Here’s a scenario you may know all too well: an inquiry or complaint comes in to your customer call center, and it only takes a few moments for the agent to determine that the caller is not a fluent English speaker. Your call center agent can’t fully understand what is being said – and neither can your customer. The few bilingual agents you have on staff or on call, perhaps a handful of French or Spanish speakers, don’t speak this caller’s language.
How do you make sure this customer receives good service?
In many call centers, the conclusion to this scenario involves some apologies and rudimentary attempts to speak to the customer, followed by frustration and the customer exiting the call with a negative impression of your company. But it doesn’t have to end that way. Remote language interpretation services allow call center agents to bring into the call a qualified interpreter, who can quickly and easily facilitate communication in the customer’s native language – allowing the agent to help that customer and build a better relationship that has significant staying power.
Numerous studies have shown that customers who are approached in their native languages and ways that reflect knowledge of cultural traditions are far more likely to become repeat customers with that business – and even share their positive experience with friends and colleagues. Adding a remote interpretation service to your call center response strategy solidifies positive customer interactions, increases your center’s satisfaction rate and helps your business build a customer-centric image that will attract new business as well as repeat users.
There are several best practices to keep in mind when searching for the right remote interpretation provider to partner with. Here are the most important qualities you should look for when evaluating professional language service providers:
They can go beyond bilingual. In today’s global atmosphere, it’s not enough to offer just Spanish or French interpreting. Your interpretation service partner should provide interpreters who are proficient in multiple languages and dialects – everything from Mandarin to Somali.
They offer more than just phone service. Consumers around the world are shifting from requiring customer service from just telephones to other platforms such as video, instant messenger, Web-based audio and more. Your interpretation service partner should be “in the know” on all of these technologies and ready to support your platforms, beyond the telephone. They should also be ready to help with non-telephone translation support such as full-time bilingual staffing, training document translation for staff, and even e-learning module translation services.
They’re open for business when you are. If your call center is open 24/7 year-round, your interpretation service partner should be as well. Your partner should be ready to engage whenever one of your call center agents receives a call from a non-English speaking customer –and that includes Christmas Day or the middle of the night, if needed.
They’re professionally-trained native speakers who know the culture. Enlisting the help of a language professional is an act of trust. You are giving them access to your most valuable asset: your customers. An interpretation service partner should recruit and hire professional linguists who are native speakers of the target language, and who understand not only the language but current idioms, word usage and cultural preferences. In some cultures, a male patient or customer is not allowed to speak on the phone to a female translator – even if his health or well-being is in jeopardy. The right translation partner will know all of these cultural practices and be prepared for them.
Their goal is to become a true partner. Ideally, an interpretation service partner will become a consultant and offer tips on all the ways language barriers can impact your business. If you are considering adding new call center locations in different countries, you should be able to contact your interpretation service partner and receive their advice on the local laws and regulations governing call centers. For example, if you’re thinking of conducting business in Canada, you should know that law requires language services in both English and French Canadian. Your interpretation service partner should be able to counsel you effectively on these matters.
They understand more than languages. Of course, the primary directive when partnering with an interpretation service expert is to leverage their expertise in all language services, including interpretation, translation and localization. But it’s even better when that partner also understands the dynamics, goals and technologies of the call center itself. Imagine the possibilities and new revenue streams that can be gained if your interpretation service partner also possesses other capabilities, such as experience with targeted outbound telemarketing campaigns, scriptwriting and even the ability to fully integrate with your existing sales and CRM applications.
As always, the most important element in raising your call center’s customer satisfaction rate is the human one. Even with the most advanced technology and applications, customers still want to end each call feeling as if their needs matter and will be met by a caring, engaged team who understands them. By investing in a strategic, consultative relationship with a skilled, experienced remote interpretation service partner, call centers can demonstrate that they’re taking an active interest in improving communications – and the overall user experience – for their customers. This level of commitment reaps rewards that include long-lasting customer loyalty and positive reviews. And for many companies, that can truly be critical to the growth of their market and longevity of their business.
About the author
Liz Elting is the co-founder and co-CEO at TransPerfect and Translations.com. She has been profiled in several books, including The New York Times bestseller "Succeed by Your Own Terms" (McGraw-Hill), "Leadership Secrets of the World's Most Successful CEOs" (Dearborn Trade Publishing), and "Straight Talk About Starting and Growing Your Business" (McGraw-Hill). Elting is featured regularly in the media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Financial Times (News - Alert), Crain’s New York Business, Reader’s Digest, Inc. and O, The Oprah Magazine. She has received numerous awards for her outstanding entrepreneurship from AMEX, Crain’s, Ernst and Young, Deloitte (News - Alert), and Inc., among others. She holds an MBA in finance and international business from The Stern School of Business at New York University.
Edited by Braden Becker