Tue, June 14, 2016
The UK is one of the worlds leading nations ecommerce with an increasing proportion of sales are coming from trade overseas. Dino Forte explains how can contact centres keep pace with international expansion and deliver multilingual customer service.
Retail pundits forecast that British retailers will benefit from the steady increase in overseas sales, with new research revealing that Chinese shoppers now purchase products online from British retailers almost as frequently as domestic shoppers do. UK brands are also the most popular internationally for German consumers, and the second most popular in the US and China. The rise of borderless commerce certainly opens new markets, but at the same time raises cultural challenges including whether you need multilingual talent to service these untapped pools of fresh customers.
The importance of native languages
So if you decide to launch your product or service in a new country or region, is it vital to also introduce native-language speakers? The answer to this really depends on how language-sensitive your audience is. In some cases it may be acceptable to provide just English, as it is widely spoken in many European countries. However in the experience of many of our clients, introducing native language speakers can make a big difference in terms of the overall quality of service and in turn this equates to higher volumes of sales conversions.
One example of this is barefoot shoemaker, VivoBarefoot who sell its products across the globe. When they introduced native language speakers they saw sales conversions go through the roof in particular in Spain and Italy where their like-for-like sales climbed by a massive 90%.
Part of the reason for this jump can be explained by the fact that you can only truly begin to understand the nuances of different cultures if you are from the same country, so whether it’s speaking on the phone, responding to an email or chatting via social media, levels of empathy will be naturally elevated if you rely on first language advisors. With greater empathy come greater awards because it also easier for them to spot cross or up-sell opportunities, plus overall customer satisfaction and loyalty is higher.
If you believe that new or existing customers could benefit from adding additional nationalities to your team, the next challenge is how you find them. Thankfully in the UK we are blessed with a multi-cultural society with a rich cosmopolitan population, particularly in urban areas. Some of the language skills that are in most demand at the moment are French, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch and these are well represented particularly in London and the South-East.
If you are fortunate enough to be based in area that does have a plentiful supply of the right staff and you already have an in-house contact centre then you can consider hiring additional language talent, but you also should bear in mind that you may need to recruit double the number you need, so you can cover for holiday or sickness and install a fluent quality assurance team.
Finding multilingual talent
In-house or outsourced?
Another alternative is to outsource and only pay for what you need, because they have access to a larger on-demand team, so you have in-built flexibility if you need to scale up or down. Similarly if you are based in a more provincial area it may be tricky or impossible to find high calibre staff with the relevant skillsets. This challenge is likely to become more acute in the future as brands look to target far eastern markets that want to converse in Mandarin or Cantonese.
Another option is of course to hire in-country staff on the ground, but this may prove costly as you have to set up and pay for dedicated sites and people, as well as find the time and resources to manage and run multiple operations.
A growing phenomenon for many British and indeed overseas brands that are going global is to centralise their service centre in the UK, as this essentially means they can eliminate duplication of resources and management time. Not only does it reduce overheads but having a single service hub saves time in training and helps with the consistency of overall customer communications. Indeed for many UK brands, the cachet of an English accent can be a bonus and echoes brand values.
With high street retail sales dipping in the first quarter of 2016, e-sales continue to expand on average by 8% each month, making it the perfect time to embrace on-line opportunities both here and abroad. Whether you add to your existing service team or outsource, speaking your customers language can not only have a direct impact on your bottom line but it will also help to differentiate yourself against the competition.
Dino Forte is managing director and founder of outsourced contact centre, Ventrica that provides omni-channel and multilingual customer services for leading global brands such as UGG Australia, Barratt Homes, NJOY and Vivobarefoot.