Let’s imagine that you are a limited-English speaker. You’re accustomed to having to explain the best you can to whomever answers the phone that you need assistance in your desired language. Quite often your needs go unresolved. Many times you don’t attempt the call at all.
Now there is a way for an interpreter’s voice to be the first one you hear so that the entire call can be conducted in the language you need. This unique call flow is created through a solution called Direct Response, which provides an in-language experience for limited-English callers from the beginning of the call to the end.
As first reported by WOOD-TV, the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office in Grand Rapids, Mich., has just implemented a system that does exactly this in its efforts to overcome language barriers.
When people call the prosecutor’s office, they are given a multilingual phone tree with nine language options. This allows more people to receive clear communication on their case.
The new system connects callers to a LanguageLine legal interpreter with a click of a button. The interface features English, Spanish, Nepali, Somali, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Farsi, Korean and French.
“It saves the client time, it saves us time and ultimately it provides better services to the public,” said Brandy Johnson, administer for the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office.
During the pandemic, the prosecutor’s office was working on ways to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. So, they thought to start at the front desk.
Under the old system, a client would call in, the receptionist would assess if a legal interpreter was needed and the convoluted process would began.
“It could take you 10 to 15 minutes just to try to get that conversation going,” Johnson said. “Meanwhile, sometimes they would hang up.”
That can cause big legal problems.
Ben O’Hearn, an attorney at Migrant Legal Aid, said most of his clients speak Spanish. He says previously by the time information was interpreted, the client may have missed key court deadlines.
That can cause long-term effects because in some cases, undocumented individuals can be eligible for a U visa, relief from deportation, and potentially a green card or citizenship. But that can only happen if they cooperate with law enforcement.
“If they miss key deadlines when they are working with the prosecution, then the prosecutor’s office might believe that they have not been cooperative,” O’Hearn said.
The prosecutor’s office partnered with LanguageLine. Now before the conversation begins, a caller is connected to an interpreter who speaks their language.
“I think it’s a really good step to help them have more access to the justice system,” O’Hearn said.
How It Works
How can an organization embed such a call flow so that an interpreter is by the caller’s side the entire time? Here’s how it works:
The organization – in the case, the Kent County Prosecutor’s office - has embedded the LanguageLine toll-free number into their phone tree. This means that the limited-English proficient (LEP) caller does not know that they are connecting to Prosecutor’s office through an external interpretation company. From their perspective, they just call the Prosecutor’s office, and the office has created an easy communication system to put them at ease as they are dealing with a difficult situation.
The LEP caller reaches the language menu, and when they choose their language from in-language prompts, they are connected directly to an interpreter. The LEP caller and interpreter are then connected to the Prosecutor’s office together. From the moment the representative from the Prosecutor’s office is connected, the interpreter facilitates the conversation.
Direct Response is especially valuable to a client such as the Prosecutor’s office or a healthcare provider, in situations in which the LEP caller already has anxiety and really needs easy access to in-language support so that they are less inclined to hang up or avoid communications.
Once the toll-free number is embedded in the client’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology, there is no ramp-up time for interpretation services. Since the LEP customer is calling the main number, there is no separate number to call and no external upkeep for the client to communicate to their LEP populations. Direct Response is perfect for situations with defined LEP populations in an outreach or community support situation.
Are you interested in having an interpreter on the line from the beginning of a call to the end? If so, Direct Response may be an excellent fit for your organization.