Three Reasons Contact Center Leaders Should Prioritize Multilingual Support

Sep 27, 2017

Prior to joining Voiance's team, I spent four years taking calls, training new hires, and managing agents in a large-scale US contact center - similar to those run by many Voiance clients. During my time there, we didn’t give multilingual support – the ability to effectively handle contact with non-English speaking customers – much thought.

Here are three reasons why ignoring multilingual support is a mistake, and why you should consider partnering with a quality language services provider.

1. Demographic Trends Mean Contact Centers Should Expect More Non-English Calls

Most major US providers of consumer services utilize contact center support, so most US residents will need to call in at some point. US immigration trends suggest that these potential customers will become more linguistically diverse in the future. Pew Research finds that “over the next five decades, the majority of U.S. population growth is projected to be linked to new Asian and Hispanic immigration.”

Today, nearly one-in-ten US residents speaks English “less than very well,” and would likely prefer to communicate in their first language.

Some of these individuals do speak some English – perhaps enough to get through a straightforward conversation or ask a simple question and receive an answer. But some customer service situations aren’t straightforward, and some questions aren’t so simple. Solving the caller’s problem may involve explaining concepts most people find difficult to understand without a language barrier.

This complexity, combined with a limited understanding of English, raises the potential for misunderstanding. And your agents are less likely to notice those misunderstandings if they don’t speak the caller’s language.

2. Quick access to professional interpreters empowers agents to do their jobs well

Most agents want to handle their non-English calls with excellence but face competing pressures. They are often encouraged, if not expected, to handle incoming calls as quickly as possible, minimizing average handle time. They’re expected to explain complex concepts in such a way that the customer – who often has little working knowledge of the product or service they’re calling about – will understand. Agents may also be expected to meet quotas for securing new business or attaining a certain customer satisfaction rating, which requires them to build rapport and earn the customer’s trust.

A skilled agent will recognize – often correctly – that a language barrier can pose an obstacle to achieving these goals, as well as to helping the customer. Without quick access to professional, reliable interpreters, they may come to dread these calls.

3. Denying Agents the Tools They Need Undermines the Message of Customer Care

Most contact centers’ mission statements include some version of “taking great care of the customer.” Agents hear about it in training, and it’s essential to organizational success that they believe it and practice it. Asking these agents to provide outstanding service but failing to provide them the tools they need – tools like access to quality interpreters on non-English calls – may undermine their belief that customer care is really a top priority. This attitude may carry over to the calls they handle in English. So in addition to empowering agents, offering comprehensive multilingual support prevents leadership from undermining their message to their agents.

Now that you understand some of the benefits of providing professional interpreters for non-English calls, download our e-book to learn what’s available – and how easy it is to get started.

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Topics: Best Practices, Demographics & Culture, Advice and Improvement, Interpretation, Language Services

Written by Graham Newnum