There are 42
languages in Europe with more than a million speakers each. For companies looking to comprehensively
target the European market, that’s a mind-boggling number. Multiply it by the
dozen or more common channels through which customers like to communicate, and
you have a customer service environment that’s staggeringly complex.
Facebook, Twitter, web chat, video chat, email, apps and online review sites –
the growing list of channel options leaves us breathless, while in the
meantime, customers “just” want a smooth and simple omni-channel experience in
the language of their choice.
The industry has
moved on from the inefficiencies of servicing 10 markets in 10 countries, each
with a local contact centre. Now it’s
about regional multilingual customer experience hubs, often managed by contact
centre outsourcing companies who have mastered the complexity of the new
There are many
advantages to approaching multilingual support in this way:
Cost reduction - if every European market can be served from one or
two hubs instead of requiring a contact centre in each country, then costs can
be dramatically reduced.
Security - customer data is critical today, therefore any way of reducing
complexity of the support processes enables improved security procedures to be
Simplified processes - managing the entire customer service process can be
more effectively controlled from a hub, rather than spread across many
geographically disparate locations.
Regulatory ease - using a hub means the entire support team can be
managed within a single regulatory environment, rather than requiring the
management of people in the same team, but with many different labour laws controlling
how they can contribute.
Flexibility to scale - using a hub format means that it is easier to scale
up or down and to add additional services, such as a new channel that suddenly
becomes popular with customers, such as What’s App.
All the major contact centre operators in Europe have created
multilingual hubs – one supporting an incredible 58 languages. This development is having a dramatic effect
on the wider customer service industry:
Agents are mobile; the hubs need to be in desirable locations so they
can lure native language agents to relocate. Examples of relatively low cost
business locations doing this successfully are Lisbon and Athens. Companies are
by necessity becoming more and more creative with their talent attraction and
retention strategies to address this movement.
Agents are more skilled than ever; agents today are not only operating in
multiple languages from hubs, they are working across channels in an
omnichannel environment where customer interaction is sometimes on display to
the public. This means that agents need greater written communication skills
and an understanding of other business disciplines, such as marketing. The role
of the agent today is far more complex than the previous era of contact centre
jobs being considered temporary, or low skilled.
Markets need to be open to support hubs; naturally for hubs to work there needs to be an easy
movement of people, which works in an environment such as the European Union.
With the UK intending to leave the EU, there is a question mark over the UK as
a viable hub location. Although the UK will continue to support an extensive
English language contact centre industry, it’s going to be interesting to see
if some hubs move English language support to other locations.
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