As the owner of a small business or startup, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is the need for multilingual service. It might be easier to think of your entire customer base as native English speakers. However, remember that with every additional language you cater to, your potential customer base will only widen further. Research continues to show the growing linguistic diversity among today’s consumers and, more importantly, how it will affect your business if this need is not sufficiently met.

 

There are currently 24 “main languages” spoken in the United States alone, according to the American Community Survey 2009, endorsed by the U.S. Census Bureau. By pigeonholing your company into one geographic location or by not offering multiple language options, you may put yourself at a competitive disadvantage.

 

Fortunately, you can break into international waters by offering a number of options for your key stakeholders and prospects. Let’s take a look at some ways in which you can solve the multilingual service puzzle:

 

Have Your Call Center Reflect the Language and Culture of Your Multilingual Customers

 

Every call center should be staffed with agents who can speak all the primary languages that your customers and potential customers speak. So, while it is advantageous to have your New York-based call center employees speak fluent English, you may also need agents who can speak Spanish, Chinese, German, Italian, Russian, Polish, etc. The more languages your call center staff can speak, the better your company can cater to your international customers, as well as know their unique and differing cultures. Even more, ensure that call center agents are staffed to work first, second, and third shifts reflecting when certain customers are likely to call based on their location.

 

Implement Multilingual Website Integration

 

Implementing elements of your website or even advertisements that speak directly to customers in their own language can lower customer churn as well as lower telephone waiting times in the call center. For example, offer customers the option to translate your website into the language of their choosing, and ensure that your multi-channel offerings such as live chat reflect this as well.

 

Create Products, Services and Special Offers Tailored for Customers’ Specific Markets/Cultures

 

To ensure the success of your products, services and special offers in international markets, you should have a strong understanding of the legal, technological, commercial and cultural norms of those markets, as well as the competitive landscape for your industry in each market. Offers and services that resonate culturally in some markets will seem odd or out-of-place to customers in other parts of the world.  Do your due diligence in researching and exploring your customers’ cultures as well as their highest market demands.

 

Provide Local or Toll Free Numbers

 

One way to let your customers know you value them is to provide local or toll free phone numbers in each country you do business. This strategy will provide you with instant credibility, signaling to your customers that you place a high priority on making yourself easily accessible to them.

 

How have you been able to better align with your multilingual customers? We’d love to hear what has worked for you in the comments section below.