Is Your Workforce’s Language Skills Gap Costing You Money?
Contributed by Sheerin Vesin, HR practice lead for Rosetta Stone's Enterprise & Education Marketing Group.
How Equipping Customer
Service Teams with Language Skills May Increase Your Company’s Bottom Line
A growing worldwide interest in skiing brought travelers
from across the globe to the slopes of Aspen, Colorado to learn from
instructors at internationally renowned Aspen-Snowmass. The Aspen Skiing Company’s
leaders sought to strategically
support this growth in business by ensuring their employees possessed a
sometimes overlooked, yet highly pragmatic skill: foreign language proficiency.
By being able to clearly communicate with their clients who travel to Aspen from
all over the world, instructors were able to build more trust with their
students and fostered real connections which helped students feel safe and
supported, even on the cold, sometimes anxiety-producing slopes. This made a
critical difference, fostering loyalty to Aspen among emerging-market based
In today’s global marketplace, consumers have more options
than ever before. Brand loyalty is hard-won,
so customer satisfaction is critically important to increasing a company’s
bottom line. Yet, many businesses across the globe have a major gap in their
business strategy: they lack a comprehensive, strategic approach to languages. In
order for customer representatives to have the linguistic tools they need for
success, business leaders and Human Resource managers must work together to
implement a unified language strategy, which includes both “buying” and
“building” talent with the communication skills needed for the business to grow
Consumption in emerging markets is expected to hit a
trillion by 2025 so it’s not surprising that 71 percent of business leaders
currently plan to grow their companies in markets where English is not predominantly
The changing cultural landscape in America, coupled with the
explosion of the global marketplace, has made language acquisition strategies
imperative for meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse customer base and
global marketplace. The benefits of doing so are many, both for the employee
and the business, and they translate into a real, measureable ROI.
Equipping employees with language skills should be an
essential part of a company’s language strategy, since it is both cost-prohibitive
and too time-intensive to rely exclusively on hiring exceptional customer
service reps with the exact language skills to fill ever-changing needs. These
skills help employees build trust and loyalty with their customers and,
ultimately, improve customer satisfaction. As a recent Rosetta Stone white
paper on boosting customer retention and loyalty noted, “It has been said
that poor communication is likely the root cause of 80 percent of complaints
received by an organization, either with the customer or within the company
Having employees who can serve customers in their native language
demonstrates to consumers that their individual needs and preferences are valued.
This, in turn, fosters long-term brand loyalty.
In addition to customer satisfaction, a new
study from Rosetta Stone reveals implementing language training has
numerous employee benefits. The survey found 71 percent of respondents in sales
and customer service roles reported that language training has helped them
perform better in their job, and 72 percent of respondents said that learning a
language has made them more confident in their work with teams, partners or vendors
who speak the language they learned. Language training also fosters loyalty
among employees. Seventy-eight percent reported “Because I was provided access
to this training, I feel my company takes an interest in my development,” and
65 percent reported they are more likely to stay with their current employer
thanks to having been provided the life-changing opportunity to learn a new
These macro statistics are echoed at the local level. At Aspen
Skiing Company, company leaders saw language training as an asset that would
not only help the company better penetrate emerging tourist markets, enhance
the customer experience provided by its employees, but also reinforce their
position as an “employer of choice” for workers looking for a company who cares
about them. They were right.
that in today’s competitive, global economy, empowering customer service representatives
with language skills not only benefits customers, but employees and businesses,
as well. Implementing a language
strategy that leverages the skills that exist within your workforce,
and builds them where they are lacking, can be streamlined into three crucial
- Identify linguistic and cultural
competency skills that exist within your workforce, and diagnose linguistic
and cultural skills gaps by conducting a simple employee survey.
- Document your organizational goals,
which should include the geographic or demographic markets you will need
to penetrate in order to achieve them, then map the necessary language and
cultural communication skills to see where you have gaps you need to fill.
- Infuse global communication skill
development into employee development plans so employees can begin
building the critical skills to connect with their customers.
The face of the
consumer is changing, so customer service representatives must be equipped to
meet their needs. Customers expect personalized service, and employees must
have the tools needed to provide it. Your employees’ language skills gap may be
costing you customers. Fill those gaps before they negatively impact your