Doing Business Across Languages

So you have setup your multi language website and you are taking orders for your products or services from multiple territories.

But are you really setup to do business across languages?

The Website Is Just A Gateway

Your multi language website is just a gateway to new markets, there are some back end issues to consider once you open your business up to people who speak a different language to you.

Handling Multi Language Leads

You work in English, have a French version of your contact form and your potential customer has the audacity of filling that form in using French, what do you do?

Do you staff your sales department with bi-lingual skills or do you have some sort of translation service on hand ready to field your requests and replies.

This all adds to your bottom line.

Customer Service

When customers come to you for customer service, there is normally a problem.

Imagine the scenario of an unhappy customer on the phone and no-one can speak their language.  They have a problem and that is exacerbated but a break down in communication.

My suggestion are the many translation conference call services that are out there.  You dial in to the conference call, add your customer and a translator on the other end acts as a go between.

Here is a UK based company that does exactly that http://www.absolutetranslations.com/en/telephone_interpreting_services_company, but you may want to find a company local to you that does the same thing.


Are your business contracts valid across borders, do you need to get a local lawyer to draw up contracts for different territories you do business in?

I’m in no way qualified to give out legal advice to please consult with a professional in the target market or a local law firm experienced in import / export law.  Which leads me to…

Import / Export Rules

If you supply a physical product can you export them to your country of choice?

If you send staff to perform services can they can visas to enter that country?

What’s the point in selling into a country and the expense of writing up a website if you cannot deliver your products or services?

Local Tax Rules

Do you understand the local tax rules of selling into your target market?

There are certain countries which have tax withholding rules, which mean they have to keep a portion of your payment and return that as tax to their local government.

You could find your self with a nasty shock when a large chunk of your payment is withheld as tax.

Understanding these rules means you can price your services appropriately.

What I Do

The first thing that I do is to tell potential clients that all correspondence and phone calls will be conducted in English.  this sets an expectation.  I have high school French language skills and Italian / German holiday skills (I can buy a meal and book a hotel room).  I cannot conduct business in any language other than English.

If I get a foreign language request, I send it out to my translators at ICanlocalise.  I do this pretty easily because my website it plumbed into their translation system.  I create a draft post, and send it out for translation, I get the reply  and create another post with my reply, also stating that I prefer to use English if possible.

All of my contracts are written with England and Wales as the jurisdiction,  I have no idea if they will stand up to scrutiny in a foreign court, but in all my years in business I have not had to test that.  I mitigate this risk by taking deposits on my projects.

I sell knowledge services so there is no import export restrictions on that yet.  I’m sure our governments would love to tax what is between our ears:).

Wrap Up

Setting up a multi language website is just the first step in doing business across languages, be prepared and have your back end in place too.

Photo Credit: Glyn Lowe Photoworks. via Compfight cc

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