10 tips on delivering outstanding customer service across multiple languages
We often hear that the internet is making the world smaller. It’s never been easier to reach
customers on the other side of the globe, whether you’re a home-based entrepreneur or a major company. But that doesn’t change the old adage that the customer is always right. And keeping them happy across borders isn’t always quite so simple.
It can particularly difficult if you’re marketing in foreign languages. Few things make customers so frustrated as companies who won’t respond to them. We’ve all come across a badly translated website, or a customer service number that no one answers! And of course, satisfied (or annoyed) customers can make or break your business.
The key is to keep the communication channels open, whether that’s email, phones, instant chat or social media. Of course it takes time to understand each enquiry and respond in the correct language. But with the number of non-English-speaking web users rising rapidly, this can result in huge payoffs in reaching a massive global audience.
Here are a few tips to make sure your customer service isn’t lost in translation:
1. Get your website right
Translating your website is the first step to reaching international customers. There’s plenty of evidence that people are reluctant to buy goods online if there’s no information in their mother tongue. It might be tempting to simply run it through Google Translate. But machine translation tools tend to produce over literal results, with no awareness of context. Native-speaking translators will ensure your text is polished and easy to understand.
2. Be available!
Make sure your contact details are clearly displayed. Most customers won’t want to pay for
expensive international phone calls. Unless you can afford locally-based staff, it’s best to make email the main contact method.
3. Speak their language
If you’re on a tight budget, Google Translate can be a smart way of understanding the gist of incoming emails and enquiries. But you’ll want to make sure the responses are written by a native speaker, so they’re word perfect.
4. Don’t forget social media
You’ve probably heard the saying that a satisfied customer tells three friends, but an unhappy one tells 10? In the age of Twitter and Facebook, this could easily be 10,000! Setting up social media feeds in your target market is a great start. Make sure you monitor them daily, and respond as quickly as possible.
5. Be social!
This might be obvious, but the key to success on social media is to engage and interact with customers. Invite feedback, good or bad. An instant chat platform is also a great way to get a conversation going.
6. Keep it local
We might live in a “global village” but people are still more likely to trust local suppliers. It’s best to have separate websites for each country, rather than assuming a single Spanish one will cover Spain and Latin America. This gives customers confidence, and allows you to tailor marketing to your audience.
7. Consider cultural differences
Americans tend to be fairly informal, using first names to appear friendly and approachable. This isn’t the case everywhere. In Germany, it’s best to call customers “Herr Schmidt” or “Frau Weber”, unless you know them well. The Japanese are famously polite and getting it right can be tricky! Asking a native speaker’s advice is the best route.
8. Get the details right
It can be easy to overlook things like changing the currency, but unsurprisingly, your European customers don’t want to make a purchase in dollars! Research the most popular payment methods. Germans, for example, are reluctant to give their credit card details online, while the French still like to pay by check.
9. Create a culture of good service
The online clothing and shoe company Zappos is often considered a model of customer service. Part of their ethos is treating employees like customers – ensuring they’re happy and prepared to go the extra mile. This is a good rule, whether you have a handful of employees or hundreds.
10. If at first you don’t succeed…
Even the best companies make mistakes. If you mess up, apologize promptly, listen to the complaint and do your best to put it right. If you go above and beyond their expectations, the chances are you’ll end up with a satisfied customer. And they might even tell their friends.
Bio: Christian Arno is the founder of professional translation services provider Lingo24. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 160 employees spanning four continents and clients in over sixty countries. In the past twelve months, they have translated more than 40 million words for businesses in every industry sector, including MTV and World Bank. www.lingo24us.com