People tend to complain to me about poor customer service since I am The Customer Service Guru. I have heard the ugliest racist descriptions slip from people’s mouths when they have to deal with an overseas contact center, or speak with a representative who does not natively speak English. Let’s be honest, I am not talking about Thai here.
The true problem isn't where the representative comes from; the problem is the customer not being understood. That leads to misunderstandings, frustrations, and a waste of time and money for the customer and the business.
If you remember from the first blog I wrote about language and service (Read it Here), I have been the service professional on the other end that did not speak the language of my customer. After being yelled at in French a thousand times, I built up an armor to ignore it.
I was doing my best and did not want to disappoint my customer, but yelling at me did not improve my French skills. Yelling or insulting me didn’t turn on an interpreter super power in my brain where I could instantly suddenly comprehend the customer. I could have used some strategies to effectively service my customers in the reality of my environment.
The Gurus’ Training Solution to Help Non-Native Speaker Employees
The Gurus 3B Service Mantra is Be Nice, Be Right, Be Here™. Customer Service organizations can still Be Nice and address the issue of language mismatch between customers and employees.
1. Immediate Take Action Now Solution - Train your contact center agents to confidently and kindly say, “I truly want to help you, and I am having trouble understanding what you mean. Would you help me and please slow down just a little then I can figure how to best solve/assist you?” The key here is a sincere and calm tone from the representative. It is very difficult to stay upset with someone who is genuinely trying to help, despite language obstacles.
2. Longer-term Organization Health Solution - Circulate through internal communication platforms common complex issues and the common phrases English speakers could use to explain them. Customers do not call contact centers anymore for simple problems. Help upskill your employees to handle the difficulties and nuances of service recovery language.
Always reinforce with your non-native speaker staff what a wonderful skill it is to be bilingual. It is an essential part of your operation, so celebrate the diversity, but be respectful about the realities of working with US customers. The world has changed a lot for customers in the last 10 years, have a touch of empathy for that.
The goal is not fluency, but kind comprehension and sincere effort coming from the heart. That can be accomplished in any language.