Strategy & Best Practices

5 Best Practices for Delivering Multilingual Customer Support

By R.J. Stangle / October 4, 2016

Five Best Practices Customer Support

In today’s globalized world, changing demographics have led to a greater diversity of languages being adopted within many countries. Take Canada for example, where languages such as Spanish, Mandarin, Arabic and Persian have all seen growth of over 30% within a span of only five years.

This shift is making it imperative for brands to be prepared to support their customers in multiple languages, while simultaneously maintaining a high quality customer experience. In fact, a recent survey found that 79% of contact centers have customers who are not native speakers of the primary languages they support.

Read on to learn five best practices for offering superior support in multiple languages.

1. Emphasize language skills when recruiting

As discussed in previous blog posts, hiring the right people is crucial in technical support. However, this becomes more challenging when you require agents to have a varied skill set including: technical domain expertise, empathy and interpersonal skills, and fluency in two to three different languages.

In fact, it has been reported that the greatest barrier to providing support across multiple languages is recruiting and retaining skilled bi/multilingual agents. Strong language skills are in high demand across many different industries, making it more difficult to recruit potential candidates. This also translates into higher costs, as it is estimated that multilingual agents can command a 5-20% premium when compared to single language speakers.

While an emphasis on language skills should be placed throughout the recruitment period, it is as important to offer continuous language training to agents after they are hired. This will ensure that they will remain confident in their abilities to handle inquiries from customers in different languages and reduce the chance of having to transfer someone to another agent.

These additional operational costs may not appear to be desirable. However, the improved customer experience and reduced customer effort from having multilingual agents is certainly worth the investment. Ultimately, it makes the entire experience easier on the customer. In fact, a well-known HBR study found that an astounding 94% of respondents who reported a “low effort” interaction with a brand, expressed their intention to buy from them again.

2. Understand limitations

In an ideal world, organizations would fully support customers in any language. However, of the 6,500 languages being spoken throughout the globe, it is easy to see why this is far from feasible. As such, organizations need to strategically decide which languages to support. While it may be enticing to attempt supporting as many different languages as possible, it is important to only offer support for a language that can be supported just as effectively as the primary language(s).

When the inevitable happens and a customer calls who doesn’t speak any of the languages you support, there must be procedures in place on how to handle them.

Unfortunately, many contact centers in these situations simply apologize and continue trying to deliver support in the agent’s primary language.

This is simply not enough to become a customer experience leader.

One way contact centers can better handle these cases is by formally keeping an inventory of any additional, non-supported languages spoken by all the agents. This way, if a customer doesn’t speak any supported languages, they can still be routed to an agent who can effectively communicate with them. Tracking every case in which a customer could not be supported in the language of their choice will provide the data necessary to quantify when to invest in supporting that language.

Lastly, a multilingual chat interface, with real-time language translation, could provide an option to move a language call to chat and provide service a customer might not otherwise have been able to receive – an effort and approach customers will appreciate.

3. Go beyond the languages

Once supported languages are defined, it is important to recognize that having agents that speak the language is not enough to provide an exceptional customer experience. Cultural norms, customs and values need to be taken into consideration as well. And, support strategies will need to be tailored to cater to these differences.

There are also cultural variances when it comes to support channel preferences. For example in the UK, consumers are more willing to use self-service tools and solve their problems on their own, while consumers in France would much prefer to call customer support right away and speak to an expert. This demonstrates the need to conduct thorough research before determining what support channels to offer in different languages and locations.

4. Keep materials updated

Up-to-date support materials, such as website FAQ pages, product training documentation, and onboarding guides, are critical to ensuring customer success with your products and services. But keeping all of this content updated and fresh across multiple languages can be challenging. That said, it is necessary to devote the required resources to develop consistent materials across all supported languages in order to maintain the high level of quality that customers expect from your brand.

Internal materials are equally important to keep current from language to language. Product descriptions, employee training documentation, knowledge base articles, and phone/chat support scripts are among the many materials that will need to be updated on a regular basis.

5. Measure performance

While it should be a no-brainer to measure the quality of support interactions across all languages, a stunning 20% of support centers fail to track any metrics whatsoever for non-primary language interactions. Without properly tracking the quality of support in these situations, it is impossible for an organization to judge what areas of multilingual support they are doing well, and more importantly, what areas they need to improve upon. Some key metrics that are important to measure across all supported languages include:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
  • First Call Resolution (FCR)

When analyzing performance, discrepancies in metrics across languages should be looked for to identify where changes need to be made.

The takeaway

Whether a firm is offering multilingual customer support in a single country or across the globe, they must be able to provide the same high quality customer experience in each language important to their chosen markets. Making sure the proper resources are allocated to these efforts will be sure to pay dividends in the form of more satisfied customers and a stronger brand experience.

Having delivered millions of multilingual premium technical support interactions in English, French, Spanish, Italian and more – AppHelp can help your brand meet the needs of an emerging global customer base.

Contact us today to learn more about how our white label technical support solutions can help enhance your brand’s customer experience!