In the thick of internationalization efforts, language can come as an afterthought. Historically, multilingual customer support has been a drain on resources and a strain on operations. And when companies are in the earliest stages of globalization initiatives, their leaders are often grappling with far more basic questions about scaling, streamlining, and strengthening their customer-centric strategies.
For years, Pooja Menon, Customer Experience Consultant at Google, has been helping hundreds of clients to answer these questions, as well as the question that drives Unbabel: How can global businesses deliver a great customer experience in every language at scale?
Ahead of our webinar with Google, we caught up with Pooja to know more about Google’s international growth program, and discuss changing trends in the customer experience world, especially when it comes to providing always-on support in customers’ native languages.
Tell us more about Google’s international growth program and how you’re positioning customer experience as an enabler to succeed internationally.
Overcoming critical operational hurdles relating to Localization, Payments, Logistics & Customer Experience are the keys to success in new markets. Global Business Solutions, provided by Google’s International Growth Team, aims to make internationalization seamless for our advertisers by providing expert advisory, and partner introductions, across each of these areas.
Specifically around Customer Experience, brands need to be there at the right moment, and we can help identify where the gaps are and what they should be doing to fix these. In new markets, when brands are trying to build brand awareness and increase engagement, a poor customer experience can be make-or-break for winning and retaining customers. Our CX Solutions program isn’t just focused on helping companies optimize call center KPIs. We support our advertisers to drive revenue, increase sales, and win loyal customers with a CX strategy that supports customers at every step of the sales funnel.
From your experience where does multilingual support feature in the list of priorities for internationally expanding companies?
Most international companies, irrespective of their size, struggle with multilingual customer support. For larger companies, it’s about scalable solutions and for the smaller ones the focus is on finding sub-scale and economical solutions. Also, important to note is that merely finding multilingual solutions wouldn’t guarantee customer success — the biggest challenge companies face after implementing such solutions to new markets is providing consistent customer support across channels, products, and regions.
Being able to speak to your customer in their own language establishes trust — critical across the purchase funnel, including support. But when done wrong, it can damage the brand, drop customer lifetime value, and worst case scenario, lead to shrinking revenue and profit.
What trends have you noticed across such rapidly growing companies to provide multilingual support?
When the company is in growth mode, there are a lot of exciting changes and investments made within organizations to support that growth. More often than not, this translates into hiring new talent, launching new initiatives and rushing into the next big growth opportunity. The risk, however, is to grow too quickly and start a culture of band-aid solutions instead of putting in the necessary hard work to fix fundamental issues.
Some of the trends we’ve noticed include the following:
- Not knowing where to start: Multilingual support can be expensive, unscalable, and impractical to provide to all customers. Companies at times struggle with understanding and choosing from among all the solutions available to them — in-house, freelance, outsource or technology.
- Assuming multilingual support is a key differentiator for everyone: This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Relevance of native language support can be much higher in one market versus another. Take, for instance, the difference between German – and Dutch – speaking customers with their preference benchmarks for native language support. While both segments are historically expensive to serve natively, German customers express a stronger preference for support in their native language, as opposed to English, meaning companies can adopt two completely different language strategies in neighboring markets with cultural affinities.
- Increasing size to match the increase in sales: To quickly address their growth and utilize funding, we’ve noticed companies relying on hiring more people to support the growing customer base. However, headcount doesn’t need to grow at the same rate as the customers — and hiring too soon jeopardizes growth and underestimates the power of other scalable solutions such as technology and/or outsourcing.
Where do you see this conversation go from here and what are you looking forward to next?
From how I see it, a lot of progress has been made to optimize the support experience for English speaking customers over the last several years. And so, the opportunity in front of us is to repeat that experience for our non-English-speaking customers — not all internet users today speak English. In fact, more than a majority of users still search for online information in their native languages! Even a business doing incredibly well when communicating in English is probably losing customers internationally.
I’m looking forward to our program’s partnership with Unbabel to further alleviate operational challenges of scaling multilingual support solutions to our advertisers.
Like what you’re reading? Watch our webinar
To learn more about Unbabel’s partnership with Google and how to provide efficient, always-on multilingual customer support, please join Pooja Menon and Edmund Ovington, our VP of Global Alliances, for our webinar. Sign up now and we will send you the recording.