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Partner with an LSP well-versed in Multilingual Customer Service

In the wake of deregulation, the energy sector, like most consumer-service industries, has been experiencing an influx of new competitors and a steady rise in customer churn. 1

Your Customers are your Brand Ambassadors

It’s not a secret. The energy sector is undeniably one of the most powerful and profitable industries within the United States and abroad. Whether your company excels in oil and gas, electricity, renewable energy, energy technology, or any number of the industry’s specialty areas, your consumer market is here for the taking. However, even if your products and services are arguably the best in the land, if your customer service falls short, it may be all for not. In such a highly competitive industry, it is critical that your investment in customer service never take a backseat to your products and services. In fact, “despite the powerful effect that proactive communication has on customer satisfaction… just 28 percent of water utility customers recall receiving any communications from their utility.”2

As Andrew Heath, Senior Director of Utilities Intelligence at J. D. Power states, “taking initial steps now to increase customer communications, clearly convey goals and direction, and [report] steady, incremental progress toward these goals is key to setting the stage for an engaged relationship with customers that will pay dividends in the future.”ibid

The above graph illustrates the correlation between customer satisfaction and communication, and shows that “the surest path to an approved rate case or a smooth transition to price increases is having a customer base that is delighted with the service a utility provides.”ibid In fact, J.D. Power “found that higher levels of customer satisfaction one year prior to a rate case [for instance] are associated with higher levels of return on equity for a regulated utility.”ibid Although it is true that some customers focus on cost while others focus on quality, all customers value their customer experience. How are they treated? Are their needs clearly understood? Are their questions competently and efficiently addressed? Is your customer service department equipped to resolve any issues that might arise?

Simply put, your customer service representatives are your first line of communication, and as such, can either help you strengthen customer satisfaction and gain loyal customers, or drive business away.

Traditionally, the utilities industry was always regarded as being rather insulated from consumer abandonment due to the lack of open competition. However, with greater deregulation, all this is changing and utility companies that focus on customer satisfaction are reaping the benefits. To put this into greater focus, in a recent study conducted by Genesys, the global utilities industry was listed as one of the hardest hit in terms of consumer abandonment.

Global Losses by Industry (in USD billions)

As can be seen from the above graph, even “previously safe industries – such as utilities – are starting to see losses.”3 But it isn’t just your revenue on the line – it is also your reputation. Not only do customers discuss their business dealings with family and friends but they also share their experiences on social media. If they have experienced frustration dealing with your company or have had to abandon the call altogether due to communication barriers, this experience will likely be shared across social media channels, potentially damaging your reputation. However, the opposite can also ring true.

If customers have had a very positive experience, they will naturally act as your brand ambassadors, spreading the good news all over town – talk about free and powerful word-of-mouth advertising for your brand! But what about your customers who speak languages other than English? How do you cater to their unique customer service needs? Sure, hiring professional customer service representatives is an important first step but sizable profits await those who ensure their customer service team can confidently communicate in multiple languages.

Remove Language Barriers to Boost Your Competitive Edge

Surprisingly, many companies still make several false assumptions about their consumer base. In fact, in a recent survey, Hubspot found that “42% of companies don’t survey their customers or collect feedback.”4 And, in a country as culturally diverse as the United States – a country of 330 million residents who speak as many as 350 languages – some of those assumptions could become quite costly. How will you ever know how your all of your customers feel or the reasons they’ve abandoned your services if you aren’t collecting any feedback or only collecting feedback in English?

False Assumption: Everyone in the United States Speaks English

We now know that the one key differentiator is customized service. However, how can any company competing within the energy sector offer customized solutions if their customer service is only offered in the English language? Although the majority of American consumers speak English, over 10 percent of the population is considered limited-English proficient (LEP) – that’s 10 percent of the American consumer market.

US-States that Meet or Exceed National LEP Share of 9%

And, in an industry that has largely become deregulated, competitors will quickly be nipping at your heels if you are not careful. By providing customer service in your consumers’ preferred language, you will definitely be ahead of the game.

False Assumption: Bilingual Staff will Solve all Communication Challenges

A competent bilingual customer service team must be much more than simply “bilingual” or “multilingual.” Granted, although bilingual customer service agents can act as an acceptable stop gap, they are in no way professional linguists. In fact, conversational fluency is only a fraction of the linguistic and cultural skills necessary to perform the multiple tasks associated with customer service. For instance, can your customer service staff converse at a professional or business level? Are they able to set an appropriate tone of voice and project confidence over the phone? Do they have experience as a translator or interpreter? Do they have a background serving customers who speak languages other than English?

In order to truly provide a competitive edge, you require a professional customer service team with a high level of linguistic skills, cultural competence, language ethics, and mental dexterity, along with a firm hold of the energy, oil and gas industries. Consider the skill differences below between a bilingual customer service representative and a professional linguist who specializes in customer service.

Bilingual Professional Linguist
Social fluency (not necessarily capable of conversing on a professional level) Professional fluency
Might misread or misunderstand cultural cues Cultural competency
Not necessarily trained to provide accurate interpretation/translation Trained to provide complete and accurate interpretation/translation
Not necessarily trained in a specific discipline Highly specialized in various disciplines

Benefits to Outsourcing your Multilingual Customer Service

Why does communication ever have to break down with any customer regardless of the language they speak? Is your company sending out the right message? Do you truly value all customers? Especially in today’s consumer climate where compassionate human connections are a key selling point, the needs of your Limited-English proficient (LEP) customers should matter every bit as much as the needs of their English-speaking counterparts. Whether you are catering solely to US-based consumers or to an international audience, there are multiple benefits to you and to your customers when you outsource your multilingual customer service to a qualified language services provider (LSP).

  • When customers have the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers in their preferred language, not only are their stress levels reduced but they are much more likely to share their positive experiences, increasing the likelihood of attracting new business.
  • When customers feel that they are understood and valued, they are much less likely to switch service providers and much more likely to increase brand loyalty.
  • No longer will your customers be passed from rep to rep in order to meet their unique needs. With one phone call, your LSP team will provide intelligent, personalized service, fostering effective communication with your customers right from the start.

Piedmont Global Language Solutions (PGLS) is honored to be recognized as one such LSP.

Boost Your Competitiveness by Partnering with PGLS

PGLS can help you build an experienced multilingual workforce capable of responding quickly and knowledgeably to both your internal and external stakeholders. With more than a decade of experience providing a full range of high-quality linguistic services (extending well beyond translation and interpreting) for the energy, utility, oil and gas industries, we partner with both private and public sectors around the world. Our linguists are well-versed in health and safety guidelines, renewable energy, material safety data sheets (MSDS), upstream and downstream documentation, and so much more. PGLS provides bilingual and multilingual customer service support across any number of channels, and our on-demand, over-the-phone (OPI) services are available in hundreds of languages 24/7, 365 days of the year.

Because sometimes the only point of contact for your customers is your customer service team – make an excellent impression the first time by partnering with PGLS. We’ll not only help you build a strong base of satisfied customers but we’ll help you grow your very own base of brand ambassadors.

Reach out today and let’s start a meaningful conversation.


REFERENCES
1 Meuer, Marcel, et al. “The New Way to Engage with Energy Customers: Personalization at Scale.” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 17 Apr. 2019, www.mckinsey.com/industries/electric-power-and-natural-gas/our-insights/the-new-way-to-engage-with-energy-customers-personalization-at-scale.
2 “Can Water Utilities Fix Aging Infrastructure Without Destroying Customer Satisfaction?” Water Finance & Management, 26 Aug. 2019, waterfm.com/can-water-utilities-fix-aging-infrastructure-without-destroying-customer-satisfaction/.
3 “The Cost of Poor Customer Service. The Economic Impact of the Customer Experience and Engagement in 16 Key Economies.” PDF Free Download, docplayer.net/18508929-The-cost-of-poor-customer-service-the-economic-impact-of-the-customer-experience-and-engagement-in-16-key-economies.html.
4  Andrews, Marcus. “42% Of Companies Don’t Listen to Their Customers. Yikes. [New Service Data].” HubSpot Blog, blog.hubspot.com/service/state-of-service-2019-customer-first.


In addition to:
“The Cost of Poor Customer Service. The Economic Impact of the Customer Experience and Engagement in 16 Key Economies.” PDF Free Download, docplayer.net/18508929-The-cost-of-poor-customer-service-the-economic-impact-of-the-customer-experience-and-engagement-in-16-key-economies.html.
Kiersz, Andy. “This Map Shows How the US Really Has 11 Separate ‘Nations’ with Entirely Different Cultures.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 4 July 2020, www.businessinsider.com/the-11-nations-of-the-united-states-2015-7.
Bureau, US Census. “Census Bureau Reports at Least 350 Languages Spoken in U.S. Homes.” The United States Census Bureau, 3 Nov. 2015, www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-185.html.
CSA Research – View, insights.csa-research.com/reportaction/305013126/Marketing.