Tips on handling international queries via social media

When it comes to global customer service. We have seen how instant messaging is becoming one of the most popular channels for customer enquiries. In fact, research by Twilio has found that the number one preferred channel for customer service in South Korea, India, Singapore, and the United States is instant messaging.

Preferred channel for customer service_Twilio

#1 preferred channel for customer service – Twilio

This can come in the form of chatbots, SMS text messaging, instant messaging built into social media platforms, or other mediums such as WhatsApp, and WeChat.

So, what do global businesses need to do to ensure that they are able to effectively communicate with their international customers through social media and messaging?

International social media platforms

We can often take for granted that Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are the typical social platforms consumers use to interact with brands.

Rather than investing time and resources on the wrong platforms, it’s important to conduct market research regarding the social media platforms that are most relevant to your target markets.

For example, if you are targeting B2B customers in Russia you want to look at VK (Vkontakte), rather than LinkedIn. You also have several platforms that are specific to the Chinese market such as Sina Weibo. And of course, WeChat.

Enlist the help of your in-country colleagues, survey your existing customers, review the demographics of your current social following, or hire a specialist agency who can advise you on the right social platforms for both your organisation and your end-customers.

Managing multiple languages and cultures on social media

Once you have identified the social media platforms that appeal most to your customers it’s time to investigate the ways in which they can communicate with you via the platform. This could include:

  • Tagging your company in a post
  • Commenting on a company post
  • Direct messages
  • Live chat/messaging
  • Chatbots

Monitor the methods of communication across your social platforms and identify which ones are the most popular for each profile based on geographical location. Whilst you’re doing this, be sure to make a note of the languages that are being used as you’ll need this information later.

From a linguistic perspective, there are a variety of tactics that companies can implement, depending on their size, and maturity.

Smaller companies who do not have the resources to manage a full international customer service team in house could work with a language service provider to localise pre-written email templates, including back translations, to help them to quickly respond to their customer enquiries, in the local language, but to a higher quality than using Google Translate, for example.

This can also work for social media conversations as short snippets can be easily translated and localised for your target markets and then utilised by English speaking customer service agents to continually deliver excellent customer service, but without having to invest a huge amount on virtual offices or internal staff. Even for large organisations, this approach can be incredibly useful. In fact, most customer service teams utilise pre-defined templates for their communication with home market customers to increase productivity.

Before engaging with a language service provider, you will need to map the information you gathered earlier to ensure that you are investing in the right communication methods and languages.

Although a B2C company ships to over 30 countries, it would be a large upfront investment to localise email and chat conversations into 30+ languages. By continually monitoring your social following, you can start with a few core messages and languages, which can be scaled up as and when required. This approach is incredibly cost-effective and quick to implement.

Another approach that you could consider is to use keywords and tags that flag suggested messages to your customer service advisors, as well as links to other resources that you may have already localised such as knowledge bases and FAQs.

Having a localised chatbot is another way that social media can be utilised in the form of messaging. Chatbots are increasing in popularity and when created with care and attention can often fool customers that they are actually speaking with a human agent. Chatbots can also be localised, but due to the nature in which they work, we recommend working with a professional language service provider to do this for quality and consistency purposes. Relatively small investments like this will be sure to present your company in a very professional light to new and existing global customers.

Finally, as we have seen, live chat with a native speaker is, of course, the preferred communication method for global consumers, but it’s not always the most logical or feasible option for the company they’re doing business with. This is something that a lot of companies do eventually move into when they have a large number of inbound enquiries and sales from an overseas market and can, therefore, justify the ROI.

Handling consumer complaints

Although we would always like to read lots of positive reviews and opinions of our organization on social media, of course, social platforms can also be a target for customers to make complaints or raise their unhappiness with a brand, service or product. According to CNBC, Facebook is now the number one platform for consumers to complain about a company’s performance.

There are also message boards and communities on platforms like Yelp, which also tend to be a place where people will go and complain, rather than share positive experiences. Companies must, therefore, be aware of monitoring and managing their brand reputation in multiple languages.

Here, specialist international digital marketing agencies could help to maintain and manage multiple international social media platforms as they not only have social media skills but the language skills to match.

In summary, there is a huge opportunity to interact with your customers via social media and we predict that this is going to quickly become the go-to method to seek customer support.

Whether you’re a small-medium sized company that’s growing overseas or a huge multinational conglomerate, it’s always important to keep a close eye on where your social followers are from, and how they communicate with you online. Involve your customer service teams as early as possible and always start small. You’re sure to find that a small initial investment can really go a long way.