VoIP – Dealing with Languages

With VoIP there is a plethora of additional features and functions that are freely available. Let us consider a small medium business (SMB) that might wish to portray themselves as a larger company. There is then for example; auto answers and voice guidance that can assist a caller through a menu system to their point of contact, which might be sales, customer care or technical support. These are features commonly offered in virtual voice hosted system such as Grasshopper. However, for the customer to really be impressed they will be looking for a real number to call, and a professional IVR (Interactive Voice System) to guide them to their preferred destination.

Therefore, VoIP hosted or on-premises systems must have that facility whereby the system will redirect the callers to the correct department. Unfortunately, it is not quite so simple, this is because the first challenge that the system must make; is based upon language. For example, press one for English or press two for Spanish.

Here lies probably the largest complaint that businesses receive. If I have pressed two for Spanish, I do not expect to have my call redirected to an English-speaking agent or vice versa. Yet it is so common.


So How Do We Get Round this Linguistic Problem?

The obvious, but difficult answer is to have two forks in the IVR stream, whereby a auto-receptionist answers and then offers the caller an option of language streams. This of course, the designer can carefully plan by recording an IVR tree that offers welcome messages and then uses call diversion to divert language streams to a group of natural speaking agents.

However what if all the Spanish-speaking agents are busy on calls, do you queue the call or pass them to English speaking agents. This appears to be the common tactic. This however can result in customer annoyance.

The way to do it is to construct the IVR menu to pass callers to the correct agents. That of course depends upon structuring the IVR menu to be efficient and accurate.


So What Makes a Good IVR?

An IVR is a road map for callers to navigate the options that the company offers. It is a prerequisite for making a good business phone system. We have all phoned companies that send us through layers of menus that simply confuse, or worse send us to the wrong service or even language stream. So let us consider a typical IVR deployment.


A Typical IVR Workflow

  1. Answer the call
  2. Welcome the caller and offer a selection of Languages
  3. If the caller does not select an option default to English (this of course is dependent on the language of the country the company is in)
  4. The IVR will navigate the caller to their destination and to a suitable agent speaking the language of choice

However English and non-English speakers may require different and more elaborate descriptions of the options available and they should be diverted along the correct language stream to a natural speaker. Therefore, an IVR should not be just a single option it is a configured parallel stream.


IVR Call Flow Best Practices 

The following are some best practices for IVR call flow design:

  1. Let the callers select their preferred language first.
  2. Let the callers get to the most requested topics at the beginning so they can access them quickly and easily but ensure it is too an agent that speaks their language.
  3. Always have agents on shift that can address the languages offered.
  4. Unless the IVR application is designed for self–service only, offer callers the option to talk to a trained specialist, in their native tongue during normal business hours early in the process so they don’t become frustrated and hang up.


Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR)

IVR is one of the big differentiators between small businesses and large companies. A well designed and planned IVR with a well-spoken articulate vocal representation can make a small company appear like a large business.


How to Record the Messages?

It is very important to select the person to record the vocal messages with care. Very many people are not comfortable with recording their voice on a public system. It could therefore be wise to seek out a professional in each language offered to record each of the IVR streams.


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