Are you addressing your customer in the wrong language? How to avoid poor customer experience from the start.

Are you addressing your customer in the wrong language? How to avoid poor customer experience from the start.

Are you and your customer speaking the same language?

Preventing poor customer satisfaction in a multilingual marketing environment


Operating in a multilingual environment makes it even more challenging to provide proper customer support. In Switzerland for example, communication between consumers and helpdesk employees should go fluently in whichever of the four national languages the client prefers. In Belgium, the situation is not that much less complicated, as it is officially trilingual. Knowing that the option to get information in English is becoming more and more standard, customer services have got themselves a situation. 

Common mistakes in the signup process

But how do you make sure that there´s no problem in knowing how to address an individual customer? Usually, they get the option to choose a specific language during the signup process. This choice often determines the whole course of the interaction between the company and said customer.  It goes without saying that we humans make mistakes. The wrong language box can be checked by accident, especially when it isn’t a prominent feature. Using a drop-down menu to confirm or change the current language setting, can be useful to avoid thoughtless errors.

In some cases, it is assumed that someone living in, for example, Flanders, wants to communicate in Dutch. This is, of course, not a foolproof method. Someone may have moved to the region quite recently. Some cities are inhabited by diverse communities. 

Leading customers towards the solution

If all else fails, the customer will have to attempt to change the language in which they receive your communications. Since we want to avoid flooding customer service employees with frustrated emails, it seems to be more interesting to empower the customer to take matters into their own hands. They want their problems to be solved quickly and in a simple manner, so the solution should fit that desire. 

An effective way to accomplish this, is to put a link in the footer of every email sent out by customer service. Through these links, people can change their preferences in one click. Make sure to have the link in every available language, so that there is no barrier for the customer to get where they want to end up. Many companies provide some level of self service through a personal portal. This is also a logical place for clients to be able to change the settings, but yet again: easy access to these options is key. 

Settings should impact the whole communication cycle

But that is not the end of the matter. All too often, the changes made by the customer do not impact the whole system. As a result, communication settings are not changed on all levels. For example, the website might be shown in French, but the emails received are still in Dutch. The IT architecture is often compartmentalized, so that the various types of data are saved without impacting the other data or even without the flexibility of changes. In this case, a manual process needs to be carried out by a member of the IT-department, preferably with enough knowhow. 

Small changes, great rewards

Still, prevention should be the main strategy. Improving customer satisfaction by improving the odds that clients will be addressed in the right language, is a low hanging fruit that can make quite the difference. Research has repeatedly shown that complaints related to language make up a substantial amount of the negative feedback received by customers. The preventive strategies are especially easy to implement, yet certainly viable. 

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