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5 Challenges in managing a multilingual call center team

Faith Ocampo
November 15, 2016

diverse business team wearing colorful clothes in white office

Research after research have shown that diverse teams, such as those in multilingual call centers, are more productive and creative than homogeneous ones. The caveat, though, is that they’re more difficult to manage.

Building a multicultural group is a must for call centers that want to reach diverse consumer sectors, particularly markets that don’t speak English. Deploying multilingual services would allow you to cater to international brands and companies that are planning to capture emerging markets.
The tricky part, however, is making culturally diverse teams work.
Although a hodgepodge of ideas brings about smart innovations, multiple perspectives can lead to plenty of friction. It can be difficult to forge and sustain harmonious interpersonal relationships within a heterogeneous team, and disagreements may get in the way of productivity and employee engagement.
Here’s an overview of the challenges you may encounter while managing cultural diversity in your contact center.
 

1.     Effective communication

young diverse business team giving high five

Some multilingual call centers opt to use the English language as their primary tongue for internal communication. This often works, but you may still encounter a few hiccups. For instance, differences in accents, level of fluency, and problems in translations may make it difficult for employees to understand one another.

But more importantly, clear communication isn’t just about the language. It’s often harder for multicultural teams to completely make sense of others’ messages due to differing beliefs, traditions, and life experiences.

Therefore, you need to bring your call center agents together in team building activities and other events where they’d connect with one another on a personal level. Aside from boosting employee engagement, this would let them find a common ground, helping make interactions a lot smoother.

 

2.     Conflicting attitudes toward work

diverse business team playing hoolahoops

According to the Association for Psychological Science, one’s cultural background can affect productivity and attitude toward work. It was previously hypothesized that, generally, Asians are more concerned about building relationships in the office than Americans and Europeans. This is perhaps due to Asians’ emphasis on interdependence and hierarchy, whereas the latter are more individualistic.

One team management strategy that would help you resolve this is to set project goals for the entire team. This would ensure that everyone is striving for the same objectives.

 

3.     Dealing with interpersonal conflicts

office employees shouting in argument

Although every organization has its fair share of disagreements, diversity in the workplace may result to even more conflicts. Unfortunately, it may also be harder for multicultural groups to settle interpersonal issues. If not managed well, this may hamper work progress, creativity, and productivity.

As a manager, you need to take an initiative in managing these types of problems before they get out of hand. Make sure that all your call center agents know their role and value in the company. Increasing employee engagement through team activities can also help prevent misunderstandings among workers.

 

4.     Building training programs

laughing diverse team at work

Part of managing a multilingual call center team is ensuring that all employees’ needs—especially when it comes to training and work resources—are being met. However, using a single training module for a multicultural group often doesn’t work. Plenty of companies use this strategy as a cheaper alternative to conducting multiple coaching sessions for agents with different backgrounds. The latter, however, is far more effective.

Additionally, it’s best to hire multilingual trainers. This ensures that all your customer support policies and guidelines are clearly communicated across your diverse organization.

 

5.     Evaluating performance

Asian coworkers discussing work on laptop

Rigorous quality assurance (QA) processes are crucial for every contact center. To maintain high-quality services, you need to evaluate agents based on the quality of their work and provide regular feedback. However, this would require you to hire multilingual QA agents. Otherwise, you won’t be able to thoroughly monitor and assess agents’ performance. Although a costly move, this would boost your organization’s competence and allow you to build a positive reputation among potential clients.

 
 

0 responses to “5 Challenges in managing a multilingual call center team”

  1. Kit Luclucan says:

    Great article, Faith. Currently, I am working in a company where dealing with expats are pretty normal, and most of my teammates are foreigners of different races. Being in an office space filled with different nationalities is mesmerizing but a bit stressful, honestly. Different work ethic, culture, attitude, and some other stuff somewhat complicate teamwork, but in fact challenging and we Filipinos in general loves challenges which fuel us to excel more in our field of expertise.

    • Faith Ocampo says:

      Working in such a diverse environment can indeed be stressful at times. But that’s also the kind of environment that encourages growth both at the personal and organizational levels. The best thing about it is, it can be truly fun, too!

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