Speaking your customers’ language: The power of multilingual customer support

Strengthen your global presence and customer bonds with multilingual customer support. Uncover key strategies and advantages your business needs for growth.


Imagine that you’re adapting your global brand’s products for various demographics. Without proper multilingual customer support, you won’t understand your international customers’ problems or provide them with solutions. As a result, you might lose these customers for good.

Studies have shown that 29% of businesses lose customers because they don’t have multilingual customer support. Additionally, in a study from CSA Research, 75% of customers state that they are more likely to continue business with a brand that has customer support in their native language. These studies show the importance of high-quality multilingual customer support.

However, building multilingual support comes with its own challenges. In this article, we will explore some of these challenges, as well as possible solutions, to help you build a robust multilingual customer support system that will take your company's customer experience to a whole new level.

The business impact of multilingual customer service

Today, businesses have the opportunity to connect with customers from diverse backgrounds and regions, regardless of the language they speak. In fact, over half of all Google searches worldwide are in languages other than English. This means your customer could come from anywhere or speak any language.

To attract, convert, and retain these customers, you need to provide support in their language. Doing so not only helps your customers effectively communicate their issues but also enables you to understand areas where your product or service can improve in other markets.

Let’s take a look at some of the major impacts that multilingual customer support can have on your business growth:

Improved customer satisfaction and loyalty

One of the easiest ways to build a good relationship with your customers is to communicate in their language. Doing so makes your customers feel valued and appreciated. The CSA Research study above also states that 76% of consumers prefer to purchase products that have information in their native language.

Personalized, language-specific customer support shows customers your commitment to meeting their needs. This increases their overall experience and satisfaction, which in turn leads to improved retention rates.

Expanded global market reach

Another advantage of multilingual customer support is that it allows you to more easily expand your business and tap into new markets. When you launch your business in a new region, you will have to speak your target audience’s language. If you don’t, local customers will abandon your brand.

If you are planning to expand your business, multilingual customer support is not just a nice-to-have—it’s a requirement to survive in other markets.

Reduced customer churn rates

42% of customers state that poor customer service is a significant reason why they stop buying from a company. If you don’t provide support in your customers’ native language, they will consider your brand’s support poor, regardless of your product or service’s quality.

For example, suppose you plan to launch your business in Japan. You have a great product, and all your customer support materials and product descriptions are detailed. But they are in English, and all your customer service agents speak only English as well.

When a Japanese customer who isn't fluent in English comes to your site, they will feel alienated from the start. Even if you manage to convert them, they will likely leave after trying to communicate with your customer support agents once or twice.

How can you avoid this churn? Imagine the same situation but with customer support in Japanese. This individual would likely still be your customer.

Overcoming common challenges in multilingual communication

While it’s very important to provide multilingual customer support, implementation still comes with challenges. Let's take a look at some of them:

Maintaining a consistent tone and message

One of the biggest challenges businesses face with multilingual customer communication is ensuring consistency across multiple languages. Customer support materials are typically highly technical and require using specific terms to convey accurate instructions. Inconsistencies in these materials may confuse customers rather than answer their questions.

The best way to address these inconsistencies is to provide clear guidelines and style guides for your translation teams and support agents to refer to. If you maintain a centralized translation memory and brand glossaries, your teams can more efficiently translate key terms and phrases across all target languages.

Handling language-specific nuances and cultural differences

Language is deeply connected to culture, so what works in one culture may not work in another. Idioms, slang, and cultural references can be difficult to accurately convey when translating customer support content.

The best way to overcome this language barrier is to work with native-speaking translators and local industry experts who understand cultural nuances and have extensive industry experience. This way, you can make sure that your customer support content is both linguistically correct and culturally appropriate.

Ensuring on-time delivery of multilingual support content

Today, customers expect prompt customer support. In fact, two-thirds of consumers state that speed is just as important as price to them.

However, translating large volumes of support content into multiple languages can be time-consuming and complicated. Inconsistently translated web pages can also adversely affect your brand image.

Because of this, companies must streamline their translation processes so they can deliver translated content quickly without compromising on quality. Using translation proxy tools like Smartling’s Global Delivery Network allows them to deploy web experiences in multiple languages much faster than traditional methods.

Providing multilingual support for real-time channels

Delivering support for live support channels, such as chats or phone calls, in other languages can be challenging. You’ll need instant, accurate translations to understand why the customer is reaching out.

With machine translation engines and real-time application programming interfaces, you can integrate multilingual capabilities into your live support channels. Additionally, some customer support platforms like Zendesk offer direct integrations with language translation technology. These integrations empower your support teams to deliver round-the-clock multilingual customer assistance through automated and reliable translation services.

5 key strategies for implementing effective multilingual support

To successfully cater to diverse international markets, you’ll need to get your multilingual support strategy right.

Here are five key elements to consider when developing an effective multilingual support strategy:

1. Identify and prioritize target languages based on customer demographics

The first step in implementing robust multilingual support is identifying which of your customer bases need assistance in their native language. You’ll need to prioritize languages based on a thorough analysis of target customer demographics, market conditions, and revenue opportunities in each region.

Around 8.2% of the US population has difficulty speaking English—so if your target market is in the US, should you implement multilingual support for just that 8.2%? If yes, then which languages should you focus on?

Before completely implementing multilingual support, it’s important to do the math. Understand which demographics require multilingual support and determine if you can justify the investment based on your customer base and expected return. For instance, if you have a significant Spanish-speaking customer base, it would make sense to implement Spanish customer support.

2. Invest in high-quality translation and localization services

Once you have selected which languages you’ll provide support in, ensure that you have the best tools and resources for the job. Employ native speakers and subject matter experts to review and refine your translated content so it connects with your target audience. You can also establish a quality assurance process to maintain consistency across multiple languages.

By partnering with a translation platform like Smartling, you can tap into a network of translators who have the cultural expertise and industry insight you need for contextually relevant translations.

Offer multilingual support across multiple channels

In order to deliver a user-friendly support service for your customers, you’ll need to provide assistance through various communication channels. These channels may include emails, live chats, phone calls, social media interactions, and self-help resources like knowledge bases and FAQs.

It's important to maintain consistency across all your support content translations and accurately reflect your brand’s tone across all communication channels. Use tools like multilingual chatbots and automatic email replies to scale your customer support more effectively.

4. Integrate multilingual support into existing customer service workflows

The best way to implement smooth and efficient multilingual support is to analyze your customer support workflow and figure out how to integrate multilingual support into it.

Develop a plan that includes creating and translating content, reviewing translations, and publishing them while keeping everyone involved on the same page. Additionally, provide training for your customer service staff on how to use multilingual support tools and handle inquiries in various languages.

5. Leverage technology and automation for efficiency

To streamline your multilingual support and boost productivity, be sure to leverage cutting-edge technology solutions and automation. Use machine translation and AI-driven tools to handle high volumes of support requests so your human agents can concentrate on more intricate issues. Incorporate multilingual knowledge repositories and self-service portals as well so customers can access information in their chosen language on their own to avoid overloading your support staff.

Additionally, consider integrating a translation management system (TMS) to streamline your content translation, automate processes, and allow your translation teams to collaborate more efficiently. Smartling's TMS provides advanced automation functions and AI-powered human translation, which allow you to scale your multilingual support initiatives with ease.

Real-world success stories: The impact of multilingual support

Implementing multilingual customer support can be complex—but with the right tools, you can easily scale it for global audiences.

Let's look at some companies that have effectively transformed their customer support processes:

Case study 1: Personio

Personio, an HR software platform, wanted to deliver high-quality customer support in its clients’ preferred languages. But as the company expanded across Europe, it faced challenges in scaling its support services.

Personio’s team focused on creating product guides and educational materials but faced a time-consuming manual translation process. The company’s limited internal resources also made it difficult to maintain consistent content creation and review processes.

To overcome these challenges, Personio partnered with Smartling to streamline its localization efforts and enhance its support. By leveraging Smartling’s Zendesk integration, Personio was able to submit files for translation within Zendesk with just a few clicks. This automation streamlined Personio’s workflows and significantly reduced its teams’ time and effort.

Smartling’s TMS also served as a repository for Personio’s style guide and translation memory. This centralized storage ensured consistent branding and terminology usage across all translated content.

Personio’s partnership with Smartling resulted in a 40% decrease in existing translation costs and a 50% reduction in internal reviews.

Case study 2: Monese

Monese, a fintech company based in Europe, allows users to easily open accounts in just a few minutes using their smartphones.

As Monese broadened its services, it encountered challenges with addressing high numbers of customer queries in different languages. Dealing with up to 2,500 support tickets per day proved difficult for the support team and delayed response times. These delays frustrated customers, who then further overwhelmed support staff with emails and phone calls.

To tackle this issue, Monese collaborated with Smartling and integrated its Zendesk plug-in. This innovative solution automatically translates support tickets and live chat messages within seconds, empowering support agents to handle inquiries in any language without requiring a large multilingual support team. Additionally, the integration seamlessly fit into the company’s existing support workflows and required minimal training for agents.

This plug-in allowed Monese to provide multilingual support for its customers and expand its customer base across Europe.

Smartling's solutions for multilingual customer support

The key to delivering high-quality multilingual customer support lies in using the right tools. Smartling, a leading provider of language translation and localization services, offers a range of translation tools to help businesses provide customer support in multiple languages.

Using Smartling's advanced technology and expert guidance, you can streamline your translation processes, enhance your team’s response times, and provide support to customers in 150 languages.

Smartling’s platform seamlessly integrates with customer service tools like Zendesk, making it easy for you to incorporate multilingual support into your company’s existing workflows. And with neural machine translation, your support teams can instantly translate tickets and live chats, which enables them to more effectively address customer inquiries and boost satisfaction levels.

Whether your company is just starting out with multilingual support or is actively extending its services to a global audience, Smartling’s support will scale and evolve with your business. You can reduce your dependence on large support teams while providing high-quality assistance at lower costs.

Want to take your multilingual support efforts to the next level and deliver the exceptional service your customers deserve? Book a meeting with Smarlting today.