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Five Different Approaches to Managing Multilingual Contact Centers: How to logistically provide service in any language – regardless of what staff speak

John Kelly, Chief Product Officer, Lionbridge
John Kelly, Chief Product Officer, Lionbridge

John Kelly, Chief Product Officer, Lionbridge

It’s an issue contact centers face every day: A non-English speaking customer calls your company help line with a concern – such a minor concern, in fact, that if she spoke English a customer service representative (CSR) would be able to help in a minute flat. But the CSR who answers doesn’t speak her language, so the conversation’s immediatelyawkward. Trying to help, he connects her to a Spanish speaking rep in another department. But the customer doesn’t speak Spanish either, so the situation becomes even more frustrating.

The Spanish speaking CSR puts the customer on hold while he calls the company’s interpreting vendor, hoping they can help. Turns out she speaks Portuguese. The vendor puts the customer on hold again while the actual interpreter is found. Only after this interpreter is on the line can the customer even start to explain what she needs.

By this point, she’s connected with four different people, has been placed on hold three times, and has spent far more time on the phone than she or your company would like. Do you think she’s happy?

With more than 7000 languages spoken worldwide, multilingual contact centers can be a logistical nightmare – for you and the customer. Right now, 54.7 percent of service desks route foreign language calls to bilingual employees in other departments. And while that’s a valid approach depending on call volume and customer need, below are five best practice ways to streamline multilingual calls:

1) CLICK-TO-CALL

“Click-to-call” is a button that callers press either in a native, smartphone interpreting app or within a web or mobile browser. This button accesses an interpreter when the caller connects with you. At activation, the customer will receive a message in her preferred language explaining she’s been put on hold while an interpreter and CSR are connected.

  As amazing as interpreting technology is, don’t forget that the point of these tools is to connect people. Take care to vet your interpreting partner with the same diligence you use to determine these logistical, technical elements  

In addition to providing language assistance, click-to-call also gives contact centers the option of pulling up the customer’s account so the interpreter and CSR can review. This allows CSR’s to customize the service they give, not just by language but for that specific individual, ensuring improved customer service from the start.

2) HOSTED LANGUAGE IVR

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is pretty much what it sounds like: People interact with a computer using voice or keypad entry. For over-the-phone (OPI) interpretation calls, IVR’s can be set up for any specific language. Instead of having one main telephone number for everyone, companies create a series of support lines, each assigned to its own language.

When customers dial in, their number choice tells you which language they prefer, allowing them to opt-in to their own unique customer experience. When they ask the system to connect with a person, customers then go into the hold queue for that language. Much like click-to-call, this technology ensures a smoother conversation from the get-go since it makes an interpreter available from the very start of the call.

3. INTERPRETATION APPS

Just like the ones general consumers use, interpretation apps are individual programs that operate on cellular devices. When a customer situation gets escalated to an English-only manager, an interpreting app can help her join in on multilingual calls. Apps also provide one-click, real time interpreter access foremployees in the field or staff in your brick-and-mortar store. Employees can use the app to select the desired language and to loop in the interpreter.

4. ESCALATE-TO-VOICE

An escalate-to-voice button lets customers using self-service or digital agent-assisted channels interact with live agents on a call. Take our Portuguese speaking customer, for example. If she’s connecting with your company chatbot online and the bot refers her to a person, an automatic escalate-to-voice button will recognize her language and connect her to the appropriate interpreter for continued care.

Escalate-to-voice solutions speed up the time it takes to connect customers to live agents over the phone. Like click-to-connect, they also give CSR’s a chance to connect with an interpreter before chat begins so the two can discuss any problematic or anticipated customer concerns.

5. VIRTUAL QUEUING

With virtual queuing technology, you call the customer – she doesn’t call you. Customers request assistance online, then receive a call when the contact center has an in-language resource available. This saves the customer the frustration of waiting on hold and also lets companies control when they access interpreters how often. Virtual queuing also has the capability to integrate with click-to-call, IVR, interpretation app, or escalate-to-voice options.

As amazing as interpreting technology is, don’t forget that the point of these tools is to connect people. Take care to vet your interpreting partner with the same diligence you use to determine these logistical, technical elements. The best routing in the world means nothing if your language provider can’t adequately communicate with the very human caller on the line. Whenexperienced, professional interpretersconnect through correctly chosen tools, only then can companies better understand customer needs and concerns, providing the same level of superior service every day to every customer in every language.

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