Contact Center Agent Acculturation: Bridging the Culture Gap
July 09, 2019
By: Pat Ricken
Most of the clients served by Transparent BPO are U.S.-based companies. Most Belizeans are native English-speakers who have a great affinity for the U.S. and a healthy level of understanding of American culture. They watch the same TV shows, listen to the same music, follow the same sports teams, and so on. Tourism also helps bridge the culture gap.
Even so, small differences between the two cultures do exist, mostly based on the individual agent’s awareness of what day-to-day life is like in the U.S. As such, we need to help our agents better understand the lifestyles of our clients’ customers to provide a higher level of service and support.
One way we do that is through training in acculturation: the process of adopting the cultural traits or social patterns of another group.
Comprehending more fully what customers experience in their everyday lives enables our agents to empathize with the problems they face and pains they feel. That is the best way we can partner in our clients’ customer service success and serve as an extension of their brand.
How do we do that? Here are a couple of examples, to illustrate.
Online Pharmacy: No More Waiting in Line
For one client, an online pharmacy that delivers medications in presorted time-of-day packets to their customers’ doorstep, we recreated the experience of what it’s like to visit a pharmacy in the U.S. — standing in line with other people who are ill, talking about health issues where others can hear, and waiting for the prescriptions to be filled. We also demonstrated the potential for error as many people sort their various medicines using those plastic “day of the week” pill organizers.
Those exercises gave the agents a much better understanding of, and appreciation for, what the customer goes through, enabling them to more clearly showcase the benefits of having meds sorted and delivered.
Agents also learned about U.S. insurance plan names, types of coverage available, and deductibles and co-pays.
The program was so successful, the client remarked, “I honestly don’t think our internal team could have had such a successful ramp. Somehow, Transparent BPO broke record after record on all metrics, with a group of new agents.”
Satellite Radio: Music, Sports, Politics, and Cars
For another client, a major satellite radio brand, we made sure the agents had a thorough understanding of the various music genres represented in channels offered by the service, not only intellectually but emotionally as well.
For example, to demonstrate that music transcends age, gender, race, and place, we asked agents to think of a song that reminded them of a defining moment in their lives and that evoked strong emotion.
We explored music from the decades of the 50s to the 90s and named musicians and events that defined and inspired the music from those times. We also used gamification techniques to make learning about the genre fun.
In addition to music, we discussed other listening categories the service offers, including sports, news, and politics.
For sports, we covered everything from the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA, and NASCAR to collegiate athletics with their respective conferences (e.g., SEC, PAC 12, BIG 12, etc.). We talked about players, teams, records, and seasons, and teamed agents up to explore and share fun facts about the league of their choosing.
>> Related Resource: How We Train Our Call Center Agents for Long-term Success <<
We also ensured the agents understood specifics regarding political parties and which news channels Americans might listen to based on their political views.
During the activity, agents had to research and place their station on a continuum between “right-leaning” and “left-leaning.” Understanding the nuances will prevent them from making a “political” error while encouraging customers to subscribe to the radio service.
Because satellite radio is most often listened to while people are driving, we took a deep dive into new car sales and reviewed the number sold each year and the average price of new cars, to make the agents comfortable in asking people to pay for a satellite radio subscription.
They had to think with the “customer’s wallet,” not their own, to understand that in the U.S., people have credit info on file for or everything from Amazon to Uber to the local pizza restaurant, so asking for a credit card is not a big deal.
Most importantly, we discussed the reasons people would want satellite radio — long commutes being a major factor, but also the entertainment value they receive while sitting in traffic for 60 minutes a day one way (104 hours a year!)
Those are just two examples of ways we acculturate our agents to be better representatives of, and ambassadors for, the brands they serve. It’s also another way Transparent BPO distinguishes itself from the competition.
It’s not merely that we understand the value of acculturation but that we take great pains to ensure our agents are steeped in U.S. culture to the point that when a customer calls, they don’t know they aren’t speaking with someone from the states.