Why Now is the Best Time for Scaling International Customer Support

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July 11, 2024
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 min read
The Zowie Team

Cross-border e-commerce is booming in Europe, with the 2023 turnover reaching 237 billion euros. Although over 30% of all European online retail revenue comes from cross-border sales, companies in the region face fierce competition from Chinese e-commerce. This highlights the significance of quality products, smooth customer experience, and delivery. 

To tackle these challenges, especially when scaling customer support to new markets and languages, companies must stay lean and pivot when necessary. Fortunately, supplementing teams with an AI Agent makes your multilingual customer service operations much more efficient, flexible, and readily scalable – all at a fraction of the cost. 

Read on to learn why the success of your international expansion will depend on the level of adoption of AI in your online store.  

Why scaling customer support is key when entering new markets 

According to Feedvisor, good customer service is among the top five reasons consumers choose to shop online—right after lower prices (29%), convenience (21%), free shipping (14%), and product availability (7%). 

A good understanding of customers' needs in new locations is one of the main priorities for businesses expanding to new markets. This demand calls for more organized service processes to gather insights and adjust the strategy accordingly. No two countries are the same, but a strong structure in place is a must.  

Retailers typically have established customer experience (CX) standards and brand voice when entering new markets. Consider the case of Decathlon, a French sports gear giant operating in 69 countries, of which 29 are in Europe. 

The company has always prioritized digital customer experience, so whether you order your tennis shoes in Germany or France, you know what to expect. With over 17% of the group's global revenue (more than $1 billion in total worth!) coming from online sales, this strategy undoubtedly bears fruit.

Decathlon’s success wouldn't be possible without a consistent transnational and multilingual customer support process. However, as you’ll see, its enforcement rarely comes without these few challenges.  

Why scaling customer support to international markets has been such a tall order so far 

Even though English is the modern lingua franca in the EU, when expanding internationally, you must invest in support that speaks your customers' language in the new location. This often gets more difficult than it seems at first for several reasons. 

First of all, simply outsourcing customer service to centers in remote locations rarely cuts it. Although they offer lower hourly rates, remote consultants often lack the local know-how and the understanding of your brand that would satisfy your customer's (ever-growing) expectations. 

Customer experience can no longer be an afterthought, but luckily, new technologies make this issue a breeze. A smart chatbot can slash your phone calls by one-fourth almost overnight, reducing the average wait time to talk to an agent to seconds. 

Secondly, hiring and training staff locally takes time. Recruiting customer service representatives who deliver exceptional service is quite tricky in general, even more so when you do it for a completely new market. Onboarding consultants who are fluent in the local language and ensuring that they know your product sufficiently significantly slow down your sales. 

Thirdly, maintaining consistent customer support quality across borders is often challenging. While your brand may have well-established customer service standards in the original market, these may be at odds with the norms in the new location. Managing that difference also adds to your overhead. 

Fourthly, handling spikes in queries, especially during campaigns or holidays, is also a big topic. As your new markets follow different timetables and calendars of holidays, you have to learn the ropes fast and adapt. This process tends to be tricky with limited customer support presence in the new location.  

As customer service management becomes more complex, streamlining processes becomes more pressing than ever. Luckily, combining AI with the power of Gen AI, you’re able to relieve this issue considerably.  

Why AI is currently the top tech to overcome these problems

AI—especially Gen AI—is on everyone's lips these days, and that's for a reason. While Chat GPT-4 ignites the common imagination and futuristic scenarios, earlier chatbot versions and AI models have already been streamlining online retail processes. 

In the context of scaling customer support to new markets, an AI Agent supports your team in multiple ways. For example:

  1. Write responses based on the key issues you feed it with, maintaining your brand's specific tone of voice and, of course, with correct grammar and punctuation.
  2. Independently reply to specific customer inquiries;
  3. Proofread and improve your entire customer support team's replies;
  4. Facilitate smooth customer communications in the languages you need in your new locations. 
  5. Proactively upsell products and services when it’s opportune.
  6. Recognize customer sentiment and pass the inquiry on to a human agent, for instance, when the client is angry. 

As a result, you can standardize global customer support processes and boost your team's efficiency—all while opening to business and clients from new markets. You can start testing new business directions in no time while aligning marketing and customer acquisition with post-sales service for optimal results. 

If your expansion business idea backfires, you can pivot flexibly  without multiplying waste—and that's what lean business should be all about. 

However, integrating the AI Agent into your customer support team brings your online store even more advantages. It's not about replacing your human consultants, but about freeing them from drudgery and letting them focus on what matters most: delighting your customer. 

It's hard to imagine ever replacing real people in customer support. However, they should have space to hone in on building meaningful relationships, and tedious tasks are much more suitable for machines. 

AI Agent in multilingual customer support: even more benefits

While opening customer service in new languages is challenging, with the AI Agent in place, you can relieve your team by automating common queries. As a result, you’re set up to provide service in the new markets while still recruiting and training human agents. 

Our research shows that implementing the AI Agent reduces the average cost of solving a support ticket from $6 to just below one dollar. Moreover, it allows companies to reduce customer wait time by 50% or more while enhancing the number of closed support tickets. 

AI speaks hundreds of languages effortlessly, allowing you to drive and personalize interactions in your customer's preferred language. For example, this online apparel store uses AI-driven communications to deliver customer support in eight languages. 

This ability lets you address your international customers' inquiries 24/7, no matter where they are and what language they speak. AI-driven support also ensures that all customer messaging aligns with your brand's tone of voice and lets you personalize responses to each customer's specific needs. 

The AI Agent is a vital helper at all sales process stages, from pre-purchase to checkout and post-purchase. As stories of companies like True Classic prove, a properly trained chatbot capitalizes on upselling opportunities, driving millions of dollars in support–driven revenue. 

For instance, imagine a chatbot recommending complementary products based on the customer's purchase history or current shopping cart. It's already a reality. As AI models continuously learn about your product and clients, their selling skills become more nuanced and advanced with each conversation. 

The best part is that all these optimizations happen automatically without adding tasks for your busy support specialists. 

Thanks to AI, scaling customer support to new markets becomes easier than ever

Scaling customer support to new markets comes with many challenges. AI-driven solutions significantly relieve these issues by standardizing customer interactions in all required languages.

The AI Agent is not just a support tool for human agents but also plays a crucial role in customer communications and upselling. It efficiently handles repetitive tasks, allowing human agents to focus on more complex issues. 

AI is no longer a futuristic whim but a fully-fledged technology that opens up new opportunities for companies willing to harness its power. The future of cross-border sales will belong to businesses proficient at implementing AI in customer support. 

Talk to us if you're ready to step up your multilingual customer support game with AI before your competitors do. We'll be happy to help you out.