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Is Your Workforce’s Language Skills Gap Costing You Money?


Presented By: CrmXchange

Contributed by Sheerin Vesin, HR practice lead for Rosetta Stone's Enterprise & Education Marketing Group.

How Equipping Customer Service Teams with Language Skills May Increase Your Company’s Bottom Line

rosetta.june2016A growing worldwide interest in skiing brought travelers from across the globe to the slopes of Aspen, Colorado to learn from instructors at internationally renowned Aspen-Snowmass. The Aspen Skiing Company’s leaders sought to strategically support this growth in business by ensuring their employees possessed a sometimes overlooked, yet highly pragmatic skill: foreign language proficiency. By being able to clearly communicate with their clients who travel to Aspen from all over the world, instructors were able to build more trust with their students and fostered real connections which helped students feel safe and supported, even on the cold, sometimes anxiety-producing slopes. This made a critical difference, fostering loyalty to Aspen among emerging-market based vacationers.

In today’s global marketplace, consumers have more options than ever before.  Brand loyalty is hard-won, so customer satisfaction is critically important to increasing a company’s bottom line. Yet, many businesses across the globe have a major gap in their business strategy: they lack a comprehensive, strategic approach to languages. In order for customer representatives to have the linguistic tools they need for success, business leaders and Human Resource managers must work together to implement a unified language strategy, which includes both “buying” and “building” talent with the communication skills needed for the business to grow globally.

Consumption in emerging markets is expected to hit a staggering $30 trillion by 2025 so it’s not surprising that 71 percent of business leaders currently plan to grow their companies in markets where English is not predominantly spoken.

The changing cultural landscape in America, coupled with the explosion of the global marketplace, has made language acquisition strategies imperative for meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base and global marketplace. The benefits of doing so are many, both for the employee and the business, and they translate into a real, measureable ROI.

Equipping employees with language skills should be an essential part of a company’s language strategy, since it is both cost-prohibitive and too time-intensive to rely exclusively on hiring exceptional customer service reps with the exact language skills to fill ever-changing needs. These skills help employees build trust and loyalty with their customers and, ultimately, improve customer satisfaction. As a recent Rosetta Stone white paper on boosting customer retention and loyalty noted, “It has been said that poor communication is likely the root cause of 80 percent of complaints received by an organization, either with the customer or within the company itself.”

Having employees who can serve customers in their native language demonstrates to consumers that their individual needs and preferences are valued. This, in turn, fosters long-term brand loyalty.

In addition to customer satisfaction, a new study from Rosetta Stone reveals implementing language training has numerous employee benefits. The survey found 71 percent of respondents in sales and customer service roles reported that language training has helped them perform better in their job, and 72 percent of respondents said that learning a language has made them more confident in their work with teams, partners or vendors who speak the language they learned. Language training also fosters loyalty among employees. Seventy-eight percent reported “Because I was provided access to this training, I feel my company takes an interest in my development,” and 65 percent reported they are more likely to stay with their current employer thanks to having been provided the life-changing opportunity to learn a new language.

These macro statistics are echoed at the local level. At Aspen Skiing Company, company leaders saw language training as an asset that would not only help the company better penetrate emerging tourist markets, enhance the customer experience provided by its employees, but also reinforce their position as an “employer of choice” for workers looking for a company who cares about them. They were right.

It’s clear that in today’s competitive, global economy, empowering customer service representatives with language skills not only benefits customers, but employees and businesses, as well. Implementing a language strategy that leverages the skills that exist within your workforce, and builds them where they are lacking, can be streamlined into three crucial steps: 

  1. Identify linguistic and cultural competency skills that exist within your workforce, and diagnose linguistic and cultural skills gaps by conducting a simple employee survey.
  2. Document your organizational goals, which should include the geographic or demographic markets you will need to penetrate in order to achieve them, then map the necessary language and cultural communication skills to see where you have gaps you need to fill.
  3. Infuse global communication skill development into employee development plans so employees can begin building the critical skills to connect with their customers. 

The face of the consumer is changing, so customer service representatives must be equipped to meet their needs. Customers expect personalized service, and employees must have the tools needed to provide it. Your employees’ language skills gap may be costing you customers. Fill those gaps before they negatively impact your bottom line.