Have you ever traveled in a foreign country and used a language book or app to speak to the locals in their language only to find that when they respond in their native tongue you don’t understand? Well, what happens when it’s a potential customer you’re trying to communicate with in a language you don’t understand? You’ll need a plan and some resources to bridge the communication gap so you can engage and delight your leads and make them your customers.
In the world today, your business is more accessible than ever. If you have a website, you can be found by people all over the world. And even if you don’t have your website translated, if you are offering a good or service that’s in demand, chances are you will attract international buyers.
If you’ve read our blog Increase Lead Generation with Website Translation, you know that buyers prefer websites in their native language and they’re even willing to pay more for products when the information is provided in their language. Yet, whether you translate your website or not, you are out there to be found, so what can you do to communicate with potential buyers and customers who don’t speak your language?
Just assuming they know English is short sighted and as I mentioned before, translating information, or communicating with a buyer in their native language goes a long way toward DELIGHTING them and winning their loyalty. Creating communication strategies for building these relationships will help bring your global business to the next level.
Strategies for Multilingual Communications
We’ll cover several strategies in this blog.
- Provide a FAQ page on your website in the most frequent languages you encounter
- Offer live chat on your website with multilingual support reps
- Translate an automated chat bot for your website’s chat tool in the most frequent languages
- Utilize on-demand technology-based interpreting services such as telephone and VRI for live, real-time communications
- Schedule interpreters to attend your virtual or in-person meetings and facilitate communications
- Hire bilingual employees
Let’s discuss each option’s pros and cons.
Answer FAQs in Multiple Languages
Most businesses know which questions they hear frequently from leads and customers. By creating documents or website pages that answer these common questions, companies can simplify the process for their staff and customers by standardizing answers so that the message is always the same. Translating these answers for the languages of the countries/customers you’re hearing from will build confidence and loyalty with your multilingual buyers. This will save your staff time and you money because it only has to be done once.
If you are thoughtful about creating information in each stage of the buyer’s journey to answer their questions and translate this content across each stage, you will answer most questions that prospects might have. With a defined buyer’s journey and properly translated content, prospects can buy directly, eliminating the need for more expensive translation or interpretation.
- Answering questions in the consumer’s native language
- Tracking visitors by language and content
- Enabling visitors to buy online
- Minimizing time needed for in-person responses
- Takes thoughtful planning for content needed
- Needs well-written, quality translation
- Unable to “wing it” or personalize answers
- Lose customization for high-value prospects
Live Chat on Website in Frequent Languages
Answering incoming inquiries through chat is more popular than ever, and consumers are driving this trend. Rather than call and wait on hold for answers, people like to chat online. It is efficient for both sides. Consumers can multitask as they get answers, and chat reps can look up answers and handle multiple conversations at once. By hiring bilingual chat representatives or outsourcing for these services as you would for a call center, it becomes simple to handle questions in multiple languages.
- Engage with prospects in their preferred language
- Hire across time zones for round-the-clock coverage
- Outsource for part-time/on-demand service representatives in other languages
- Need bilingual personnel in each language visitors speak
- Requires representatives to be trained on business and products/services
- Must have a database of possible questions and answers
Multilingual Automated Chat
You can simplify and automate your online chat tool with chat bots. Chat bots are easiest to create if (1) you can narrow down what product or service the visitor is asking about and (2) if you know the questions they most frequently ask about that product/service. Once you write the content in English, you can translate the responses into the other languages you want to support.
- Thoughtful scripting leads to great success
- Easy to translate once scripting is done in English
- Accessible at all hours
- Relatively inexpensive
- Programming the chatbot to recognize the visitor’s language delivers responses in their preferred language
- Takes a lot of planning and conversation mapping to perfect the script
- Not personal
- Only answers previously defined questions
- May not be able to understand the question
- Possible trouble identifying the language
On-Demand Telephone interpreting
This service is ideal for speaking with a prospect or client over the phone. With access to over 200 languages and 24/7 coverage, you can connect with an interpreter at all hours, so time zones do not matter. The interpreters are fully screened, tested, and recorded for training purposes. Telephone interpreting is a more dependable and professional option than asking using Google Translate or a bilingual friend or colleague to interpret.
- Great for on-demand, quick calls
- Good for quick conference calls and customer service questions
- Pay for it only when you use it with calls billed by the minute and no minimum charge
- Over 200 languages available
- Works well for call centers
- No visual or body-language cues on a phone call
- Can be confusing for interpreter if a group is on the call
- Not as personal as face-to-face meetings
On-Demand Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)
For a more personal and visual connection, video remote interpreting (VRI) might be the right choice in certain situations. With VRI, participants must be in the same room except for the interpreter who connects through a secure video service. As with telephone interpreting, VRI services offer trained, experienced interpreters in many languages that connect on-demand. Using a video connection gives the interpreter the advantage of being able to see and read nonverbal, visual cues during the conversation, and the participants can interact visually. VRI requires an account and a device (computer, tablet, or phone) with a camera and internet connection. VRI is different from video meeting (or Zoom/Skype/Google Meet) interpreting, which I discuss next. To learn more about using VRI, read 10 Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) Questions Answered.
- Gives an on-demand alternative to scheduled interpreting
- Enhances personal connections while using technology
- Shows facial expressions and other visual cues to improve accuracy of interpretation
- Does not require scheduling ahead
- Saves costs over in-person interpreters with shorter time minimums and no travel expenses
- Offers HIPAA-compliant, completely secure, and confidential connection for medical uses
- Prospect or customer must be in the room with you
- Connection or power could fail
- Must meet minimum requirements for internet speed
- Lag in connection could affect the flow of conversation
- Interpreter has limited camera view, so cues might be missed
- Monthly access charges apply
Virtual Meeting Interpreting (VMI)
VMI allows you to schedule an interpreter to get on the line with you and facilitate video meetings and conferences. With increasing international video or Zoom meetings, it is helpful for an interpreter to clarify conversations and understanding. Attendees can be at any location around the world if each person has a stable internet connection. Language agencies such as Rapport International know which interpreters have the language, subject matter knowledge, and technical abilities to assist and make the meeting more productive.
- Conduct live, virtual business meetings with customers and colleagues who speak different languages
- Connect more personally than with phone interpreters
- See facial expressions and visual cues to increase accuracy of communication
- Schedule easily to meet your time requirements
- Share your screen so that everyone can see what you are talking about
- Totally virtual, so participants can be located anywhere around the globe
- Must be scheduled ahead, not an on-demand option
- Each participant needs access to technology with a camera and internet connection, as well as a platform or app for the video call/conference (like Zoom or GoToMeeting)
- More expensive than telephone or VRI services
- Confidentiality is only as secure as the platform that you use
An interpreter is scheduled to be present in the physical location with you and your customer/guest/patient to facilitate the conversation. This arrangement is ideal for tours, meals, and certain kinds of meetings, appointments, and live events. It is the best way to facilitate multilingual communication but the most expensive and difficult to schedule since a trained interpreter in both languages must be able to attend.
- Helpful if you need an interpreter for an extended time
- Easier for reviewing complex content or when things need to be explained in detail
- No need for any technology like computer, tablet, or other hardware
- Better for going over sensitive information, such as medical conditions, confidential information, or negotiations
- Good choice when you need to use visual cues or if body language is important
- More personal
- More expensive since the interpreter must attend
- Travel expenses and minimum hourly charges may apply
- Local availability of language or subject-matter expertise can be an issue
- Appointments must be made in advance
Hiring Bilingual Employees
Usually, when a company decides to start multilingual marketing, they think they need to hire bilingual employees to handle customer service. That expectation is often enough to stop all consideration of multilingual marketing. Hiring the right person for the job is hard enough, let alone looking for a person qualified and bilingual in the targeted language. The options mentioned previously, though, give you alternatives that can bring you multilingual marketing success.
Hiring bilingual employees will benefit you eventually… as long as you do it right. As with all employees, any new person needs to fit into the culture, see a career path, be heard, and be recognized. Those expectations mean that you must have a company that celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion.
This should give you some good ideas on how you can prepare for handling inquiries from non-English speaking leads and customers. If you still have questions, we’re here to help, reach out anytime.
Rapport International specializes in multilingual communications, providing language translation and interpretation services that are accurate and culturally appropriate. We use the right voice, correct terminology to avoid liability, customize services to your needs, and deliver on time and within your budget. And with our 100% satisfaction guarantee, you can trust that it’s done right. Contact us today if you would like more information or to get a free quote.