If your organization wants to promote global growth, you must be able to communicate effectively with your customers and stakeholders no matter what language they speak.
Gone are the days when a company could achieve international prominence through an English-only approach to business. A 2020 study found that 75% of global consumers want product information in their native language, and more than half will avoid websites that are English-only.
That’s why a growing number of organizations looking to unlock sustainable growth on a global scale are using language solutions to enhance their multilingual capabilities. The latest cutting-edge language solutions leverage technologies such as AI, machine learning, and natural language processing to eliminate communication barriers and increase efficiency by streamlining the translation process.
Language solutions can – and should – be used across all of a company’s departments and communication channels to drive collaboration and improve productivity. When selecting a launching point for implementation, many organizations choose customer service, as it’s the area where language solutions typically see the fastest return.
Let’s dive deeper into the value of multilingual communications, the differences between popular translation options, and the types of language solutions your organization should consider.
Exploring the importance of communication for global teams
Whether your company currently has a presence all over the world or you’re just starting to strategize on how to find success outside of your home country, one thing is certain: Seamless multilingual communication is essential for business globalization.
Easily overlooked or seemingly insignificant translation discrepancies can have a negative impact on your company’s growth. Even major, established brands can fall victim to damaging and costly communication mishaps. For example, in the late 2000s, one well-known investment banking company had to shell out $10 million on a rebranding campaign after realizing too late that their go-to English slogan at the time translated to “do nothing” in many languages.
When considering the advantages of using high-quality multilingual communication to facilitate business globalization, a major benefit is the ability to expand your customer base. Maybe your organization is still growing fast in its primary market, or you’ve hit a plateau and want to start testing new markets; either way, making a good first impression and finding success in a new region requires native-level language capabilities.
Another reason multilingual communication is critical for global teams is that it allows them to hire elite talent without regard for language restrictions. This is especially exciting given the prevalence of remote work and distributed teams in recent years.
In a GitLab survey of nearly 4,000 global remote workers, more than half of respondents said they would consider leaving their co-located company for a remote role. By broadening your employer brand into other countries, your organization stands to gain access to new knowledge, specialized skill sets, and fresh insights on how you might go about achieving growth in other parts of the world.
Ultimately, accessing new markets and leveling up your global workforce will lead to increased revenue potential and lasting value for your company. It also helps you stabilize revenue growth. Instead of marrying your success to one or two markets, globalization enables you to diversify your investments so that if the economy suddenly takes a downturn in a certain region, it won’t be financially ruinous for your organization.
Once your company has made the decision to increase its multilingual capabilities, it’s time to start thinking about the tools you will choose to develop an overarching communication strategy and how to navigate potential challenges.
Why do global companies need language solutions?
Today, far too few companies are taking advantage of the significant advancements that have been made in translation technology. If your organization is serious about accelerating global growth, language solutions are a tried-and-tested way to streamline multilingual language operations and solve many of the challenges that can accompany communication with a global audience.
Consumers’ expectations are evolving faster than ever, and most buyers anticipate a five-star experience every time they interact with your brand. One in three global consumers will abandon a brand they love after just one bad experience. In certain areas such as Latin America, that ratio increases to one in two.
Relying 100% on machine translation language solutions can damage the customer experience (CX), as machines can’t fully understand the context and nuance of natural language without human input. That’s why using a tool like Google Translate for business purposes can have disastrous effects.
A few years ago many users noticed that the service was translating the phrase “Russian Federation” in Ukrainian into “Mordor,” the name of the evil realm in Lord of the Rings. Because some Ukrainians had been using the term online in a disparaging way, Google Translate failed to understand the context and assumed it was the correct word choice. As you might imagine, using an accidentally offensive or nonsensical translation can be very bad for business.
While a human-only approach to language translation does provide good quality and thus a better CX than machine-only, it can be costly, time-consuming, and difficult to scale. A traditional language translation agency or business process outsourcing (BPO) firm that doesn’t utilize technology typically depends on freelance or full-time translators that manually manage each project.
This means that high-volume jobs can be exorbitantly expensive or take a long time to complete. Some of these services also have fixed office hours, which eliminates the possibility of round-the-clock translation coverage.
That’s why the latest language solutions leverage technologies such as AI and machine learning while keeping humans in the loop. Due to this shift, the role of the translator has evolved from performing rote translation tasks to becoming more of a teacher that helps shape the language solution itself. A translator can provide feedback that helps a machine translation model understand the intricacies of cultural preferences, or the ins and outs of brand-specific language that doesn't have an exact translation.
In addition to helping your organization provide a consistent global CX with high-quality translations, state-of-the-art language solutions allow you to cost-effectively break into new markets. This is especially helpful for countries that are home to long-tail languages, or languages that aren’t widely translated and thus can be difficult or costly to translate.
Translation vs. localization – what’s the difference?
When researching ways to improve your organization’s multilingual capabilities, you may have come across the term localization and wondered what it means or how it differs from translation.
At a high level, translation is the act of converting content from a source language into a target language, while respecting grammar rules and conventions. Localization, on the other hand, is about adapting a company’s content to resonate with local audiences, dialects, or cultural nuances, taking regional and linguistic preferences into account.
The goal with localization is to offer a product or service that feels like it was designed for, or even originated from, the target market. Translation is just one aspect of localization, which requires other elements such as social research and getting up to speed on the regulations and legal requirements of a given region.
Localization has been a popular business practice for several decades now and has built a reputation as an effective extension of language translation: According to research from California State University, 74% of global enterprises believe that localization is very important for increasing revenue from international operations.
While localization has become the go-to solution for many organizations trying to expand their global reach, it still has some shortcomings that must be considered. In most cases localization efforts within a company are owned by a single department. For instance, localizing a digital campaign for several different audiences could be owned by the marketing team.
This siloed approach to translation often leads to inefficiencies, because without an overarching language strategy, other departments won’t have what they need to fully understand and address customers’ needs.
Last year, Zendesk analyzed 45,000 companies across the globe and found that more than 70% of customers expect companies to collaborate on their behalf. This means sharing knowledge and data between departments such as sales, marketing, and customer service “behind the scenes” to connect the dots between different interactions so that customers can get exactly what they need, exactly when they need it.
In addition to departmental silos, other challenges that today’s localization teams face include issues with translation quality estimation, consistency, automation, and scalability. Tech-enabled language solutions aim to solve these issues and take localization to the next level by focusing on how to operationalize language across the entire organization. This is made possible by the creation of a dedicated team that oversees the implementation and refinement of their organization’s language operations.
Such a team provides both technical and linguistic support across all departments, ensuring quality and consistency, while removing inefficient or duplicate processes. By operating language solutions that utilize AI and automation, these employees can also help other teams scale beyond their own headcount by determining the best way for them to utilize the technology. Employing a best-in-class language solution often calls for a bit of organizational alignment, which you will find is more than worth it in the long run.
How do language solutions help with translation and localization?
High-tech language solutions enable organizations to treat language as an asset, not a barrier, to doing business on a global scale. Technologically speaking, a comprehensive language solution can facilitate better translation and localization via its ability to integrate with other tools throughout a company’s tech stack. For example, AI translation software could plug into a help desk platform to create a single pane of glass view for all multilingual customer queries and relevant metrics.
Speaking of metrics, a crucial aspect of successful language operations lies in analyzing the right language-related data to examine how translation efforts are affecting departmental KPIs.
For example, your customer service department could keep an eye on operational metrics such as:
- First contact resolution rate (FCR)
- Average response time
- Cost per contact
You might also monitor certain customer-centric KPIs, including:
- Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
- Net promoter score (NPS)
- Customer effort score (CES)
When using an AI-powered language solution, it’s also important to measure and optimize machine translation quality. Some widely adopted machine translation quality metrics in recent years include BLEU, chrF, METEOR, and COMET.
A robust language solution can allow your organization to track all of these relevant KPIs so that you can measure language flexibility, drive performance improvements, and identify opportunities for cost savings. To produce even deeper insights, you could get more granular with the data by filtering metrics by language and channel type, or by tracking progress against historical performance.
By abstracting the details of machine translation through an easy-to-use interface, language solutions empower anyone in the organization to communicate in any language. This means that global teams can make hires based on subject matter expertise instead of solely language fluency.
Let’s say your company has many different product lines instead of having to make several hires for each language, you could recruit employees who have experience with certain verticals or technologies. A language solution would give them the ability to communicate across many different languages.
As you can likely tell from some of the examples given above, customer service often serves as the launching point for language solution implementation due to the sheer volume of customers that must be served in different languages, and the positive effect that high-quality customer-facing translation can have on an organization’s growth and expansion into new markets. From there, your organization can develop use cases for language translation in other departments like HR, product development, sales, and more.
Ultimately, a cutting-edge language translation solution enables your organization to get the best of both worlds: the ability to scale language translation and localization efforts without needing to hire a ton of additional staff or having to compromise on quality.
That’s why human-in-the-loop AI translation technology has become an increasingly popular option among global organizations in industries that range from retail and fashion to travel and hospitality.
Types of language solutions your global company needs
Getting started with a language solution for customer service, the recommended entry point, requires translation for the complete omnichannel digital experience, including self-service, email, and live chat. After all, the worldwide cross-border e-commerce market is expected to reach 4.82 trillion by 2026, so organizations that offer an A+ multilingual digital experience stand to gain quite a bit.
AI-powered language solutions are particularly useful for digital channels because the degree to which humans are involved can be adjusted depending on the need. For example, basic customer support requests can be handled largely by the machine, while more technical queries may need closer inspection by an editor.
As mentioned before, translators and editors play a key role in improving machine translation quality, which means a company’s language solution will get better and better at communicating like a local as time progresses.
When creating customer-facing content that will be translated by AI, here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind to get good results right from the start:
- Write short, simple sentences
- Stay away from idioms and slang
- Use active voice
- Avoid abbreviations
- Obey all grammar rules
- Format messages consistently
- Favor politeness over casual language
Other language solutions such as traditional translation services and native-language BPO centers can still play a useful role in your customer operations strategy. An AI language solution simply allows your organization to streamline language operations and ensure that all language-related resources are being used as efficiently as possible.
If you decide to experiment with several different language solutions for the same purpose, the best way to determine impact is to monitor and measure the same set of metrics for each. This will save you headaches and lost productivity in the long run.
You might try out a new automated translation technology that’s very cheap, but ultimately find that subpar quality has a negative effect on customer satisfaction and retention. Or maybe you investigate a white glove service that provides high-quality translations, only to discover that the cost and time-intensive nature of the work makes it difficult to scale.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to language translation – your company may be able to unlock all of the multilingual capabilities it needs through a single solution, or you might need to combine a few different tools and services to achieve the results you desire. The key is to develop a centralized and consistent process that strikes the right balance between human and machine translation efforts.
As you can see, some of the biggest benefits that go along with adopting a premium language solution include cost-effective access to new markets, increased operational efficiency, enhanced multilingual CX, and expanded global reach.
Keep in mind that it’s advisable to have a dedicated team, ideally involving someone who can collaborate across departments, to oversee the implementation of a language solution to ensure its long-term success throughout your company.
To accomplish sustainable global growth, it would be wise for your organization to start investigating and implementing a language solution sooner rather than later to avoid being overtaken by competitors who are already starting to use this technology. To prepare for the business world of tomorrow, realizing the true potential of language must start today.