Usman Ghani (August 4, 2014)
How do companies meet the challenge of providing customer service and support in a multicultural environment where representatives are interacting with customers from different backgrounds who speak multiple languages? It might not be possible for every business to hire multilingual staff to meet all their customer support needs whether done over the phone or face to face. Language barriers can impact the quality of customer service profoundly. If discrepancies are not eliminated to allow smooth flow of communication between the customers and the company, it can adversely impact customer satisfaction levels. Here are a few tips for companies and support staff who are directly providing service to overcome the language barrier when communicating with customers.
A scenario may arise where a customer only has a basic understanding of a particular language and might not be well-versed or fluent in it. In such a situation how should a CSR who is fluent in a language provide effective support? In order to avoid miscommunication, CSR’s should make sure that they take their time and the transfer of information takes place in a clear and distinct tone. The representative must speak slowly and with clarity.
Every culture has its own way of communicating and understanding different scenarios. If the support staff is unable to comprehend what the customer is saying, they should show patience and calm. The representative must try to gather as much information as possible in order to understand the need of the customer and provide service accordingly.
In order to avoid language barriers representatives must go out of their way to accommodate customers and make them feel comfortable while communication is being carried out. Service representatives could ask for repetition if something isn’t clear. If something is vague, a CSR must not assume. In the same manner, it must be ensured that the customers have understood the information that is being relayed. This can be done by asking open-ended questions to check the understanding of the customer.
Business language can be complex. We have also seen that the use of baseball terms/metaphors is very common in the US, for example “Ballpark figures” and “Touch Base”. As a rule, information should be conveyed in the simplest form and metaphors or anything that requires prior cultural knowledge of the land should be avoided. Technical jargon should also be avoided, when communicating with customers. If abbreviations are being used, description should also be provided as some customers might not be familiar with the terms.
The medium of communication must be selected appropriately when getting in touch with customers. For example at times communicating a message over the phone might not be enough. If a customer is calling a cellular company asking about pricing, while the information is communicated on the phone, it can also be emailed or a text message can be sent to guarantee that the message is conveyed.
In order to assist company representatives with communication there are various tools available to facilitate the interactions. A company could invest in a language app, which translates to and from all languages. IVR (Interactive Voice Response Service) could be employed, which can be programmed to run in multiple languages. Moreover, websites and portals can be designed that are multilingual, so that they accommodate more customers. Adding multilingual chat service to the company website in another useful tool to provide customer service and support.
To share technical information regarding the products and services, online videos could be put up, so that customers can be guided about commonly faced problems.
Additionally, companies can produce relevant literature in the form of brochures and pamphlets in different languages to ensure all customers are able to access the information.
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