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Creating A Chatbot In Different Languages: A Guide To Multilingual Chatbots

Written by

 Jeremy Gallemard

Chatbots have redefined customer service. They provide instant responses to consumers’ questions, operate 24/7, lower companies’ customer service costs by $0.50 - $0.70 per interaction, and can handle thousands of conversations at once. It’s estimated that the global chatbot market will be worth approximately $1.25BN by 2025.

However, not all chatbots are equally effective. Chatbots that only operate in a single language might deliver excellent customer service, but this matters little if your customers can’t understand them. Companies with a global customer base must implement multilingual chatbots. 

This article explains precisely how they can do this. Specifically, it covers:

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What is a chatbot? And what is a multilingual chatbot? 

Chatbots are automation-based tools that leverage machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and natural language processing (NLP) to interact with customers and resolve their queries. Multilingual chatbots go one step further, simultaneously handling customer queries and providing responses in the consumers’ native tongue.

Check our guide to build your effective chatbots: A 15-step checklist to get the very most from your chatbot project.

By implementing chatbots, organisations can roll out first-class customer service at scale. A chatbot can solves problems such as communicating with customers 24/7—providing instant answers to their questions, learning more about what prospects/customers want, and helping them navigate the buying journey. Best of all, they can serve an increasing number of consumers without scaling their customer service team. Indeed, chatbots will save a staggering 2.5BN customer service hours by 2023.

But it’s not just about the internal benefits that chatbots offer organizations. In fact, chatbots are just as beneficial to consumers themselves. They receive instant, clear answers to their queries, which boosts their customer experience (CX) and increases sales. Consider that conversion rates are 98% higher when companies respond to a customer’s inquiry within the first 5 minutes. When companies implement chatbots, they automatically respond to all queries instantly. Therefore, customers are more likely to convert—and are more likely to return to the brand in the future. Win-win. According to Insider Intelligence, consumer retail spend via chatbots will reach $142BN by 2024, compared to $2.8BN in 2019. 

Chatbots also provide consumers with self-service capabilities. This is ideal in today’s world, where many consumers (especially the younger generations) would rather handle issues themselves than have to speak to a live agent. For example, 49% of Gen Z-ers and 41% of Millennials prefer to use digital self-service options—aka chatbots—than to speak to an agent on the phone. 

When you consider the multitude of internal and external benefits that chatbots offer, their meteoric rise over the past few years is perhaps unsurprising.

Read more: What Is Conversational AI?

How does a multilingual chatbot work?

There are two potential ways that multilingual chatbots can work. First, they might contain sophisticated Neural Machine Translation engines. These rely on neural networks to translate users’ inputs into a language that the chatbot understands, and vice versa when the chatbot responds to the user. 

Alternatively, companies might take a more hands-on approach, partnering with translation and localisation specialists to manually translate typical user requests and the chatbots’ responses ahead of time. The most effective multilingual chatbots also use natural language understanding (NLU) to provide more effective localisation capabilities. For example, Microsoft’s NLU service—LUIS—factors in regional variations, differentiating between French spoken in France versus in Canada. 

Right, but how do multilingual chatbots know which language to communicate in? 

There are four primary methods. First, they might note a user’s IP address to determine their location, which gives them a strong indication of the customer’s primary language. However, this is far from foolproof—so to be on the safe side, multilingual chatbots might also ask customers to self-select which language they’d like to operate in. This is similar to ATMs, for example, which ask users to choose their language before proceeding. Alternatively, multilingual chatbots might detect users’ web browser settings to identify their primary language, or use HTML attributes to automatically detect the customers’ language. 

The importance of having a chatbot in different languages

We live in a globalised economy where even the smallest of companies can sell to consumers on the other side of the world. While this represents a fantastic economic opportunity, it also increases customer service expectations. 

Netflix, Amazon, and Spotify have made personalisation the norm—not the exception. Today’s consumers assume that their buying experience will be tailored to their own personal preferences, not least that it’ll be in their native language. 

Chatbots might be a customer service phenomenon, but they can’t live up to their full potential if they operate in just one language alone. In today’s world, multilingual chatbots are a must-have, not a ‘nice to have’.  

Multilingual chatbots provide key customer service support across a myriad of languages. Organisations can seamlessly handle all their customers’ requests, no matter where they’re based or which language they speak. 

Specifically, multilingual chatbots provide four tangible benefits:

  1. Communicating with customers in their native language
  2. Moving beyond cultural barriers and driving localisation
  3. Reducing costs and boosting efficiency
  4. Gaining a competitive advantage

benefits of multilingual chatbots

1. Communicating with customers in their native language

By speaking to customers in their own language, chatbots can provide more helpful query resolution, better understand customers’ needs, and increase brand loyalty. They will reduce unnecessary friction in the CX, translating into increased revenue. 

Consider that according to Harvard Business Review, “72.4% of consumers said they would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language. 56.2% of consumers said that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price.”

2. Moving beyond cultural barriers and driving localisation

Multilingual chatbots cross cultural barriers and successfully power localisation. This makes it easier for companies to connect with consumers, understand their needs, and provide the appropriate solutions. 

Most importantly, however, it shows that companies care about their target market. They’ve adapted their own ways of working to suit consumers—instead of expecting consumers to adjust to the company’s preferences. 

3. Reducing costs and boosting efficiency

Companies that haven’t yet implemented multilingual chatbots run into a variety of challenges. For example, they might be unable to answer customers’ queries in certain languages, meaning they miss out on sales and harm their CX. 

To mitigate this problem, they might decide to hire at least one customer support agent fluent in each language that their customers typically use. Only, this is unsustainable and unscalable, creating unnecessary bottlenecks. Sure, you might have one Indonesian speaker in your team, but can they handle hundreds of customer requests daily?

Multilingual chatbots provide the best of both worlds, reducing costs while boosting efficiency. Organisations can use automation to serve a global audience seamlessly. Chatbots will work 24/7, can handle hundreds (even thousands) of conversations at once, and are far cheaper than hiring more customer service agents. 

Read more: What do customers really think about chatbots?

4. Gaining a competitive advantage

Companies will gain a huge competitive advantage by offering multilingual customer service. Operating in consumers’ native language sets you apart from your single-language competitors. It makes it easier for consumers to find answers to their questions, enhances their CX, and shows that you care about their needs.

Studies show that 75% of consumers are more likely to purchase from the same brand again in the future if the company’s customer care is in their language. 

Should you use a multilingual chatbot?

Using multilingual chatbots promises an array of value-added benefits. First, your brand will serve customers more effectively, communicating in their own language and removing friction from the CX. You’ll generate increased customer loyalty because you’ve shown, showing that you’re willing to adapt to consumers’ needs—not the other way around.

What’s more, operating in consumers’ own languages goes a long way to building long-term trust. As Nelson Mandela once said: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Perhaps most importantly, you’ll increase sales—multilingual chatbots allow you to enter new markets and serve a diverse consumer base successfully. What’s not to love?

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Approach customer service with a global lens

It’s easier than ever before to sell globally, and thanks to multilingual chatbots, organisations can automatically serve customers' needs across multiple languages and dialects. Companies must take full advantage of the technology at their disposal to enter new markets, more effectively serve existing customers, and carve out a competitive advantage.

If they do, they’ll be on their way to creating a first-class CX. 

For more inspiration on how to boost your CX and increase sales, check out our list of must-know CX trends

The demand for businesses to use multilingual chatbots will only increase as conversational AI becomes more common. If you need guidance along the journey, our team of customer self-service experts can help you make remarkable gains toward your goal. Schedule a free consultation with a Smart Tribune chatbot expert now!

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Jeremy Gallemard

Hello! I'm Jérémy, President & Co-founder of Smart Tribune. With my background in the digital & customer experience space I'm happy to share my insight & practical advice on customer experience today & what it might look like tomorrow. Happy reading!

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