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How to Deal With Language Barriers & Customer Service

Responsible customer service departments establish methods and techniques for gracefully handing language barriers to provide superior customer service. Language barriers may be based on speaking different native languages, but it can also result from differences in regional accents, hearing difficulties and bad phone connections. The key with effectively dealing with language barriers is to establish guidelines and procedures that can direct calls quickly to minimize frustration, and increase the likelihood of providing accurate and effective services to the customer. 

Develop an escalation procedure for language barrier issues. Establish a list of customer service representatives that speak different languages and provide it to all customer service personnel. Request agents transfer calls using a warm transfer protocol that allows the migration of a call to an agent with suitable language skills in a respectful manner. For reception issues, authorize agents to try to obtain as much information as possible to call the customer back, in hopes of establishing a clearer phone call. For accents, hearing difficulties or other language barriers, allow agents to escalate calls to a manager or supervisor.

Provide training for customer service personnel. Training should include language barrier procedures as well as common phrases in other languages that can be used when handling customer calls. Establish a list of basic phrases, such as, “Please hold for a moment while I transfer your call” or “Do you speak English?” in the most frequent contact languages. For other language barriers, such as customers with poor hearing, provide instructions on effective communication methods. Counsel customer service representatives to slow their conversation and emphasize pronouncing words crispy to aid hearing challenged customers or customers that do not speak English fluently.

Install translation aids on customer service workstations. Include tools, such as online translators and quick-access references, that can be used while on phone calls with customer service. These tools can help agents gain valuable information from a customer to know how to process the call.

Offer additional customer service contact methods. Some customers may have difficulties using phone-based support options. Offering chat, email or other written-based customer support options can allow quality service in a manner that meets the communication needs of the customer.

Evaluate the volume of language barrier contacts. If the volume is significant, it could signify a good target market for growing your small business. Consider hiring additional personnel with the language skills needed to work directly with this customer segment. If you cannot justify full-time personnel, look into outsourcing communication duties to third parties.

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