Addressing Language Barriers in Multilingual Call Center Services
Is your customer service team increasingly running into language-based misunderstandings and miscommunications?
If so, it might be time to expand your services. Multilingual call center services can help your team easily address and resolve language barriers when speaking with your customer base, while improving customer service and satisfaction across the board.
A multilingual call center gives you access to high-quality agents who speak the languages your customers do—whether that’s English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, or something else. When agents can connect with customers in their native language, miscommunications decrease and customers feel more connected and loyal to your brand.
But does language really have a big enough impact on service to justify the investment? And how can you leverage multilingual services to benefit your customers and organization? Keep reading to learn the data and best practices you need to know.
The Importance of Language in Multilingual Call Centers
Integrating a multilingual call center into your customer service can have a huge impact on your customer satisfaction, loyalty and brand growth.
Just look at the data:
- 72% of consumers said they’d be “more likely to buy a product with information in their own language.”
- 56% of consumers said finding information in their own language is more important than price when it comes to purchasing decisions.
- 42% of consumers said “they never purchase products and services in other languages.”
This isn’t just relevant for browsing and purchasing, although that is (clearly) important—the preference for interacting in one’s own native language extends to customer service as well. According to a Unbabel study, 68% of consumers would switch brands if another brand offered support in their native language.
The takeaway here is that multilingual support isn’t just a preference among consumers, or a “nice-to-have” feature for customer support—it’s a critical decision-making issue that can win or lose customers for your business.
In addition to improved customer service and loyalty, offering multilingual service supports a number of service and business goals, including:
- lowering call attrition and abandonment rates
- improving conversion rates among callers
- strengthening customer satisfaction
- offering personalization for customer service
- aiding in business expansion
At ROI CX Solutions, we offer multilingual services for our clients who are looking to expand their business locations or better serve a diverse customer base. One of our clients was an education provider whose Spanish-speaking audience base grew exponentially during the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to better serve this new audience segment, they partnered with our team to increase bilingual support staff by 75% for assisting with inbound customer calls, efficiently placing orders, facilitating returns and managing other customer service needs.
Of course, all of these benefits won’t come effortlessly—it’s essential that your agents have fluent language skills to meet the needs of each linguistic audience. In addition, you’ll need to manage challenges and barriers toward seamless multilingual service. We’ll discuss how to do so in the upcoming sections.
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Best Practices for Addressing Language Barriers in Multilingual Call Centers
As you consider how to integrate multilingual services into your call center, it’s important to consider best practices for addressing language barriers. With any call center, language barriers can quickly derail your customer service efforts. Keep in mind these four best practices as you address language barriers:
Keep the team unified. Whether your multilingual agents are in-house with your team, part of a completely outsourced team, or outsourced separately from your main team, it’s essential that you hire and train agents similarly, regardless of their role or location. This ensures that all of your customers receive the same quality of service and attention from your brand, regardless of what language the interaction takes place in.
Some companies make the mistake of devoting significant training and attention to internal agents for their main service line, and then outsourcing bilingual agents almost as an afterthought. As a result, their bilingual customer service suffers, and their investment offers limited returns and benefits.
Provide linguistic resources. This goes for both agents and customers. For customers, keep in mind that 90% of Internet users, when given the choice, “always visited a website in their own language.” This was true even for European customers, who are often multilingual. As such, providing translations for your website, especially FAQ and Help sections, will be a major benefit for your multilingual audiences.
In addition, don’t overlook the benefit of translation and interpretation technology for agents. While this is most effective for written communication and small-scale service, it’s an affordable way to scale your multilingual support. Even if you have dedicated multilingual agents, translation technology can provide more efficient and effective multilingual services, improving agent productivity and service levels.
If you need dedicated agents, consider outsourcing. Outsourced call centers typically have more time and resources to dedicate to agent hiring and training, which means that you’ll be able to get quality agents at an affordable rate. This is particularly relevant if your multilingual services need Spanish- or French-speaking agents, which are commonly found at nearshore call centers. Since nearshore agents typically live in a country that natively speaks Spanish or French, while being closely connected to US language and culture, they typically have a stronger command of both languages.
Create language-specific scripts. Within your call center training and service materials, ensure you have language-specific copies of all relevant scripts and call flows. Not only do you want to prevent agents from having to translate scripts in real-time (leading to increased linguistic errors and decreased productivity and clarity), but creating language-specific scripts can allow for unique linguistic idioms, so that your scripts sound natural in every language.
Overcoming Common Language Barriers in a Multilingual Contact Center
While hiring multilingual agents can go a long way towards offering more complete customer service, there’s still a number of common pitfalls that can occur even when agents are fluent in more than one language. For example:
- accents (from the customer or the agent) can make understanding difficult
- dialect differences can hamper communication
- idiomatic expressions can cloud understanding for less fluent speakers
- cultural differences can occur even between two people who speak the same language
Any of these pitfalls can create misunderstandings and lead to communication breakdowns. As such, organizations should consider these possibilities during the hiring and training process to avoid them as much as possible.
When hiring, aim to find agents who both speak the language your customers do and live near where your customers live. For example, Spanish-speaking agents from Mexico will be more culturally and linguistically similar to US-based Spanish speakers than a Spanish-speaking agent from the Philippines. That’s to say: not every bilingual agent is equal. Finding those with cultural and geographic similarities to your audience will prevent many miscommunications.
In addition, when training bilingual agents, make sure to emphasize clear communication techniques, such as:
- using shorter, simple words
- speaking slowly and clearly, without a lot of “ums” and “uhs”
- avoiding idioms or cultural references
- providing concise information
- asking clarifying questions to gauge understanding
While all agents should be trained in these communication techniques, employing them is especially important for multilingual agents who will be handling calls in more than one language.
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Multilingual Call Center Services
According to a recent survey, 82% of companies don’t offer multilingual support because they can’t “justify the investment.” However, as noted above, bilingual customers are more than willing to shop elsewhere if they can’t access your website, service and products in their own language.
So, how can you justify the investment, especially if your multilingual customer base is small?
Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) is one of the best ways to evaluate language support—not only its performance, but also its effectiveness. As such, multilingual call center services should be measured not only based on regular quality standards, such as FCR, AHT, and average response time, but also language-specific metrics. These could include things such as metrics sorted by location and language, number of tickets and interactions fed through multilingual channels and so on.
For example, many companies measure CSAT, NPS and so on, and also break down CSAT and CES by location or language. That is, do Spanish-speaking customers have higher or lower CSAT scores than our main line? Is CES reduced when we offer multilingual services?
Based on these metrics and data, you can then not only evaluate and demonstrate the effectiveness of multilingual services, but also implement continuous improvement and adaptation of your language support to better serve customers and meet business goals.
Is a Multilingual Contact Center Right for You?
Offering multilingual customer support requires some specialized considerations, but for many companies, it’s well worth the time and resources invested in return for improved customer satisfaction and loyalty.
In general, companies should consider multilingual call center services if they:
- are looking to expand their business or audience
- have a strong presence in regions with a high percentage of Spanish-speakers, such as California or Texas
- have 10% or more of their customer base with a native language other than English
- are experiencing reduced service level quality (such as lower satisfaction or longer handle times) due to linguistic barriers
In these (and many other) cases, adding multilingual services to your customer support strategy can reap many benefits for your business growth and customer experiences.
When you’re ready to expand your customer support, improve satisfaction and effortlessly scale up your multilingual customer service, contact ROI CX Solutions. Our multilingual agents can provide your company with high-quality service in a variety of languages, allowing you to reach your customers and connect with them for life.
Connect with an expert from ROI CX Solutions today to see how multilingual call centers can set your customer service apart.