Three Tips For Using Bilingual Agents Effectively in Contact Centers

Jun 27, 2018


Voiance provides phone and video interpretation services to contact centers on a per-minute basis. Our clients appreciate the ability to pay for an interpreter only when they need one, avoiding the overhead costs of employing and managing interpreters of their own.

However, there are times when contact centers may find it advantageous to staff bilingual agents, particularly for languages in which they receive dozens or hundreds of calls daily.

As a division of CyraCom, a company that staffs thousands of bilingual agents as interpreters in US contact centers, here are three tips from Voiance on employing these agents effectively:

  1. Confirm that Your Agents are, in Fact, Bilingual

This seems straightforward, but confirming a “bilingual” applicant’s capabilities can be a challenge for contact center leaders who only speak English. The applicant may appear to speak fluently in Spanish or Mandarin, but without knowing what’s being said, it’s impossible to gauge proficiency.

The challenge is further complicated by the fact that many bilingual speakers in the US were educated in English in American schools. Their experience in their non-English language may be completely informal – speaking the way one does with family and friends, as opposed to in a professional setting.

To overcome this challenge, contact center leadership may choose to enlist the help of an outside partner that specializes in testing the language proficiency of potential new bilingual agents. Voiance provides language assessment services in more than 45 languages, helping some of the nation’s leading contact centers ensure they’re providing quality service to their non-English speaking customers.

  1. Provide In-Language Resources to Bilingual Agents

Most contact centers have a vocabulary all their own – lists of terminology and phrases which they require English-speaking agents to use in conversations with customers. This practice is generally used to promote consistency across the organization and ensure that agents don’t incorrectly explain important concepts or processes.

In the same way, it’s a mistake to rely on bilingual agents to translate these terms and phrases into other languages. Translation is a separate skill set from being bilingual, one which requires training and practice. Enlisting the help of a professional translation company like Voiance to translate your industry-specific terminology into a glossary available in commonly-requested languages can help reduce miscommunication, call time, and customer callbacks due to misunderstanding.

  1. Require Ongoing, In-Language Quality Monitoring

Like English-only agents, bilingual agents should undergo regular call monitoring to verify adherence to best practices when interacting with customers. This can be difficult to manage when a center’s Quality team and/or management speaks only English – how will they determine whether an agent speaking Vietnamese or Russian is handling a call correctly?

Solutions to ensuring quality on non-English calls include:

  • Hiring bilingual management or Quality monitoring staff. This will work most effectively for contact centers planning to staff bilingual agents in just a few languages – it becomes impractical as the number of agents grows.
  • Surveying the non-English speaking customers your agents help. Send out customer satisfaction surveys translated into the customer’s language, then having their responses translated back into English upon return.
  • Promoting bilingual agents to the Quality team and/or management once they have proven themselves, enabling them to take a roll in monitoring non-English calls.

Need help vetting potential bilingual agents or equipping the ones you have with a glossary of terms and other resources in a language other than English? Email to learn what we can do for you.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Customer Satisfaction, multilingual support

Written by Graham Newnum

Digital Marketing Specialist experienced in researching and writing about language access-related topics for healthcare, business, and government.
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