How Long Should It Take Your Agents to Reach an Interpreter

Aug 22, 2018


In a contact center environment, Average Handle Time (AHT) is king. Centers operate on tight margins, necessitating that every call be handled efficiently to keep the queue clear.

Today, one in five US residents speaks a language other than English at home. And about half that population lack the English proficiency to conduct business with your agents without the aid of an interpreter. Most contact center leaders understand that reality, and they’ve partnered with a multilingual support provider like Voiance to make over-the-phone interpreters available to their agents.

Since these leaders aren’t language services experts, they may view procuring interpreter services the way they do procuring pens for the office or paper towels for the restrooms – as a commodity to be chosen largely on up-front cost. But shopping for interpretation services exclusively on per-minute price can backfire if the chosen “solution” negatively impacts AHT, introducing poorly-equipped interpreters into already-challenging non-English calls.

Here are some questions – in addition to “What’s the price?” – to ask when shopping for contact center multilingual support:

What to Ask: Across all languages, what is your average connection time to a certified interpreter once a language has been selected? Please provide historical data that confirms your answer.

What percentage of our call volume do you expect to connect to an interpreter within 10 seconds? How does this differ between Spanish and all other languages?

Impact on AHT: Time spent waiting for an interpreter to come on the line is time added to AHT. Some multilingual support vendors report a low average connection time without revealing that they’re only measuring the time it takes their automated system to answer inbound calls. But this number isn’t useful unless they also include the subsequent hold time to reach an interpreter.

Voiance parent CyraCom operates the largest network of US-based interpreter contact centers, enabling them to schedule interpreters to cover fluctuating call volume. Many competitors rely exclusively on independent contractors who cannot be lawfully scheduled in the US, making it difficult for them to maintain quick connection times during periods of high call volume.


What to Ask: How do you control the quality of your interpretation? Which training, coaching, and ongoing education tools do you employ?

Impact on AHT: Interpreter quality should reduce the number of misunderstandings and missteps that take place on non-English calls, shortening the calls (and likely improving customer satisfaction).

Interpreters for Voiance undergo 120 hours of in-depth, in-person, industry-specific classroom training – three times what’s typical for the industry – prior to taking your customers’ calls. We believe this investment in quality leads to higher-quality interpretation and fewer missteps.


What to Ask: Please list the countries in which your interpreters handle the full duration of interpretation calls, noting what percentage of your overall call volume is handled in each country. Please confirm that these calls are not customer service or operator calls but full interpretation sessions.

Impact on AHT: Cultures can differ as much as languages do. If your customers are US residents and the interpreters they’re connecting to live and work outside the US, cultural differences could lead to miscommunications which delay solving the customer’s problem and increase AHT.

All calls to Voiance are handled from start to finish by interpreters who live and work in the continental US, ensuring they’re familiar with US customs, cultures, and norms.

Looking for more questions to ask your potential multilingual support providers? Download our RFP guide here to learn what to ask – and why it matters.

Download Resource

Want to learn more about partnering with Voiance for quality multilingual support? Email or give us a call at 1-844 727-6739.

Topics: Best Practices, The More You Know, Advice and Improvement, client success, cultural competency, Interpretation, interpreter, Language Services, Over-the-Phone Interpretation, phone interpretation, Customer Satisfaction, multilingual support, reliability

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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