Language Services for Business

How to communicate with your LEP customers to provide excellent customer service

What’s your plan for handling calls or providing information to limited-English proficient (LEP) clients and customers who speak a language other than English?

We want to help you empower your employees to confidently guide non-English speaking callers to the resources they need from your company. We gathered data about the 25 million LEP people across the US, including their expectations for multilingual customer support. From there, we’ve outlined potential solutions businesses can implement to offer better language services, including how to select the right provider for your needs.

Step 1: Language Barriers

Risks You May Encounter Without Language Services

When a non-English speaking client or customer needs assistance or information but cannot can’t communicate their needs to your representatives or understand the materials, it can cause several issues:

  • Customer frustration

    Language barriers hinder clear and effective communication, often leaving employees unable to resolve the customer’s problem.

  • Poor customer service

    When employees can’t speak the same language as the customer, providing fantastic customer service is nearly impossible.

  • Embarrassing mistranslations

    Your written materials should be translated and localized to avoid providing clients with written materials that don’t communicate your message properly.

  • Financial loss

    Customers with unresolved issues most likely won’t purchase from your company again, and they may even tell their friends and family about their negative experience.

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You may wonder how much the LEP population can impact your business—check out the research data.

Step 2: Research Data

How the LEP population impacts businesses

Your company may not recognize the limited-English proficient (LEP) population’s impact on revenue. Consider these stats:

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More than 25 million people across the US speak English less than “very well,” meaning LEP people make up 9% of the US population.
(US Census Bureau)

• Note: These numbers don’t include global audiences you may try to reach

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Given a choice between buying two similar products, 76% of customers will choose the one with information in their native language.

In addition, 40% will never buy from websites in other languages. (CSA Research)

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Around 71.5% of customer service leaders claim a boost in customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) when they connect in the customer’s native language.

However, only 19% of the surveyed customer contact centers offer support in multiple languages. (ICMI)

  • In addition, a survey by Intercom resulted in the following data:
    • 29% of businesses say they’ve lost customers because they don’t offer multilingual support
    • 70% of end-users say they feel more loyal to companies that provide support in their native language
    • 62% of customers are more likely to tolerate problems with a product if they can interact with support in their native language
    • 58% of customers would be willing to wait longer for customer support if it was available in their native language

It’s safe to say offering customer service and written communication in multiple languages can help you connect better with non-English-speaking consumers. So how can you implement better language services? Let’s review potential solutions.

Step 3: Interpretation Solutions

Solution 1: Hiring bilingual employees

Some companies hire bilingual employees to help them communicate with limited-English proficient (LEP) customers. While it can be convenient to have multilingual employees, you’ll need to consider how job duties may change, how you’ll measure language and interpreting skills, and more before committing to this solution.

You’ll also need to examine whether the benefits of hiring bilingual employees outweigh any disadvantages.
According to survey results from Intercom, 85% of support managers say it’s challenging to find reps who speak more than one language.

Here’s a helpful list of questions organizations should answer before hiring bilingual employees.

Did you know?

CyraCom offers a Language Proficiency Assessment in more than 45 languages, which is an easy way to determine how well someone speaks their second language. The assessment uses the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) standards, a US federal organization that coordinates and shares information about language-related activities. We also offer an Interpreter Skills Assessment, which is available in more than 20 languages.

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Solution 2: Partnering with a language services provider

Businesses can improve customer service performance metrics by working with a language services provider (LSP). Investing in phone interpretation performed by qualified professionals saves you the hassle of recruiting, hiring, assessing, and retaining bilingual employees. Plus, you can:

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Offer more languages as needed

Hiring bilingual employees can help you serve customers who speak the same language, but how will you help those who speak less-common languages? Working with an LSP gives you access to interpreters as needed, meaning you can reduce fixed costs.

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Improve brand loyalty through multilingual customer service

Forbes reports that poor customer service costs businesses more than $75 billion a year and that 67% of customers have become “serial switchers”—customers willing to switch brands because of a poor customer experience. For a company that provides good service, 66% of customers would be more loyal, 65% would be willing to recommend the company to others, and 48% would spend more money.

Retaining existing customers can be easier when you provide exceptional service in customers’ preferred language. 75% of CSA Research survey respondents said they’re more likely to purchase the same brand again if customer care is in their language.

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Boost performance metrics

In an ICMI survey, 79% of contact centers have customers who aren’t native speakers of their primary languages. Unclear communication can automatically reduce your employees’ ability to offer support and resolve customers’ issues. Implementing language services can help you improve first-call resolution (FCR), average handling time (AHT), and customer satisfaction scores (CSAT).

  • ICMI partnered with us (formerly our subsidiary Voiance) to determine that after introducing a language interpretation service, FCR, AHT, and overall quality were positively affected by 36%, 20%, and 32%, respectively.
  • 71.5% of customer service leaders claim that support in a native language increases satisfaction.

Step 4: Translation Solutions

In addition to interpretation, you may want to consider translating and localizing written materials such as website content, informative brochures, video captioning, and more. To follow OSHA guidelines, translating safety materials can help you stay compliant.

According to CSA Research:

  • 65% of surveyed customers prefer content in their language, even if it’s poor quality
  • 73% want product reviews in their language if nothing else

Professional human translators localize your text to help ensure clear communication. They convert your text into another language using your intended meaning rather than simply translating it word-for-word. Working with an LSP for document or website translation can take longer than using an employee or risky machine translation, but you can better avoid alienating potential customers.

Plus, CSA’s Article “Fortune 500 Companies that Invest in Translation Report Higher Revenue” notes that expanding translation budgets made businesses 1.5 times more likely to report an overall revenue increase.

If you choose to use qualified, professional interpreters and translators, you’ll need to select the right LSP for your needs. Don’t worry—we’ve got the information you need to make your selection.

Step 5: Select a Vendor

With many options available for interpretation and translation services, how do you choose the best one to work with? Vet potential LSPs by asking questions about the following topics:

  • Dedicated support team

    Whether you have a question, need to resolve an issue, or want to review your data, you’ll need to know who to contact. Your LSP should supply an experienced, knowledgeable primary contact that simplifies access to the larger support team. Choose an LSP that assigns a dedicated account manager responsible for nurturing the partnership and ensuring all your services work harmoniously.

    Resource: How CyraCom provides the tools and support services you need

  • Quality interpretation

    Quality phone and video interpretation require three key components:

    • Trained interpreters: Miscommunication between customers and interpreters may negatively impact your first-call resolution and other KPIs. Using an LSP with consistent, trained, and culturally competent interpreters can help reduce the risk of repeat calls and unsatisfied customers.
    • Reliable availability: If the LSP relies heavily on independent contractors rather than employees, they aren’t legally allowed to schedule interpreters and cannot reliably ensure interpreter availability and shorter wait times. Ask providers how they combat this issue.
    • Information security: Interpreters regularly handle sensitive customer information. You need detailed information about the LSP’s security measures to protect your organization and customers from a data breach.

    Resource: Data Security is More Important Than Ever. Is Your Language Services Provider a Risk?

  • Cost-efficient translation & localization

    Translation shouldn’t start fresh when you need documents, videos, training courses, or websites in another language. Choose a partner that tracks past projects and doesn’t charge you twice to translate the same words, paragraphs, or excerpts regularly used in written communications.

    Beyond saving time and budget, ask LSPs how they secure data and provide quality assurance. For example, CyraCom not only translates text, but localizes so that your message sounds as if it were originally written in the target language. In addition to a human translator, our clients’ projects are reviewed by a second linguist to verify accuracy.

    Resource: Video: CyraCom’s Translation & Localization Services

If you’re required to hire vendors through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process, check out this article for additional information.

Step 6: Best Practices

Here are several best practices you can implement for handling non-English calls:

  • Prepare your staff for changes

    Businesses must keep employees informed about process changes. Start by explaining any changes the customers will encounter, such as new automated options for callers to speak with a representative in a language other than English. Next, outline the steps employees will need to follow. You may decide to train and encourage employees to learn the phrase, “Please wait for one moment” in your top languages to help customers understand they’re connecting with an interpreter or bilingual employee.

  • Provide helpful instruction materials

    Employees should have clear and concise instructions readily available to keep their average handling time as low as possible. Consider using digital and printed reference materials for easier access to the correct procedure sequence. Include any phone, account, and password information the employee will need to reach an interpreter.

  • Train employees to work with interpreters

    If your employees haven’t worked with interpreters before, share these helpful tips and tricks:

    • Speak in the first person: Interpreters usually speak as the client when interpreting. Because of this, it’s essential to talk in the first person as yourself. Don’t say, “Tell the customer her account is on hold.” Instead, say, “It looks like your account is on hold. Let me see what we can do about that.” It will help the session go smoothly and convey your message more efficiently.
    • Use short, complete phrases: Many interpreters rely on note-taking and short-term memory to interpret between parties. The shorter the message, the less likely the interpreter will need to ask for repetition. Pause briefly before speaking after each interpretation, or you may cut off the interpreter before they finish.
    • Eliminate background noise: The interpreter’s primary function is hearing and converting what each participant in the conversation says. Do everything you can to ensure they can hear all participants clearly.
    • Enunciate your words: Speaking too softly makes interpreting challenging. Remember to use a loud, clear voice whenever possible. If you’re using over-the-phone interpretation, a headset microphone can make it easier for the interpreter to hear you.
    • Avoid using slang, jargon, & metaphors: Interpreters often act as a bridge between cultures. It can be difficult to convey slang words, humor, sarcasm, idioms, and metaphors across languages, so it’s best to avoid using them. If cultural or linguistic issues arise, allow the interpreter to clarify these for the limited-English proficient person.
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CyraCom is a leading language services provider with over 25 years’ experience helping businesses like yours connect with new customers. We offer free consultations – contact us at today to learn how language services can help you grow your business.

Whether you’re expanding to reach new, multilingual audiences or need better support for the LEP customers you currently have, you need the ability to communicate clearly and effectively.

CyraCom is here to help! Reach out to us at