As more companies expand their international presence, one of their biggest challenges is developing and maintaining sustainable engagement with overseas customers. The days of personal customer interaction at a retail level are long gone, and worldwide live phone support is prohibitively expensive for all but a handful of companies. Social media is a helpful way to stay in touch and market your products and services, but it’s not a secure option for confidential or sensitive information. This leaves email as the most practical option for secure customer correspondence, marketing and support.
It may seem old-fashioned, but email is still one of the most powerful and affordable tools in your arsenal. Connecting via email creates tremendous opportunities to build lasting customer engagement and secure long-term brand loyalty. However, to be effective, it has to be done right.
Worth the investment
Sending emails out is free. But email support teams, automated platforms, and copywriters who can craft effective client communications cost time and money. Another potential cost is translating those emails for global customers. This may seem like an unnecessary expense, but it is an important investment that can result in strong personal relationships with customers all over the world. For example, according to Common Sense Advisory’s “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” report, 74% of customers are more likely to become repeat buyers if they receive post-sales support in their native language.
Multilingual email support is not only good for repeat business – happy and loyal customers have the potential to bring you new business through referrals and recommendations. According to a 2014 American Express study, 46% of customers with a satisfying customer service experience share their positive feelings with an average of eight friends. The same survey found that 42% of buyers consider a recommendation from a friend or family member to be a compelling reason to do business with a new company. In fact, the data shows word of mouth is a stronger incentive than a sale or promotion.
And yet, an shocking 62% of companies don’t even respond to customer emails, says the 2018 Customer Service Benchmark Report from SuperOffice. This, quite simply, leads to angry and frustrated customers and lost opportunities.
Email ups and downs
Email is a fantastic tool for customer correspondence because it is available 24/7s. Regardless of when a customer wants to get in touch — or in what time zone they live — they can always send an email. That’s the upside.
The downside is the potential lag in response time. According to the SuperOffice study mentioned above, it takes an average of 12 hours and 10 minutes for a customer to get a response to an email query. Of course, response times vary across different types of organizations, but taking too long to respond is bad for business. It risks the customer losing interest and can affect your reputation.
5 tips for responding effectively
Customers often reach out with urgent requests or issues. It’s important that the email response is timely and makes them feel like they have the attention of an account rep or agent within the company, who is an advocate working to make sure their needs are met. Here are five tips on how to accomplish that:
1. Instant auto-reply – In many cases, companies simply don’t have the capacity to provide an immediate response to every customer correspondence. By setting up an auto-reply, you can give customers peace of mind that you have received their email and you can let them know when to expect a full response (e.g. 1-2 business days). Your auto-reply email can also include links to commonly asked questions or additional support resources. Sadly, 90% of companies don’t bother taking this simple step to acknowledge receipt of customer emails, says SuperOffice.
2. Don’t use boilerplates – When you are ready to actually respond, don’t use boilerplate text. More often than not, pre-written copy just doesn’t cut it. If a customer or prospect took the time to write you an email, you will appear disinterested if your response doesn’t really apply to their specific situation. This can be a major turnoff to customers and lead to an unnecessary loss of business. Instead, invest in personalized customer support.
3. Stay on topic – Once you’ve established a customer support team, it’s critical that they read each submission carefully and thoughtfully. There’s nothing more frustrating to a customer than patiently waiting for an email response, only to get one that doesn’t answer the question being asked. This is even more exasperating for customers engaged in a back-and-forth email exchange.
4. Single point of contact – Encourage your support team to establish direct relationships with customers. You can do this by allowing them to respond from personalized email addresses instead of anonymous company accounts (e.g. [email protected] instead of [email protected]). Be sure to set up an email signature with the employee’s name in it so customers feel like they are connecting with a real human being, not a bot. Then, if future queries arise, the customer can contact that same support member – without the annoyance of having to provide their information again or repeat the circumstances of their query.
5. Negative comments – Your support team must be trained on how to correctly respond to negative or angry correspondence. This is where the three A’s of customer service come into play: acknowledge, align and assure. First, acknowledge the customer’s frustration, then align with them by agreeing that you would feel the same way in their situation, and finally assure them that the problem will be resolved.
Multilingual customer correspondence
When your organization becomes international, responding to customers in different languages and time zones can seem quite daunting. This is where an experienced language service provider (LSP) can make a huge difference to your workload and to the customer experience.
Well-established LSPs have global networks of qualified translators familiar with local cultures and dialects. They can translate and localize outgoing correspondence skillfully so that it will resonate with your customers, and address their cultural expectations. Offering multilingual email support for every relevant market can help organizations keep customers engaged and satisfied on a truly global scale.