I live in a multi-lingual and multi-cultural environment where various racial groups who together can converse in more than 50 different types of languages co-exist and leave happily side by side. The three major races in Malaysia consist of Malay, Chinese and Indian with Bahasa Malaysia (the official language of the Country), Mandarin and Tamil being widely spoken here. However, English still remained and regarded as the “de-facto” language for business use especially amongst the private sectors. As a result, effective English communication is a must for all customers service staff. It is common for customer service staff here to be caught in awkward situations whenever they are faced with customers who prefer to speak in their own languages. However, most customers do not mind conversing in English if you are unable to speak their languages as English is the second must pass subject in our national curriculum. Although possessing the ability to converse in different languages are an advantage, they are not as essential as possessing the ability to converse effectively in English.
Here are a series of steps you might want to consider in preparing your customer service staff to undertake their role to serve customer well:-
All customers facing staff should be properly profiled and assessed to ensure they possess the necessary language proficiency for their roles. Those who are weaker should be made to undergo compulsory basic level programme to improve their communication skills and proficiency in the language before they are allowed to face customers.
Communication Skills Training
All customers facing staff should be made to attend a Basic Level Programme to improve their communication skills and upgrade their proficiency in the language. The basic programme should cover essential grammar skills and vocabulary needed for everyday conversation and writing. Thereafter, staff should also attend the Intermediate Level Programme to further develop their skills in exploring their fast changing roles, expanding their language skills, fine tuning their communication skills at all levels, as well as building their confidence in all aspects of their work performance. Stress on the personal resilience to complete all the courses set to equip the staff with the competency and capability to do their job well.
Post Evaluation Assessment
Trainees must also undergo proper post evaluation assessment to ensure they fully comprehend the meaning and application of the language. To bring a sense of urgency to the trainees, their assessment results must be linked to their performance bonus.
Make sharing of personal experiences and story-telling as part and parcel of their daily routine to encourage “two or three-way” communication amongst peers and superiors. Setup up as much reading materials as possible and provide free access to encourage strong reading habits as a way to enhance and improve proficiency in the language. Make reading fun by organizing contest to encourage staff to modify and retold the story the way they see it.
“I’ve traveled the world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners,
Poets and artists, kings and queens,
Old stars and hopeful beginners,
I’ve been where no-one’s been before,
Learned secrets from writers and cooks
All with one library ticket
To the wonderful world of books”.
Nothing is better than encouraging your staff to visit other Customer Service Centres to get a feel of the service level there. The hotel industry will be a very good place to start considering the high standard of service generally found in the industry. Arrange “win-win” visit to non-competitors’ offices to gain first hand knowledge of how services are being defined and delivered.
You can say that a company’s future depends on the talent and innovative capabilities of its employees but more importantly there can be no future if your employees are unable to communicate effectively. This guide covers everything today’s managers need to put the right people into the right jobs.