Why Contact Centers Need More Than Raw Machine Translation

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In previous posts, we’ve detailed how contact centers that support consumers in their native languages see improvements in CSAT and NPS scores. We’ve stressed that raw automated translation—also known as machine translation (MT)—isn’t effective for customer care organizations because of the negative impact it can have on these same metrics.

What’s “raw MT?” It’s the most basic form of the technology—one that doesn’t include any human post-editing or special linguistic rules built into the engine.

Raw MT served as the backbone of first-generation translation solutions, and some contact centers made attempts to use it for customer care. If you think you know all about MT, keep reading. In this post, you’ll learn raw MT’s shortcomings and hear about improvements that are making second-generation translation solutions a viable option for customer care organizations.

With raw MT, you risk tarnishing your global brand

Imagine that you speak Spanish and are interested in opening a new checking account. After doing your research online, you initiate a chat with Acme Bank to learn more.

The entire chat is in Spanish. What you don’t realize is that the customer service representative only speaks English—they’re using an automated translation solution to communicate with you.

It’s easy to analyze the interaction by whether or not you got the information you needed and opened an account. I would suggest, however, that we also view this from a brand perspective. Your organization has built trust, loyalty, and emotional capital around its brand. Raw MT can potentially undermine that—quickly.

Going back to our example in Spanish, when the agent first types, she welcomes you to “Banco de Acme.” The product she introduces you to is “Acme Banco de Cheques Premier,” not what was advertised as “Acme Bank Premier Checking Account.”

This is a simple, but telling, example. Both the company and product names were translated when neither should have been. And because of this, some brand equity has been lost in Spanish. If inconsistencies like these accumulate—in Spanish or across languages—brand erosion is amplified.

This is especially true for business process outsourcers (BPO) that represent multiple clients. In our example, branding was lost for one company. How can BPOs ensure that doesn’t happen for the many clients they support? This is specifically why one BPO told us that the first-generation MT solution they used didn’t provide high-enough translation quality.

Consider the customer’s experience

While contact centers emphasize agent training to optimize each interaction, customer communication is never clean or polished. Slang, acronyms, and language-specific lingo are common, and can wreak havoc on a raw MT engine—and therefore on a consumer’s overall experience.

Now think about the nuances and casualness that we introduce on the web, through SMS, and across social channels. Shorthand, misspellings, and other channel-specific speak can completely change the context of a phrase or sentence when sent through a raw MT engine.

One of the beautiful things about Spanish is how expressive and literal it is. Consider the following:

  • “Sí” means “yes” while “Si” means “if.” A simple accent can take the conversation in completely different directions if the agent isn’t careful.
  • “My name is Joy” begins the conversation in a much different way than “My name is happiness.”

When it comes to multilingual support, perhaps the question we should ask isn’t whether or not we satisfied the consumer effectively and efficiently. We also have to ask how the consumer experienced that interaction.

Expect more than raw MT

The best contact center agents are obsessed with satisfying the customer. There are many skills that a good agent possesses, but being an expert in many languages isn’t one.

The good news is that second-generation translation solutions are leveraging the best parts of raw MT while inserting linguistic enhancement technology to address quality gaps. This means:

  • Your brand is protected
  • Your industry expertise comes through
  • The technology recognizes and accommodates for slang, short cuts, and misspellings

Lastly, second-generation translation solutions are integrated into existing contact center communication platforms. This means that no expensive or lengthy set-up nor IT involvement is required to use them.

Your contact center needs more than raw MT, and second-generation, real-time translation solutions like GeoFluent deliver that. Click here to learn more and imagine how much more consistent the experience could have been for the Spanish-speaking consumer looking for a checking account.

About the author

rsz_headshot_tom_tsekiTom Tseki is a contact center industry veteran. His experience and expertise include helping organizations implement and leverage omni-channel customer care strategies to improve CX, increase revenue, and gain contact center efficiencies.

He has a deep background in contact center technology as it relates to customer communication, analytics, and workforce optimization. Tom works closely with contact center and BPO leaders on strategies to improve care by reducing customer effort—leading to increased CSAT and NPS.

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