Providing Support on Multiple Channels in Multiple Languages

A while back I was helping a friend with her job applications for some European companies, and I saw that most of them stress the requirement to know an additional language. This is because it’s important to provide customer support in a variety of regional languages.

Multichannel and multilingual support isn’t just an issue for European countries. If your company is expanding globally, you might be considering expanding the languages and the channels that you use to communicate with your customers. If you want to sell to a diverse group of people, you need to offer support in their native language. To add to the complexity, when you decide to offer multilingual support, you also need to decide which channels you want to support it on.

The aim should be to deliver better customer service even if it is through fewer selected channels and languages. We’re going to look into some of the factors which can help with the decision making.

Where are Your Customers Based?

It is practically not possible to support all the languages for your customers. So, the question is where to start from and how to decide on which languages to support. The answer is to run data analysis to figure out where your biggest customer segments are located. You can pull this data from your CRM or your helpdesk.

Along with the makeup of your customer base, it is also important to gauge if your CSAT or Resolution Time are being impacted because of lack of customer support in a particular language. It could be that your agents are not able to understand enough context to help your customers because of the language barrier and this is leading to unhappy customers. If so, it should definitely be taken into consideration when deciding on which language to support. With these two factors, you can decide which language/s to roll out for your customers.

Do You Want to Go Multilanguage on Some or All Channels?

Once you’ve decided which languages you want to support, the next question is to decide which channels you want to support these languages on. The help center is one channel which requires a lower amount of effort when it comes to supporting more than one language. With a helpdesk like Freshdesk, you can set up multilingual versions of the master knowledge base article within a few clicks, and you only need to translate it once. Whereas, it is not that easy to offer multilingual support when it comes to live chat and phone. For these two, the agents need to understand the context in the customer’s language and need to translate it in real time.

Additionally, it also matters where your customers are based, in terms of region. That impacts their preferred channel when communicating with customer support. For example, Twitter is a preferred channel in Latin America but not in Germany. Combining each region’s preferred channel with the size of your customer base in that region can help you in deciding which channels should be supported in regional languages.

If you’re looking to have one agent covering both tickets and chats in a particular language, this may not work. Trying to switch between covering live chat and also keeping a ticket queue cleared can easily lead to burnout for that agent. This is why it is even more important to decide and prioritize the channels on which you want to provide multi-language support.

Does it Need More Targeted Hiring?

As mentioned in the previous point, it is important to understand how to structure your support team to handle multi-language support. Are you looking to hire native speakers to handle the bulk of the support conversations? Or will non-native speakers, fluent at the business level, at least, be sufficient?

You can decide this based on the volume of conversations you get from a particular language. If it is less, you can use a combination of native and non-native speakers. However, this may not work well if the volume is high. One of the reasons being, the non-native support agents need more time to translate and understand context before replying. This can result in higher reply time and lower CSAT and can impact your other customers too.

What are the Best Tools to Use for Multi-language Support?

While translation tools come in handy when answering tickets, they may not be that useful when it comes to handling live chat. This is because cross-referring every time can slow down replies to the customers which can lead to a bad experience.

On the other hand, helpdesk is a powerful tool in streamlining multi-language support. You can set up your workflows, using helpdesks, in such a way that the user gets to select the language they want to talk to you in. Based on that, the ticket or the chat can be directed to the correct person who handles support in that language. This will help to cut down customer effort and will also save time for your agents when transferring tickets or chats among themselves.

What are the Alternatives if Your Non-English Support Team is Not Available?

So far, we’ve discussed how best to roll out multilingual support.

Now, consider this situation – even if you’re supporting a particular language, your agents for that language might not be available when the customer comes in. There will always be edge cases. But, this should not compromise the customer support quality that you provide.

You can allow the users to start chat or tickets in their preferred languages, but you need to make sure that you set the right expectation. As an agent, you can see from a user’s selected language that they need support in a non-English language. If so, even before you start with the reply, let them know that they can continue in their native language and that you are going to use online translators like Google Translate to help them with their question. If you find yourself doing this kind of translation often, it might be worth investing in a paid service like Unbabel to improve the quality of translation you get back.

Doing so will make the customer happy as you’re not forcing them to talk in English and are trying to help them out at the same time. I also usually include both the English version and the Google Translate version of the response so that customers can have their choice of response. Google Translations can sometimes be hilariously off-base, so be careful when using idioms or slang words in the translations.


While it may be tempting to start offering multi-language support for your customers, it requires a lot of thought process and planning to execute it properly. It may be worth rolling out one language at a time depending on your business requirements and then replicate the same process for other languages.

But, meeting customers where they are is worth the extra effort. Build understanding, develop trust and create stronger relationships by offering support in multiple languages across multiple channels.