.

That means if companies want to stay competitive, multilingual customer service is a must. Here’s how to get ahead with multilingual support.

Discover what language(s) your customers speak

First, you need to figure out what languages your customers prefer to speak. You may be surprised by what you find.

Let’s say your customers are largely based in Switzerland. This country has four official languages — German, French, Italian, and Romansh. And as well as Swiss natives, Switzerland is home to immigrant communities speaking English, Portuguese, Spanish, Albanian, and other tongues. So within one small market, you could be serving customers who prefer to communicate in eight or more languages.

Discover how Switzerland’s first online casino served their customers in 4 languages, without hiring a single extra agent.

How do you find out which language your customers prefer using online? Look up IP information, email data, and perhaps even consider conducting a simple survey to see which new customer service languages they’d love to see introduced.

Worried about the cost of hiring local agents? Spoiler alert: with our multilingual, conversational AI-powered customer service platform, you can provide round-the-clock localized support — without having to hire agents in every language you serve.

Beef up your self-service offering

An easy way to offer multilingual customer service in a language not yet covered by your CS agents is to create self-service support options for that language.

Start by translating your FAQ page or knowledge base into your chosen languages. This serves two functions: not only will your customers be able to find answers to their questions independently, but this also reduces the strain on your agents. If customers can access self-serve support for simple issues, they won’t need to reach out to your CS team.

Find out why self-service support is the future of CX.

Bonus strategy: incorporate strong visuals into your website to complement your written content. If done well, this could help customers who don’t speak any of the languages your support team serves.

Finally, once the FAQs or knowledge base has been translated into your chosen languages, shout it from the rooftops! Announce the newly translated sections on your website — in the target language(s) too. This will ensure your customers know it’s there if they need it.

Harness the power of multilingual conversational AI

In some cases, your company may be treading carefully into a new market, and resources may be low while you find your footing. In such cases, hiring a new customer service team with native speakers for this new market may not be feasible.

Enter: the intelligent virtual agent.

These clever little bots can stand in for an entire local customer support team. At Ultimate, our platform runs on multilingual conversational AI — so there’s no danger of introducing errors and inaccuracies (which can be a problem with less advanced bots that rely on a translation layer). Plus, our industry-leading language detection model is built in-house and designed specifically for customer service messages.

That means you can be sure your bot is providing fast, accurate, and joyful support in a customer’s native tongue. Oh, and did we mention our virtual agent can speak 109 languages?

Read how rising fintech star TransferGo automated repetitive queries in 7 languages to deliver fast, high-value customer support.

Of course, there will always be more complex issues that require a human touch. For those cases, you could hire a single customer support agent who speaks the target language. Or you could simply state that you are building out your team, and don’t yet have human agents who can offer support in this language.

Don’t translate — localize

We use the word “translation” for simplicity’s sake, but what we really mean is “localization”.

What’s the difference? Translation is simply changing text from one language to another (think: Google Translate). Localization, however, includes the cultural and non-textual norms of a language, in addition to literal translation. To offer truly native-level multilingual customer service, you’ll need to localize rather than simply translate.

Tobias Wiesner, localization expert and CSO at AdHoc Translations, explains that the focus of a translation should be on readability, grammar, using industry-specific terminology, and precision.

“For localized content, we expect all the above to be followed as well, however, the content needs to blend much more into style, tone and feel of the target audience and culture. This means honoring rules, regulations, values and customs as well as idiomatic phrases.”

- Tobias Wiesner, CSO, AdHoc Translations

So localizing content into Japanese would include adding various degrees of politeness and formality, to accommodate the country’s stringent conventions. And localizing for British English from American English means using different spellings and wordings: think neighbour vs. neighbor, organise vs organize, queue vs. line, pavement vs. sidewalk (you get the idea).

Here are some things to think about when localizing:

  • What are the service expectations of the language speakers you’re translating for? (For example, South American customers prefer phone communication — so any company targeting customers in this region should expand their phone support)
  • What kind of social norms do the language speakers you’re translating for follow, or expect you to follow?

If you fail to localize and only translate, you risk missing out on connecting with your target market.

To sum up

From expanding your self-service options and launching a multilingual virtual agent, to localizing rather than simply translating your support, you’ll find that mastering multilingual customer service can be a pretty smooth (and cost-effective) process.

Level up your CS with a virtual agent that speaks 109 languages