6th December 2017 5 minute read
Multilingual contact centres have a unique set of advantages and challenges. They enable international companies to speak to customers in the most natural manner possible. Yet to do so they need a ‘voice’ that reflects countless different cultures, behaviours and expectations. Kamila Wozniakowska is General Manager of Capita’s Łódź office in Poland, the home of all Capita Customer Solutions’ multilingual contracts. Here, she explains how it all works.
In an ever more globalised world, companies need to be able to engage with multinational customers in their own language. From our experience, consumers also increasingly view this as a minimum requirement. We know customer satisfaction is higher when consumers speak with people who share their language, etiquette, intonation, traditions and greetings.
We opened our multilingual operation in Łódź with a fantastic team who deliver a service across numerous languages. We’ve found that a multilingual model not only improves the communication process, but also brings insights into client products and services that non-native speakers might miss. It can also help international companies break into new markets.
At the Łódź site we now support 20 languages across multiple contracts around the globe: Polish, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, English, Romanian, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Turkish, Portuguese, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Danish, Arabic, Ukrainian and most recently Hebrew. Really, with the right training and governance, there shouldn’t be a limit.
We generally prefer to use native speakers. This is both from a customer satisfaction perspective, and also because in the case of complaints, some customers may take advantage when they realise that an agent doesn’t feel comfortable in a particular language (for example, they might use more sophisticated wording in the hope of confusing them).
Furthermore, through our sales contracts we know that consumers tend to buy from native speakers, and we’ve observed similar patterns on collections contracts where people are more likely to agree to make payments when conversing with their country counterparts. However, we’re not averse to using non-native speakers, providing they can demonstrate the same level of fluency and communication skill as their indigenous counterparts.
There are some obvious cultural differences that contact centre agents need to be aware of when servicing different markets. For example, Polish customers tend to be more formal, Nordic conversations are longer as everything needs to be confirmed a couple of times, Italians and Spaniards typically are very friendly and talkative, while the British can be more demanding. We train our employees to be aware of and adapt to these cultural differences through a series of modules that include cultural adjustment, rapport building, empathy and patience.
Our trainers also have to be very flexible and aware – not just of cultural differences that need to be addressed, but the policies and procedures for different countries in respect of a specific contract (which can be technically complex in their own right). The trainers also provide employees with glossaries and conduct practical exercises like shadow listening, reverse shadow and role play to ensure the differences are understood and assimilated.
Time zoning and shift patterns are challenging. Not everyone is happy to work nights or late shifts exclusively, but continually changing shift patterns causes problems too. We talk to employees, try to accommodate their needs as much as possible, and facilitate some level of flexibility including shift swaps and unified shift patterns. There are sometimes rewards and bonuses for late shifts too.
Working in a multilingual contact centre is hugely rewarding. There’s a wonderfully cosmopolitan environment that provides the chance to meet people from other countries and learn about different cultures. It’s a real way of widening your horizons. Having employees from different countries can boost productivity and creativity too. There’s always some healthy competition between the representatives of different countries!
To find out more about the power of the contact centre agent voice, read our November edition of Intelligence. You can find it at our Intelligence report hub here.