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Consolidated Help Desks Must Offer Support in Multiple Languages
Delivering multilingual support broadens the capabilities of any company.
Posted Jul 1, 2005
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The increasingly global nature of business today requires companies to change. In terms of the help-desk support business, global companies have driven the demand for consolidated operations--they save money, deliver tremendous efficiency, provide consistent service levels, and present better data analytics allowing for actionable measures to improve the IT organization. The key, of course, is that consolidated help desks must offer support in multiple languages. Effective multilingual support requires two primary investments: agents who speak multiple languages, and advanced tools and technologies to support sophisticated call routing procedures. Who needs Multilingual Support? The primary candidate for multilingual support is a company that needs consistent service and support for its locations in multiple geographies, delivered in local languages. In order to contain costs, multinational corporations are leveraging global purchasing arrangements and global platforms to deliver a consistent infrastructure. This creates a need for a consistent support process and centralization of data on the health of the infrastructure. The corporation does not want to manage and maintain relationships with providers in every country where it has customers, but needs one provider that can support its entire workforce or customer base. Centralizing into a multilingual environment enables companies to save upwards of 20 percent in support costs simply by improved utilization of support staff. Multilingual Versus Native Language Support For many global employers based in the US, it can be a challenge to find help desk and call center agents that speak more than one language. But in terms of productivity, it's important to find agents who can speak three or more languages. The more languages the agent speaks, the more originating countries from which calls can be routed to the agent. While there are multilingual agents in the States, the majority of multilingual centers are in European locations. Help-desk outsourcing companies are starting to build facilities in Eastern Europe to hire agents who speak the popular languages of English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian as well as Eastern European languages such as Hungarian, Czechoslovakian, Russian, and Romanian.
Yet, sheer numbers alone are not enough when it comes to delivering effective multilingual support. Just about everyone has experienced the difficult situation of being on a call with an agent who speaks English, but with such a heavy accent that he or she cannot be understood. Instead, help desk firms, wherever possible, should route calls to an agent whose native language matches that of the caller. This obviously creates additional complexities in the call-routing infrastructure, but it vastly improves customer satisfaction. Technology Enablers A robust telecom solution is a must-have to get the caller matched with the right agent and to route calls efficiently and effectively. While callers can self-select desired languages and other options using IVR technology, multilingual centers also should route calls based on incoming phone number. Inbound calls from France, for example, should be routed to agents whose native language is French. If those agents are busy, calls should overflow to agents who speak French as a second or third language. Another method is to offer callers country-specific numbers that route callers to specific agent groups, again with a series of back-up and overflow options. These call routing and flow plans are extremely complex, particularly when compared with similar plans from U.S.-based facilities and from single-language customers. It's extremely important to have the right technologies in place to route calls to multiple centers. That not only helps customers get the best value, it ensures they will have uninterrupted support in case of some disaster or outage at one center. For example, advances in IP telephony enable dynamic call routing and redundant technologies between multiple facilities. This type of seamless, global technology platform provides one blended solution for any customer, worldwide. Delivering multilingual support broadens the capabilities of any company. Companies not only extend their business options, they increase the career options for their employees. With the right agent mix and the right technologies, multilingual support brings the customers in our world closer together. About the Author Tami Schultz is Global Account Manager for TechTeam Global, and provider of global, multilingual help-desk services and specialized IT solutions with locations in the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, and Romania. Reach Tami at tschultz@techteam.com
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