Current State of the Multilingual Help Desk

Providing multilingual support is valuable for enterprise service desks. Considering little data exists on languages and service desks/IT helpdesks, Lionbridge and HDI conducted a study covering 23 countries and 30 industries with the intent to understand the need for multilingual support and how it’s currently being provided. In the first installment of our three-part blog series, we thought we would start with the obvious; the current state of multilingual support from service desks.


The ability to communicate across geographies and cultures is becoming increasingly important across the enterprise. Contact centers are leveraging multilingual support as a key driver of customer experience (CX). On a larger scale, organizations are driving efficiencies and productivity by breaking down language barriers between teams, employees, partners, customers, and other stakeholders.

Understanding this, it’s no surprise that our research found nearly 75% of service desks prioritize multilingual support—with 73% of service desks seeing improved CSAT scores and 46% saw higher FCR metrics when support is provided in a stakeholders’ native language.

Where we’re at

Service desks and IT helpdesks use a variety of language strategies. Over 15% of organizations said they simply apologize for not being able to communicate and attempt to continue support in the service desk’s primary language. More than one quarter of support centers scramble to find a bilingual colleague (often from another department) to handle the request—which is not only time consuming for the representative and their co-worker, but frustrating for the stakeholder. Over 29% of organizations use first-generation straight machine translation tools to understand the request and try to respond.

The perceived ideal solution is to hire bilingual staff, but despite the prioritization of multilingual support and its proven impact on quality scores, language still isn’t as prevalent as it arguably should be. The biggest challenge for nearly half of support centers is finding and retaining bilingual talent as 37% find it is too costly to have a full staff to support all requested languages.

That being said, stakeholders rightfully expect the same level of support across channels in any language and over half of support centers only support one primary language. This, in addition to only 42% of multilingual support centers not localizing their knowledge bases, lends to a multilingual knowledge gap for stakeholders.

Looking ahead

While the importance of language to support centers is great and transparent—the solution does not rest solely in hiring bilingual staff. Keep an eye out for the next blog in the series as we explore how best in class companies overcome language barriers.

In the meantime, download the full HDI and Lionbridge research report on multilingual support from service desks here.