Do you want to be (or not to be) connected to French customers?

How do you decide your sale channel for selling your product in France ?

It depends on your strategy, your budget and the product you sell.

But do you prefer selling in a traditional way or do you put all your effort online?

What about your French language resources and skills?
How much does it influence your choice?

You have an eCommerce platform

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To improve your communication with French people many things can be put in place.
Some require time and budget, others are quick to implement.
Here are some examples.

Your customer service in French

It’s about social media, emails and phone calls. And letters too because some people love their fountain pen and paper to tell you why they are happy or angry about your product.

How can your French clients (and prospects) contact you?

What’s the most efficient for them? And for you?

Few French people are able to handle a call in English (Is it English from Manchester? From Wales? Or from Scotland?) or to understand an English email or letter.

You need language resources, in the UK or in France.

Who do you want to answer the phone in French, to reply to emails and letters from France and to handle your French social media accounts?

I know British companies hiring a French person to do “everything French” from writing bespoke content and translating marketing literature to picking up the phone and replying emails from angry French clients. Ouch.

Talking to customers directly and creating content are different jobs.

They require different skills, different mindset and planning.
They work at different speed.

How do you handle your customer service in English?
Do it in the same way in French.

You don’t have enough French enquiries for a full-time job because you’ve just started?
Hire a French person part-time.

Show clearly on your website what you offer. For example say that your customer service in French is available via the phone “du lundi au vendredi de 9h00 à 13h00”. Or “Nous répondons par email à votre message dans les 48 heures.” People need to know what to expect when they contact you.

Is your French customer service internal or external?
It can be difficult to outsource phone calls and it’s more likely an internal job.
Outsourcing emails, letters and social media is possible as long as the amount of messages is low. At some point it becomes an internal job because your collaborator needs to keep a finger on the pulse.
Explain your ethics and business culture to your collaborator. Work closely (Skype, email), ask them to report. Answer their questions quickly and be transparent on what exactly you need from them.

—  French people can contact you via the phone
Obviously you answer their call in French. Be aware that the French love a free customer line when they buy on the Internet. If you can’t offer a free line in French, better use email.

—  They can contact you via email
Invest in French copywriting with an agency or an independent specialist. Don’t compromise on quality: you want your messages to sound French.
Do you rely on computer-assisted translation tools, paid or free? Get everything edited by a French-speaking marketer: this is your chance to have a conversation with your prospect or client. Don’t sabotage it.
Answering emails in French can be a job for your French copywriter or for your French customer service person.
How do you manage your email communication in English? Do you separate content creation (email campaigns) and customers enquiries (dealing with complaints)?
Do the same with your French emails.
Borders between marketing and customer service teams are getting blurred in many companies (that’s a good thing) and it’s not my role here to guide you on this matter.

—  French people can use social media in French
How do you use social media in English? Do you only broadcast messages? Do you talk to your customers directly, answer their questions, help them make an order? Or do you just join the conversation? Have you a dedicated English team?
Do the same in French.
Translating broadcast messages is fine because they don’t always require the same level of care as an email or a letter and you can schedule. You are in control.
But comments, enquiries and engaging talks from French prospects and clients have to be answered all along in French.
Be realistic: how quickly can you react? Are you available 7/7? Do you have time slots?
Let French people know what and when, for example “Compte Twitter officiel de Xxxxxx, nous sommes ici de 14h00 à 21h00 tous les jours pour vous.”
Is your French copywriter the right person for your French social media? They are in the loop and you can help them with editorial guidelines: tone of voice, what you want them to talk about or not and what they must report quickly.
Does your French customer service collaborator have the time for it?
Being active on social media in French can become a busy job for them.

It is better to provide an effective part-time customer service than to suggest you are available all the time on all media. Frustration comes from disappointment, not from information.

The more opportunities you create to get in contact with French-speaking customers, the more comprehensive your language strategy has to be.

You sell through other channels

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As long as you do not have a French website you can sell to French customers without being in direct contact. Selling offline in a more traditional way does not require to reach or to connect.

Your French distributor is in charge.

Your product is displayed in French shops.

A French team is running your telemarketing and they report to you in English.

Be careful: it does not mean you can get away with the French language!

—  Do you need marketing material or direct marketing? Hire a French copywriter.
—  Have you created an app? Get it translated. Same with how-to-use guides: they will be more helpful in French than in English.
—  Have you published YouTube videos? Invest in a French voice over.
—  Do you need French packaging? Pay attention to the translation because they reach directly customers and are a great way to display useful information.

Do you offer some documents in French to download, such as tariffs, catalogue, list of retailers, case studies, etc.? The quality of the translation matters. People don’t download documents because they are bored. They want to understand quickly, to compare or to buy.

When your French website is a “brochure” website or a corporate website, the interaction with potential customers is lower. You master a one-way communication at your own pace.

But how a French person can get in contact with you?
And how quickly can you answer their enquiry?

Ask for help.

 

 

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foryourbrandonly.com has been created by Véronique Mermaz, a brand and marketing specialist. She is originally from France and lives in rural England. You can find Véronique at LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter: @veroniquemermaz