Customer Service Improvement by Localization Teams and Language Services
Customer service is likely the next big wave of localisation coming our way as companies realise they must retain non-English speaking customers.
In the translation we’ve been hearing about ‘localisation’ for so long it’s like a lecture or a sermon you’ve heard so often you have a Pavlovian reaction to it: Your eyes grow heavy and your mind drifts, because you’ve heard it all before and no new points are being made. That doesn’t mean that localisation is unimportant, just that the major points concerned with it have been adequately expressed many times, and all of us in the language translation have worked with localisation teams at one point or another, I think.
But there is a new wrinkle in the localisation conversation. Most localisation efforts are concentrated on the ‘before’ of commerce: Marketing and advertising to attract and convert customers. The emerging problem is that once you get someone to become a customer, you then have to retain them as customers through service – and very few of the companies that have put significant resources into that end of things.
Customer Service Components
By its very nature, customer service requires a lot of language localisation in a country like the United States. They have a huge Spanish-speaking population, for example, and while a huge proportion of them also speak English, they are naturally more comfortable and more confident in their native language. Whatever you might think about immigrants and ethnic groups learning to speak the dominant language in an adopted country, the fact is from a commerce point of view your customers will be happier if they have the option of contacting your in their primary language.
That means all aspects of customer service have to be translated:
- Web sites, including Spanish-language email contacts
- Phone customers service has to offer a Spanish option
- Packaging and instruction manuals must offer translated versions
This is a huge undertaking and quite the opportunity for localisation-trained translation folks, but it goes even further than this.
Cultural Aspects of Customer Service
Most of the Spanish-speaking population in the United States (indeed, most immigrants in general) regard themselves as Americans despite perhaps not speaking English well. But they still bring their own cultural blind spots and peculiarities that should be taken into consideration. Many cultures, for example, prize respect and politeness, and customer service scripts or representatives who don’t offer this respect can sour a customer relationship before it gets very far.
Ethnicities are also understandably sensitive to being treated as any sort of ‘second-class citizen’ and will often be much easier to offend than more established ethnicities or the ethnic majority in a country. That means the customer service mechanisms have to be very carefully planned so as to give no offence.
This is likely the next big wave of localisation as companies realise they’ve succeeded in attracting these huge groups of customers – but must now retain them.
Image courtesy theyec.org