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Outsourcing providers must speak the language of the user community. But is this enough? Combined with cultural differences, differences in language style, accents, and improper use of vocabulary can negatively affect the close customer relationship that companies must have with their customers.

For example, in some non–English languages, when someone has a simple follow-up question, he or she might say, "I have a doubt about that." Imagine a customer's reaction to a call center agent who says, "Yes, I understand that you tried to import the data, but I have a doubt about the way you did it." This phrasing can send a frustrated customer over the edge. "What do you mean: You doubt the way I imported the file, or you don't believe me when I tell you what I did? Let me speak to your manager!"

What can you do to avoid language conflicts?

  • Make sure that the provider hires agents with excellent language skills. Continental Airlines provides a good example; most of their agents in any airport around the world are fluent in English (with very little or no accent). This is a welcoming experience.

  • Listen to some live calls in the call center, or talk to some of the people with whom you're likely to interact on a regular basis (such as project managers).

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