As the US becomes increasingly diverse, banks are recognizing the importance of language accessibility. But serving customers from diverse linguistic backgrounds is not just a matter of good customer service—it’s a necessity. Regulators are increasingly requiring that organizations enable language access for critical numbers of their customers. On top of that, enhanced language capability is an opportunity for banks to expand their reach and build trust with underserved communities.
The Starting Point
The journey—and journey is a deliberate term—in delivering a language accessibility plan begins with an assessment. Banks need to identify the languages spoken by their customer base and understand the specific needs of limited English proficient (LEP) customers. This assessment lays the foundation for the plan’s development.
Key Elements of a Language Accessibility Plan
1. Oral Interpretation: Offering on-demand interpretation services for both in-person and over-the- phone experiences is vital. Banks should have access to interpreters who can facilitate clear communication between bank staff and LEP customers. Meet your customers where they are and make it easy for both your staff and your customers to do business.
2. Translation Services: The plan should include a clear path for translation requests. Having a central point of entry, elements of quality, consistency, and governance all create a more monitored institution. At larger scale, program-level coordination, technology and horizontal coordination ensure that all lines of business are informed and aligned. This ensures that critical information, such as account agreements and disclosures, is accessible to all.
3. Staff Training: Adequate training is crucial. Bank employees need to be familiar with the language access plan, understand how to use interpretation services, and be culturally sensitive in their interactions so they can best inform customers where and how they can meet their needs within the bank.
4. Notice and Communication: Banks should notify customers about the availability of language services through various channels such as signage, website, and brochures. Effective communication is key.
Implementing a language accessibility plan benefits both banks and customers. It enhances customer satisfaction, expands the bank’s customer base, and ensures compliance with federal and state regulations, reducing the risk of legal issues.
The initial steps in deploying a language accessibility plan are critical. They set the stage for comprehensive and effective language access initiatives that will not only benefit customers but also strengthen the bank’s relationship with the diverse communities it serves.
Stay tuned for the next blog in this series, where we’ll delve deeper into the strategies for providing written translations and oral interpretation services in banks.