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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer are joined by Edmund Ovington to learn the secrets to breaking down language barriers. Listen to the full episode to learn more.
Why Your Team Needs Language Translation Software
VP of Global Alliances at Unbabel, Edmund Ovington shares why language translation software is a hot topic in the world of CX and how leaders could greatly benefit from these services. As a CX leader, it should be a priority to relate to your customers on a personal level, as this generally leads to higher NPS scores and overall customer satisfaction. For the many companies that are struggling to expand globally, Edmund suggests investing in the superpower of resilience: language translation software.
And so you have to have this DNA of resilience to be able to say, “It’s okay if no one can get to an office, we can keep giving great customer service to everyone, irrespective of the language they speak. And even better than that, actually this is our opportunity to shine.”
The way these services work is through asynchronous communication, meaning there are multiple platforms that this translation method works through. The easiest is email; however, Edmund mentions that instant messaging or live chat works just as well. When a customer sends a message in another language, Unbabel instantly translates their words into the preferred language of the agent, and vice versa for instant digital communication.
Platforms such as Unbabel make it easy for companies to broaden their reach on a global scale without building in other countries and having to hire droves of native speaking employees. It offers internal benefits by allowing companies to stay centralized at an already well-developed location all while providing customer service benefits across the map. As Vikas points out, “It goes back to acting globally and thinking locally.” When a company removes that language barrier by adopting a mode of active translation, it opens up a whole world of possibilities for relationships with consumers on a much larger playing field.
You can make strategic decisions that allow you to expand as fast as you need or provide as much resilience as you need or be in the countries you want to be in. And you can do that all whilst providing an excellent experience globally to everyone, no matter what language they speak.
Tools that enable brands to expand their reach are especially useful for leaders because they help to remove the extra steps for effective communication. Companies that use such tools have been able to enter certain markets and grow within those markets without friction.
Building a Deeper Connection with Customers
Lasting customer loyalty is earned through the creation of meaningful connections. Customers feel more confident in brand interactions when they can use their native language because it’s the language they’re most comfortable using. It can be exhaustive and frustrating for customers who don’t speak English fluently to communicate with customer experience agents who don’t speak their native language. When these customers can relate to an agent that speaks their native language, it wins the company major points and a deeper connection with that customer. They’ll stay loyal to the brand and continue coming back because they know they’re heard and understood. “You’ve won them for the long term because they’re going through a hard time and that’s how you build emotional connections.” Breaking language barriers and taking advantage of tools like Unbabel will make your brand known for going above and beyond customer expectations; for doing more than just the bare minimum.
To learn more about international communication and building customer relationships regardless of language, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
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Full Episode Transcript:
Removing Language Barriers to Enhance the Customer Experience | Edmund Ovington
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about language resilience and this expansion of key superpowers. To do that, we have two special guests and I’ll just let them take a second and introduce themselves. Let’s start with Edmund. You’re up.
Edmund Ovington: (00:25)
Hey Gabe. Hey Vikas. Lovely to be here. Thanks for having me. My name is Edmund. I am the VP of Global Alliances here at Unbabel. Based in Atlanta and excited to chat today.
Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
And Vikas, over to you.
Vikas Bhambri: (00:40)
Vikas Bhambri, Gabe’s partner in crime. Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:43)
Awesome. Awesome. And you know me. I run Marketing over here at Kustomer. So, I mean, let’s start big picture. We talked about this idea of resilience and it’s definitely very relevant in this post-COVID CX world. Why is it so important in customer service and how is it actually a superpower?
Edmund Ovington: (01:00)
Yeah. You know, this year has been interesting and I guess the truth is the, whereas a lot of people have probably stood on stage and talked about resilience and agility and flexibility for a long, long time. Actually doing it has probably come back to roost this year and it’s been a fun test of whether people are just talking or already walking. So yeah, with language, I really think about this idea of two aspects. One being, if you’re a growing company, how easy is it for you to launch new markets, testings, but then also what happens if things go wrong? If regulatory means you get shut out of the market and you can’t deploy as you thought, or as the macro economic climate changes or whatever, and how you set up from day one to deal with that. Deal with the tumultuous journey that every scale-up consumer company faces, especially in a interesting world where you can kind of sell anywhere.
Edmund Ovington: (02:04)
You don’t really know where your demand is going to come from. And the world is not as controlled as maybe it was if you’d launched a business 20 years ago. And then the other side is if you’re a very large company selling to consumers again, this year is a great example of how do you maintain and how do you have the DNA to keep an amazing experience for everyone globally when the world is changing so much, right? Whether it’s country shutting down or whether it’s suddenly, you’re not able to ship things to people because borders are sharp, whatever it might be. How do you keep the integrity of your expectations, your own bar of excellence around customer experience without just constantly firefighting, right? How do you keep some sort of strategy, some sort of thread rod through the middle? And we’re finding, we’re all seeing obviously that the best companies in the world have set themselves up for this, that they’d really built this in from the day one and they’re not now scrambling to put it together.
Gabe Larsen: (03:02)
Yeah, yeah. I mean, Vikas, you’ve seen this globally. In many cases, languages plays a role, it kind of can make or break the customer service experience. Why do you feel important as companies think about expanding globally that they consider language as part of that expansion?
Vikas Bhambri: (03:16)
Well, I think first and foremost, I think what Edmund alluded to is that the barriers to entering new markets has reduced greatly, right? Yes, there are regulatory; however, distribution, technology from a commerce perspective, there’s amazing platforms out there that allows you to do the currency of the tax. And you can get up and running pretty quickly. And then distribution into these new markets, it has become a less friction, more frictionless, right? So I think that’s a great opportunity for any DTC brand, any retailer, any fintech company, et cetera.
Gabe Larsen: (03:55)
Yeah. Go ahead.
Vikas Bhambri: (03:57)
The flip side then is if you’re going to do business in these markets, how do you kind of act globally, think locally? And I think that’s where language plays such a strong role, especially in building that customer relationship. It’s not enough to have your website or your app available in that local language, but now when people actually engage you, are you showing empathy and a desire to transact with them? We think about this at Kustomer, this concept of the me. The me and the consumer, right? And the consumer wants to be, they don’t want you to think of you as an American brand or a British brand, right? Yes, you might be but I don’t want to do business with you in your language, do business with me in my language. And I think that’s where we’re seeing the customer experience evolve to.
Gabe Larsen: (04:47)
Has this been around a while, you guys? It seems like to your point, Vikas, people are so focused on the first part of the experience. The website needed to be in the language or the, but now it’s shifted. Like you have to have this post-sales experience in something that is not about you, but about them. Was there, is that, did I miss that? Or is that a newer trend?
Vikas Bhambri: (05:05)
No, it’s been around forever. However, it was something that was only available to the multinationals, right? Because at the end of the day, the way you went about it, in the olden days, quote unquote, for some of us who’ve been in the industry for 20 years, is you went and hired local language speakers, right? And so we’re going to do business in the Czech Republic. So we’re going to go and hire people that either speak or can write and track if that’s how we want to do business. And don’t want to force them to speak to us in English only. Well that doesn’t work if you’re a high growth DTC brand with a team of 20 and the team might be a mix of English and Spanish speakers. So I think technology was a limiting factor and it was something that was only available to these multi-nationals and Edmund, I’m sure this is something you can speak to because obviously this is your bread and butter.
Gabe Larsen: (06:00)
Yeah, Edmund, what do you say? Why has language becomes so important in this kind of post, well, let’s call it post-COVID, but in the general customer service arena?
Edmund Ovington: (06:10)
So we actually validated our company with this use case, if you like. Like where we’re coming on seven years old now, and the first few years, we were almost exclusively selling to B2C companies that were blowing up that were hitting the right moment in that hockey stick. And didn’t quite know whether it be they’re a social media platform or a DTC company as Vikas was talking about, just couldn’t predict. And so we realized that they could keep this lean team, this excellent, this almost SWAT team approach and deal with all the languages using our solution without having to hire those native speakers. And so we realized this was superpower, right? And we got that, but wow, hasn’t 2020 shown that that was not just a superpower, but like something you have to have. You have to have the ability to cope with the whole continent, going offline to some degree in terms of your on the ground resources and being able to shift things. For a lot of companies, this is shifting to work from home. For a lot of our customers, it was a moment switching off maybe Filipino agents and turning on Mexican agents as one of our customers were talking to yesterday, but within hours, right? Because you’ve got millions of customers to keep happy. And some of these organizations as well, although COVID was disrupting the world, the gaining customers, the peripheral customers, the DTC customers, their volumes were going sky high, right? So suddenly they’re dealing with more demand than they expected in a world where they can’t get any of their supply chain actually activated. And so you have to have this DNA of resilience to be able to say, “It’s okay. If no one can get to an office, we can keep giving great customer service to everyone, irrespective of the language they speak. And even better than that, actually this is our opportunity to shine,” right?
Edmund Ovington: (07:58)
This is if someone’s locked at home and they’re suddenly spending a lot more money online than they used to, if you can give them an amazing customer service and importantly in their preferred language, not their, not just because they happen to speak English and we’re all arrogant and think everyone does, like actually deal with them and make them happy in the language they prefer, you’ve won their heart, right? You’ve won them for the long term because they’re going through a hard time and that’s how you build emotional connections. So I think that’s what we’ve really seen this year for the best companies who have done this and we’re ready for this and now winning customers for life every day. Every second.
Gabe Larsen: (08:34)
Yeah. Well it definitely seems like it is. It’s a nice cherry on top, right? I think it makes you feel that added specialness, right? Maybe you could walk me through the process because I’m having a hard time visualizing it a little bit. But if I wanted to experience this kind of additional benefit, I’m a customer, I pop on somebody’s website, normally where I’m calling in or I’m on a chat, walk through. I chat in Chinese and they write me back in English, but how does this now work the way you guys see it in an optimal flow?
Edmund Ovington: (09:08)
Yeah. Let’s use that example. So you were based in Beijing and you write in simplified Chinese, right? The most [inaudible] in mainland China, form of Chinese.
Gabe Larsen: (09:19)
Give an example that I can understand because I don’t know if I can do –
Edmund Ovington: (09:24)
Yeah. Pretend you could and you’re right. So you’re writing on a website, you’re asking when your package is going to arrive or some sort of simple thing. So before, I’m the brand. I have to hire someone who’s both capable, but also happens to be able to write in that language. But maybe I’m based in California, right? And so finding people with that skillset, you want to work in that role, it’s pretty tough. For the first time now, I can have Vikas now answering that question, right? And he gets it immediately translated in real time to him into English, with all of the product names, everything perfectly translated exactly so he understands it and then he replies in English. But the most important thing is the end user gets a seamless, simplified Chinese experience that makes them think they’re talking to a native user and they don’t even know.
Edmund Ovington: (10:16)
And it’s, it’s exactly what the same response times, whether it’s an email or a chat that they would expect before. And so this kind of uninterruption of both the agent, so the agent does the same job they’re always doing. They do know it’s a Chinese customer, but they don’t have any change to their workflow. The system they’re using at Kustomer looks exactly the same. It’s beautiful. And then on the end, most importantly, the end user feels like they’re having a warm cuddle from someone who speaks their language and that’s exactly what you want.
Gabe Larsen: (10:47)
Oh yeah. I can see how that works. What channels is that best for then? It’s really email and chat, is that where that’s typically going?
Edmund Ovington: (10:56)
So we predominantly launched in what I call asynchronous channels. Email’s the easiest one to comprehend, but there’s also web forms and many others. And then three years ago we started to deploy what we traditionally think of as live chat, right? Website chat. Like you just used an example that the one where you’re sat there expecting a response immediately, and that’s kind of the, it’s a real time exchange. But now actually, depending on what the brand we’re working with is setting in terms of expectations with our end user around messaging, it could also be a very asynchronous chat, right? It could be an in-app message where people are very happy to have a half hour response because they’ve written something longer. We can adapt to all of that. So basically our mission is to say that no matter what digital channel you or your clients choose, that could be WeChat, that could be WhatsApp, that could be Apple business messaging, it could be anything, right? The consistency of the experience is always that you always can pick the best agent to deal with that customer. Give them the best outcome in the channel that the client prefers in the language that the client prefers. And it kind of feels, if you think about that circle of the right agent, the right system with customer, kind of is the final part, right? It’s saying also the client gets to decide the nature, the language of that experience that they prefer.
Vikas Bhambri: (12:14)
And then think about that, right? I mean, Gabe, it just creates the more intimate relationship. I mean, you’ll often find for people that are multi-lingual will generally speak different languages in different environments, right? I might speak English in a business environment, but I might speak Hindi or Punjabi or Spanish or French at home. So now the brand actually gets to, if I choose to not speak my, quote unquote, professional language and speak my personal language with the brand, create that intimate relationship, because now I’m thinking of them as I would a family member or friend. So it just strengthens that relationship that the brand can have with the consumer.
Gabe Larsen: (13:00)
And Edmund, is that, I mean, I assume it’s true. I mean, it feels like it’s true, but are you seeing some change in NPS or customer satisfaction? Are you seeing that this is moving the needle when it comes to that relationship? Indefinitely from an intuitive standpoint, it seems like it would add that nice cherry on top, but any success stories or movements you’ve seen, as companies have experienced this kind of change in language equals a change in relationship?
Edmund Ovington: (13:24)
Yeah. So for me, there’s two layers of that. The operational layer is the, just full stock, you get to pick the best agent, right? And so what we see, if you look across all of our deployments, you do see an increase in C-SAT. And we’d like to take a little bit of credit for that. But in reality, a lot of it is just because for the first time you can pick the place in the world, maybe the BPO vendor, that has the best agents, and you can bias towards the agent’s tenure scale suitability to the job, not just the fact they speak Dutch, right? And it’s suddenly, the pool widens, the talent gets more specific and everything goes nicely in place. So yes, we see a significant increase. And then secondly, yeah, I remember it was three and a bit years ago now, but I remember having a wonderful conversation with one of the big Telcos in Canada because a lot of my family lives in Toronto and we were talking about how Toronto is like one of the most beautifully diverse cities in the world.
Edmund Ovington: (14:22)
And how, if you are a utilities provider to assist you like that, wouldn’t it be an amazing USP to be able to say, “We don’t think that just because you moved here, you should be forced to talk to us in English. You should be able to have, if you prefer, the language experience in Portuguese, in Hindi, whatever you want, that makes you feel like you’re valued as a customer.” And that suddenly becomes something that actually companies can put forward. And I think especially in 2020, maybe that’s a very powerful message, is that you can be a company that doesn’t just do the bare minimum. You don’t just serve customers and say, “Yeah, we responded to their email,” and you actually go out of your way like you’ve been standing on stage and saying, and really deliver a personal service because that’s the term that’s been used for 15 years now. Personalization. Personalization is a very human thing, right? It doesn’t mean you send me the answer I want. It means you speak to me in the language metaphorically or in real life that I would want it to be spoken.
Gabe Larsen: (15:21)
Is personalization 15 years old? Is that right?
Edmund Ovington: (15:24)
So it was like exactly the length of my career. So yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (15:28)
Dang, [inaudible]. I need to get with the flow.
Vikas Bhambri: (15:31)
Well, the thing is it’s been used in the marketing world, right, for ages. I think reality is, I think we’re just now seeing it in the customer service world, right? And I think this is why you and I often joke about the term customer experience and you’re like, “Customer experience has been around.” And I’m like, “Yeah, because you marketeers have stolen this, kind of stolen this term. And now, customer service professionals are starting to think about the customer experience, right? So that’s kind of the pivot that those of us that have been in the contact center world are definitely observing.
Gabe Larsen: (16:07)
All right. I can take that. Well, and then I like this concept. I can see how the customers could be more satisfied, but you highlighted some internal benefits that I don’t know if I had seen as much. One is the hiring concept and you just passed over it a little bit, but you’re right. I mean, I’m opening an office in Abu Dhabi and now I’m like, “I got to make sure I get these right languages because this is where I’m going to do it.” And all of a sudden it’s like, “Well, hey. Language, maybe it doesn’t matter.” You move to scale. Is that what I heard you say?
Vikas Bhambri: (16:37)
Well, think. If Edmund, if I can interrupt, just think about this, Gabe. Let’s say I’m a US-based company and I’ve got my support operation and I’ve got it three layers deep, right? I’ve got a tier one, tier two, tier three. Now I’m going to go and operate in France. To go and create that same tier one, tier two, tier three structure in France is going to get extremely expensive. And also there’s a time to ramp, right? So now, just as an example, you could actually run everything from the US but maybe because of time zones, you’re like, “You know what, we’re going to have tier one in Paris, but we’re going to actually run tier two and tier three out of the US but in French using something like Unbabel,” right, where now to the French consumer, it’s seamless. But if they go beyond what the tier one can handle, because I think that’s the challenge, particularly for a lot of high-growth companies is I would basically have to replicate this odd in each language. And that’s why before it was only something big companies could do and not something that was available to the masses.
Gabe Larsen: (17:43)
Yeah. You were at that point of just having to not open an office and maybe you don’t even want to open an office in France. Open it up and you can run that out of what already is a well established facility in California. That’s pretty powerful. How does this work with in house and versus outsourcing? Does this, I mean, is there any kind of overlap here, Edmund, or is everybody just doing this in house when they’re kind of hiring employees in this category? Does that fit into this at all?
Edmund Ovington: (18:13)
Yeah. Great question. So I think the things I’ve been learning since we pivoted from just really helping fast-growing companies to now being predominantly, actually focused on large enterprise companies. And the reason that we realized this is powerful is that they’ve lived in a status quo of painful operational decisions, a huge scale based on language, right? Whether it be the vendors they choose from an outsourcing perspective, whether it be the location strategically. And as you say, the in house versus out out house and national versus offshore is painful, right? And what we found is that when you remove languages, the inhibitor of a decision, you suddenly open up a new world. And what we’re finding is that each company has, I think of it as like three circles. Then each company has various, different deployments within these areas. So number one is the idea of like the SWAT team, which could be tier four, tier three excellence in terms of the technical stuff. But quite often, they’ll want this at HQ, right? So quite often they’ll want this either at regional HQ or global HQ, the best of the best, often in-house. And allowing them to deal with every language is powerful.
Edmund Ovington: (19:24)
Then the second layer is saying, “Okay, then we want like the volume end of this. Then we want to be able to deal with whatever happens, whatever. We launch a new Xbox at Christmas. Like that’s going to blow things up, but we don’t quite know how much,” and that’s out of flux and deal with that. So maybe they pick India or the Philippines with an outsourcer who can hire 2000 people in a week without blinking, right? Very different. And they can do, they can have that in all languages.
Edmund Ovington: (19:48)
And then the final one, which is maybe the most exciting this year is also saying on top of that, maybe you want a gig economy model around that, right? So maybe you want to use one of these new gig providers. This is more, literally anyone anywhere in the world on a per transaction basis that provides that final layer of scale. And the beauty for me is I don’t care what a company decides to do. I can layer on top of all of that and make sure that all of that’s in every language. And that’s kind of the exciting part is whatever journey a company wants to go on, either now to fix their mess, or because they’re small and growing to plan and build resilience for the future, they can do it all without just without language becoming a blocker or a confusion or a pain.
Gabe Larsen: (20:32)
Yeah. I like it. Removing language to enhance global expansion. Alrighty. Well, Edmund, really appreciate it. Let’s see if we can wrap. Talked about a couple of different ideas. As you think about organizations trying to expand, dealing with post COVID. I mean, you know better than anybody, I think about some of the challenges they’re facing, sum it up for us. And then, Vikas, we’ll give you the last word. How can organizations expand and scale, thinking about language maybe not as an inhibitor anymore, but as maybe an advantage?
Edmund Ovington: (21:00)
Yeah. Well, I always think the answer is as simple as the question, right? But the beauty is that in 2020 and beyond, whereas the last decade was obviously largely dictated with deploying your resources based on where you can find people who speak the language, you no longer have to do that. And you can make strategic decisions that allow you to expand as fast as you need or provide as much resilience as you need or be in the countries you want to be in. And you can do that all whilst providing an excellent experience globally to everyone, no matter what language they speak. And that’s a whole new paradigm, right? Which is a very cliche thing to say, but it is really well. Which means if I was building a company today, that’s a B2C brand, I have a whole load of new opportunities to think about the way I test markets, I grow markets, I aim my way into markets, whatever I want to do, without friction. And that’s pretty cool. I’m really excited that that’s now on the table for the partners we’re working with and your customers are very much in the same place
Gabe Larsen: (22:02)
I love it. Don’t ever worry about saying cliche things. Vikas gives me all the time for using all the marketing buzz words. I’m like, “Kustomer is a conversational, AI powered….” He’s like, “What does that mean?” I’m like, “It doesn’t mean anything. That’s the beauty.” So you’ll never get me to say cliche. Vikas, over to you.
Vikas Bhambri: (22:20)
You know, I think it goes back to acting globally and thinking locally. And I think for me, the biggest thing is whether you look at a combination of Kustomer and Unbabel, but just unlocking opportunities that once were only available to the big companies, right? You mentioned the Xbox, or like Microsoft. Yeah, of course, we’ve got billions of dollars. We’ve got tons of resources, but now I could be releasing an app, right? That’s now going to be available globally and I could deliver the same experience and I think that’s a very unique opportunity for people that are thinking about it. It’s obviously something that can be used by enterprises, but if I was starting a brand new DTC brand today, it would allow me to go and penetrate these markets and deliver an amazing experience. So I think that’s a tremendous opportunity for anybody who’s thinking about how they set up an operation today that wasn’t available to them five, seven, eight years ago.
Gabe Larsen: (23:25)
I love it. I love it. Alrighty. Well, hey guys, really appreciate you taking the time. For the audience, have a fantastic day.
Exit Voice: (23:36)
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