Excelling at Multilingual Customer Service: insights from our Frost Europe panel with paysafecard.com
By Philippe Ougrinov
From June 9 to 11, approximately 100 customer experience professionals met in Lisbon, Portugal, to discuss best practices in customer service at the annual Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange event. Now it’s time to share what we’ve learned from our Fireside Chat topic on Excelling at Multilingual Customer Care, which we presented alongside Joey McClain, the Head of Customer Care at paysafecard.com. Here’s a few of the highlights discussed:
Multilingual customer care – is speaking the language enough?
It’s fair to say that there was a lot of interest at the event around the benefits of creating a centralized multilingual customer care model – including why it might be underutilized by many companies today.
From where we sit, as a provider of customer care outsourcing serving clients in over 30 languages from our centers in Romania and Bulgaria, there is a false perception that in order to deliver good customer service, you only need agents that speak the language. This is simply not true. Language is only one skillset. You still need agents that have an innate desire to help customers – and then you need to specifically train them to understand and embrace the customer service culture of the clients they are serving. The right language alone is not enough.
Take stock of corporate culture – a key element of success
The discussion then turned to identifying what makes a multilingual care model successful, especially when outsourcing support to a Business Process Outsourcer (BPO). For us, it comes down to culture. Culture mattersboth in terms of local culture of the people as well as the the corporate culture of your potential BPO provider. To ensure excellence in your customer care program there needs to be a strong cultural fit and alignment between you and your customer service partner. To truly act as an extension of your business and brand, it’s key that customer service agents understand and embrace the culture and values of your organization as well as the people they are serving.
Linked to corporate culture is your talent pool. Attracting, hiring and retaining the right customer service agents can be a challenge. Your BPO provider should take a long-term view – hiring for both language aptitude, including how many languages people speak, as well as how well a candidate “fits” the culture of your program. Will they embrace the same values and deliver on your brand promise to your customers? Like I said, culture matters! And we believe in it so much we did a study with Frost & Sullivan on its impact in the call center, which you can download here:
The need to support customers in multiple languages can be overwhelming. Decide which languages to start with first. Then localize training so that it captures the right messaging, tone, and colloquial expressions for customers. During training, always keep the customer in mind, and how they would respond in their native language.
We’ve also seen a lot of success using a Train-the-Trainer methodology, whereby designated trainers undergo an in-depth training and certification process. They are then in a position to execute the full range of courses with little to no involvement on the side of the client. This creates experts that can be leveraged throughout the program, including when other languages are brought online.
Measuring service excellence between countries
From the start, clearly define your metrics for success. Metrics should include a balance between productivity and effectiveness measures. Pick your key metric for customer satisfaction whether it’s Net Promoter Score (NPS), Likelihood to Recommend (L2R), or Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) – and try to standardize as much as possible – but keep in mind that results can differ by country. For example, some countries will generally deliver lower NPS scores due to cultural aspects including buyer behavior, consumer expectations, and even attitudes towards dealing with support agents.
Closing thoughts – pick your strategy
Choosing to outsource customer support is a big decision, especially when you have multiple languages and markets to serve. Key questions include: Should you use an outsourced provider or do it all in-house? To what extent will you centralize your support? Which locations will you choose to launch your support programs and which languages will you offer first? What support channels will you offer first – voice, email, chat, social media support?
These are all good questions, and, as multilingual BPO provider, we’ve helped clients with answers. This post shares just a few of our key takeaways from the presentation. We encourage you to ask more questions – and put our global skills to the test!
Until the next Frost Europe event – auf Wiedersehen, ciao, adiós, au revoir, adeus – well, you get the idea!
Philippe Ougrinov is VP, Sales, Marketing & Solutions at TELUS International Europe