Language Assistance Poised to be Big Part of Customer Service in 2012
Language assistance is poised to play a big role for many businesses’ customer service-focused strategies in 2012.
“In 2012, smart, forward-looking companies will be viewing customer service in new ways. They will be reengineering their thinking to reshape the customer service paradigm,” said Richard Shapiro, customer service expert and founder and president of The Center For Client Retention.
New ways of thinking are necessary: 9% of the US population is Limited English Proficient (LEP), and offering comprehensive language support will be a must for many organizations in 2012. Is it worth the time and effort to support languages besides English? The short answer is “yes.”
Many companies already invest in LEP markets, and for good reason: US Latinos currently have over 1 trillion dollars in purchasing power, and approximately 30% of this population is Limited English Proficient. Other large LEP populations in the United States are communities from regions like Southeast Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe.
“When a customer feels that his/her business is welcomed, appreciated and valued the result will be repeat business,” Shapiro added.
The rationale makes sense: if customers receive service in their native language, they will likely be delighted and return for business. This point was illustrated in a recent L.A. Times article. Longo Toyota, located in the diverse region of Southern California, provides dedicated multilingual support to its customers through a 500-person workforce that speaks 35 languages fluently.
“Some of our guests are pleasantly surprised when they learn that they can speak to someone in their native language,” said Vicki McCoy, communications director. “The interaction becomes a more personal and enjoyable experience that often results in repeat business.”
Longo Toyota is a microcosm of how businesses and contact centers across the US are interacting with the multilingual marketplace, and is another sign that there can be ROI on providing language assistance.
 In 2010, LEP individuals accounted for 25.2 million, or 9 percent, of the US population over age 5, according to US Census data