Last week, we interviewed Kairi Kallas, Investors Relations Team Lead from Bondora, a P2P lending platform. We discussed the need for localised customer service as a means for a more satisfied customer base. Customers not only need to feel understood; they need solutions to challenges and answers to questions through a communication platform comfortable to them, in a language they prefer.
In previous articles of this series, we’ve established that multilingual customer support leads to increased loyalty and trust, sales, and productive feedback. Let’s put these benefits in perspective as we speak to two industry professionals from well-known companies that cater to multilingual clientele. Read on as they discuss simple solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges in multilingual client servicing.
Siddharth Jumani handles client servicing for Pacifica Companies at their Indian HQ in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The company, valued at 3 billion dollars, has completed real estate projects spanning 3 million sq feet with another 8 million under construction across seven cities in India. Pacifica develops commercial and residential properties, including hotels, offices, homes, IT parks, community centres, and more. With over 5000 existing clients, Siddharth’s responsibility is to ensure optimum customer support.
The company offers its customer support through various channels, including live chat, social media, email, phone, text, and Whatsapp. The intention behind employing so many avenues of support is to be available to clients in a way that is most comfortable and convenient for them. However, as with all companies that operate pan India, linguistic diversity has been a significant challenge. Fortunately, Pacifica’s proactive approach and ability to reach out to clients in different languages have largely benefited their business. Let’s find out how:
1: Hello, Siddharth. We want to start by asking what the role of customer service is for the company.
At Pacifica, we do believe that the customer is King (laughs). On a more serious note, however, aside from ensuring customers are genuinely satisfied, customer support is the best mode of marketing. When a customer is happy, positive word of mouth spreads. Customer satisfaction is a crucial part of the realty market in winning over new clients as exit barriers are high, and customers are associated with in-house facility management five years on average.
Makes sense, so other than remote channels of communication, how do you use in-person client support?
The majority of our clients do visit project locations, which makes it essential for us to always provide support in person as well as through other channels. At each location, there is a site office with a trained sales team to offer support. Customer satisfaction is at the heart of our company’s values and culture. An issue that starts at the agent level is escalated until it reaches the Managing Director if a solution is not found.
2: Is support available in different languages or localised for clients depending on location?
Oh, absolutely. Helping a customer find a solution is important, but what’s more important is to ensure they are heard and understood – that there is a way for them to communicate effectively. Although our online channels are generally only available in English as of now, all customer service reps are mandated to know at least two languages – English and Hindi. We prefer candidates that also know an additional local language, native to the state or region where they are expected to work.
That’s a great initiative.
3: What are some of the language challenges that the company has faced with respect to customer service, and how did you overcome them?
I would say we’ve faced language problems in all our locations at some point or another. It’s part of operating in such a linguistically diverse country. One notable example is our experience working in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, where many clients are most comfortable speaking their native language. Being a southern state, we ensure that all our employees there have a firm hold on the native language, Tamil and English, with some North Indian employees who can communicate in Hindi and English. But for us, localising isn’t just limited to customer support. Internal communication is just as important. Therefore, we have a Tamil – speaking team member at our HQ in Ahmedabad to help us communicate with the Chennai team, especially for issues that may have escalated. This approach has been extremely beneficial and has boosted employee morale and positively impacted growth.
What a brilliant way of fostering inclusiveness and addressing a key challenge for your company!
4: Thank you for your time, Siddharth. Our last question is - what advice do you have for businesses that want to begin addressing language challenges?
That’s a good one. I would suggest you get to know your target audience and shortlist the languages you must adapt to. Your effort should not end just at finding multilingual agents. You must train them to provide customers with the option of conversing in any of the language options you offer. They need to identify how comfortable customers are and be proactive in their approach. It’s really just about finding the right balance.
I hope this discussion helps businesses take the right step in wanting to go global or maybe, in this case, to go local!
Our next expert, Alok Pandit, leads Marketing and Sales for Shanku’s Group, well-known for starting India’s first waterpark in 1992. It has recently been renovated, making it Asia’s largest.
Alongside the waterpark, Shanku’s also runs a school, a naturopathy and wellness centre, a resort, a pharmaceutical unit, a hospital, a catering division and has even recently begun film production. Most of the Shankus’ ventures are based in Mehsana, India and run on the principles of sath, chit and anand, which mean health, education, and happiness (entertainment).
With such a diverse portfolio of business, Shanku’s attracts clients from all corners of the country and the world. This means customer service is a top priority for the company. Find out how Shanku’s achieves this mammoth task with ease, as we discuss their waterpark, hospital, and wellness centre with Alok.
1: Hi Alok, could you tell us how customer service works at Shanku's? What are the channels you regularly use?
Of course. At Shanku’s, we use a customized customer service approach. Most of our offerings are services that are experience-based, which generally means that you need to avail them in person. That is also where we focus most of our energy in terms of customer support. For example, at the hospital we run, our primary goal is to ensure patients are comfortable. That means we brainstorm patient expectations, offer them refreshments, talk to them, and help them feel like they are family. We also ensure that no patient is denied treatment because of a lack of finances.
2: What is your client base like? Are many clients multilingual? How do you cater to their language preferences?
Operating in Gujarat means that there is a possibility of language preference being Gujarati, Hindi, or English. If we look at the hospital, in particular, most clients are local and speak Gujarati. However, with increasing medical tourism, we know there will soon be a shift. We assure all signs are in those three languages and that there are multilingual support executives available to answer queries. On the other hand, the waterpark and wellness centre see a large footfall from neighbouring states where Hindi is more commonly spoken. All of our staff is trained not only to speak in Hindi but also taught how to perfect accent and avoid borrowing Gujarati words while speaking in Hindi.
3: What are some of the language challenges that the company has faced concerning customer service, and how did you overcome them?
For years, we’ve hired people from nearby villages as a part of our sustainability initiative. Unfortunately, their exposure to Hindi is limited, and they have next to no knowledge of English. This becomes a challenge, especially when we have foreign clients for whom we need a manager or translator to intervene. As a solution, we focus on rigorous training and development. Our veteran employees from the waterpark were sent to Dubai for training before the new park opened. Similarly, our wellness centre staff was trained in Bangalore at the renowned Jindal Naturopathy Center. Such training helps our employees understand the value of customer service, and they are more motivated when it comes to learning how to communicate in basic English.
That’s great. It must be so rewarding for your oldest staff members to travel the world and use their learnings back home.
4: Lastly, what advice do you have for businesses facing similar challenges and want to offer multilingual customer support?
As a business owner, you need to understand and respect the power of good customer service and word of mouth marketing. Secondly, you need to analyse your customer base and decide what resources you will need. A good language service provider can do wonders in reducing that burden. And lastly, as we do at Shanku’s, you need to focus on training your employees to reflect what your company stands for.
Great advice! Thank you for your time and help.
You’re most welcome!