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Building Contact Center Love: Why We All Need More Multilingual Agents

February 21, 2023

Are you having trouble sourcing enough multilingual agents? That’s no surprise. According to several reports, demand for bilingual workers has increased almost 130% in the last ten years. A 2021 study analyzing over 600 job postings on found that over 75% requested Spanish or French proficiency, with customer service, or contact centers, being the jobs most likely to request a second language. That’s a lot of demand and a lot of competition for multilingual talent. Though there are several reasons why we could be seeing this sharp increase in demand, there’s one compelling reason more clients are requesting multilingual services, and why Customer Experience (CX) outsourcers should prioritize multilingual capabilities.  

Why Demand is Growing Among U.S. Companies 

English may be the most widely used language in business, but that assumption cannot necessarily be extended to customers. A recent U.S. Census report showed that 1 in 5 Americans now speak a language other than English at home. Not surprising, Spanish took the top spot as the most common non-English language in the U.S. (62%). Many U.S.-based companies are also serving an increasingly global customer base and this global market has over 548 million Spanish speakers and more than 274 million French speakers across the world.  

Yet, for many, it’s the sourcing of multilingual talent that has been a consistent challenge. A third of U.S. employers have a language skills gap and are unable to meet their foreign language needs. Industries such as finance, technology, medical and sales are those with the highest demand for languages such as Spanish (85%), Chinese (34%), and French (22%).  

However, even when companies can source enough multilingual workers in the U.S., they are so in demand, they can often request double the salary of non-bilingual workers. That’s when companies often turn to CX outsourcers who have a significant local presence in foreign markets, where bilingual talent can be more easily sourced, for lower cost.  

The ONE Great Reason Why Multilingual Matters 

Customers won’t buy if they can’t understand. In fact, that was the biggest takeaway from a 2020 CSA report, “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy – B2C”, that surveyed over 8,700 global customers in 29 countries across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. The report found that 76% of online shoppers prefer to buy products with information in their native language, especially when buying expensive or high-tech products – 40% won’t even consider buying unless they can consume information in-language.  

This extends to customer service interactions, where 75% of respondents say they are more likely to buy from a brand if customer care is in their language. This makes a brand more approachable, relatable, and makes purchasing much easier.  

It also makes products more desirable. In another similar study, nearly two-thirds of global consumers would pay more for a product or service if brands offered a customer experience in their preferred language. However, when respondents were asked if brands did a respectable job of offering multilingual services, the results were bleak. Fewer than 50% said they offered any kind of multilingual customer experience. 

Worse than that is the potential erosion of brand trust and loyalty. Over half of consumers consider it a bias when companies don’t offer end-to-end multilingual experiences, and 68% said they would switch to a competitor that did. So, in the end, the reason bilingual skills are in such demand, may have less to do with global customers or a diverse U.S. population, and more to do with the simple fact that consumers buy, and remain loyal to, brands they understand and brands they trust.  

How to Attract and Retain Multilingual Agents 

While technology, such as translation apps and multilingual chatbots, can help fill the language gap, a lack of personalization in automated responses, or the sometimes appallingly bad translations, can cause more problems than they solve. But how can you source enough multilingual agents without incurring excessive costs? 

  • First, dive into your customer demographics and assess which languages you need to support. You don’t have to support every language and can save costs by being strategic about the language channels in which you invest.  
  • Expand your hiring pipeline by introducing language requirements into your job postings and screening criteria. At itel, we use a “right-fit” recruitment process that uses highly refined candidate personas, that we co-create with clients, to target the required skillsets. Our intelligent online screening tool then assesses applicants for things like English-language ability and bilingual capabilities.  
  • Use local hiring boards abroad and their local recruiters. Hiring recruiters who speak key languages can further bolster your pipeline. One benefit of working with itel is that we have teams of local recruiters across nearshore markets, with access to large pools of young, tech-savvy and bilingual job seekers.  

How itel Can Help 

CX outsourcers and BPOs make excellent brand partners and can help you source more multilingual agents. itel has a foothold in key markets and regions across Latin America, North America, and the Caribbean. Those are some of the top CX destinations for Spanish, French, and Portuguese-speaking talent, in places such as Honduras and Belize. With a wide footprint across the nearshore, we can source multilingual talent more efficiently and at less cost, which allows you to worry less about recruiting, so you can focus more on other activities that promote your business growth.  

Want to work with an award-winning CX partner and BPO? Learn more about what we can do, then reach out to our team of CX experts. 

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