Summary of Best Practices for Excellence in US Hispanic Customer Care In today’s highly competitive marketplace, contact centers are taking steps to provide best-in-class service. If your company is servicing multilingual customers, it is reasonable they would expect to receive excellent service in whatever language they speak. For those servicing US Hispanic customers, only the largest or most specialized companies are able to staff contact center representatives to handle all their calls in one language. Most bilingual contact center customer service, telemarketing and collection agents in the US handle both English and Spanish calls randomly throughout the day so that companies can meet service level goals, schedule enough agents during peak times and optimize the use of inbound and outbound contact center technology. Therefore, these agents must be able to competently communicate and be proficient in both languages in the specialized vocabulary of your industry.
Before we begin to address Best Practice for Excellence in US Hispanic Customer Care, let’s first look at one of the most common issues raised by contact center managers when talking about the US Hispanic market that highlights one of the many differences between this market and the general market. Most managers are aware that Spanish calls tend to last longer, but few are aware of the variety of reasons this occurs: 1. US Spanish speakers are likely to ask more questions about basic steps and processes than English speakers. This is because they may not be as familiar with the products/services and jargon used in the US. 2. English is a more precise and concise language than Spanish. Spanish requires more words to communicate the same idea. In our experience as many as 20 to 30% more words are required to describe business concepts or processes than would typically be used in English. 3. Spanish conversations between people from different backgrounds can complicate business communication. More than 20 countries in the world speak Spanish using a wide variety of pronunciation, accents, dialects and vocabulary. Customers and employees may come from different backgrounds where even simple words such as “to pay” have different meanings from country to country. 4. Contact center representatives often spend time translating letters and billing statements from English to Spanish or re-translating poorly written documents. Many companies send all written correspondence in English. This requires employees to spend their valuable time on calls translating or clarifying the content of written documents. 5. Most bilingual employees do not receive in-language industry-specific training. Many bilingual contact center representatives’ understanding of Spanish is limited to day-to-day activities, which is very different from conducting a business conversation. Companies must teach bilingual employees how to use accurate vocabulary and in the correct context for their field in English and Spanish. These are just a few reasons why your bilingual operation differs from your general market operation. So how do companies assure their contact center’s and contact center representatives provide outstanding service in either language and at the same time meet business goals? Many contact centers are implementing a Business Spanish Call Center Certification Program to attain “Best Practices”. Certification programs cover all aspects of a business operation, including Management Practices, Technology, Call Monitoring, Measurements and Hiring and Training. I will expand on a few key areas under each of the headings below. Companies who are successful in servicing US Hispanics use the following business approach: 1. Consistency in Communication: A challenging issue for companies servicing US Hispanic customers is communicating in neutral Business Spanish to all of its customers. Your employees and customers may come from different backgrounds and, therefore, communicate differently both in written and spoken Spanish. To be an effective communicator, your company must become aware of the regional differences in how Spanish is used in your industry so that you can capture and retain this lucrative market segment. Speak to customers in a consistent voice, using similar terminology and phrasing to describe processes and products. Ensure that all communication with customers, both written and verbal, by telephone and/or automated systems, is in Spanish. All translations should use appropriate, neutral Business Spanish, formal and grammatically correct, that is clearly understandable by any Spanish speaker. 2. Translations of written documentation, scripts, recorded announcements, etc.: Use an audit procedure to check the translation against the original to ensure accuracy and that the translation retains its original tone and meaning. To be certain the translation is pure, use a combination of native Spanish and native English speakers. The impact of written communication has wide and long-term consequences as compared to telephone or other verbal communication. 3. Assess language skills of bilingual employees: Use Spanish and English proficiency testing to evaluate the verbal, comprehension and writing skills of both employees and job candidates and assign employees to the business process that they are most qualified to execute. Provide certification programs for bilingual employees in order to justify paying bilingual premiums. 4. Bilingual Training: Provide Spanish language training for call center agents in specific skills sets, customer service, telemarketing and collections. Include specific vocabulary, technical jargon and phrases used in your industry, introduce glossaries and teach your employees how to understand and effectively handle the cultural diversity of Spanish speakers in the USA. 5. Choosing Outsourcing and Vendors: Select partners who are bilingual and bicultural and are familiar with your industry and who understand your company’s processes, terminology, and how you do business.