Solutions to the Language Puzzle: Over-the-Phone Interpretation Services [Part 2]

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[Click here to read Part 1]
[Click here to read Part 3]
[Click here to read Part 4]

If a customer can’t engage with your contact center in their native language, they’re not going to have a very enjoyable experience with your brand. This seems pretty intuitive, and yet, many brands still don’t provide multilingual customer support. But if language is so important to customer experience (CX), why is this so?

Part of the answer lies in the shortcomings of the four traditional language strategies available to contact centers. To understand these shortcomings, in part one of this blog series, we examined the pros and cons of using back-office resources for multilingual customer support. These include:

Pros for your contact center:

  • There’s no direct expense.

Cons for your contact center:

  • You could miss potential revenue opportunities.
  • Scaling to support all customers is challenging.
  • Your hours of coverage are limited.

Risks for your customers:

  • They could experience a poor CX.
  • The interaction could require high customer effort.
  • They might not get the help they need.

Part two of this series explores using over-the-phone interpretation (OPI) services for customer care.

What is OPI?

OPI is the process of connecting with a professional interpreter and using them to interpret conversations with customers.

Let’s assume that a Portuguese speaker calls your contact center and you only have English-speaking agents. The agent puts the customer on hold, opens a second line, and calls a third-party OPI service provider. An operator answers the call, and the agent bridges them into the customer conversation. If the agent wasn’t able to identify it, the operator then determines the customer’s language. Once that’s confirmed, the customer is put back on hold while the OPI provider finds an interpreter that speaks the language of both the customer and agent.

Within a minute, a Portuguese/English speaking interpreter is brought into the conversation. The dialogue then begins, and the interpreter repeats each statement in both languages. The resulting interaction requires high customer effort because they’re put on hold twice, they have to wait up to a minute for the conversation to begin, and the dialogue takes twice as long.

The implications of using OPI as a multilingual strategy

OPI is one of the most common language strategies used by contact centers because it’s easy to implement and it doesn’t require hiring any additional agents. Customers get the specific language support they need, when they need it. And paying service providers by the minute is more cost-effective than hiring native or bilingual agents.

So what’s the downside? As a stand-alone customer care communication strategy, OPI offers only a single channel: voice. This was effective in the past when call centers interacted primarily over the phone. But by supporting only voice, you deliver precisely what your customers and prospects do not want from your brand: a lack of channel preference.

The industry headline, “Web Self-Service Unseats The Phone Channel In Customer Service,” puts the value of OPI in stark terms (Forrester Research, Contact Centers Must Go Digital Or Die). Consumers expect to get what they want from self-service channels. So providing voice-only multilingual support marginalizes anyone who doesn’t speak your contact center’s primary language(s). Don’t ignore the customer experience, effort, or other implications of taking an OPI-only approach.

Put simply, here are the pros and cons of using OPI for your multilingual support strategy.

Pros for your contact center:

  • It’s more cost-effective than hiring native or bilingual agents.
  • You can support all languages.

Cons for your contact center:

  • Your omni-lingual service channels are limited to voice only.

Risks for your customers:

  • Voice isn’t their preferred channel; according to industry research, self-service is.
  • They could have a negative CX and NPS, as well as higher customer effort.

In part three of this series, you’ll learn the pros and cons of hiring multi and bilingual agents to support your real time translation strategy.

> For more information, read the new whitepaper, Real-Time Omni-Lingual Care Comes of Age for Contact Centers.

About the author

rsz_headshot_tom_tsekiTom Tseki is a contact center industry veteran. His experience and expertise include helping organizations implement and leverage omni-channel customer care strategies to improve CX, increase revenue, and gain contact center efficiencies.

He has a deep background in contact center technology as it relates to customer communication, analytics, and workforce optimization. Tom works closely with contact center and BPO leaders on strategies to improve care by reducing customer effort—leading to increased CSAT and NPS.

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