January 2016
By Rebecca Ray

Image: @ pichet_w/istockphoto.com

Rebecca Ray is a senior analyst at independent market research firm Common Sense Advisory. In her work at CSA Research, Rebecca’s primary focus is enterprise globalization, social media, multilingual SEO, and global product development. A former Rotarian Scholar and Silicon Valley veteran, Rebecca co-authored a book for global high-tech companies on doing business in the United States. Based in Turkey, she has lived and worked in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America. Rebecca is fluent in English, French, and Spanish, and proficient in Portuguese and Turkish.

Twitter: @CSA_Research



Soliciting customer feedback in today’s global social world

Customer feedback enables smart business decisions. For valuable feedback, ask specific questions and never lose sight of the bigger picture.

Localization managers often find it difficult to provide timely, high-quality feedback from international customers. Colleagues in product marketing question which localized versions to produce in the first place. Digital marketers seek insights on what the competition is doing in local markets. Those responsible for translation want to verify linguistic quality. This article covers what feedback to solicit, who to gather it from, how to collect it, and what to do with it once you have it.

Choose specific topics when gathering local input

Before asking people in local markets what they think, develop a questionnaire to focus your discussion. Improving the customer experience (CX) is central to most feedback initiatives, so feel free to ask about product design, end-of-life for a current service, and anything in between. Investigate how your products and services are presented to, sold to, delivered to, and supported for international customers. Research the local versions in which your offerings are available. Your role in the localization process defines your perspective on feedback:

  • Localization managers want to explore linguistic quality. They want to know how to properly tier content types and language quality for specific audiences. They need insight as to when alternatives such as crowdsourcing or post-edited machine translation could stretch their budgets.
  • Content creators seek data about how localized content is consumed. Apps have just a few seconds to catch people’s attention in their “mobile moments” before they move to their next email, tweet, or video. Web content writers, technical documentation teams, and videographers look for all possible input as they create optimal content for each point of a customer’s journey with their company.
  • Marketing and sales people benchmark against local competitors. When they enter a new market or strive to increase market share, marketers want to identify areas where rivals excel and where they need to improve.
  • Product managers want input on designing the next product or service offering. They must balance meeting the requirements of current customers while moving forward at the right pace to win new audiences.

Look beyond current customers to add nuance to international feedback

Once you identify the issues and questions to research, it’s time to figure out who you should talk with in order to get the information you need. Collaborate with colleagues in marketing, sales, business development, user community management, customer support, and in-country subsidiaries to confirm your target profiles and the best avenues to reach them. Sales engineers in local markets and the people answering post-sales calls, emails, and chats are excellent sources for this type of information.

Don’t stop there. Cast your net externally. Share what you’re trying to find out with local partners such as distributors and sales agents, language service providers, third-party content creators, freelancer networks, and multimedia production houses. Some may allow you to contact their clients. Professional associations for marketing, international business, and product marketing can be good sources. Your country’s embassies and consulates can put you in touch with expat community members. They can easily bridge the cultural gap to enlighten you on what does and doesn’t work in their market.

If you’re trying to reach younger, future consumers, don’t ignore foreign students attending university in your country. Graduate students, especially, should be able to articulate the expectations of the different strata within their societies. Apply what you learn to keep product roadmaps on track or to calibrate the appropriate level of quality for specific types of content.

Sources for finding the right people to provide feedback



Business development

Embassies and consulates

Customer support

Foreign students

Local subsidiaries

Freelancer networks


Local partners


Professional associations

User community managers

Third-party suppliers

Table 1: Seek out internal and external sources for reaching the right customers.
Source: Common Source Advisory, Inc.


Identify multiple vehicles to reach your target audiences

In today’s multi-channel world, turbocharged by social media, there are many sources for collecting useful feedback throughout a customer’s engagement with your product and organization. Most important is that you recognize where your prospects and customers are likely to gather, whether online or offline. They can find you, so you should be able to find them.

Avenues for gathering international customer feedback


Sample activity

Electronic touches

Business networking sites such as Dajie, LinkedIn, Viadeo, and local equivalents

·  Connect with individuals and companies as they purchase your product or service

·  Nurture group discussions

·  Post content and ask questions that are relevant for prospects and customers

·  Pull followers into your user communities


·  Include one or two questions on corporate customer satisfaction (CSAT) or net promoter score (NPS) surveys

Social networking sites such as LINE, Twitter, WeChat, and their local equivalents

·  Connect with individuals and companies as they purchase your product or service

·  Post content and ask questions that are relevant for prospects and customers

·  Pull followers into your user communities

Social analytics software

·  Deploy a product from companies such as Adobe, SDL, Sentiment, or Webtrends

User communities

·  Ask questions related to product design, localized versions, local marketing campaigns, anything!


·  Track the technical and support documents and languages used by your customers

Human touches

Customer support

·  Review call logs and emails for local market feedback

·  Join live calls and chats with international customers


·  Reach out to companies that sell or support your products in local markets

·  Ask service partners such as LSPs or content creators if they have customers you can contact

Local subsidiaries

·  Talk with local marketing managers and sales engineers

Physical locations

·  Conferences

·  Concerts

·  Internet cafes

·  Malls

·  Sports events

Table 2: Companies can use many avenues to solicit international customer feedback.
Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

Route actionable feedback along the right track

Depending on the results of customer input, your team may be able to handle all comments related to linguistic quality. However, take care to drill down so that you understand which feedback may relate to missing features or functionality, or the overall design of a product or marketing program. Review how your company presents and processes this type of feedback, and who can act on it.

Discuss next steps with your executive sponsor. If you don’t have a sponsor, find someone in operations or finance who can guide you to the right person. Without upper management support, you risk local market feedback being ignored as your company rushes to meet other priorities.

What you find may surprise you – it’s not always about linguistic quality

In our research and consulting engagements, CSA Research has observed many translation and localization managers getting caught in the linguistic quality rut when trying to solicit high-quality customer feedback. What does that mean? Consider the infotainment system in your all-electric car. It may be perfectly documented and translated. However, if it’s still too complicated to use or counter-intuitive as compared to your Android or Xiaomi, the car manufacturer will have wasted the investment in translation – regardless of how good the linguistic quality is.

Take care not to focus exclusively on linguistic issues to the point of failing to recognize what you should be localizing (for example, video instead of written content) or how to deliver it (machine rather than human translation). Look at the bigger picture. You may find that customers are telling you to localize less for them, but to go deeper in what you do deliver. Or, perhaps they’re looking for a bilingual version of certain types of content to have access to the original. Whatever their preferences, make sure that you don’t miss the overall message as you review answers to individual questions.