Communication Problems Between Customers and Employees

International Week 7 Assignment

The rapid growth witnessed in the IT sector has led to the emergence of various applications that run on mobile devices. As Potnis, Regenstreif-Harms, and Cortez (2016) reveal, many “Internet applications have been designed to run on smartphones and other mobile devices” (p. 43). These technologies were initially designed to operate as games on some customized cell phones. However, with the development of android, iPhones, and iPads, the business world began to find out whether the running of Internet-facilitated gadgets could from desktops to mobile devices. This possibility was expected to create an opportunity for attracting more customers to purchase these gadgets. Indeed, this concern received a positive response from interested stakeholders. In particular, the invention of the Internet helped to not only create but also expand business across national boundaries. However, this situation had its share of challenges as well as opportunities.

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Many companies have tapped into mobile technologies to boost their communication processes within call centers to ensure that customers do not encounter challenges when seeking solutions to different issues. However, Internet technologies have enabled companies that have global operations to outsource services to other organizations located in foreign nations, thanks to the existence of call center businesses and agents. Even in the era of technological developments, the language barrier remains a major challenge in ensuring effective communication between customers and employees in call centers. Hence, as revealed in this paper, it is crucial to examine how communication is impacted between customers and employees due to language or dialect problems experienced in call centers, including the role played by social media to boost the competitive advantage of contemporary international businesses.

Call Center Communication

Call center organizations offer customer agent services to different organizations that operate in the private or the public sector. Agents in these facilities receive and make phone calls to customers. Every interested business establishment has a form of call centers where clients can seek clarifications regarding the use of particular services or products. Following technology developments witnessed in the recent past, organizations in the U.S. have moved call center services to other nations with the objective of lowering the cost of doing business. The overall goal is to build a competitive advantage. Similarly, according to Deery, Nath, and Walsh (2013), European countries, especially Ireland and the UK, first secured the largest portion of call center contracts.

However, today, Asian nations, including the Philippines and India, have many companies that offer call center services. In fact, like Taylor, D’Cruz, Noronha, and Scholarios (2013) reveal, while Europe is ahead of Asia in terms of expenditure on IT-related services such as call centers. For the two continents, the cost of IT services stands at 22 percent and 15 percent, respectively (Taylor et al., 2013). Moreover, “growth levels are higher in Asia (15 percent) in comparison with Europe (12 percent)” (Taylor, 2013, p. 443). Issues such as the availability of a large population that converses in English, high skills, and a low-priced workforce are among the main factors that have forced many U.S. firms to seek call center services in Asia. Nevertheless, outsourcing call centers to foreign nations, especially in Asia, comes with challenges of language barriers and dialect problems.

Call center communication requires agents to exercise emotional management. Language can help to convey not only the desired message but also emotions, feelings, and identities. For example, agents need to suppress feelings of anger while expressing friendliness to persons they interact with via the phone (Honey, 2016). This requirement originates from the fact that the primary focus of an organization outsourcing its call center services is on quality customer interactions with workers. Therefore, the major concern entails ensuring that representatives display the appropriate tone and traits. However, depending on the origin of the respective call center employee, the notion of being polite may have different meanings (Honey, 2016). As a result, the advent of technological developments that led to the migration of call center services to foreign nations introduced the need for a globalized language, including the accent. However, universal English only seeks to counterbalance pronunciations in the call center service outsourcing industry. The language used is neither American nor British English.

Language accent differences explain why call centers located in some nations have secured more businesses from firms based in the U.S. compared to other countries. For example, in 2011, the Philippines had more than 350,000 call center agents doing business with organizations located in America compared to 330,000 agents from India (Taylor et al., 2013). Although the Philippines does not have a neutral accent, the clarity of speech among its call center employees puts it ahead of India. The outsourcing of these services started in India and before later expanding to the Philippines. However, considering that this latter country is more inclined to the American culture and living styles, accent-related language barriers are minimal compared to Indian call center agents. Despite the dynamics of voice playing a major role in influencing employees’ communication with an organization’s customers, technology has helped to reduce weaknesses associated with language-related obstacles. For example, it has facilitated the accessibility of effective customer services. Hence, India currently has a leading edge in call center service outsourcing after deploying technology to increase its ability to compete with other countries in terms of ensuring efficient operations in foreign regions.

Despite attempts to incorporate technologies, including the interactive voice response (IVR) tool or live chat platforms, to bridge the language barrier gap in call center services, agents remain the core aspect of these communication facilities. Honey (2016) supports this argument by noting, “The sound of a voice on the phone with you can be reassuring, particularly if you are working to resolve a difficult issue” (p. 22). An infographic report published by Zendesk in 2011 revealed that 81% of consumers in the U.S. speak with live agents compared to 72% of others who deal with interactive voice responses (Deery et al., 2013). An emerging issue relates to whether a customer gets satisfaction after speaking to an agent. According to Deery et al. (2013), this situation depends on whether the facility is located offshore or in the U.S. These authors suggest that offshore call centers add some financial benefits to organizations, although customers are more likely to encounter problems in understanding and connecting with agents compared to facilities located in America. Since clients are valuable resources that influence institutional success because they consume products and services offered for sale, language problems between employees in offshore locations hinder the productivity of businesses in the long-run.

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Considering challenges such as accent variations, call center organizations train their workers on diverse mechanisms for overcoming any obstacles with a view to guaranteeing the satisfaction of individuals or companies served by such facilities (Berkbigler & Dickson, 2014). A major concern revolves around mechanisms for ensuring effective communication whereby call center agents can resolve an issue raised by a customer. Hence, these representatives are encouraged to possess emotional intelligence skills. According to Stanley (2012), managing emotions ensures that they remain composed, irrespective of callers’ state of mind. Indeed, call center employees should demonstrate their capacity to trust customers, speak kindly and eloquently, and pay attention to callers’ concerns. Communicating effectively to customers requires call center employees to possess qualities such as being approachable, the ability to listen to others, and the willingness to speak in an honest and kind manner. These aspects of efficient communication constitute many of the traits of an emotionally intelligent call center attendant.

The concept of emotional intelligence as applied in call center work has various aspects. The first issue entails self-awareness, which implies employees’ capacity to understand their feelings and the effect of such emotions on the person on the other end of the line (Ruddick, 2015). Hence, call center workers should be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, which influence their productivity. As earlier mentioned, one major limitation involves language barriers due to accent differences. Other employees are unable to exercise self-regulation, which entails remaining in control of every situation they face. Consequently, they are likely to attack their callers on the phone or make unsound and emotionally instigated decisions. They can also compromise the overall value of the call center work. In fact, self-composure as an aspect of emotional intelligence enables agents to communicate effectively to customers. Consequently, language barriers may send wrong signals to listeners, thus leading to customers’ dissatisfaction due to the call center service offered.

Social Media

Technological developments have led to the integration of multichannel communication platforms, including chat services, cell phones, and the IVR tool, into call center operations. The use of email and social media platforms transformed the manner of interaction among people and organizations. However, this advancement does not necessarily imply that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms have completely taken over as the most preferred channels of interacting with customers compared to live conversations with call center agents via the phone. Technology has completely altered the rules of traditional call centers to the extent that organizations, which do not embrace this transformation, risk losing customers. This situation has a significant impact on a firm’s brand. Research by Gunarathne, Rui, and Seidmann (2017) presents social media as one the most preferred channels of interaction among customers. They share their brand experiences in an online environment.

Some people use social media platforms to discuss their frustrations with customer care attendants. The uncontrollable spreading of related conversations creates a negative spiral effect on customers’ perception of an organization’s products or services. The situation is worse in cases where customers use social media to investigate an organization’s customer care experiences before arriving at a decision to buy particular products that may require some clarifications regarding their use (Gunarathne et al., 2017). Hence, social media provides a platform where people openly talk about the quality of a company’s customer care services. Since call centers act as points of contact between customers and organizations, attendants are expected to operate in a manner that leads to customers’ satisfaction with the services offered. Such contentment paves the way for clients to share various positive aspects of customer care via social media platforms.

Deploying social media platforms to publicize organizations’ manner of handling clients’ concerns through call centers has given rise to the need for establishing procedures, which customer agents should comply with when communicating. For example, one reason why a client may report negative experiences with a call center service is the lack of active listening on the part of an agent. Therefore, these representatives should be active listeners for them to understand a client’s issues (Gerwing & Indseth, 2016). Hence, customers are more likely to report positive experiences with call centers where the agent is calm and communicates using a soothing voice to deliver prompt and quality customer services. This way, social media becomes a tool for marketing an organization’s reputation, which can translate into high inter-customer products and services recommendations. Hence, call center facilities can contribute to a company’s competitive advantage when managed appropriately using social media platforms where customers’ interactions and experiences are currently shared.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn play important roles in today’s international business, especially based on their capacity to boost an organization’s competitive advantage. When doing global brand promotion using the Internet and social media tools, the original content may have been created by an organization or a party appointed by it. However, the message developed undergoes additional elements in the form of product reviews facilitated by the Internet or social media platforms (Macnamara, 2013). In the consumers’ feedback field, customers make utility assessments regarding products and services. When these comparisons are in favor of a particular item, more consumers are likely to make purchase decisions. In situations of viral marketing, an organization may lose control of marketing communications among customers.

Viral marketing involves advertising through unpaid Internet-based platforms that facilitate the sharing of information between people connected through one or more social media avenues (Mills, 2013). This approach minimizes the promotional costs of products and services compared to using traditional media, especially TV and radio. However, a major drawback occurs when an aspect of a product, say customer service offered through a call center, is dissatisfactory to people interacting through a common social media tool. This negative impression of a company may go viral, thus leading to the loss of an organization’s market share. In this case, social media presents challenges since such information may not make any changes to an already pre-conceived negative perception even when an organization takes proactive steps to correct the underlying negative impression.

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In today’s technological marketing environment, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and website marketing are important ways of advertising. These tools promote a business in different ways. For example, customers’ reviews through social media platforms act as vital sources of information that enables an organization to determine the way clients view its products and services. However, since such information may lead to the breach of codes that seek to promote fairness and responsibility among competitors (Babor, Xuan, Damon, & Noel, 2013), well-researched solutions are necessary to prevent cases of violations. Nevertheless, customers use social media platforms such as Facebook to invite their friends or followers to buy specific products. Additionally, consumers share their experiences with commodities or services according to them. Therefore, positive reviews can help to communicate to customers about the utility of merchandise.

Through social media and website marketing, an organization can reach a large number of people globally using minimal financial resources (Moagăr-Poladian, Dumitrescu, & Tănase, 2017). Social media is a low-cost promotional strategy since customers facilitate the sharing of information to a wider audience. Companies only initiate a particular marketing approach by sending a promotional message to the first recipient. When this information goes viral, the respective institution cannot control what is said about its products and services (Mills, 2013). Therefore, social media and website marketing become effective to the extent that promotions made result in positive profiling of a business. The viral spreading of negative reviews may impede organizational success in domestic and international markets.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Advancements made in the IT sector have led to the development of applications that run on mobile devices. Many people currently have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn integrated into their smartphones. These tools not only enhance connections among people but also provide channels through which they can share their experiences regarding some products and services. However, this paper has argued that social media applications have not replaced the role of call centers. With the increased outsourcing of call center services in foreign nations, including India and the Philippines, social media applications help to address emerging problems such as language barriers and dialect differences among customers and employees working in these facilities.

This study recommends the use of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube among contemporary businesses to help in accessing customers or communicating effectively to clients located in different parts of the world. However, although social media platforms may allow people to have continuous and uninterrupted conversations about an organization’s products and customer services, they compromise the professional standards of call center employees. Such workers are expected to interact with overseas clients via the phone. This study recommends the need for active listening among call center agents. This strategy has been found to minimize the time taken to resolve an issue raised by a customer concerning a specific product.

References

Babor, T. F., Xuan, Z., Damon, D., & Noel, J. (2013). An empirical evaluation of the US beer institute’s self-regulations code governing the content of beer advertising. American Journal of Public Health, 103(10), 45-51.

Berkbigler, E., & Dickson, K. E. (2014). Required scripting and work stress in the call center environment: A preliminary exploration. Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications & Conflict, 18(1), 233-255.

Deery, S., Nath, V., & Walsh, J. (2013). Why do off-shored Indian call center workers want to leave their jobs? New Technology, Work & Employment, 28(3), 212-226.

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Gerwing, J., & Indseth, T. (2016). Enhancing caller comprehensibility in emergency calls with language barrier: Operators in the roles of addressee. International Journal of Listening, 30(3), 163-179.

Gunarathne, P., Rui, H., & Seidmann, A. (2017). Whose and what social media complaints have happier resolutions? Evidence from Twitter. Journal of Management Information Systems, 34(2), 314-340.

Honey, C. (2016). Shared services: Is the pain worth the gain? Workforce Solutions Review, 7(6), 22-23.

Macnamara, J. (2013). The 21st century media (r)evolution: Emergent communication practices (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Mills, A. J. (2013). Virality in social media: The SPIN framework. Journal of Public Affairs, 12(2), 162-169.

Moagăr-Poladian, S., Dumitrescu, G., & Tănase, I. A. (2017). Retail e-commerce (E-tail) – Evolution, characteristics and perspectives in China, the USA and Europe. Global Economic Observer, 5(1), 167-178.

Potnis, D. D., Regenstreif-Harms, R., Cortez, E. (2016). Identifying key steps for developing mobile applications and mobile websites for libraries. Information Technology & Libraries, 35(3), 43-62.

Ruddick, F. (2015). Customer care in the NHS. Nursing Standard, 29(20), 37-42.

Stanley, C. (2012). Emotional intelligence for sales success: Connect with customers and get results. New York, NY: AMACOM.

Taylor, P., D’Cruz, P., Noronha, E., & Scholarios, D. (2013). The experience of work in India’s domestic call center industry. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 24(2), 436-452.

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