Using Technology to Assess Contact Center Agents’ Language Skills | Blog

Posted On October 3, 2019

Do you know anyone who hasn’t had a frustrating experience because the contact center rep they interacted with didn’t speak their native language? We didn’t think so.

The truth is that while enterprises have multiple business reasons for establishing their contact centers in offshore locations in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, the reps’ language and communication skills often have a negative impact on the overall customer and brand experience.

And although many companies have developed their own solutions to assess candidates’ language capabilities, they’re plagued with multiple challenges, including:

  • Resource intensive: Developing language assessment solutions takes considerable time and resources. They need to be thoughtfully designed, particularly around the local nuances of the markets where they are being leveraged. This can escalate the development budget and timelines, and put an additional burden on L&D teams.
  • Lack of standardization: Most language assessment tests are developed by in-house experts in a specific region. This approach can be detrimental to organizations with operations in multiple geographies, because it lacks consistency across regions, and can leave gaps in the evaluation criteria.
  • Involvement of human judgment: Because humans are responsible for evaluating candidates, a lot of subjectivity comes into play. And human bias, whether intentional or not, can greatly reduce transparency in the candidate selection process.
  • Maintenance issues: The real value of these solutions depends on their ability to test candidates for unprepared scenarios. But regularly updating the assessment materials to keep the content fresh and reflect changing requirements further strains internal resources.

Third-party vendors’ technology-based solutions can help

Commercial language and communication assessment solutions have been around for years. But innovative vendors – such as Pearson, an established player in this market, and Emmersion Learning, which incorporates the latest AI technology into its solution – are increasingly leveraging a combination of linguistic methodologies, technical automation, and advanced statistical processes to deliver a scalable assessment that can predict speaking, listening, and responding proficiency.

For instance, technology-driven solutions may test candidates’ “language chunking” ability, which means their ability to group chunks of semantic meaning. This concept is similar to techniques that are commonly used for memorizing numbers. By linking numbers to concepts, a person can be successful in retaining large sequences of digits in working memory. Without conceptual awareness, memorization is hard.

During an assessment, through automation and AI, the candidate may be asked to repeat sentences of increasing complexity. Success in this exercise relies on the candidate’s ability to memorize complex sentences, which can only be done when they can chunk for meaning. A candidate’s mastery of an exercise to repeat sentences of increasing complexity is a great predictor of the candidate’s language proficiency.

Organizations that embrace technology-based solutions for language assessments can anticipate multiple benefits: reduced costs, decreased hiring cycle times, improved quality of hires, better role placement, freed time to devote to value-add initiatives, and improved customer experience and satisfaction. Ultimately, it’s a triple win for the organization, its candidates, and its customers.

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