How well does your business service non-English speaking customers?

Date: 2019/05/08

While customer experience is recognised as the key driving force behind customer engagement and loyalty, many businesses have a significant blind spot where it comes to servicing customers that are not native English speakers. At the same time, as business becomes more digital it also becomes more global, meaning that organisations increasingly receive enquiries and orders internationally. According to ICMI research, 79% of contact centres acknowledge that they have customers who do not speak the primary language that they offer, but only 66% have formal customer support options in a language other than English.

Without a formal multilingual support system in process, customer contact centre agents can struggle to manage enquiries from non-English speakers adequately, leading to frustration on both sides, inability to resolve the customer’s issue and a poor customer experience.

As businesses recognise that a significant and growing proportion of their customers are non-primary language speakers, they should also recognise that there will be a greater need to offer multilingual support.

Why don’t businesses offer multilingual support?

Depending on the type of organisation, offering support in multiple languages may be a low priority in the face of the daily challenges of running a contact centre. In a previous blog, we explored the various factors that can prevent contact centres from delivering the best customer experience, including budget, insufficient agent training, poor First Call/Contact Resolution rate and technology that isn’t aligned to business needs. Correspondingly, according to the ICMI research, 33% of the contact centres surveyed cited budget as a key reason for not offering multilingual customer support.

Multilingual agents or interpreters come at a premium and must be specially trained to use language that corresponds with the organisation’s policies and brand, so it only makes sense to hire language speakers if there is a clear business need, such as opening new geographical markets.

However, for organisations that are serious about providing superior, differentiated service, voice and text support in multiple languages can offer a significant competitive advantage. ICMI reported that 72% of organisations recognised that offering support in their customers’ native language improved satisfaction, and 58% experienced increased loyalty. Additionally, it can improve operational productivity: 58% of those surveyed said that adding a language interpretation service improved their internal agent productivity and efficiency.

In an increasingly global business environment, customers are growing to expect that their enquiries are answered 24/7, across multiple channels and in their native language. The ICMI survey found that around 60% of customers expect to be able to contact a brand using their native language. At the same time, 52% of contact centres predict that the volume of non-primary language communications will increase in the next few years. Failure to support these demands will have a negative impact on customer experience.

Moreover, contact centres that do offer supplementary multilingual or local in-territory support often overlook the need to monitor the quality of conversations in different languages. If a supervisor does not understand the language that an agent is conversing in, how can they ensure effective quality assurance? Without the capacity to check compliance and quality for these customer interactions, performance and customer satisfaction can suffer.

Choosing the right multilingual support for your customers

There are many ways that organisations can offer multilingual support, but before you make this decision, it’s important to assess the existing customer experience, in the same way that you would for your primary-language speakers. For example, how easy is it for someone to make contact? Which communication channels are preferred? What are the key pain points or common issues for these customers?

By taking the customer journey into account, it should be possible to define the most appropriate process for handling enquiries from non-English speakers and ensure that they receive the same consistent level of service as any other customer.

There are several ways that organisations can offer multilingual support, however due to the cost and difficulty in finding the right candidate, hiring bilingual speakers or interpreters may be only suitable where only one or two languages are required.

How our technology can support voice and text translation

While a large proportion of customers still prefer to make contact over the phone, digital channels such as email and chat are growing in popularity. It’s tempting for organisations to use standard free online tools to translate text interactions, but it’s important to note that these don’t always provide the most accurate translation for the context. Translating the enquiry and then the response can also cause an incongruous delay; with online chat this can be especially frustrating for customers and cause them to churn before their enquiry is answered.

Real time translation technology, such as Awaken Voice and Text Translation, can add seamless, customisable, near-instantaneous support for multiple languages without the need to expand the team with additional experts. This powerful technology provides conversational translation capabilities enabling customer communication in their preferred language, in near real time. As the customer speaks or types, the programme analyses and translates so that the agent can quickly understand their enquiry and respond.

Adding the translation layer to the Awaken platform improves first-reply and handling time for non-native speakers, while also enabling contact centres to collate data on this important customer segment for analysis. Contact centre managers are able to track what is being said and the outcomes of conversations in the same way that they would for their native language, helping to ensure that quality and satisfaction standards are met for all customers, no matter what language they speak.

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