If you already use a tool such as Google Alerts to monitor comments about your site or product, it’s an easy extra step to subscribe to multiple languages using the languages option on the Search Settings page. Once you have selected the languages for your key markets, consider setting up further alerts for your business to cover any frequently-used non-English terms for your particular product or service. When you come across an alert for content in a language that you don’t speak, you can often figure out what’s being said with the help of online translation tools. If the commentary is high-profile, for instance from a post on a major blog or a news site, it can be helpful to run it past a native speaker for a more fluent translation.
Join the Conversation
If others are talking about your company or product, it pays to know what’s being said. It’s equally important to be able to respond, above all when you discover negative publicity. The web thrives on interactivity and silence in the face of criticism can be seen as guilt or, at best, not caring about customers. If you can do so competently, respond to posts and reviews in the same language. If this is a challenge, a response in English can still be worthwhile, keeping the language clear and to the point. Of course, you don’t need to respond to foreign-language commentators solely with the aim of fire-fighting. Answering questions and thanking people for positive feedback all help to maintain a good reputation.
Cross New Frontiers
Your foreign-language customers will not always be found in the same places you interact with your English speaking markets. It’s tempting to think you’ve got it covered if you are on Facebook and Twitter, but remember that other parts of the world favor different social media sites. Be prepared to research and sign up for the networking sites that are popular with your own foreign markets. For instance, if you value Brazil or India as a customer base, you should have a presence on Orkut. Similarly, Russia has Vkontakte which bills itself as ‘the largest European social network’ and if you have Chinese customers you are more likely to find them interacting on Renren. A number of these networks do give you the option of using English, though for key foreign markets it could be worth the extra effort of using native speakers to handle foreign social media interaction.
Welcome Non-English Speakers
If a speaker of another language visits your website and has difficulty understanding the English-language content, that potential customer is more likely to go away to research third-party information in his or her own language. This gives the third-party, be it a blogger or review site, the power to influence your customer in a way you might not like. Instead, why not create a positive first impression and anticipate that customer’s needs by providing translated content? This way you stay in control, and at the same time your customer is made to feel welcome. Businesses that care about customers are largely the same businesses who maintain good reputations.
Make it easy on customers to contact you, no matter what their language. So often, major online disputes and campaigns against businesses could have been nipped in the bud by a prompt response and a show of concern about a problem. All well and good, but if the only contact information you advertise is a toll-free number for your own country, overseas customers will wonder how they can get in touch and how much it will cost if they do. A contact form is in any case less daunting than a telephone conversation for speakers of other languages, provided you keep it simple. Given the limited amount of text involved, it’s also easy to offer it in a few key languages.
When doing business across language barriers, small courtesies such as these can often make all the difference, helping you to build and keep that good reputation.