Post-Sales Support Can Seriously Damage the Customer Experience
You buy a product or service once. What that means is that your journey from prospective buyer to customer – from first becoming aware of a product to giving it active consideration to buying it – can be a long and fraught passage. However, once you own it, you use it a lot. Your user experience might begin with having to assemble or install it before you can actually utilize it.
Then each time you need it, you use some features that may not work as expected. Both the initial installation and any future problem might lead you to search for, chat with, or call post-sales support or customer care. While few people remember much about the buying process, most people we know have had a memorable experience with technical support – “have you tried turning it off and on again?” is as much reality as it is a punchline.
Localized Customer Service
International support is where localization teams enter the discussion. In our research on non-Anglophone markets, we stress-test post-sales support by putting ourselves in the shoes of people who don’t speak or read English very well but run into a problem with a product they bought. What should they do? If a buyer in Bucharest is lucky, there may be documentation, online help, and phone support in Romanian.
That’s not typically the case. As our research shows, the average company with a multilingual website supports just six languages or locales – and translates between 10 and 16% for some major languages and an average of 5% for all languages. That reality leaves a lot of people looking elsewhere for help – online searches, friends, influencers, and YouTube videos, sometimes using machine translation to decipher potentially helpful sites in other languages. Not finding a solution leads at the very least to lower customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores or, in the worst case, to rants on review sites.
The Post-Sales Support Part of the Customer Experience
CSA Research defines customer experience (CX) as the customers’ rational emotional perceptions in response to their interactions with a company’s products, services, channels, communications, and partners.
We analyze customer experience at the level of a discrete interaction, a journey, or a defined period of time. Because of frequent product usage, post-sales support is the most commonly “experienced” part of the customer experience (CX), both for domestic and global markets. Post-sales support is one of those distinct moments that might define the overall experience for a customer, so you have to assess its impact on customer loyalty, brand perception, and repeat sales. And because foreign-language support tends to be in short supply for post-sales help, it’s where the customer experience most frequently fails.
Solutions for Localized Technical Support
What can companies do about this? In an ideal world, they’d populate every channel with the same breadth and depth of language support they have for their home-market site. Of course, that’s financially and logistically impossible for most companies. We suggest tactical and strategic solutions to this challenge:
- Tactically, do your best to keep customers on your site with multilingual support knowledge bases. Don’t send them to Google, YouTube, Vimeo, Yandex, or wherever else they might go for support if you don’t offer any help in their language. Invest in website analytics to understand your traffic. Where does it come from? Which languages are spoken in those markets?
Once you identify preferred languages, train MT engines to your product and lexicon so that you maintain control over the customer experience for the languages you don’t already support. Don’t worry about what you might lose in perceived linguistic quality – feedback shows reasonably high satisfaction with such MT output. But be transparent by letting users know that they are reading machine output. After the interaction, ask whether they’re satisfied. Monitor and attend to what they tell you – keep improving the MT and where justified, augment it with human input. Let product teams know which issues customers are asking your MT engines about.
- Strategically, elevate post-sales support to a more important role in your customer experience hierarchy. In many cases, you’ll find that CX actually reports to operations or technical support, neither of which has much interest or authority in managing customer experience. Their concern is with making the process trains run on time or fixing problems.
With all due respect to the legions of hardworking tech-support people around the world, customer care is the worst home for global CX: Problems get buried – inadvertently – in responding to people with those problems. The complaint-driven approach means broader CX problems may not be realized or identified because of the focus on specific features. The challenge to enterprises is to identify CX problems at every level, including and importantly those that are not tied to specific installation problems or product features but to the bigger relationship. In aggregate any problem brought forth by a customer is a CX problem.
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