Is language a customer experience issue that you are overlooking?


We all know that when it comes to customer service and things start to get technical, it can be challenging to explain/find out exactly what has happened or what needs to be done next. Moreover, in situations like these, customers will, in most cases, resort to picking up the phone.

Now, I’ve written before about how ‘grit’ in a customer experience can have a big impact on customer satisfaction, engagement and loyalty. Given that, I’ve been thinking lately about the impact of language on the provision of customer service and whether it represents another piece of ‘grit’, particularly if we think about the UK with its diverse population, which according to the 2011 Census of England & Wales, has eight per cent of the population (4.2 million) aged three years and over that has a main language other than English.

Although this is a relatively small percentage, this could represent a large pile of ‘grit’ for the customer experiences of many UK brands and organisations.

Or, it could present an opportunity for them to improve their customer satisfaction, engagement and loyalty.

Some UK organisations are responding to this issue and we are seeing language and interpretation  solutions being put in place in a range of NHS trusts, housing associations, Police departments, areas of the UK’s Department for Work & Pensions (DWP), some utilities and local authorities like Tower Hamlets, which caters for around 90 different languages (or groups of languages) that are spoken in it’s borough.

Now, I would assume that the rationale amongst these organisations has something to do with demographics, concentration of customer numbers and economies of scale.

But, what about other organisations like insurance providers, banks, telecommunication providers etc etc that will share customers in these areas? Why don’t they offer such a service?

I understand the cost and time challenges that a contact centre manager will face in recruiting and training the right people with the right language skills and so many don’t address this customer issue. In fact, many of these organisations when faced with a language issue will ask non-English speaking customers to have somebody call back on their behalf.

Is that the sort of service or customer experience that we aspire to?

UK firms are not alone in this problem. US firms have been grappling with this issue for some time and many, if not most, large organisations have language solutions in place. They are also getting past the economies of scale and customer concentration issues by implementing innovative solutions from firms like Cyracom, which provide simultaneous, on demand interpretation services.

Moreover, in doing so, they are also seeing the benefits too where, according to an 2014 ICMI report (The Growing Need For Multi-Language Customer Support), they found that, in the US, first-call resolution (FCR), average handling time (AHT) and quality were all positively affected by 36%, 20% and 32% respectively when a language interpretation service was introduced.

Is this another example, as described by David Conway of Nunwood in a recent interview, of how and why the UK is 2-3 years behind the US when it comes to customer experience?

Could language be an issue that many UK firms need to ‘catch up’ on if they are improve their customer service and experience?
Photo Credit: zinjixmaggir via Compfight cc

9 comments On Is language a customer experience issue that you are overlooking?

  • First of all, you must speak your language fluently, the you should study another language that you love.

    In the model world, it does not allows you just speak only language (your native language), however, it forces you speak more one or more.

    Why? Because you are living in the world that connects everyone in a home, it force persons to work each other. I you do not another language (EX: English), you will be out of the circle of the development of the human.

    So, language plays an important role in our life.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Adrian,
    Another language angle that I think is important to delivering a great experience is losing corporate speak, not speaking to customers in internal/company speak. Don’t talk to customers in acronyms and things that customers don’t understand.

    Agreed that we need to, at the very least, speak in their native/preferred language.

    Annette 🙂

  • As you say Adrian language is a vital part of the customer experience. But it actually goes beyond individual languages such as English or French to include the different ways that consumers express themselves. Brands need to understand what consumers actually mean – which can be very difficult on digital channels where agents don’t have visual or verbal context to rely on. No wonder that 78% of UK consumers ranked getting a response that either partially, or completely, failed to answer their question in their top two biggest frustrations in some recent research Eptica carried out. You can see more on the whole topic in this blog post

  • Pingback: Is Language a Customer Experience Issue That You are Overlooking? ()

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Site Footer

Ready to harness your inner CX punk?

I made a newsletter. It’s called Punk CX. You might not like it. Then again, you might.

Sign up here to find out.

Oh, there’s now a new book out of the same name. It’s mine too. Again, you might not like it. It’s like a very visual punch in the face for the CX industry.

Punk CX cover

Check it out here.