How can you easily localize your customer support?

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Most people know that you can translate a website or app, but hardly anyone knows you can also translate every email that comes in or goes out. Yet I would argue that this capability is the single most important innovation in the language translation industry since the invention of translation memory.

Think of all the times you have seen a foreign language email in your inbox. You maybe wondered if it was important, but you couldn’t really do anything about it. That is about to change.

Why not just hire support agents in all supported languages?

Before we dig any deeper, let’s get one obvious question out of the way: why would anyone translate customer support emails? Wouldn’t it be best to hire a speaker of another language onto your customer support team and have them provide native support in that language?

The answer is yes, of course it would—but only from a purely theoretical point of view. In practice, you rarely have a case where you would only need one extra language. There are dozens of languages in use on the internet and thousands of languages spoken worldwide. If you’re based in the United States, you could hire a Spanish-speaking customer service agent and, since Canada is right across the border in the north, perhaps a French-speaking rep as well. But going beyond two languages starts to bog your business down.

Inevitably, some of your agents will sit idle waiting for a request to come in, while others will have too many requests to handle. If all agents speak a different language, you can’t just move resources around. To put it simply, there will be too much overhead, and your productivity will decline.

How can translations help customer support?

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s see how translations could actually help. What if each agent could read and reply to tickets in any language? That would mean being able to reply to customers from anywhere in the world. Allocating resources to handle tickets as needed would be easy, as everyone would be able to understand each incoming ticket, regardless of the language.

This is where translations come into the picture. If all agents are able to view a translated version of the incoming foreign language posts, they will be able to understand what the customer wants. And if they can use English to write a reply and then have their reply translated to the customer’s language, they will also be able to reply to the customer. In other words, they will be able to serve any customer, regardless of what language he or she speaks.

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Isn’t this really expensive?

The next question that comes up is about the cost: isn’t it going to more than double the cost of customer support if each interaction requires translations (incoming and outgoing)? Fortunately, there are many ways to control costs, so the actual expenditure is just a fraction of what it seems to be at first.

First of all, the incoming messages can be translated using machine translation. Machine translation is very fast (in fact, it’s practically instantaneous) and very affordable. However, it is said to be of poor quality, but that’s not really an issue here. The incoming messages are visible only to the customer support agent, so the quality of translation is not particularly important. As long as the agent can figure out what the customer wants, it’s fine.

Outgoing messages are a totally different case. You really can’t use machine translation—well, you could, but if you do, it would be best to tell the customer that the message has been machine-translated and give them an option to report a message if they don’t understand what it means. In most cases, though, you would actually want a human to write your customer support responses, as a well written message adds a lot to the credibility of your business.

Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to optimize the cost of outgoing messages:

Write short responses. It would be a very good idea to instruct your agents to write short emails when responding to customers, if the messages will be translated. It will be much faster to translate a short message, and it will save you a lot of money too.

Use template responses when possible. If a question has been answered before, there will usually be a pre-existing translation that could be used. Translation solutions typically remember the translations you have previously ordered, so instead of sending the text to be translated, you would receive a cached copy of the previous translation. Instantaneous and free!

– Consider how important great customer support is, and think of the cost as an investment for greater success!

Transfluent’s Zendesk App

Currently, the most advanced localized customer support solution is the Zendesk app by Transfluent. Zendesk is a popular customer support ticketing system, and the Transfluent app integrates language translations as part of the workflow.

Agents can view incoming messages in English, regardless of the original language, and outgoing responses get translated by professional translators. From the customer’s point of view, it seems as though they’re getting service in their own language.

Author

Jani Penttinen

Founder and visionary with passion to connect the world by eliminating language barriers. Anything is possible, giving up is not an option. Family man and globetrotting artist.