New York City is known for its diverse population and vibrant culture. One aspect of this diversity is the wide range of languages spoken in the city. According to a recent study, over 800 languages are spoken in New York City, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world.
This diversity brings many benefits to the city and its residents. It allows for a rich exchange of ideas and cultures, and it also makes the city a more welcoming and inclusive place for people from all backgrounds.
However, this diversity also presents challenges when it comes to communication. In order to effectively serve the needs of all its residents, it is important for businesses and organizations in New York City to be able to communicate in the languages of their clients and customers.
One way to accomplish this is by providing translation and interpretation services. By offering these services, businesses and organizations can ensure that their communications are clear and accessible to all. This is particularly important in industries such as healthcare, education, and government, where effective communication is crucial for providing high-quality services.
In addition to providing translation and interpretation services, it is also important for businesses and organizations to prioritize language diversity in their hiring practices. By hiring multilingual staff, businesses can better serve the needs of their diverse customer base and foster a more inclusive work environment.
Another important touch point to consider regarding language diversity is your business or organization’s phone systems and IVRs (Interactive Voice Response systems). By offering multiple language options on these systems, businesses can make it easier for callers to navigate and access the services they need.
For example, a business with an IVR system that provides upfront language preference options ensures callers are able to access the information and assistance they need in their own language. This not only improves the customer experience but also increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.
The availability of different languages on business phone systems and IVRs is an important aspect of effective communication and customer service. By offering multiple language options, businesses and organizations can better serve the needs of their diverse customer base and foster a more inclusive and accessible environment.
Overall, the diversity of languages spoken in New York City is both a strength and an opportunity. By recognizing and addressing this diversity, businesses and organizations can better serve the needs of all their clients and customers and contribute to the city’s vibrant and inclusive culture.
One More Thought…
Check out this press conference excerpt of the Mayor discussing the need for all hospitals to offer multilingual brochures and communications for patients. NYC Health + Hospitals offers their callers 9 distinct language preference options on their phone system’s IVR prompts.
You’ve just finished writing a comprehensive IVR script for your organization’s phone system. But before submitting it to Holdcom, you remember you were tasked with having the script recorded not only in English but also Spanish, French, and Mandarin, since a significant portion of your client base communicates with your organization in those languages. Like any professional working within a budget, your first instinct is to research the most cost-effective options possible to have your English script translated into the other languages.
Perhaps you’ve seen ads online for websites promising no-cost, on-the-spot translation solutions. Or maybe you remember there’s a built-in translation app on your mobile phone that you’ve always wanted to try out. Or perhaps you simply decide to type the words “free translation” into your web browser, and up pops Google Translate as the first search result.
Whichever of these methods you choose, you’re amazed not only at the ease-of-use the automated tool offers but also the immediacy that it renders a seemingly thorough translation. All you had to do was simply copy-and-paste your English script into the “Enter Text” box, select the desired language for translation, and INSTANTLY a fully formed translated document appeared. And you didn’t need to pay a single cent! Nothing short of victory, right?
But before you email that translated script over to Holdcom to be recorded, remember the age-old saying – If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
While no-cost translation sites/apps can be a great resource for quickly translating stand-alone words, short phrases, or even full paragraphs to obtain the gist of information presented to you in a language you don’t understand, these same sites/apps can yield varying degrees of inaccurate translations, depending on the context of the verbiage you’re translating and the languages involved.
So while a free automated translation site might be an adequate solution when it comes to personal use (such as helping you understand an email or text from your new social media friend in France, who’s writing to you in his native language), that same site’s lack of 100% accuracy renders it an ineffectual tool for professional applications, especially long-form applications such as Message-On-Hold and IVR scripting. In other words, the longer your script, the greater the likelihood the automated tool will produce errors in the translation.
Of course this begs the question – WHY do these automated translation tools produce such errors?
Think about it. In English, a word can have various meanings, and those meanings can be very different from each other. If someone were to say any of these common homonyms to you –
fan, park, play, right – as purely stand-alone terms and expect you to know the exact meaning they’re implying, you could certainly take a guess. But you would really need to know the surrounding context associated with those words to understand the precise meaning that person was intending. Such is true for homonyms in other languages. And therein lies one of the reasons an automated translation site/app can easily take a wrong turn.
Depending on which type of auto-translation tool you use and the languages you’re pairing, the software may rely on direct (or, “literal”) translation methods, meaning it translates each word of your text separately, without considering how those words are used collectively in the full context. This can result in not only grammatically incorrect – but oftentimes, nonsensical – translations.
To give you an example, I remember receiving a client’s Spanish translation years ago and immediately realized they had used an automated translation tool. I’m not fluent in Spanish by any means, but when I referenced the client’s English version of their Spanish translation, I noticed the word “Queens” throughout. And based on the context of the English script, I could see the client was referring to the New York City borough of Queens. However, the word “Queens” appeared nowhere in the Spanish translation, which was a red flag. I could see that instead of leaving the proper name of “Queens” intact in the Spanish translation, the automated tool mistakenly translated it literally as “Reinas” – the plural version of “a female sovereign or monarch” – which was obviously not the word/meaning the client intended.
So what will happen if you unknowingly submit a faulty translation to Holdcom to be recorded? In general, it will cause confusion and ultimately delay the production of your final product, which is never ideal – especially if your leadership has given you a hard deadline to have the recordings implemented on your phone system. So as our voice talent sits down to record your translation, s/he will inevitably spot grammar and word choice errors that will likely render the script unreadable. In these situations, I often receive feedback from voice talents as such: “Unfortunately it appears this script was translated using Google Translate or a similar site. If I were to record this as is, I’d basically be reading gibberish in some sections. I think I know what the client is trying to say, but I honestly can’t be sure and I certainly don’t want to guess. So please circle back with the client for clarification.”
Although the accuracy of certain automated translation tools has improved over the years, don’t assume the site/app you’re using is necessarily selecting the word/meaning it thinks best based on the specific nuances of your content. Such automated tools are more likely relying on a language pattern-matching algorithm, so there’s no guarantee it will select the word/meaning you intended. To compound the problem, there is no reliable way to confirm the auto-translator’s word choices are fully accurate without an actual human being, fluent in both the original language and translated language, to verify those word choices. A machine using an algorithm simply can’t understand the contextual subtleties to the same degree a trained human can.
And that is why, when translating a document that will be used for a professional application, it’s crucial to steer clear of these “machine translators” in favor of skilled human professionals. Experienced professional translators will take the necessary time and effort to avoid the pitfalls of literal translation methods. They’ll factor in the all-important rules of grammar as well as any cultural references and nuanced language contained in your script. They may utilize not only their personal knowledge and expertise of the languages required for the translation but also well-established multilingual dictionaries/glossaries, “back translation” methods, and proofreading/review techniques, which automated translation tools do not employ.
If you don’t already have a reliable human translation source (such as a fluent bilingual staff member with a proven track record of providing error-free translations), then Holdcom, at an affordable rate, can provide you with professional translation services, performed by certified, highly experienced multilingual translators. And since word choice can be subjective even when skilled human translators are involved, you will be given the opportunity to review and approve all translated documents before we record them. This way, if our Spanish translator translates the phrase “To repeat these options, press 9” as “Para repetir estas opciones, oprima 9” – but you prefer the word choice of “Para repetir estas opciones, presione 9” – we can certainly adjust that to your liking before the script is recorded and implemented on your phone system.
Before we talk about where we are going, let’s take a moment to look back and see how cultural norms and consumer behavior helped to shape this technology and the contact center industry.
Automated Call Distributors (ACDs) were born in the 1960s. They were industries’ answer to the growing number of phones, which had become an American staple, accompanying a 2-bedroom home in the suburbs with a picket fence and an American car in the driveway. The explosion of television a decade earlier, combined with the heyday of the Mad Men of advertising, established the birth of consumerism. Armed with their Bell telephones, these consumers had questions, problems, and complaints that needed resolutions. It was a natural progression for businesses to automate the previously manual process of routing calls to the relevant departments.
With the introduction of touch-tone dialing and the Princess phone, the integration of IVRs (Interactive Voice Response Systems) into businesses ramped up in the 1970s and ’80s and were soon everywhere in the 1990s. Toll-free numbers on catalogs and eventually every product ushered in a new era of self-service as consumers pecked their way through menus and options to get what they needed. All was good in consumer affairs and call centers, for about 10 years.
This is where our heartfelt story of bygone days starts to take a turn. Although this technology is deemed a contact-center mainstay for a variety of reasons, including the ability to handle larger quantities of customers and reduce costs, it also has its downside. How many times have we all endured an IVR only to get to the end with no option that suits our needs? It’s no wonder IVRs were voted the most annoying invention of all time in 2012.
Sure, we could point fingers at who was responsible for making these systems too bloated.
“It’s IT’s fault!”
“No, the budget was slashed!
“It was Marketing!”
The simple truth is consumer behaviors and wants had evolved beyond what technology could provide. Contact centers were now dealing with multiple channels from mail to voice and now email. And they were also expected to support new websites. It was time for the IVR to progress beyond the voice channel.
IVR Automation (Conversational IVR)
As consumers’ phones became mobile – and the “cloud” didn’t just mean a rainy day – everything was going digital. And while social media and live chat were the shiny new toys being deployed, IVR just kept showing up and doing its job – getting smarter with more integrations and hitting its stride as AI and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) took it to a new level.
This ushered in the Conversational IVR, which brought with it many benefits including identifying consumer intent more effectively and quickly connecting customers with agents who had the best skillset for that interaction. Customers received answers to their questions faster than they would with conventional IVR systems. Conversational IVR also increased customers’ satisfaction and raised First Call Resolution (FCR) rates. Even average handling times (AHT) improved as well as customer wait times.
As time marched on, consumers were becoming more addicted to their phones with new apps launching every month. Their comfort level with speaking to technology was growing as they began using Siri, Google Voice, and Alexa on a daily basis. Their expectations also grew as they interacted with a brand. They expected the same ease and convenience as all the other technology they were using.
IVR Deflection (Visual IVR)
Today consumers are the most tech-savvy we’ve ever experienced, and their expectations continue to be on the bleeding edge. As we inch closer and closer to the first version of cyborgs, armed with multiple smart devices, consumers are “connected” 24/7. And just as we have adapted to speaking with and interacting with technology, we are now beginning to accept the effect of big data and the uncanny accuracy of hyper-relevant topics appearing on our screens. For many, it may still seem unsettling, but in the not-too-distant future, it will be second nature and expected.
Consumers now expect their interactions with brands to follow them from device to device seamlessly. The automated customer experience is enhanced through Visual IVR, or “IVR deflection.” Deflection enables you to add a multichannel experience to customer contacts, in contrast to Conversational IVR, which confines the customer and agents to the voice channel. Depending on the circumstance, people may favor different channels. There are occasions when verbal communication is not the greatest method for exchanging information, thus necessitating a transition to visual communication. In the past, this required the customer to manually change channels. In other words, hanging up the phone and restarting the communication process via email or a web browser.
Thankfully, Visual IVR opens a completely new engagement vector: the digital experience. The digital interface of the Visual IVR provides users with a self-service experience akin to an app. An email or text link is used to initiate the web-based experience; no downloads or installations are required. Customers can engage with a visual interface to make menu selections, check account information, enter information digitally, and more. While Visual IVR provides many of the same advantages as a mobile app, it essentially eliminates the barriers to client adoption. The majority of Visual IVR deployments can make use of digital resources and tools that have already been created by the business. Contacts can receive virtually anything that has been developed into an app or website and access it in real-time over the voice channel. An agent can quickly move them to a designated chat, send them a coupon, or do whatever the interaction requires. No starting over, no frustrations.
What’s next for IVR?
Although the IVR is approaching its 60s, there’s no sign of retirement for this contact center workhorse. Many contact centers and businesses continue to have traditional and automated IVR systems running parallel to the other channels they are supporting, to suit all the preferences of their clients. As visual IVRs become more ubiquitous, and the boomers adapt or fade away, the IVR will still be around in some shape or form.
To understand what the future holds for this industry, we simply need to look to our customers and the companies that are gaining traction. As Millennials and Gen Z are racking up big numbers using Instagram and TikTok as search engines, they are redefining the digital experience daily. The next generation holds the key to where we will meet our customers while catering to all their individual preferences.
If I could predict the next great communication innovation, I would be writing my next book and planning a speaking tour. But I don’t think anyone REALLY knows, because it will ultimately come down to where we are as a society and what makes the most sense at that time. If Armageddon is coming as the preppers keep warning us, I guess I’ll see you in the bread line. But I’m more of an optimist and like to lean into a future that will continue to use technology in a positive way. Whether it will be on a Tesla smart Skele-Toe shoe phone or a tinfoil hat, I know it will be digital, highly personalized, totally portable, and require minimal effort. And it will most likely be virtual. Beyond that, I believe the next evolution of self-service will be built on the 5 key features of Web3, (decentralization, blockchain, security, scalability, and privacy) and will be the predecessor to a completely sentient virtual agent.
So, before you order your custom-fit Oculus headsets and launch into the Metaverse version of “Ready ‘Agent’ One,” don’t be surprised if you’re SWOTing concepts for a Discord group chat or Twitch live stream in the near future. Or maybe you’ll be contemplating how Twitter Spaces and Spotify’s Greenroom could reduce handle times and increase C-SAT. Regardless, in the near future as you awkwardly pose for your daughter’s latest BeReal post, confused by what’s happening, just realize you could be implementing this with your agents soon.
Not all companies and contact centers are the same size or have the same budgets. This list has been compiled from industry trends and over 30 years of working with brands in all types of industries. Whether you’re managing a handful of seats or hundreds of agents, choose the items on this list that will have the most impact based on your current situation.
Get to know your customer
This is probably the most underrated and underutilized tactic for most companies. Understanding your customer and what/how they want to interact with your brand will make all your initiatives much more effective. Take the time to speak with frontline agents to understand not only your clients’ demographics – but also their preferences. Use this data to fine-tune your IVR and other self-service tools to optimize client engagement with the brand.
Localization & Customization
Hop on this trend and look to customize every contact as much as you can. Leverage the data your agents are tracking in the CRM to improve the customer experience. Meet your customers when, how, and where they want to be met, on whichever device or platform they prefer. And do it in their language or dialect. Nothing builds more trust than being greeted in your native language.
If you’re still using traditional IVR, look to migrate to a conversational platform. You must be looking at a ‘Mobile First’ approach. Callers trying to navigate a keypad on the go are not ideal. Provide your callers with the option to use voice commands, and this will speed up caller intent and provide a much better experience. It will also allow for more built-in automation, which the IVR can handle and keep the call from going to an agent unnecessarily.
The IVR is the front door to your business. Make sure it provides the best first impression possible. Often overlooked, branding plays a key role in caller confidence. Having the right voice that fits your brand and can serve as a “spokesman” builds callers’ trust, as they consistently hear and recognize that familiar voice while engaging with the brand. Having clear, concise messaging increases caller comprehension and reduces miscues in the IVR.
Whenever possible, provide your contacts with a brand-appropriate experience, no matter which channel they are engaging with. This includes the words and tone you use – from your agents to your chatbots to your IVR. Too often brands aren’t consistent in their messaging, and your contacts can feel like they’ve called the wrong company. Just because Marketing thought the new chatbot should sound hip or cool doesn’t mean it’s on-brand. Find a sound that fits your brand and tweak it accordingly, depending on the technology and platform.
Regular Auditing & Tuning
How many times have you called a brand to hear three or more different voices when interacting with the IVR? Make it a routine to call and listen to your IVR and ensure it’s being updated as you update other areas of the contact center. The IVR can sometimes be treated like the middle child and appear forgotten as you move quickly to upgrade or implement new tools. At least once a quarter, ensure your IVR is still providing the most comprehensible and efficient options and that it’s been updated to leverage other channels.
Visual IVR unlocks the IVR from the voice channel and expands its use to all other developed channels. Many companies are now embracing a visual IVR and realizing they should have done it sooner. This simple technology can help to revolutionize your interactions with contacts, increasing C-SAT and reducing customer and agent effort.
How are you maintaining your IVR? Let us know in the comments what we missed or suggestions you would recommend.
When writing voice prompts for IVR or ACD systems, clear concise communication is key. The thing about a well structured call-processing system with properly recorded voice prompts is that you just don’t notice it. What you do notice, however, is a system that is riddled with problems and errors.To ensure you’re creating a great caller experience, be sure to avoid these 15 common blunders in your voice prompt scripts:
Using the Word “dial.” True story: I have never “dialed” a phone. For my whole life, I’ve pressed buttons. Now, I press “buttons” on my touch-screen phone. Think about it–when was the last time you actually dialed a phone? If you are instructing callers to dial an extension, you should switch to the term “press,” otherwise you might seem outdated.
Too many menu items. As a general rule, 3-5 items should be sufficient for each level of your menu. If you have more than that, callers may become confused, unengaged, and frustrated, making work harder for your reps.
Not enough menu items. Too few menu options is also a problem. If you don’t give users enough options, they may not be sure which department is the right choice for them.
Putting the extension number before the name of the person/department. A good prompt will say, “For Sales, Press 1” not “Press 1 for Sales.” Why? Callers are listening for their destination first, then how to get there. If you play the extension first, they’re not likely to associate the number with the department.
Forgetting to tell callers they can enter a known extension at any time. Many repeat callers will know which extension they need to use before hearing any of the options. They might have even looked it up on your website or seen it in your email signature. Make sure you remind these callers that they can enter an extension without listening to the prompts.
Neglecting an exit option. You should let callers know that number they can use to immediately leave the system and speak to a live human (during business hours, of course). This works in two ways–first, callers immediately know that there is a “real human” who can talk to them. Second, if callers know they can leave the phone tree, they’ll be more receptive to listening to your prompts.
Having a long greeting before prompts begin. Time spent with an IVR system isn’t the same as hold time.
Using an unprofessional-sounding voice. Professional Voice Over Talents exist for a reason: people like to hear them.Your automated answering system might be the first impression callers have of your business. Why would you use staticy, improperly recorded announcements?
Not having an “after hours” variation of your prompts. When your office is closed, you should have a prompt that lets people know this and encourages them to leave a message (with appropriate menu option) or call back during normal business hours (and give hours). An after hours greeting can also include emergency contact number or direct clients to a self-service option on your website.
Repeating the word “please” in every prompt. In business, proper manners are essential. On your phone system, saying “please” with every prompt is redundant and irritating. Say “please” in the first prompt, then keep your options more streamlined for easy listening. Remember–you’re writing for the ear.
Using long phrasing for each prompt. It’s a prompt, not a message. Keep it short and to the point so you don’t lose caller’s attention. Think of each prompt as a call to action.
Stating extension numbers as one number. If you’re saying “Two hundred three” instead of “Two Zero Three,” you’re making a grave error and potentially going to have a lot of confused callers. It’s not that people will be looking for the button “two hundred three” on their phone, it’s that they might here two and three and ignore the zero. Plus, doesn’t it sound weird to tell callers to “Press Two Hundred Three”?
Including Jargon. Jargon got its name because people don’t understand it. Unless absolutely necessary, avoid jargon in your voice prompts to make the caller experience as painless as possible.
Putting frequently requested options at the end of the menu. It just makes sense to put the most frequently requested options first. If you already know what people are looking for, you should aim to deliver it as quickly as possible and move them efficiently through the rest of your call processing.
Lacking Consistency. If you use inconsistent phrasing for your prompts, you’re likely to confuse callers. By changing your word choice, the caller won’t be able to follow a predictable pattern. For example, you shouldn’t say, “For sales, press 1; To reach customer service, press 2; Press 3 for reservations.” It just doesn’t make sense.
What do you think? Have you heard any voice prompts that have made you cringe? Would you add anything else to this list?
Voice prompt menus, IVR, and auto attendant greetings can be a helpful way to get more information to your customers. You can mention your business hours, current specials, a temporary store closing, or a charity drive that you’re going to be having in the near future. Since you may already have an idea about what you want to say on your phone script, here are a few things you will want to steer clear of:
Too Many Options – It’s important to have enough options to cover the various departments you have for your customers to speak to, but you also want to keep in mind that listing too many on your automated menu can seem cluttered. The more you have listed, the more apt your are to have confused customers, and the more apt they are to end up in the wrong department anyway. If they don’t quite fit in with option one and keep listening for a better selection, but by option eight they’ve forgotten what option one even was, they may end up hitting any number just to speak to a representative. The whole point of these options is to get the customer to the right department the first time around, so make the choices clear and concise. Keep in mind who the callers are and what they tend to call for. The main menu should then be tailored to the needs of the caller.
Cornering the Customer – When using an auto attendant always provide the option to speak to a representative. They may not have an account number available, or they may have questions about the information your menu is requesting from them. Allowing them to speak to a person can avoid unnecessary frustration for your customer. If they know that every time they call you they are going to end up frustrated before they can even talk to someone, they may begin to associate negative experiences with your company.
Giving Outdated Information – Keeping the informaion contained with your phone script up-to-date is important to your customers. You won’t be wasting their time with out-dated information, which is always appreciated. Telling customers about the wrong hours of business, an outdated website, or a wrong address can be frustrating. Be sure if there are any changes in your company that you update the recordings accordingly.
Don’t Bury the Lead – The term “bury the lead” comes from journalism. In a news story, the “lead” is the first sentence, which concisely conveys the main point of the article. Same hold true for your phone system. If 80% of your callers choose one option over the others, don’t bury that option in the list of choices. Making the caller wade through other options is tidus and inefficient. Order your menu choices in the priority which they are choosen. Not sure which is choosen more? As your administrator for a report, or stroll on down and talk to the agents. They’ll let you know who’s calling and why.
Your phone script should be clear, concise, up-to-date, and helpful. Customers generally call you because they are having an issue with something, and you don’t want to compound the problem — you want to solve it. Send the message to your customers that you consider their time as important as yours by never making them take longer on a phone call than necessary.
My adolescent nephews have never experienced a Broadway play, so for their spring birthdays my husband and I took them to see Spiderman: Turn off the Dark. This show was in the headlines for various reasons – injuries, confusing plot, being the most expensive play ever produced, but it was an ideal way to introduce Broadway for novice attendees.
Interactive Voice response or IVR, is a form of human-computer interface which takes its input from voice and keypad commands. Compared to a phone menu, call tree, or automated attendant, an Interactive Voice Response system is put in place to actually receive data, process it, and deliver meaningful value to the customer.
Your company’s IVR is the “first impression” callers get about your business. Recording your voice prompts in house may be a quick and affordable solution, but here’s a few reasons why that decision might not be the right one: