Tuesday Tip – Go Speak The Language of Your Customer

Guest Blog Post by Watson & Co. Chartered Marketing WorldHost Customer Service Graduate – Marketing Trainee: Callum Steenson

How to WOW tourists – they deserve it!

The need for languages in the Northern Ireland Hospitality & Tourism sectors

We’ve all been in that situation, walking into a boulangerie in France, a supermercado in Spain or a fruttivendolo in Italy. In your mind you rapidly start flicking back through the archives of that GCSE languages class you sat through every Friday afternoon in school. But nothing’s there. It’s just white noise. The counter is now getting closer. And closer. Before you know it you’re stood in front of the smiling, expectant Mediterranean server, not knowing whether you’re about to ask for five oranges or 28 of his grandmother’s best plant pots. There’s no time. Your eyes are locked with the servers. There is no escape. With heart pounding and sweat dripping, your lips start to separate, petrified of what is about to be released from them. Then, RELIEF. Just before you accidentally insult the server’s father’s cat, you are greeted by the soothing, sweat-drying, heart-slowing question ‘Hello, how can I help you?” in perfect English.

“Everyone speaks English, right?”

customer service language barriers app to demonstrate translation















I’m sure we can all recall a situation like that. Some of us may not even attempt to speak any of the local dialect when we’re on holiday. Everyone speaks English, right? Well you’re wrong. English is the first language of only 360 million people in the world. Considering that our planet is host to 7.5 billion people and that English is considered one of the hardest languages to learn on earth, there are actually not as many people English speakers as you may think.

Having recalled the sense of relief we all feel when on holiday as our waiter, tour guide or receptionist communicates with us in our mother tongue, why do we expect UK visitors to speak in English? Are they not human too? Do they not feel the exact same sense of confusion, fear and stress we do when in a foreign country?

WorldHost Excellence in Customer Service Training Programme – globally recognised accreditation for Excellence in Customer Service.

I recently attended the WorldHost Customer Service Training Programme delivered by the award-winning Christine Watson of Watson & Co. Chartered Marketing. The session focused on ‘WOWing’ our clients with customer service excellence in a time when customer feedback is spread all over the world instantly through social media and online platforms.

One of the ‘WOW’ (Winning Attitudes that Optimise Wonderful experiences) stories told by my fellow trainee: Lesley McAskie owner of Windsor Town House Belfast was that she learned five phrases in mandarin when hosting a couple from Beijing. The fact that the couple were welcomed in their mother tongue, when in such a different and possibly intimidating country and culture from their own made them feel so at ease and showed that Lesley truly cared about the quality of their stay in Belfast. She really ‘went the extra mile’ in her customer service which lead to her clients feeling truly valued in receiving such a warm and familiar welcome.





5 phrases in Mandarin, German, French, Spanish and Italian to help you WOW your international clients

If you are serious about wanting to provide the best customer service for your foreign visitors, here are five phrases in five of the biggest tourist languages in the world that will help you ‘WOW’ your guests.

English Mandarin German French Spanish Italian
Welcome Huān yíng Willkommen Bienvenue Bienvenido Benvenuto
Hello, my name is ……. Nǐ hǎo, wǒ jiào ………. Hallo Ich heisse …….. Bonjour, je m’appelle …… Hola, me llamo ……… Ciao, mi chiamo ……
What is your name? Nǐ jiào shénme míngzì? Wie ist Ihr Name? Comment vous appelez vous ? ¿Cómo se llama? Come si chiama?
How are you? Nǐ hǎo ma? Wie gehts? Ça va? ¿Cómo estáis? Come sta?
Goodbye Zàijiàn Tschüss Au revoir Adiós Addio

Non-verbal communication in a foreign language

So now you can communicate verbally with your client. But from my WorldHost Customer Service training I know that the majority of how we express ourselves is done through non-verbal communication and that different customers have different needs and expectations. Within different cultures, needs, expectations, facial expressions and body language can all differ.
Let’s take the mandarin symbol ‘to Listen’ for example.

In China the word to listen actually has many different components:

Left and Right Ear – you must be using both to listen.
King – pay attention to the person as if they were the King.
Ten and Eye – you must be observant as if you had 10 eyes.
One – Listen with individual attention.
Heart – Listen also with your heart.

Therefore when listening to a Chinese person they expect that you give them complete and utter devotion and attention. They also expect that you show them the utmost respect and listen to them with care and empathy.

What does your business sound like?

For all you marketers out there, I’m sure you are aware of the rise of ‘voice’ within our digital world. Already 25% of all Google searches of 16-24 year olds are done through voice searches with comScore predicting that 50% of ALL online searches will be voice searched by 2020. So what does your business sound like? Is it limited to only one language?

These questions are things that need to be considered NOW. The rise of voice is happening NOW. If you don’t provide excellent customer service and communication, somebody else will. Getting geared up for the rise of voice may seem a daunting task. But it’s really exciting to be living in an age of such diversity, linguistically, culturally and economically and if you take the right steps your business could be opened up to so much more.


Blog written by Languages Student – WorldHost Customer Service Graduate Callum Steenson from Northern Ireland. Callum completed a week long marketing traineeship with Watson & Co. Chartered Marketing in September 2018.



Picture 1: Watson & Co. Chartered Marketing Licensed WorldHost Customer Service and Ambassador Trainer Christine Watson was assisting international tourists at Belfast City Hall in July 2018. The language barrier was apparent and this app only picked up some words correctly.

Picture 2: Road signs in Inverness are provided in a number of languages. Photo by Watson & Co. Chartered Marketing Licensed WorldHost Trainer and Chartered Marketer Christine Watson during a benchmarking visit to Loch Ness.

Picture 3: Service professionals in Historical Royal Palaces wear name badges that inform customers of which languages they speak. Communicated through the use of flags.


name badges demonstrate languages spoken by servers