Culture, Tone and Language Considerations in Quality Assurance
Here at BPA Quality, one of the services we offer under the umbrella of managed quality services is to undertake large-scale quality monitoring of text and voice interactions in multiple languages.
On some global, multi-lingual projects, the client expectation is that agent tone should remain consistent, regardless of the customer’s language or chosen contact channel.
It goes without saying that agents’ tone should also sound genuine regardless of the language – so for global campaigns, it is important to accommodate for cultural differences. Avoiding the use of language-specific figures of speech as fillers rather than making meaningful statements, and having a sound understanding of culture-specific etiquette are both key elements for success in soft skills. A prime example: whereas US and European customers might expect agents to express empathy for their situation at the opening of the conversation, in some Asian cultures, displaying unsolicited empathy is not appropriate, and monitoring should take account of these differences.
When considering text-based contact, aside from an inherent difficulty in establishing tone in written communications, there can be further cultural implications to consider. For example, in many European languages, using the formal register has historically been the common way to address clients in customer service interactions; some companies are now making a conscious choice to use the informal register (e.g. ‘tu’ rather than ‘vous’ in French) which may not always be well-received by more traditionally-minded customers.
This informality in written communication may sometimes occur in contrast to the voice channel for the same company, leading to situations where agents may be required to address customers using the formal register in calls but not in chat.
This can potentially have implications for overall tone, which may be drawn into particular focus if customers make use of multi-channel contact and are left with different perceptions of the brand depending on the channel (which form of address is the one which is most ‘on-brand’ for any particular company…?)
It is reasonable to expect that customers will increasingly equate web chat with other more informal modes of text-based messaging, like IM and SMS, and so may expect their web chat dealings with companies to be conducted in a similar vein.
Even though web chat may generally be viewed as a more informal medium, best practice is still for the spelling / grammar and typography to be held to stringent standards – not least due to the ease with which these interactions can be copied by customers and find their way onto the wider internet, on blogs and message boards, when compared with calls. Indeed, some companies now routinely forward web chat transcripts to customers, so accuracy, tone and being ‘on-brand’ is paramount.
Ultimately, establishing appropriate tone for agents regardless of language and method of contact is best achieved by frequent calibration sessions, taking all of the above considerations are taken into account. Calibrations should take place on a regular basis with key project stakeholders, ideally using sample interactions across all languages and channels in which the project is delivered.
With over 30 years’ experience in quality monitoring and with global clients, our multi-lingual team have the skills, expertise and experience to add this level of detail and insight to your customer service or sales programmes.