How to Support a Multilingual Customer Journey from Start to Finish

December 20, 2022

Anticipating customer behavior and delivering a great customer experience is the focal point of every B2C and B2B company. But to compete on a global scale, those customer journeys must be multilingual.

In a recent panel at our recent LangOps Universe event in Lisbon, two customer experience leaders discussed their approaches to implementing a successful multilingual customer journey strategy across different languages.

Here’s a recap of the panel moderated by Unbabel Head of LangOps, Vera Almeida, and featuring: 

First step: Determine what the customer needs

As VP & General Manager at customer support and sales software vendor Freshworks, Simon Johnson has worked with companies of all sizes, from corporations with thousands of employees to mom & pop shops.

Johnson says the three main focus areas for customer satisfaction, regardless of size, should be: 

  • Know how your customers want to be contacted. Is it through WhatsApp or social media? Email? Over the phone? Web forms?

  • Know your current multilingual customer support gaps. What data are you using to understand your gaps? Are you talking to customers and getting direct feedback? Are you looking at CSAT and NPS scores? 

  • Know your top 10 common complaints/inquiries per region. They will be different in English-speaking regions like the UK and the US than in France or Germany given the cultural differences.

“Build your strategy around these initial pieces,” Johnson said. “Start small, not huge, and that’s true whether you’re a startup or you’re Air France.”

Use AI to free up customer support teams

Both panelists agreed that a winning multilingual customer journey strategy should not depend on hiring contact center support agents for their own language expertise, but rather on hiring the right customer support talent for the job.

And this is an area where AI-based translation can reduce language barriers and give agents multilingual superpowers to serve global customers. AI allows agents to utilize their core customer service skills while also serving customer bases in their native tongue through machine translations.

Ruby Rose Walker of Unmind, a digital platform that helps employees measure and manage their own mental health, says AI and machine translation tools help prevent companies from having to hire native language experts or outsourcing for it. Hiring language experts is not usually cost-effective, she said, and may detach multilingual customer service from the company culture.

“Thanks to AI technology and companies such as Unbabel, we’re able to keep great talent in-house close to the company culture and brand,” Walker said. “Before, there wasn’t that opportunity if you wanted to go multilingual.”

Johnson stresses that in addition to automating translations, AI is very effective at making smart suggestions for agents to reduce the amount of time they spend on repetitive work. 

“The AI should suggest responses to the agent, and the responses should be in the customer’s language,” Johnson said. “I think that’s a key part of keeping your support teams motivated and finding consistency across bigger teams.”

Scaling authentically

For Walker, scalability is essential to expanding to new global markets. But she stresses the importance of scaling authentically to effectively reach the target audiences. 

“Scalability is not just in how many languages and people you can reach,” she said. “It’s also about making sure you can stay true to your brand and tone of voice, and that you can continue to scale that brand voice when you go multilingual.”

She adds this is especially true for a company like Unmind that deals with a topic like mental health that requires clear communication and emotional connection to maintain customer loyalty.

“[Mental health] is who we are, so it’s important that that can be translated and scaled.”

Johnson believes that technology is the key to supporting a high-quality, multilingual customer journey. After all, customer retention and brand loyalty depend on technology. It’s how your company connects with international customers and runs experiments in different regions and time zones.

He also emphasized that when it comes to implementing a multilingual customer journey strategy, it should be the responsibility of one person or small team to integrate a multilingual translation strategy company-wide so it’s not stuck in a departmental silo. Such an approach is at the heart of LangOps.

“I really like the term LangOps because it tries to draw it [local language support] under one person,” Johnson said. “It has to be part of the company’s strategy or it will just reactively solve this piece or that, and not properly execute on a complete strategy.”

Click to watch the complete presentation “From Start To Finish and Beyond: The Keys To Creating a Multilingual Customer Journey” and other sessions from LangOps Universe 2022 On-Demand:

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