Are you a global brand with localized websites in languages other than English? Do you receive calls, emails, and chat messages in multiple languages? If so, can you effectively and efficiently handle all of these requests, or are you losing customers and sales because you lack the appropriate levels of multilingual capabilities?
There is nothing better than if your agents can speak the language of your customers, including that of international callers. If your customers are within North America, you probably only need to maintain customer service in English, potentially with the addition of Spanish or French — but what if you sell to other countries at the same time?
Today you can sell products and services online around the world, easier than ever before. But because of this, you can also easily lose your customers to other competitors if you don’t speak their language to answer service and support requests. Selling to multiple markets is a great opportunity but it can also be a real challenge. It could be expensive and also very complex, when you think about supporting all of these different markets, channels, and languages while simultaneously scaling for the appropriate volume of the incoming requests.
What are the options for multilingual support?
Keep it in-house and employ international workforce in your region
- With lower support volumes, you may try to tackle the multilingual battle in-house if you have bilingual employees who can provide support in the language of your target market. The challenge with this is how to recruit and manage those agents, especially during scale-ups or scale-downs. This can quickly become costly as well as require significant managerial attention and the relevant in-house language capabilities to be a viable choice.
Keep it in-house and open international offices for customer support
- As the number of international interactions grow, you may consider opening international offices so that you can hire customer support employees locally. A key benefit of this strategy is that it gives you full control over client service, but this requires significant time and investment and is the most expensive solution for multilingual support.
Outsource and find local call centers in each country
- If you are considering involving external agencies, the best choice may be to find a local call center in the country you are expanding to. This can be a manageable option so long as you have to deal with only one or two additional call centers globally. Any more than this could quickly become cumbersome and complex to manage and maintain service standards with the international parties. You must also be prepared to deal with various systems, reporting, service levels, and management teams, which often require frequent visits to those international offices by you or your vendor managers.
Outsource to a cloud-based call center which can cover all languages
- Depending on your needs, contracting one or two cloud-based contact center providers who work with a global pool of agents could be the simplest and most cost-efficient method of providing multilingual support. In this case, you don’t have to deal with multiple stakeholders, systems, methods, or processes — these will be standardized even in different countries, providing you a unified view of your metrics and KPIs. This also enables flexible scaling as customer support interactions increase/decrease within countries or as new markets are explored.
More key points to consider when planning your multilingual customer support strategy
Do your customer support agents need to have basic English knowledge?
The general rule is that if you have high enough demand volumes, it will be sufficient if your agents speak the local language only. However, this setup requires additional local overhead like supervisors and trainers who are multilingual, increasing your costs. On the other hand, if you work with bilingual agents, management fees can be optimized and agent utilization improved, which is especially suggested at low or medium volumes.
Is supporting different dialects relevant to you?
Consider the dialects of your market and pick your agents accordingly. Are you selling to Australia? Get an Australian agent onboard. Do you expand to Switzerland? You might need a Swiss German speaker to best represent your brand with the appropriate dialects and a local market knowledge.
Ultimately, multilingual agent capacity is a business decision with many factors to consider. Serving international markets and clientele is a challenge, and the need for different languages or dialects will be directly tied to the products and services that you provide as well as the volumes of support requests generated in various languages. Options for supporting multiple languages can range from employing in-house bilingual staff to hiring a cloud-based agency with dedicated agents covering all language and dialect needs. Careful evaluation is required, ideally utilizing historical data driven insights along with expansion plans for the best course of action.