Leveraging the Unpredictable: How a Global Pandemic Fueled a Small LSP’s Creativity

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that business models can turn upside down quite rapidly and unexpectedly. For a small but growing LSP like Avantpage, it meant adapting to the “new normal” with a strong sense of agility and resilience, and most importantly, seizing the unforeseen opportunities that it gave rise to. 

Thriving Amidst Uncertain Times

In March 2020, we transitioned to fully remote work. Right from the beginning, it became evident to us that we needed a change in perspective in order to thrive through COVID’s challenging times. We put into action several initiatives aimed at maintaining the same level of service that our clients expected, as well as creating a solid support system for our colleagues to cope with the uncertainty that emerged from the pandemic.

These brainstorm sessions made us feel empowered, providing us with a sense of hope and a human connection centered around our desire to make a positive impact. The cross-team collaboration that sparked from these sessions allowed us to strategize from different grounds and perspectives aimed at achieving the same goal: how to do things more efficiently and showcase more value to our clients with the existing teams, tools, and processes?

Along with our Client Services and Business Development teams, we explored the challenges our clients face when communicating their services and programs to Limited English Proficient (LEP) communities.

With our Quality and Operations team, we developed ideas on how to optimize production workflows and ensure faster response methods for COVID-related communications. Finally, we leveraged already-in-place systems along with our Technology team to provide expanded service coverage to our clients while staying HIPAA compliant in a WFH environment.

How We Adapted

Throughout this process, we realized our current practices were not enough to support our goal and that we would need to go the extra mile in this exceptional circumstance. The great thing was that none of this felt like extra work. It was a true desire to make a greater impact that drove these initiatives, with an end result of increased revenue and stronger partnerships with our clients. The human factor was, and remains, the driving factor of our success.

Some of the initiatives we put into place were:

  1. Developing new service offerings and creating new models for existing ones. Finding new ways to support client needs is as crucial as assessing which current service models could be leveraged across other accounts. Earlier this year we deployed a revamped interpreting platform, which includes on-demand Over-the-Phone Interpreting (OPI) and Video-Remote Interpreting (VRI). This allowed us to offer a full-service model to both prospective and existing partners. Some of our existing service schedules were leveraged across our client base and have become blueprints for new accounts. Some of these services include Web and Document Accessibility, Machine Translation Post-Editing, Language Assessment Services, and Web Testing.  

  1. Implementing technical workarounds to support shortened delivery cycles. Acknowledging the increased demand for emergency COVID response, our teams developed workflows to reliably support expedited projects. When a client sends a request of this nature, automatic SMS and email notifications are triggered to alert our production teams and commence the project immediately. Our Translation Management System and Computer-Assisted Tools are fully integrated to support a streamlined cross-platform communication system. While the translation is in progress, automatic notifications keep the client up to date on the progress, ensuring an optimized experience from the initial request to delivery of files.  

  1. Leveraging at-hand Avantpage technologies to optimize the customer experience. Most of our client base was migrated to our cloud-based Portal, which offers a secure and user-friendly interface for our clients to track and process requests, while it streamlines production workflows internally by centralizing client collaboration in one single space. 

  1. Deploying data-driven programs to spearhead continuous quality improvement. Using a risk-based thinking approach to ensure ongoing process improvement, we developed programs that consider team accountability and support for proper execution, as well as metrics that are well aligned to concrete goals and objectives. This allows us to consistently identify risks and opportunities to enhance quality and operational excellence.   

  1. Encouraging team innovation. Employee-led initiatives are one of the most powerful ways to impact internal change and foster innovation. A few examples of this include our Accessibility Awareness Campaign, an ongoing cross-departmental collaboration designed to help our different teams understand the scope of accessibility services and empathize with the end-users of our products. We also now hold AvantThinkTank Sessions on a bi-monthly basis. This initiative is aimed at creating a space for Avantpage teams to brainstorm and foster innovation using a Design Thinking process.  

  1. Focus on building partnerships for the future. This is as true for clients as it is for internal teams and providers. With the whole world working remotely, the pandemic demands a personalized, human approach more than ever before. Our teams stay relevant and aligned with our clients by adopting a collaborative approach, sharing expertise, and exceeding practical expectations. 

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

By encouraging cross-team collaboration and leveraging at-hand tools and processes, we were able to stand out from competitors, consolidate strong customer relationships, and ultimately grow our business during such a critical time.

Our hope is to show Language Service Providers how they can develop proactive and valuable solutions to stay relevant and aligned with clients, while maximizing cross-functional team capabilities for better planning, performance, and growth.