The digital economy has ushered in a new phase of globalization and is, as expressed by the World Economic Forum, "becoming a force to be reckoned with through e-commerce and digital services." While this is good news for the growth of any venture with a digital presence, it also means the search for a competitive edge has intensified exponentially.
Businesses are quickly discovering that one of the best ways to tap into foreign markets and maintain clients is by offering multi-lingual customer support. It's a simple case of speaking your customers' languages, and your business will grow. Though this requires resource allocation and expenditure, it can offer a quick payback.
According to research by Common Sense Advisory, 76% of online shoppers prefer to buy products with information in their native language. This means a preferred language is the first gateway that turns a potential client into an existing client and, further down the line, a repeat client.
Customer loyalty and retention are not guaranteed in an intensely competitive market. In fact, consumer research has shown that almost a third of businesses say they have lost customers because they failed to offer multi-lingual support. It might be that the customer is not even consciously disgruntled, but finds the experience alienating because of language barriers and thus never returns. It's clear that multi-lingual support is essential to breaking down language barriers and building lasting bonds with customers.
Fostering Communication with Customers
Consider that in 2016, according to Statista, the value of cross-border retail payments worldwide was 1.95-trillion USD. By 2020, it had risen to 3.56-trillion USD. These figures are impressive from a financial perspective, but no customer wants to be viewed only in terms of the profit margin.
As a business grows and capitalizes on the digital economy, it must also respond to inquiries from customers across several countries seeking information and assistance. The Harvard Business Review defines customer experience as "the internal and subjective response customers have to any direct or indirect contact with a company."
That "subjective response" relies on how the customer actually feels during the interaction. If one company has a language barrier that makes that experience feel negative or challenging, they're at a distinct disadvantage over another company that doesn't. They may even choose a pricier product or service if they feel confident that they have the correct information before purchasing.
Ensuring Competitive Advantage
There is a glaring gap, and a business that can fill it has a winning ticket. According to research by ICMI, 79% of contact centers have customers who aren't native speakers of the primary language(s) that they serve, while 60% of those customers expect service in their native language. Yet, the same study found that only 19% of contact centers offer language support for the most common communications channel: voice. It's no surprise to learn that language support for other channels -- such as chat and
Clearly, it's impossible to offer support in the more than 7,000 languages spoken globally. However, brands should know that more than half of the global population speaks just 23 languages, with 40% of the world's languages spoken by less than 1,000 speakers. With this in mind, brands can analyze their target audiences to understand which languages are most common. That way, companies can provide targeted support for the right languages, reach the most people possible, and differentiate themselves from competitors.
With the digital economy booming, competition for sales has never been tougher. According to Statista, e-commerce sales are on course to reach 22% of all retail sales worldwide by 2024, up from 18% in 2020. Unlike the days of brick-and-mortar stores being the only option, it takes very little for a customer to switch from one retailer to the next if they're not happy.
When the barrier to a positive customer experience is language, the customer will most likely abandon the transaction before confirming any purchase.
The rise in online purchasing has been driven by various factors, among them social media. This means sales increase when satisfied customers spread the word, and complaints on social media can drive others away. Suppose the lack of multi-lingual support has turned people off. In that case, they are more likely to spread negative sentiment online, which can diminish a brand's reputation and discourage purchases.
Strengthening Presence in Global Market
With around 1.3-billion speakers, English is the most commonly spoken language across the world. A few other languages together account for the lion's share: Mandarin Chinese, for example, is spoken by 1.1-billion, Hindi by 637-million, Spanish by 537-million, French by 276-million, and Arabic by 274. Having a team that provides support in these and other top languages can help you reach a larger audience and earn a bigger share of the global market.
Keeping the Human Touch in a World of Automation
The digital economy increased efficiency, but in many ways, it has eroded interpersonal communication through the proliferation of robocalls, chatbots, and other artificial intelligence (AI) based options. While AI can sometimes help shoppers find information or complete purchases more quickly, the technology can also leave people feeling isolated and frustrated.
According to research, more than half of customers (55%) prefer speaking to a human customer service agent over the phone. However, imagine if that agent cannot help the customer in their own language. This will lead to the customer feeling even more alienated, after which they're like to switch to a service that has the human touch of clear and easy communication.
Making the Change to Multi-Lingual Support
It is clear that in the booming digital economy, any business that wants to grow internationally must offer customer service in multiple languages. Without multi-lingual support, sales can stagnate as loyalty declines, making it easy for competitors to swoop in. However, communicating with customers in various languages can create a distant advantage that better positions your brand to thrive in a global marketplace while offering the human touch customers appreciate.
While building a multi-lingual support team in-house may be challenging, outsourcing to a trusted service provider like Helpware can provide a way forward. To find out more about how your business can grow its multi-lingual customer support, visit Helpware.com.