3 Strategies to Improve Your International Customer Support

September 23, 2020

Logitech started in Switzerland, expanded to Silicon Valley, and now offers its products to customers all over the globe. But scaling up customer support hasn’t been linear. 

As John Wie, Director of Customer Experience there put it, “We would measure CSAT scores with customers internationally, and notice that we were receiving a lot of negative feedback on the translation quality — because we were using a generic translation tool. It wouldn’t get the slang customers sent in and our response would be erroneously translated.”

Even for a company with international DNA, it was hard to scale customer service to support high-volume English inquiries and low-volume inquiries in many other languages. To deliver a high-quality native-language customer experience, Logitech turned to Unbabel. Now, Wie says, “We’ve been able to effectively translate customer-facing messages in Zendesk, without things getting lost in translation or confusion — not the Logitech brand, not the specialized terms that our customers use when they speak to us.”

Why Multilingual Customer Support Matters

Logitech is hardly alone here. Globalization is the name of the game now for almost every business on Earth. Most organizations cannot get away with only supporting English or HQ’s native language anymore. 

The pandemic has further demonstrated the importance of customer service agility. For many businesses today, the key to long-term survival and success lies in being able to support customers around the world. Imagine if travel companies continued to only support English-speaking customers at a time when U.S. citizens are not able to travel most places.

The bottom line is that no customer service team can afford to ignore international customers or provide them with sub-par service. No matter what language a customer speaks, they deserve robust, high-quality service in their native tongue. 

In this post, we’ll explain how to better support your international customer base to achieve revenue goals, decrease customer service team churn, and delight customers – no matter where they are or how they say “hello.”

Tip #1: Consolidate to text-based channels

Customers prefer to engage with businesses via text-based channels. Live chat customer satisfaction levels hover around 73 percent, while email is at 61 percent. Phone support trails these channels at 44 percent satisfaction. The most commonly cited reasons for preference among channels are the speed and efficiency with which questions can be answered, and the ability for customers to multitask while waiting for an answer. 

Fortunately, text-based channels are also a more effective way to communicate when the rep and customer don’t speak the same language. In this case, a translation layer can be added into the mix. With the exception of live chat, text-based channels also enable asynchronous communication. This can be a huge benefit because it frees customers up from waiting on the phone or in a support queue that can increase already-present frustration. 

Bottom line: Where possible, consolidate to text-based channels to better support your international customer base. 

Tip #2: Use machine translation to scale up

Few, if any, companies can successfully maintain a team of customer service representatives who speak every customer language. 

A recent Common Sense Advisory report found customer support teams will be able to reach 90% of total online GDP with only 16 languages by the year 2022. But even if your team decided to only focus on those 16 languages, it can be incredibly difficult to have the right number of reps who speak the right languages ready to go at any given moment. Customer service demands in different languages can fluctuate based on events beyond a business’ control (like strikes, natural disasters, and geopolitical happenings).

Invest in machine translation to scale up customer support for any and all languages your customers speak. Machine translation allows customer service reps to receive automatically translated customer inquiries in a language they understand, then rapidly respond in the customer’s original language. 

The most successful machine translation solutions include “humans-in-the-loop.” Humans provide two valuable services:

  • Reviewing and correcting translations for accuracy and quality
  • Feeding corrected translations back into the algorithm 

This ensures continuous improvement in the quality of communications that customers receive from a business. 

Bottom line: Deploy machine translation to scale customer service across any and all necessary languages.

Tip #3: Empower customers with self-service 

Finally, one of the best ways to ensure customer satisfaction is to enable customers to get the answers they need without waiting for a human or even a machine to respond. Did you know 81 percent of customers try to solve their own problems before reaching out to customer service? That’s a good thing! The faster they find answers, the happier they will be. 

To empower customers to use self-service wherever possible—while also arming your agents with the information they need to quickly resolve inquiries—it’s key to have a continually updated knowledge base. Artificial intelligence and machine translation can also be used with your knowledge base, including FAQs.

First, be sure to translate your knowledge base into as many languages as necessary. If a customer who speaks Chinese can search your knowledge base and find out how to reset their own password, great! One less support ticket to triage. Artificial intelligence can help pinpoint frequent questions that should be added to your knowledge base over time, as well. 

Bottom line: Help them help themselves by maintaining a multilingual, easily searchable, and regularly updated knowledge base.

Parting words: On the importance of cultural nuances

As you consolidate to text-based channels, deploy machine translation, and offer customers self-service tools, it’s also important to study and understand cultural nuances. These can have a massive impact on how your brand is perceived by customers. 

For example, expectations around business communication tone and style vary a lot from culture to culture. Some regions value formal communication styles, while others prefer converse in a casual, approachable manner. 

It can be effective to maintain a set of cultural and language guidelines for your customer support team that offers quick tips for communicating in a way that will convey that you care about customers, no matter their language or cultural context. 

With the strategies in this post, your customer service team can uplevel international support and earn a happy base of global customers.

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