Locale of One: Globalizing Customer Support

by Translation Guy on December 7, 2009

The Consortium of Service Innovation of the Translation Automation Users Society (if you can get around that mouthful) shares an interest in localizing customer support. Unfortunately, I missed the November Conference, but Andrew Joscelyne provides a report at the TAUS site.  “Customer support (CS) used to be all about running call centers. It then shifted to user searches of knowledge bases, with all the complexity this means for multilingual delivery pipelines. And now it has spread to sharing information on social media.”

CSI’s Greg Oxton shared a holistic view of the new “content explosion” for customer support. Today’s document stream includes informal content from many authors. And instead of being marketed top down, brands are being redefined as the conversation a company has with its customers. This means that the one-on-one call center experience is no longer a key function (only 2.4% of CS), and that 97% of the audience now engage with the relevant information via portals and communities on a many-to-many basis. Content is, once again, king.

Surveys show that customer satisfaction is based on customer loyalty (not profitability figures, for example) and that customer loyalty in turn depends on experience of content. The user’s emotional experience of this content is therefore decisive, and the support agenda is a major driver of this experience.

And its other customers who are providing that emotional experience. Content from the community is three times more important that knowledge found on a portal. Seekers of knowledge on a web page are ten times greater than call center volumes.

So the ROI becomes real back-of-the-envelope easy. The high cost of live one-on-one interaction for interpreter or human translated chat or email, offers the opportunity for an in-depth high-emotion customer experience, but that’s not always what customers want or companies can afford to provide.

Once the content sources have been identified, it is necessary to decide on the right flows. Some content, for example, should be frozen into books and updated at regular intervals; other content will need to propagate more fluidly and unstably across social communities, and any attempt to control this will damage the community. These choices will also influence what should be translated and how: centrally or by the crowd?

Crowd-sourced translation is a natural for customer support, and making it easy for community heros to chime in, and to cross barriers allows a rapid, fluid response not possible in more formal translation processes, even if it isn’t cheaper. (See it always comes back to money for me…)

I like the guys at TAUS because they are on the bleeding edge of the technology scimitar. These kinds of sophisticated approaches to localizing the customer experience are still too rare.  Its the classic customer support dilemna. Is CS a cost center or a profit center? Guess it depends on what you make it.


  1. muzakship says:

    Some have predicted that crowdsourcing is the future of the marketing, advertising, and industrial design industries…translation as well?

  2. Elkcoc says:

    Cowdsourcing heralds the beginning of something bigger and transformational for all – and for business in general.

  3. dadadumdums says:

    Fair compensation has been an issue throughout our creative history. Crowds aren’t ignorant, they may catch on.

  4. Aeylita says:

    Some think once the financial crisis has come to an end these marketplaces will dwindle as people go back to work. Instead, I think they will evolve more, supplying a better way for companies to engage with and harness the crowd for help.

  5. vinylram says:

    I still think there are experts, but I think there are a lot more people who think they’re an expert.

  6. Galthazar says:

    it gives a chance for new experts to emerge.

  7. unseendamage says:

    Seems to me the only thing crowdsourcing proves is that there are no real “experts” at anything…

  8. Gettowolf says:

    Move it to a profit center by producing a revenue model that will increase the business’s bottom line

  9. TheBleeder says:

    If done properly, the upside is great. The old cost center becomes a positive cash-flow business, but that’s easier said than done.

  10. flurdoing says:

    First place to be hit hard in a recession…the cost center has a negative impact on profit (at least on the surface) it is a likely target for rollbacks and layoffs when budgets are cut. Idiots!

  11. Mindzor says:

    Average handle time, service level and cost per call should be used in conjunction with other calculations to justify current or improved funding. They should never disappear if measured correctly .

  12. Vengeance says:

    Agrreed that is a good idea and can be effective used correctly but how many companies abusing the crowd will it take to lower that other shoe? No one wants to turn a crowd into a mob.

  13. dadadumdums says:

    Great conversation everyone – learned a lot! Thanks 😉

  14. Agreed, thank you!

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