One of the largest new opportunities for the professional translation industry is in the Customer Support departments of high technology or industrial engineering global companies. I have briefly described the reasons why, but I thought that it would be worth elaborating on this further.
Many global companies, especially those that are members of the Consortium for Service Innovation realize that a major new trend that they face is the growing power of the community and self-service in the Web 2.0 age. We see that already 98% of customer support interactions of an average global high tech company happen in self-service and the community forums. This is a major shift. However, the focus and much of the resource allocation in companies is still on the call support center and relatively static documentation and content which the professional translation industry is involved with. This makes less sense every day as evidence suggests that the customer experience is often formed by how support problems are handled. As the CSI points out, this is done mostly by self-service content and the “community” outside of corporate control.
If English speaking customers choose to solve their problems in this way, it follows that most global customers will also want to do the same. However, the content available to the global customer is often a fraction of what an Anglophile can get to and so non-English speakers are often left frustrated. There is now clear evidence of the following:
-- The customer support experience is increasingly formed outside the call center and customers strongly prefer self-service and community support.
-- The support experience is often critical in forming customer perceptions and developing brand loyalty.
-- Global customers do not have as much local language information access and thus probably have a less satisfying support experience.
-- Making much more knowledge and product support content available is a key to generating a better support experience.
-- Good self-service knowledge base content and greater visibility to high quality community content can greatly enhance the customer experience.
-- There is a clear relationship between customer loyalty and increased revenue and probably repeat purchase.
This situation presents a significant opportunity for the professional translation industry. However, given the huge volumes of content that need to be made multilingual it is important and necessary that automation be a key component of the multilingual content development strategy. Microsoft was a pioneer in doing this, and they showed that hundreds of millions of customers were willing to use machine translated knowledge base content. Until recently they had all the knowledge base content available in at least 9 languages and are expected to expand this to more languages in future.
The benefits of global enterprise making large amounts of support content multilingual are significant, both financially and in terms of positive customer as the following graphic shows. Not only is self-service content a HUGE cost saver it can also create real positive brand perceptions.
The highest quality content production process will always need a high degree of human steering and expert linguistic guidance. Machine translation without humans may not provide the translation quality necessary to provide a positive support experience. The professional translation industry has a major opportunity ahead as major global corporations begin to act on this trend.
The role of customer support is shifting from answering questions and solving customer problems to facilitating a network of people and content. The Consortium’s research shows that the majority of the customer support experience is with content; not with people. The benefit of offering that content in the language of the customer is huge.
I will continue on this theme for at least another blog entry. I strongly recommend that you take a look at the CSI website as it is filled with great information and research on what is going on in the world of Customer Support.
Quote from the CSI web site:
Rather than continuing to invest in doing what we do faster, better, and cheaper, maybe we need to look at doing something altogether different... maybe there is a lesson for the localization industry in this.