For English, Press 1

I cannot tell you the amount of times that I hear people complaining about having to choose a language when they call into a company. “This is America. We speak English.” To be frank, America does NOT have an official language. Look it up. We don’t. Everyone says our official language is English, but it is not. Can certain states declare specific languages? Yes they can. However, this is not the issue I have. I don’t care what the official language is, nor do I care to discuss WHY we should or shouldn’t declare an official language.

My beef:

The people who complain that it takes them one extra step (so a whopping two seconds) to press a number to have a phone call in a specific language. One of the most frustrating things about my job is answering a call with a customer on the other line who barely speaks English. More often that not, it is a Spanish speaker. Now, I’m in NO WAY saying “they need to learn English.” If that is what you’re interpreting this post as thus far, I must stop you RIGHT NOW. What takes someone two seconds of “inconvenience” saves anyone in Customer Service ten minutes of pure frustration. No one thinks about the other side of the story – just their own convenience.

As someone who answers calls for a company, the LAST thing I want to do is give poor customer service. I don’t want any customer thinking poorly of the company I work for. I love my job, and I love the company I work for. However, I want to be able to help the people who call into our inbound line. We do not have that option in the beginning of our call-tree to select a language. People have made comments, “Oh I love that I don’t need to press 1 for English when I call you!!”

I have numerous calls that I pick up that should be routed to the Spanish line, but because we do not offer that in the beginning of our phone-tree, these conversations usually end up with an extremely frustrated customer. But as someone who represents a company, how can I ask them politely, “What language do you speak?” No matter how you word that, it comes off as rude. All I want to do is to be able to help people out, but when there’s clearly a communication error, there isn’t anything I can do. I’ve had to tell them “one minute,” as I blindly transfer them over the Spanish line here. I feel terrible doing that, but my Spanish does not extend to Customer Service assistance with information technology. I barely know how to explain half of these products in English!

So, to the people who say it is such an inconvenience to take two minutes out of your time to select a language of your choice, you really need to think about WHY a company is doing that. It irks me when people don’t understand both sides to this situation. Next time, put yourself in the shoes of the person answering the phone – you might not be so quick to judge a company for asking you one simple question.





Because of this post, I ended up writing another post. People are apparently unable to have adult conversations: You Are Not Entitled


10 thoughts on “For English, Press 1

  1. Pingback: You Are Not Entitled | Megan Elizabeth

  2. Our culture revolves around “me”. So when “me” has to do something that “me” feels inconvenienced doing and “me” forgets about “others” then “me” starts to complain about everything. I live in Orlando where a large portion of the population speaks Spanish. Most are bilingual but many still feel more comfortable speaking to a CSR in Spanish. It’d be nice if us English only speaking people could just realize that the world doesn’t revolve around us (which I do realize BTW) and learn to live in a world where we work together… because, don’t we work better when we work together?

  3. I’ve never encountered this phenomenon in Australia, but then we’re pretty intensely multicultural, at least in the cities. I wonder if this is partly to do with the US-centric mindset? It’s sometimes hard to get US colleagues to remember we exist over here, so documents are all US templates, spellings are routinely changed to US spellings (even for documents intended solely for use in the UK / AUS). I just wonder if that same closed-mindedness about “the rest of the world” is involved here…

  4. Sadly this is the very Western culture of entitlement and self-centeredness (which isn’t prevalent only in the West, but even in many far flung places that have embraced Western lifestyles). “If it inconveniences me a little bit, I’ll moan and whine on Twitter about your service.” There are more important things to stress about.

    One tip though: you may want to have a prepared statement in Spanish which you’ve practiced till it sounds authentic. Have a sentence that translates to: “Hold please while I transfer you to the Spanish-speaking representative.” 😉

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