5 Expert Tips for the Best Bilingual Call Center Experience

With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, we thought this was a great time to get businesses thinking about how to create the best bilingual call center experience. If you’re adding a bilingual layer to your English language protocol, or if you’re answering English speaking calls in house and have Spanish calls routed to a call center, understanding the ins and outs of how a bilingual call center service works is essential to getting the most for your money without getting frustrated. Whether you’re getting 5 or 5,000 Spanish speaking callers a month, it’s important to deliver the best experience possible – for you and your customers.

No matter what volume of bilingual account we’re building, our advice to business owners remains the same:

#1. A Bilingual Call Center Is Not A Translation Service

A common misconception with bilingual call centers is that they can double as translation services, which is not the case. While bilingual operators can technically translate between two languages, their job is to help your Spanish speaking customers, and relay their messages to you. Some things that your bilingual call center won’t be able to do include:

  • If you have a Spanish speaking customer on the phone, you won’t be able to call your call center and expect that the bilingual agent will be able to act as a translator between you and your customer. Generally speaking, call center agents are trained to follow a script, not to help translate.
  • If you get messages sent to you in Spanish, you won’t be able to call your call center, read them the message and ask them to translate it for you. Not only would this take the operator away from handling incoming calls, but since you would be calling  your own line, it would count as billable usage.

#2. Remember that Spanish Messages May be Sent in Spanish

While this may not hold true for all bilingual call centers, you should be prepared in case your service sends Spanish messages to you in Spanish. Even for call centers that predominantly send all messages In English, a bilingual call center representative might get caught up in the moment and type what they’re hearing in Spanish rather than English. After all, it can be difficult to listen to one language, and then translate and document what the caller is saying into another language, all while continuing to communicate to that caller in their own language.

Whether you happen to get all Spanish messages in Spanish or a rogue one comes through every now and then, you should be prepared by having a tool like Google Translate in your arsenal. That way you don’t have to sift through the pages of your Spanish textbook from high school to try and piece the puzzle together. While the message may not come out crystal clear after being translated, you’ll be able to get a general idea of what the customer is looking for.

#3. Having Your Own Spanish Speaking Staff is Not Essential But Recommended

Typically when businesses outsource to a bilingual call center, it’s because they don’t have bilingual staff working for them in-house, but they are trying to market to a new audience. However, those Spanish speaking callers will need to be contacted back by your staff at some point, and they’re going to need to speak to someone who understands their language.

While it’s not essential for your business to hire a bilingual employee or multiple employees, it’s definitely recommended for a few different reasons:

  • Contacting customers back: There’s no doubt your Spanish speaking customers will be thrilled that they can speak to someone in their own language and get assistance without the hassle of trying to hurdle over language barriers. However, they’ll be less than thrilled when they come to find out no one from your actual business can truly help them in their time of need. If you’re utilizing bilingual reps from your call center, it’s a good idea to have actual bilingual employees in your office for continuity.
  • Listening to recordings: If your call center records your calls and allows you to listen to them, you’ll probably need help translating the calls that are in Spanish so you can determine what your customers need.
  • Translating messages: If your call center sends Spanish messages to you in Spanish, then you’ll definitely need help translating them. While Google Translate is a great tool, even that doesn’t always get things right. Messages may be misconstrued, and your customers may be annoyed that their needs are not being met.
  • Handling on-call tasks: If any urgent messages come through after hours, your on-call staff should be equipped to take care of both the English speaking and Spanish speaking customers who may be calling. While it’s unlikely that Spanish speaking customers will only call while your bilingual employee(s) are on-call, they could still help bridge the communication gap and jump into help if a situation like that does arise.

#4. Hold Times May Be Higher for Spanish Speaking Agents

Since call centers typically don’t employ an equal amount of English speaking and bilingual representatives, there’s a higher chance your Spanish speaking customers may experience more hold times than normal. While this can be frustrating, there are features you can implement to encourage callers to stay on the line, like:

  • Customized greeting: If you don’t have a recording on your line that greets callers and announces your company name, they may think they’ve called the wrong number, and hang up.
  • Upbeat hold music: While your callers are waiting for a bilingual representative to answer the phone, see if your call center can play a variation of upbeat music so that the wait doesn’t seem so bad. If callers have to hear the same boring music over and over again, chances are they’re going to get annoyed more easily than they would if they’re listening to a fun playlist of music.
  • Estimated wait time: If your callers are waiting on hold, they will be less likely to hang up if they’re made aware of how long the hold will be. For example, if they call and are on hold, but hear that someone will be with them in 5 minutes, they’ll most likely wait it out. However, if they hear that the wait time will be longer, they at least know in advance and can then choose to wait or call back later.

#5. Spanish Agents May Not Always Answer English Language Calls

Even though bilingual call center reps have the ability to speak both English and Spanish, while they are at work answering calls, they’re usually only handling one or the other. At SAS, our bilingual agents handle both English and Spanish speaking customers to help maximize the amount of operators handling phone calls at any given time. However, not all call centers follow this protocol because it can be difficult for some operators to change gears and switch languages from phone call to phone call.

Typically bilingual call centers set their clients up with an automated system that would allow the caller to press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, which then routes the call to the appropriate operator distribution. However, if a caller happens to press the wrong option, you’ll want to make sure your call center has a system in place that will allow the operator to transfer the caller to the appropriate distribution, instead of making them hang up and call back.

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