Posted by Mike Wills
At a recent business meeting, I was asked by an associate to describe why we have been particularly successful at launching multi-lingual contact centres for several European clients. On contemplation, I discovered there were several drivers for our success as a multi-lingual customer service specialist’:
The ‘London’ factor
London, by virtue of its location and status as one of the world’s largest cosmopolitan cities, is a multi-lingual hub. The 2011 census reveals the astonishing breadth and scale of the city’s linguistic diversity. Statistics from the 2011 Census indicate 100 different languages spoken in every London borough! The census reveals 78% of the city’s residents speak English as their main language, but 22% (over 1.7 million) have another first language. These include 53 main languages – which range from languages spoken in Eastern and Western Europe, East Asia, South Asia to Middle East and Africa. Overall, more than 100 languages are spoken in the 30 of the city’s 33 boroughs. For those interested, the map below from real estate firm Savills takes a look at London’s multi-lingual landscape, identifying the linguistic clusters in the city.
Equally noteworthy is that only a very few cities can boast of similar diversities in culture and language, all of which have contributed to making London the city it is today. Add to that an active international student scene and an ever growing population of graduates, London-based contact centres are uniquely positioned to drive customer engagement operations which leverage the multi-lingual competencies of its agents.
Driving productivity through work force management
Having the right talent pool is only half the battle won. When a contact centre operation is predicated on the provision of trained bi-lingual or tri-lingual customer service professionals, expect considerable investments in tailored recruitment and training programmes. Aligned with these, holistic performance management plans need to be developed which take into account the unique challenges faced by agents, in their specific markets. For instance, we handle a range of customer care operations for a host of multi-national clients, targeting consumers across European markets. This necessarily means that our training should take into consideration cultural differences while defining performance targets and incorporate them in the agent’s coaching programme and ‘glide path to competency’ plans.
Similarly, campaigns which operate across different time zones should invest in efficient resource planning to ensure that agents are available at the right time and in the right number to support and drive the demand in contact volumes. For an international help-line service we run for a major UK government department, meticulous resource planning and schedule forecasting have enabled us to handle customer enquiries spanning 222 countries and multiple time zones, in over 20 languages.
Agile models built to client specifications.
The importance of agile operational models in multi-lingual customer service cannot be emphasized enough. The provision of flexibility becomes particularly significant when your business has a unique organisational structure to serve its global consumer base. One of our clients, a global FMCG business has structured its consumer care division in a way that it drives a multi-local consumer strategy. Accountability for consumer care rests with autonomous regional clusters which cater to local consumer tastes and requirements. To support the client’s unique operational model, we implemented a governance structure which mimicked that of our client’s – this essentially meant deploying multi-lingual consumer engagement centres for each regional cluster, instead of consolidating operations within one site.
Equally important was the need for a robust CRM and knowledge management system which while driving regional objectives, also established some level of standardisation in operations across all the consumer engagement centres. Our response was to deploy a bespoke CRM system across Europe , in addition to standardised knowledge bases and reporting processes - all which aimed to drive out efficiencies and reduce the cost of service. At the same time, these processes were flexible enough to adapt to and support our local agent population.
In short, multi-lingual specialists should be geared to respond to varying client requirements and operational challenges, while driven by the client’s unique customer management ambitions.
Do you have a multi-lingual customer base that is presenting unique challenges for your business’ customer care strategy? Feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss further.