Can your multilingual call center agents handle culture shock?

Faith Ocampo Published on September 19, 2016

surprised call center agent with diverse-bosses talking in bell

For multilingual call center agents, experiencing culture shock is unavoidable. How well can your agents handle this?

According to global communication expert Communicaid, culture shock is a state of psychological or physical disorientation that occurs when people encounter a new culture. Although it happens more commonly to those who recently moved to a foreign location, it’s not always the case.

You may think agents aren’t exactly prone to this because they don’t directly interact with customers face-to-face. The thing is, even though their interactions are mediated by the phone, email, or social media, they may still encounter some surprising cultural differences.
If agents are ill-equipped to handle such situations in the most tactful and culturally sensitive manner, they may end up offending customers. This gets in the way of problem resolution and may harm the customer experience.

shocked woman pointing to laptop

To avoid this, you must tackle culture shock as part of your cultural sensitivity training. Discussing how it may occur and the proper ways to manage it will help agents communicate more effectively with customers of various cultural backgrounds.
Here are some useful tips you can share with your agents.

1.     Avoid comparing other cultures with your own.

Multilingual call center agents must understand that no two cultures are exactly the same. Each is shaped by people’s differing and sometimes conflicting beliefs and traditions, and these are the very things that make them unique.

Therefore, no culture can be considered superior or inferior, and agents must always keep this in mind when delivering multilingual customer service. Knowing this fact will help them interact more effectively with anyone regardless of their race, religion, age, or location.

 

2.     Listen with an open mind.

This may sound like generic advice for all contact center agents, but it’s far from being so. In a multicultural setting, lingual gaps aren’t the only factor that slows down problem resolution. Apart from this, agents may find it hard to understand where the customer is coming from because of contextual and cultural disparities. This means that they must be prepared to leave their judgments behind and give customers their full attention.

 

3.     Be aware of your own biases.

No human being can be completely free of biases. It’s mainly brought by our capacity to think critically and form opinions about virtually anything under the sun.

However, when talking to customers, agents must be able to suspend their biases. Keep in mind that the number one customer service rule is that the customers’ interests must always be prioritized. With their own interests getting in the way, agents may not be able to objectively assess the issue being raised.

 

4.     Focus on problem resolution.

Regardless of cultural differences, the main thing that will make customers truly happy is fast and efficient problem resolution. Even if agents experience a bit of a culture shock as they talk to customers from a foreign location, they should focus on improving the customer experience. This would require them to zone in on the issue and identify the right solutions immediately.

 

5.     Learn more about other cultures.

Your call center’s cultural sensitivity training should cover not only communication techniques in multicultural settings. It should also aim to increase employees’ cultural awareness . You can do this by discussing among them the various cultures around the world and their unique characteristics.

Of course, this can be time-consuming and effort-intensive, but this widens agents’ exposure to different cultures, making them more empathic and open-minded.

Faith is a digital media enthusiast aiming to become an active part of the tech world by sharing her insights. She likes to blog about everything digimarketing, technology, and social media.
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