Service and Product Globalization
Increasingly, customer service is the main marketing tool for global companies, and that means localisation, and that means translation.
If you were to take an informal poll among your friends and acquaintances regarding the businesses or products they remain loyal to, chances are you’ll find one thing in common with almost all of them: Good customer service. While a truly superior or unique product can sometimes overcome terrible service and remain popular, the fact is people like to feel like they are being served by the companies they pay – that their money means something.
Increasingly, this concept is oozing out there in a form that’s surprising to some but very unsurprising to translation professionals: Localisation. For too long businesses thought they could simply invade foreign markets with their English-only manuals and customer service departments based in the Midwest United States. But slowly they’ve realised the simple truth: If you want to maintain your customer base, you have to hire good translation professionals to localise your products.
More than the Manual
This process starts with your packaging and documentation – it must be locally-focussed. Being local often means a lot more than having a translation worker render all the text into the target language – it often means understanding the market itself as far as design of your packaging goes. Localisation isn’t just translation – there are a lot of moving parts.
Having your packaging and documentation in the local language and respecting local customs is a good start and will make people at least consider your offerings in the market. Bridging that last mile to customer loyalty is all about the customer service they get.
So what is customer service? Certainly, the outer layers of a good customer service experience begins on the phone: If you sell your product in, say, Germany, can German customers easily find a local German phone number to call where a customer service representative will speak German and be knowledgeable about the product? More importantly, does the company as a whole have a sympathetic attitude towards customers from local areas? People can tell when they are being ‘shined on’ or given a less-than-stellar experience, and they resent it.
More importantly, too many companies forget that we live in the Internet Age, which means nothing is truly local any more. A bad experience in South Africa can filter into the German market and make people question a company’s intentions, attitude, and treatment of local markets. Customer service has almost grown out of a company’s control: The expectations of its customers – worldwide – is increasingly determining whether or not a company has good customer service – and the Internet is also giving people a lot more choice of products and services.
Of course, when it’s a huge multi-billion dollar company like Microsoft, no one has any sympathy, and the punishment for poor service is deemed simply justice. But smaller companies often have more problems because of a lack of resources – and their perception on the customer service front can make or break them in a new market. That’s where translation and localisation come into play.
Image courtesy bayintegratedmarketing.wordpress.com