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Speaking your language in customer service

Posted November 21, 2019
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English has long been considered the international language of business. But, many of today’s leading global brands recognize that it’s no longer ‘king’ when it comes to customer support.

When you consider that Mandarin Chinese is the most popular language in the world, with 3.5 times as many speakers as native English speakers, it shouldn’t be all that surprising. Moreover, Hindi, Spanish, French and Arabic are the next biggest dialects in addition to English.

This means a multilingual customer care approach is key to staying competitive in a global marketplace, but it hasn’t always been easy to deliver. Serving more than one language from a contact center has traditionally been considered a resource-intensive challenge. Not to mention the difficulties with accurately predicting how the demand for different languages may evolve in the future.

Fortunately, advancements in technology involving artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are enabling global brands to eliminate language barriers in cost-effective ways.

The case for multilingual customer care

According to the World Economic Forum, more than half the internet is in English, even though only 5% of the people in the world are native speakers. Billions of people living in nearly 200 countries are shopping in the global marketplace, and many of them are more likely to buy from, recommend and stay loyal to brands that offer customer care in a language they speak.

Figures from CSA Research, an independent market research firm, show that about 75% of shoppers in non-English-speaking countries say they would rather buy — and 60% say they exclusively buy — from websites written in their native language.

This increased need for multilingual customer service is fueling the growing global market for outsourced translation and technology. Impressively, the industry is expected to grow by 6.62%, reaching almost $50 billion by the end of 2019, according to CSA Research’s Whos Who in Language Services and Technology: 2019 Ranking.

Collectively, these figures make it clear that global businesses that take a multilingual approach will gain the upper hand when it comes to attracting new customers who may become loyal customers who will in turn promote the company through word of mouth — in their native language, of course.

New tech tools help you speak to customers

AI technology is rapidly evolving to offer solutions that didn’t exist a few months ago. Innovations such as real-time translation bots that are capable of automating the translation of text from one language to another almost instantaneously are in use by customer support agents today. Through machine learning, the technology’s encoder breaks down complex sentence structures and rearranges the information into the target language. This allows the agent to communicate with the customer via their preferred language without missing a beat.

Here are four ways that real-time translation bots can benefit your business and help you attract, sell to and serve your global customer base.

1. Lower your costs. A study by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) found that more than 85% of contact centers report having non-English speaking customers, and that almost 33% of those that don’t offer multilingual support lack the budget to add additional languages. Multilingual technology tools are an afforable alternative solution to companies having to anticipate language needs, find the right talent and train multilingual staff in multiple locations.

2. Offer speedier service. AI tools allow agents to adapt to customer needs and serve them quickly and seamlessly in their native language. Agents no longer have to make customers wait while they route the customer to an agent who speaks that language or, if an appropriate agent isn’t available, face the stress of scrambling to find someone in the company who can fill in. Incredibly, the latter solution was actually favored by almost 37% of contact centers that responded to the ICMI survey.

3. Improve customer experience. Evolving technology allows agents to offer first-contact resolution of issues and questions, providing a frictionless experience for the customer. This can improve customer engagement and brand loyalty among non-English-speaking customers.

4. Empower your agents and improve engagement. A language barrier isn’t just annoying for customers. It also can be a source of workplace frustration for customer service agents. About half the agents in the ICMI survey disliked assisting non-English-speaking customers, and 66% cited frustration with the language barrier as the reason. Real-time translation tools, such as bots, work in the background, creating a smooth experience for both the agent and the customer.

Meeting the growing demand for non-English-language customer support will continue to present major challenges for global businesses over the near and long terms. But next-gen tech tools that utilize AI and machine learning can help tackle language barriers in order to better serve their customers in a diverse and ever-evolving multilingual world.

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