At a time when lively debates on the value of Machine Translation (MT) dominate the online discussion forums, I wanted to pick up where Alon Lavie’s ‘First Global Thoughts’ blog post left off and talk about the true value of MT to global business.
Before starting I will make three claims that I will address throughout this post:
- Not all MT is equal
- MT is a disruptive technology by virtue of its real time nature
- The value of MT to global enterprises is immense and is measurable today
When trying to assess the value of MT, I urge that you make an effort to do so from a Fortune 500 company’s point of view. Common Sense Advisory’s report Translation at Fortune 500 Companies, Mar 27, 2012 focused on how investment in translation at Fortune 500 companies affects their financial performance. It further revealed that customer service, branding, and market share are stronger drivers for translation than the goal of increased revenue. Global enterprises set key performance indicators (KPI’s) to help evaluate the rate of success in executing their respective business strategies. These may include such indicators as customer acquisition rate, customer longevity / retention rate and brand loyalty and recognition, measured in units such as repeat sales and customer referrals and their associated costs. In a connected world, all of these KPI’s are directly impacted by the customer’s experience across all points of interaction with the enterprise. Language personalization plays an important role in delivering the intended experience but with the explosion of content, this is becoming more and more challenging.
Enterprise MT is a Machine Translation solution that incorporates augmented technologies that enable the migration of a company’s brand across languages; is customized to do so; and is designed to provide multilingual support for existing business processes. Not all MT is equal and not all MT is designed to deliver on the KPI’s of global enterprises. These KPI’s are directly affected by what MT can do… Here are some concrete examples:
Accelerating Speed-to-Market – I often ask the question “If MT were to help a company go to market with a product or service just one month earlier than planned, how much would MT be worth to that company?” When asked about the value of automated translation, our customers tend to respond with one word – velocity. When it comes to such KPI’s as service or product readiness for global markets, MT has a great deal of value to offer. From e-commerce to software to physical goods and services accompanied by localized documentation and customer support information, reaching market readiness earlier has a measurable Dollar value. Of course, this requires that the technology and solution implemented actually help in expediting the post-editing process for publication grade content and be good enough to support other communication channels, where fully automated, less than human-grade translated language, is the only viable option.
Increasing Operational Efficiency – Companies, not just global ones, are constantly trying to reduce the cost of customer retention while driving customer value up and maintaing a positive customer experience. One such example is the ongoing transition of customer care from phone support to on-line assisted (e.g. chat / social media) and non-assisted (e.g. FAQ) channels. Reducing the involvement of human agents helps reduce support costs but often at a price – the transition from on-call live agents to interactive voice response (IVR) has often delivered cost savings alongside customer frustration resulting in a lower (rather than higher) customer retention rate. The multitude of text-based online channels presented great new opportunities for global companies to provide support using extremely low cost channels. However, customer experience is a critical factor in driving more customers to actually make the transition from phone to chat. Real-time language personalization using MT is a key factor in making this possible. Thus, MT becomes a disruptive technology by virtue of its real time nature and its ability to enable achieving such key operational goals. Once again, this requires that the technology and solution implemented be good enough to support a variety of online communication channels delivering suitable translation quality, scalability and performance.
Expanding Customer Engagement – I am always reminded of a business axiom my former boss and mentor shared with me: “If they are not talking to you they are talking to someone else.” While you must maintain proactive and constant communications with your global customers and prospects, updating them on new services and developments, there is a plethora of new channels to help you do so successfully and better yet, they are mostly well integrated with each other. From Facebook to Linkedin, from Twitter to Youtube, with a wide range of customer engagement applications integrated into your website and other corporate communication channels, the options are almost endless. And many Fortune 500 companies will tell you that they choose ‘all of the above’. They cannot afford not to. Reaching their customer acquisition and customer retention KPI’s depend on it. Because if you are not talking to your customers… Good news, though. Most of these channels are designed for integration with external applications with MT being just that! Enterprise MT’s augmented technologies can retrieve a twitter post, translate it and re-post it almost immediately. Manual monolingual customer engagement becomes an automated multilingual process. Now, they are talking to you, wherever they are.
Ensuring Brand Consistency – The explosion of content and the multitude of communication channels create a risk of diluting and misrepresenting a brand; especially, when the brand language is translated. Hundreds or thousands of customer support representatives, marketing & communications staff and other agents of the company are challenged with delivering a consistent brand representation with every single interaction. Enterprise Machine Translation may not provide human-like artistic qualities to translation but does provide consistent brand representation across corporate communication channels, often referred to as ‘customer experience touch points’.
So, the value of MT to global enterprises is immense and is measurable today. The above examples are only a starting point. As promised, I addressed my top three claims and you are welcome to question, comment or complain below.
So, now what? Choosing and implementing the right MT solution to effectively address specific corporate KPI’s and use cases is still a considerable challenge… This is the topic of my next blog post – “Choosing your MT – from translation productivity to simpler use cases”.
Please stay tuned!