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Are Language Barriers in the Call Center Hurting Your Business?


The Team at CallMiner

May 23, 2014

Cloud computing contact center
Cloud computing contact center

Imagine you’re a customer whose Mother’s Day box of chocolates has not only arrived on mom’s doorstep a day late, but, to make matters worse, you’ve also been charged twice for the order. You’ve tried addressing the issue via live chat and email, and you’ve repeatedly been told you’ll hear back within 24 hours – but you haven’t.

It’s at this point that you pick up the phone and, as soon as you get a customer service agent on the line, you immediately ask to speak to a supervisor. From there, the customer annoyances mount: The agent keeps asking you the same questions without offering any real solutions. Worse yet, she keeps interrupting you, which makes you have to repeat your concerns all over again.

Sound familiar? Chances are you’ve encountered these types of issues at some point in the past. While centralized call centers can make good financial sense for companies, they can also present significant issues when it comes to language barriers.

Here’s a look at how speech analytics can help you overcome these obstacles:

Better Communication

The first step in streamlining communications between customer service agents and callers is to identify why customers are calling the company in the first place. Another way to think about this is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes: What really matters to them? What do they want? What are their pain points and how can they best be addressed?

One way to do this is to solicit real-time customer feedback. CallMiner’s EurekaLive software, for example, monitors customer conversations in real time and provides feedback to supervisors and agents while calls are ongoing, allowing companies to address customer concerns head-on. The end result? An improved customer experience overall.

Language Analysis

Speech analytics captures customer conversations and associated metadata and converts the information into a consistent format for analysis, making it easier for managers to mine the interactions and metadata for patterns and trends. In other words, both sounds (i.e., spoken words) and acoustic signals (i.e., customer agitation, silence, etc.) are turned into text that can be analyzed and acted upon.

Why is this important? Let’s say a customer requests to speak with a manager, but due to language barriers ends up having to repeat their concern to multiple points of contact before being put through to the appropriate person. With speech analytics, managers can identify the exact moment the escalation began, what kind of language led up to it, and how the customer service agent handled the call after the fact.

Agent Training

Speech analytics not only helps to address customer concerns in real time and pinpoint where and when issues arise during calls, but it also helps to structure ongoing agent training programs. Real-time call monitoring, for example, gives managers a sense of which agents are performing well versus those who may need additional coaching. Contact metadata also provides managers with insight into how both customers and agents are behaving during calls, which allows them to focus on specific issues in agent training programs that will ultimately result in a better customer experiences.

But agent training doesn’t (and shouldn’t) just revolve around semantics. With call centers increasingly being sent overseas, companies should be sensitive to a diverse workforce handling callers who may speak a different language and expect a different level of service. “To solve this problem,” CultureSmart Consulting writes, “companies have been turning to training seminars that tackle ‘cross-cultural sensitivity.’ This type of training aims to help call handlers become more comfortable, and therefore more confident, in dealing with their target markets.”

Final Thoughts

Luke Turner, who runs a Management Information and Workforce Planning Group in a contact center in Malta, offers the following insight for how to thrive in a multilingual contact center environment: “Just be prepared to change the way you work a little, think about things that are second nature to you and learn as you go along.  In the long run, the interesting environment and diversity far outweighs any minor frustrations you may run into with the language.”

Is your company experiencing issues with respect to language barriers in the call center? If so, what approach(es) have you used to overcome these obstacles?


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