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Act Global and Think Local: How Not to Get Lost in Translation
In an increasingly global world where social and search are merging and reviews really do matter, what should travel firms be thinking about? Kathleen Bostick, Vice President of the Travel and Hospitality Practice at the global translations firm, Lionbridge, shares her insights with EyeforTravel’s Pamela Whitby.
Few in our industry will ever forget the travel chaos that erupted in 2011 as a result of the Icelandic volcano. Flights were cancelled, holidays wrecked and school starts delayed as families were left stranded in far away places. The natural disaster tested customer service strategies to the absolute limit and some came off better than others.
Dutch carrier KLM was one that handled the situation effectively – and it did so using social media. In fact, the volcanic ash cloud prompted a social media strategy that has arguably become recognised as one of the best in the industry. Recognising that it simply could not update its website fast enough to report on the emerging crisis, KLM turned to Twitter to inform customers in their local language, and it did this in 26 countries.
Just a few weeks ago, KLM took that strategy a step further. They said Facebook and Twitter would now be the first place customers should turn to for customer service. So far it is doing this around the clock in five languages: English, Dutch, German, Spanish and Japanese.
“KLM are rock stars when it comes to social media,” says Kathleen Bostick, VP Travel and Hospitality Practice at translations firm, Lionbridge. “Getting to this point has obviously been a process. The bottom line is that they have recognised two important things. First, social media when used properly can be an excellent customer service tool. Second, responding in a person’s native language really can make all the difference.”
In an increasingly online and accessible world, travel firms should be thinking not only about the social but the global aspect of social media. Says Bostick, “The day you set up a Facebook page, you’re global whether you like it or not.”
“Now we know that everybody reads reviews and nobody is going to be able to translate all of these,” stresses Bostick. “But with social and search merging and becoming so important, you have to have content in the language people are searching in if you want to be found.”
So what do travel firms need to do? Here are some top tips:
To outsource or not to outsource
Having a global social media strategy is really important. So how do you do it if you have, for example, plenty of resources in Spain and Italy but nothing in Russia or Japan, which are your fastest growing destinations? Outsourcing can be a part of your social media strategy. While a few years ago this may have been seen as completely taboo, given the global nature of travel this is changing.
Bostick sites a faux pas by a major car manufacturer when somebody in Europe posted a question in Dutch on Facebook, asking where he could find the closest dealership. A while later came the response. “Sorry we don’t speak Dutch.” Not only did that company lose the sale, but this lost customer told all his friends about it.
Many companies are still so overwhelmed with their English social media strategy that the global piece isn’t even on their radar. They know they have to do something, but may be delaying due to lack of resources. This is where a translation partner can help. They can do everything from managing and monitoring in-country platforms, communities and forums, to routing and responding, creating original in-language content, translating blogs, campaigns and reviews or simply supplementing in-house resources.
Remember, websites and social media are already global whether you want them to be or not, so make sure you have a plan in place to reach and embrace your global audience.
Kathleen Bostick, Vice President of the Travel and Hospitality Practice at the global translations firm, Lionbridge will speaking at EyeforTravel’s Travel Distribution Summit, North America in Las Vegas from September 13-14 alongside 90 other industry leading experts. See the full mobile agenda and speaker line up here.
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