Using Remote Interpreting to Enhance Healthcare Call Center Communications

By Liz Elting

Imagine heading to the pharmacy to purchase medicine and not being able to ask an important question about drug interaction because the pharmacist doesn’t speak your language. Or, let’s say you are trying to find critical drug information by calling your health insurance company’s patient support line, and the person who answers your call can’t understand you. How would you feel? Would you feel safe taking the new medication?

These are just a few examples of how remote interpreting has become a critical component of successful global customer service.

Remote Interpreting Improves Customer Service and Communication: If an organization uses a remote interpreting service, the call center can connect the call with a remote interpreter in the caller’s native language at the same moment a call comes in. From there, the call center contact can assist the caller and communicate information about any issues.

Some organizations, such as healthcare vendors and pharmaceuticals, are expanding across international borders. An important aspect of any customer-facing organization is establishing a stellar customer service platform. Factoring different languages and dialects into a company’s global service options complicates this, as customers require assistance in their native language over multiple platforms. Around the world, customers are shifting their expectations from customer service only via the telephone to include other platforms such as video, text messaging, email, and Web-based audio.

Call centers need the ability to interact with multilingual customers on the same level as native language callers. To do so, they often turn to remote interpreting services that allow them to provide customer service in any language, over any platform. This creates a successful interaction and increases the likelihood of future interactions by earning loyalty from callers.

Beyond the benefit of improved customer service, organizations that contract their remote interpreting service have lower costs. The operation doesn’t need to pay employee salaries or benefits as they would if they had a multilingual staff with support for each language. Of course, lowering overhead costs while maintaining service standards is important to everyone.

Interpretation Applications Are Growing Fast: The need for remote interpreting services extends across several industries, including pharmaceutical, healthcare, legal, and government. In North America, demand for remote interpreting is evenly spread and growing across these industries, though for varying uses.

A pharmaceutical company conducting trials around the world needs to be accessible to patients twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, in case of drug interactions or complications. Using remote interpreters, company representatives and trial participants can be connected in moments, no matter what the language needs are.

For hospitals, remote interpreting allows receptionists, nurses, and doctors to correctly diagnose and treat patients with limited English. Remote interpreting companies provide the hospital with a guide on how to determine what language a patient speaks and then connects them with the appropriate interpreter through a call center.

In addition, companies often conduct campaigns for specific markets around the world. These companies can effectively target non-English-speaking markets by dedicating a bilingual interpreter to integrate with their CRM systems for the length of the campaign. These agents follow a scripted call dialogue, and their ability to make outbound calls and accept inbound calls improves the campaign outreach. The interpreters reach out to prospects, follow the script, and input data directly into the CRM system.

Contracting with a remote interpreting provider in this way can present a cost savings opportunity for an organization. Otherwise, the organization would need to hire an adequate number of agents for each target language. Depending on the campaign, this could add a substantial number of employees – all who would require benefits, salary, and office space.

Conclusion: The applications of remote interpreting services are numerous, and any customer-facing organization can expand their market potential by having the ability to communicate with every customer, regardless of language. Also, because consumers’ communication device preferences are changing, call centers need to be equipped to handle inquiries from different platforms, such as video and chat.

Therefore, remote interpreters can often support devices beyond phones. In addition, as language requirements become more complicated and the size of the market segment in the US that does not speak fluent English grows, the need for remote interpreting services will continue to expand.

Liz Elting is co-founder and co-CEO of TransPerfect, a provider of language and business services. Elting oversees the day-to-day operations of the company, headquartered in New York City.

[From the October/November 2013 issue of AnswerStat magazine]