As digital native startups and scale-ups explore international growth, it becomes vital to craft a customer experience (CX) that speaks everybody’s language—literally. 

When brands like yours enter a new market, there’s immense value in providing multilingual CX from the get-go, ensuring every touchpoint, from voice support, chatbots, and social media to websites, apps, and FAQs, speaks directly to the customer in their native tongue.

From a talent perspective, successful multilingual CX is about striking the right balance between language proficiency and customer service expertise, coupled with effective use of technology and continuous improvement. 

The alternative is a widening of the customer journey execution gap — the chasm between what customers expect from service or support experiences and what businesses actually deliver. 

Delivering seamless, multilingual experiences is pretty challenging, especially when focusing on growth. Yet, by leveraging your company’s inherent agility and adaptability and applying the right strategy, you can ensure your CX resonates wherever you choose to expand.

So, how do you go from zero to fluent in multilingual CX? Here are four main things to consider for success.

Step 1: Understanding your new target market 

Entering a new market comes with a commitment to understanding and resonating with a whole new demographic of customers—this knowledge and cultural alignment is the cornerstone of a successful multilingual CX strategy.

First and foremost, delve into the predominant languages of the region. While it might seem obvious, nuances exist. For instance, English and French are widely spoken in a country like Canada, but the preference can vary significantly between provinces. Similarly, dozens of languages are spoken in nations like India, with certain languages dominating specific states. 

Language is the tip of the iceberg; cultural nuances are pivotal in shaping customer expectations and experiences. These can range from the significance of certain holidays and festivals to deeply ingrained societal norms and values. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with these local customs and traditions, as they should directly influence how you design your CX. 

Begin by researching language demographics using resources like the CIA World Factbook or Ethnologue, which offer a comprehensive view of regional languages. You could also engage with local consultants, cultural experts, or existing business process outsourcing (BPO) companies operating in the market, all of whom can provide deeper insights into the region’s customs and societal norms. Active participation in local industry-related events or webinars is another excellent source of irreplaceable firsthand insights. 

By immersing yourself in the linguistic and cultural fabric of your new target market, you’re gearing up to provide an experience that feels familiar, respectful, and expertly tailored to your new audience.

Step 2: Build (and evolve) your multilingual team 

The backbone of any multilingual CX strategy is the team of game-changers that delivers it—human customer service experts with the language skills to help you thrive in a new market. 

Here are some considerations when building your new multilingual CX teams.  

In-house vs. outsourcing

The first decision to make is whether to hire in-house or to outsource. While having an in-house team can offer more control and integration with your company culture, it often comes with higher costs and the challenges of recruitment in a competitive landscape.  

Outsourcing, on the other hand, can be cost-effective and offers the advantage of tapping into established expertise, especially if you partner with a BPO with a strong track record in multilingual CX.  

The work-from-home paradigm

The rise of remote work has reshaped the talent landscape. Companies can now access a vast, geographically dispersed workforce and find the languages they need from every corner of the Earth. This is especially beneficial when sourcing for languages with a smaller global footprint, like Nordic ones.  

However, this broader pool also means fiercer competition, making the hiring and retention processes more challenging. Again, outsourcing can be a game-changer here since established BPOs have many years of experience tracking down the best remote multilingual CX candidates.  

Plus, hiring locally for non-native language skills can be expensive. As the demand for new languages ebbs and flows, businesses need the flexibility to scale their operations. Remote recruitment provides the necessary agility to ensure that the expansion doesn’t compromise the quality of CX or lead to unsustainable costs. 

Continuous training and development

Once your multilingual CX team is in place, make sure they’re 100% up to speed with your products, services, and the core values that define your brand. As the market shifts, regular updates and continuous training are essential for keeping the team sharp and ensuring consistent, memorable customer interactions.

Once the humans are in place, it’s time to augment them with technology and bring in the machines! 

Step 3: Explore and apply the technological advantage 

Along with human talent, technology is essential for successful multilingual CX delivery. The challenge is finding cost-effective solutions that improve experiences for customers and employees. 

Here’s a look at some of the most effective tools at your disposal.  

AI-driven chatbots

Artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots are great at handling basic queries in multiple languages, offering instant responses to customers. They’re efficient, always available, and can be scaled up or down based on demand. Moreover, as they interact with users, they learn and refine their responses, ensuring a more personalized and accurate CX over time. 

Machine translation (MT)

MT is revolutionizing the way businesses approach multilingual CX. Using a mix of AI and machine learning, MT tools can translate vast amounts of text almost instantaneously. As these models learn, the quality of translations sharpens, making them invaluable for high-volume projects. 

By automating repetitive processes, MT can optimize your workforce, reduce costs, and allow employees to focus on tasks that add more value. MT can also address challenges like language coverage for less common languages, reducing the cost-to-serve, and addressing operational challenges like attrition and absences. 

But a word of caution: while MT tools are powerful, relying solely on them can lead to impersonal or sometimes inaccurate interactions. They’re best used in tandem with human oversight, ensuring that the nuances of language and context aren’t lost.

For example, Concentrix + Webhelp’s customized machine translation platform, Polyglot, is specifically designed for customer service, with features that constantly evolve and improve based on real-world operational experiences and client demands. This solution has empowered our CX advisors to serve customers in languages beyond their expertise while achieving higher Net Promoter Score (NPS) results than native-speaking teams and enhancing operations for over 40 clients.

Integrated multilingual support platforms 

Modern Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, like Salesforce or HubSpot, are now designed to handle multiple languages. They store essential customer details and interactions, making serving people in their preferred language easier. When combined with support platforms such as Zendesk or Freshdesk, businesses can provide smooth and consistent CX across different channels, from emails to social media chats.

In addition, advanced phone systems, known as Interactive Voice Response (IVR), can be set up with options in multiple languages, helping customers quickly connect with the correct department. Knowledge base platforms, like Confluence or Helpjuice, allow businesses to create help sections in different languages. With the help of translation tools, these platforms can automatically translate articles and FAQs, letting customers get answers in their language and improving their overall experience.

In short, using the right technology can make a big difference in how you connect with customers worldwide. For digital-first businesses, integrating these tools should be a straightforward step toward global success. 

Step 4: Monitor, adapt, and improve

As you venture into global markets, it’s essential to remember that establishing a multilingual CX presence is just the beginning. The real challenge lies in continuously refining experiences to meet the ever-evolving expectations of your diverse customer base.

To get a head start here, it helps to harness the power of analytics to keep a pulse on your multilingual CX initiatives. By tracking metrics, you can identify which languages or regions are driving engagement and where there might be gaps in your CX, directly influencing the customer journey execution gap.

Feedback is also crucial for focusing on quality over quantity. Regularly engage with your international customers, gathering feedback to understand their unique needs and challenges. This feedback can illuminate areas where language or cultural nuances might widen the customer journey execution gap, offering you actionable insights to narrow it.

Your digital touchpoints, from website pages to product descriptions, are pivotal in shaping the customer journey. Ensure they’re not just translated but localized, reflecting the cultural and regional intricacies of each market. Focus on offering every user a digital experience that feels intuitive and familiar.

For expanding startups, scale-ups, and digital natives, agility is essential, but it’s the continuous refinement of multilingual CX that genuinely bridges the customer journey execution gap when tackling a new market. By actively listening and adapting, you ensure that you’re one step closer to a seamless global customer experience with every interaction.

Now you’re speaking the right language; all that’s left is to take the leap.

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