Insights from Multilingual Customer Service Experts (Part One)
In the previous articles of this series, we traced back the journey of multilingual customer service from the emergence of telephone switchboards to full-fledged multilingual support teams operating across various customer service channels for companies like Booking.com, Uber, and Airbnb. Communicating in a customer’s preferred language solves a host of issues that may otherwise hinder a customer’s experience while engaging with a brand. Reaching out to customers in their native language is a sure shot method to increase their trust and loyalty towards your business.
In the next few articles, we’ll share insights and advice through interviews with experts, experienced in providing multilingual customer service. With us today, is Kairi Kallas, Investors Relations Team Lead from Bondora, a company headquartered in Estonia. Kairi will be sharing how Bondora’s customer service model works, what measures they take to assist their clients from 85 countries, and what to look for in a great localization partner.
1: Could you please start by telling us about the role of customer service in your company?
Customer service can make or break your business. It determines whether your customers tell their friends about you, your reputation and if they hold you in higher regard compared to your competitors. Our Investor Relations Associates are often the first point of human contact for our customers – which is why it’s a critical role within the organisation. The goal within the team is to explain all the topics in simple and clear language, while still building relationships with investors.
2: What is your customer service process like?
We produce a lot of support content in different languages – FAQs, how-to videos, blog posts, etc. This, along with in-product support (e.g., tooltips), reduces the need for customers to contact us directly in the first place, because they can find the answer themselves much quicker. If they still need to contact us, we send an automated email telling them when they can expect a response from us.
After responding and resolving the query, the customer can rate their level of satisfaction, which is then reviewed internally by our Investor Relations Team Lead. We can then act on feedback (good and bad) to improve our customer service.
3: Which customer service channels does the company regularly use (live chat, email, phone, social media)?
Our main channel of communication is via email and over the phone. Over time, we’ve tested other methods – such as live chat. However, we try to keep the number of channels low so we can exceed investors’ expectations about the time they wait for a response. If you have multiple channels, it becomes difficult to prioritise (especially within a small team). That being said, customers can still reach out to us on all major social media networks.
4: Are your customer service channels currently multilingual?
We have investors from 85 countries, so it’s not possible for us to provide multilingual support in all languages. But we agree that having native support available makes customers feel much more comfortable and safe. We have our platform available in 24 European languages – so the user experience is seamless for our main demographic of users. For now, our team provides support in 3 main languages – German, Estonian, and English.
5: What are some of the language challenges that the company has faced concerning customer service, and how were they addressed?
Having investors from 85 countries can be a challenge for support. We tested localising our site into French to see if that improved engagement, conversions, and reduced the number of support queries. Our stats showed it worked. So we decided to localise our full site into 24 European languages at the beginning of 2019. As a result, the user experience is simple and straightforward for users all over Europe – and it’s much easier for them to recommend their friends and family to use Bondora.
6: What measures can be taken by businesses to reduce communication errors?
The first thing to note is that despite all precautionary measures, you will have occasions where communication errors happen. You can resolve them, but to limit the frequency, you should first create a simple database of common questions you’ve received from your customers. You can then create content for your public support site and use these pre-approved answers to respond to customer queries.
The second is to implement useful languages tools (many are free), such as Grammarly, which can help correct simple mistakes that can sometimes make a big impact.
The third and arguably most important point is to train your team regularly and provide regular communications on product updates or changes. If your people are in the know, your customers will be in the know too.
7: Lastly, we'd like to know what tips you have for businesses that want to start offering customer service in multiple languages.
This is highly dependent on the type of business – for example, the size, daily routines, and future plans for the business. But in general, the best place to start is by focusing on your largest existing market, or the most significant target market if you’re not there yet.
Once you’ve decided to support a specific language, be extremely selective in your hiring process (in other words, hire only the best people). Make sure your candidate’s language skills are assessed by native speakers. You can outsource this to an external translation and localisation company or even utilise your existing multilingual customer base if they’re willing.
It’s my pleasure. I’m glad to be of help!