Why is Having Bilingual Customer Service Representatives Important to Your Business?

Why is Having Bilingual Customer Service Representatives Important to Your Business?

bilingual customer service

Did you know that the percentage of bilinguals in the United States has doubled since 1980? This means second languages are being spoken and learned at home, and that English is often a second language, even to native speakers. Luckily, the availability of bilingual professionals is steadily increasing, leaving no excuses for a lack of bilingual customer service representatives.

Globalization has become a reality in today’s digital world of 24/7 connectivity, opening up lucrative avenues for forward-thinking enterprise, and also presenting new stumbling blocks for the unprepared. It’s critical to build rapport with clients of all countries and cultures, by employing bi or multi-lingual customer service representatives, who can speak the customer’s language and demonstrate the cultural sensitivity that builds true rapport. Let’s explore a few major benefits of offering more inclusive and globally-minded services, through the use of bilingual customer service representatives.

Why is Being Bilingual Important to a Business?

The Spanish-speaking population of the USA stands at 43 million and the Chinese-speaking population at almost 3 million – making it easy to imagine the myriad of other languages relied on in the USA for day-to-day business and communication. With these numbers on the rise, providing bilingual service is becoming increasingly important to establishing and maintaining a successful business. Let’s explore a few examples of how implementing this policy change can keep your business vital and relevant.

Increased Customer Base

There are 6912 living languages in the world, with the largest portion being Chinese speakers, and the honored position of 2nd place going to English. It’s easy to see that by limiting the number of languages spoken by your customer service representatives, you are severely crippling the reach and influence of your business. Also, considering the number of ESL speakers in the USA, it’s important to offer customer service in different languages.

Valuing Your Customers

Great customer service doesn’t include the word “no,” but that’s the first and last thing your Spanish-speaking customer hears when you have no bilingual call center representatives to help them purchase or operate your product or service. 41 million Spanish speakers in the USA might be waiting to engage their massive buying power with your business, but this vast group of customers will have no choice but to seek out a company with more bilingual support options if you don’t offer them.

Why is Having Bilingual Customer Service Representatives Important to your Business?

Communication is the key to offering both the best product and the best customer support. Building a bilingual customer service department or call center provides several immediate and long-lasting benefits to any business. Let’s explore a few of the most impactful byproducts of providing bilingual customer service.

1. An Optimal Customer Experience

The customer experience starts when the customer finds or is attracted to your business, and ends when they’ve successfully used your product or service. Hiring bilingual customer service reps ensures customers can have the full customer experience and have help in the language they are most comfortable using.

2. Encourages Brand Affinity

Brand affinity is the holy grail of business success, and happy and loyal customers are repeat customers. Bilingual citizens in the USA and abroad have rich and bustling communities of like-minded and culturally similar individuals and share great or horrible business or personal experiences with a large number of community members. Don’t underestimate the value of word of mouth in marketing, and encourage customer longevity by offering everyone, regardless of language skills, the opportunity to love your business or product, and all the work you’ve put into it.

3. Gives a Competitive Edge

Simply put, if you are the only company in your market space to offer customer service in Farsi or Tagalog, you have the competitive edge in those communities. If you’ve resigned yourself to only selling or interacting with the English-speaking world, you are simply not in the same league as other businesses that have the ability to communicate with international or non-English speaking customers. You might offer a better product or service, but no one in the bilingual community will ever know.

4. Demonstrates Commitment to Inclusivity

Inclusiveness and diversity are proven to spur business growth and create a more fun, creative and innovative atmosphere around both your office and your company. Inclusive work environments are known to be incubators for great ideas, and attract the best and brightest talent, with a wide array of unique cultural experiences and language skills. Bilingual customer service reps and professionals are proven to be fast, organized, and critical thinkers, with a grasp of cultural nuances that monolingual employees might not have, but will pick up on in an inclusive and diverse work environment.

5. Expansion opportunities to other markets

U.S.-based organizations often find expansion into foreign markets untenable, due to language barriers. There is simply no way to expand into a new, non-English speaking market, without hiring and emphasizing the use of the local language for sales, customer service, and product support. Communication is the key to establishing yourself in a new market, and hiring bilingual customer service representatives is a great start toward creating a more international work environment, and also learning about the needs and preferences of your new potential market.

ListenTrust is in the business of communication, and business is good. We partner with companies to help build a better brand experience, provide solutions, listen to customers and earn their trust. Customer engagement isn’t one-size-fits-all, and the best way to find out what gets your customers excited is to listen – ideally while they speak their language of choice. Contact ListenTrust today for more information on their broad range of solutions for building a bilingual customer service call center, and rapport with a broad range of dedicated customers.

Nearshore VS Offshore: The Call Center Dilemma

Nearshore VS Offshore: The Call Center Dilemma

There are numerous options for businesses looking for a call center partner: not all of them are created equal.

Call center outsourcing is popping up everywhere. From India to the Philippines, South America to Mexico, for businesses and nonprofits, the options are vast. What’s the right approach? Should you opt for a near-shore or offshore contact center?

To some, the answer might appear obvious: You pick the most affordable option.

Businesses typically select a contact center partner based on cost, location, cultural considerations (like language), or a combination of the three. Most often, however, price wins the battle. But, as is the case with many things, from your coffee maker to your call center, the cheapest option isn’t always the best.

Could the Least Expensive of the Outsourcing Options Damage the Value of your Brand?

Brand equity is priceless, it is the intangible value earned through years of hard work. And, it can be damaged in minutes. Think of your favorite brand, they’ve spent considerable time and effort (as well as money), to develop a relationship with you, earn your trust, and keep you coming back. At some point, we’ve all been let down by a favorite brand, or any brand, for that matter.

When a business lets you down, the process of earning your trust again is an uphill battle. The bad taste lingers beyond the poor experience, and sometimes, there’s no coming back.

The hard work and money you’ve invested in building a successful brand, and the trust you’ve earned with your audience, can be eliminated with just one bad call. While the cheapest offshore (or onshore) contact center is an attractive solution, the probable harm negates any potential gains (this includes saving money).

Brand equity is difficult to earn and easy to lose.

Enculturation: Why Nearshore Outsourcing is the Best Solution for your Brand

The gradual acquisition of the characteristics and norms of a culture or group by a person, another culture, etc.

Enculturation is one of the most significant factors to consider when selecting a contact center partner for your business or nonprofit. According to Wikipedia, “Enculturation is the process by which people learn the dynamics of their surrounding culture and acquire values or norms appropriate or necessary in that culture and worldviews.”

Yes, while the offshore contact center in India or the Philippines you’ve selected offers English-speaking agents, those agents likely lack the knowledge and first-hand cultural experience to relate to your customers. From a philosophical standpoint, meeting your customers where they are, i.e., having the ability to empathize, understand, and connect to them from a cultural perspective, is a factor critical to success.

“Enculturation is the process where the culture that is currently established teaches an individual the accepted norms and values of the culture of society where the individual lives. The individual can become an accepted member and fulfill the needed functions and roles of the group. Most importantly the individual knows and establishes a context of boundaries and accepted behavior that dictates what is acceptable and not acceptable within the framework of that society. It teaches the individual their role within society as well as what is accepted behavior within that society and lifestyle.” Conrad Phillip Kottak, American Anthropologist, in Window on Humanity

We learned this the hard way.

ListenTrust operated a contact center in beautiful Belize. Our agents were highly trained and spoke English masterfully, as, for most of them, English is their first language (it is the official language of Belize). We assumed, incorrectly as it turns out, that a mastery of the English language is the only component necessary to hire and train a team of exceptional agents.

Take it from us speaking perfect English isnt the only factor for determining a successful call.

Our agents in Belize, skilled as they are, were unable to make a connection with American customers. It isn’t easy for the average Belizean to travel to the United States. As a result, they were unable to relate to the kinds of conversation unique to American callers. For example, topics related to sports in the United States, American films or television, or references unique to an American audience, went over the head of our culturally unfamiliar representatives. Our agents grew frustrated, we became frustrated and, most significantly, customers were unhappy.

We learned, through trial and error that language alone does not make up for lack of cultural understanding.

Conversely, agents stationed at our Hermosillo, Mexico call center, many of which have spent time living and working in the United States, possess a mastery of the English language and understand the subtle (and not-so-subtle) cultural nuances of an American audience. Where, in Belize, building rapport with an American caller was nearly impossible due to a substantial cultural barrier; in Hermosillo, we’ve witnessed the opposite.

Our Hermosillo-based contact center agents excel at building rapport with a U.S-based audience. This is almost entirely due to their familiarity with the United States from both a cultural and language perspective.

We’re not too close to the border.

It’s worth pointing out, Hermosillo, unlike Tijuana which plays home to many contact centers, has proven to be an ideal location for agent success not too far from the American border and not too close this is a distinction we should discuss. Turnover within call centers in Tijuana is disproportionately high when compared to Hermosillo. Tijuana is home to a transient population of workers just passing through. This makes it virtually impossible for border-close contact centers to build a base of skilled workers with the kind of professional experience that can be established only through tenure. It also means contact centers in Tijuana are populated with agents unfamiliar with the deeper characteristics of an American audience and they won’t be able to relate to your callers.

We should discuss accent.

There is a common perception that agents in a Mexico-based near-shore contact center, will turn off a U.S.-based audience due to their accent. We’ve never found this to be an issue; our highly-skilled, expertly trained agents sound no different than any number of Hispanic individuals you’re likely to encounter in your own workplace. The likelihood that an offshore contact center will be unable to compensate for issues related to accent, however, is high.

ListenTrust is the Ideal Nearshore Outsourcing Partner for your Business or Nonprofit

If you’d like to learn more about our team of skilled, culturally aware agents, and how ListenTrust can help to enhance the brand equity of your business or nonprofit, please contact Tom Sheppard, VP Business Development, at: tsheppard@listentrust.com.