Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Multilanguage Support in the Contact Center





In today’s business world, the desire to reach more consumers is a top priority. With global online purchasing easier to accommodate, and businesses expanding into new geographies, one can naturally expect a surge in non-English speaking customers. This is certainly having an impact on contact center strategies as we must determine how to provide support to these new clients. For enterprise level organizations with a global presence, the infrastructure may already be in place to address this. For those without, including the small-to-medium sized company, perhaps this presents a dilemma. How does a contact center without a formal multilingual support system handle non-English calls?

Before you answer, certain considerations must be made. It’s worth determining the percentage of your client base that is non-English speaking. Are these high value clients? Where are they located? These are just a few areas that must be analyzed, however, there are many, many more. In my mind, these questions should not be used to determine if baseline support will be offered to these customers. Every customer deserves your assistance! The end goal is to develop a plan that works best for the company AND the customer while enhancing the overall experience.

One should never lose sight of the customer experience. There are numerous studies that highlight how significant the customer experience is to your bottom line, including several 2013 reports from ICMI that clearly link customer experience to customer engagement and to the customer’s lifetime value. Are you still not convinced? Research also shows a rise in customer defections after only one bad experience! For those of us in the contact center, failing the customer is not an option.

I truly see the need for foreign language support. Not only are non-native English speakers moving to the US, but global markets are in need of services provided by US companies. If your product serves an international customer base, your support center needs to be able to handle it as well. While solely offering English support seems to do the trick for some companies, the lack of additional languages in the support center could ultimately be hurting long-term business.

Make no mistake; supporting additional languages is harder than one may think. For example, if you’re offering technical support, not only are you in need of someone with strong technical skills, but you also must look for someone that can speak the necessary foreign language. Not to mention, they need to meet all other criteria that you’re looking for. By simply adding that highly sought after foreign language as a criteria, your pool of applicants has nearly emptied. So what is one to do?

One contact center I am familiar with realized it was feasible to staff their team with new multilingual agents. They utilized Google translate to assist customers via email. As this is a small service center, this solution worked very well for them. This is not a viable approach for everyone. Perhaps an alternative is to contract with a language interpreter service. Whether on demand or onsite, these providers offer turnkey solution for your interpretation needs often at a lower cost than hiring new staff.

Let’s re-visit the initial question with a slight modification. How ideally would you offer multilingual support? When it comes to multi-language support, not only is the language itself different, but the culture behind the language is different. Whoever your customer base may be, it’s important to have native speakers, or highly fluent speakers familiar with the culture, ready to assist. They’ll better understand the tone of the conversation, and can then easily provide a better customer experience.





Sean is a Contact Center manager with over 13 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.

His contact center is a past winner of the ICMI "Global Call Center of the Year" award for Small to Medium-Sized Centers.

Follow on Twitter @SeanBHawkins

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