Telephone Interpreting as a Viable Business Solution in Current and Emerging Markets
By: Kristin Quinlan (Certified Languages International) - Certified Languages International
04 September 2014
Since its early adoption in healthcare, telephone interpreting has now spread to almost all other industries as a way of bridging the gap and allowing companies in all sectors to better serve clients in their native language. Kristin Quinlan explores current trends and potential growth in this sector of the language services sphere.
In a world where language service providers operate in the background as a business solution, many people have never actually heard of “the language industry”. It’s one of those things you don’t really hear or think much about until you need it. Language services have long been a necessity in healthcare settings where doctors and patients rely on a blend of onsite, telephone, and video remote interpreting services to facilitate communication across language barriers. Since its early adoption in healthcare, telephone interpreting has now spread to almost all other industries to bridge the language gap and allow companies in all sectors to better serve clients in their native language.
In a Common Sense Advisory report titled “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy: Why Language Matters on Global Websites,” it was found that “when [consumers whose first language is not English] were asked about their purchases of less tangible products such as travel and entertainment (airline tickets, rental car reservations, hotel bookings, sporting events, restaurants, and film or theater tickets) and banking, insurance and other financial services, across [the] worldwide sample, four out of five responded that they want communications in their mother tongue.”
These findings show that there is a huge opportunity for businesses to better serve their client base by ensuring that they are providing customer service in more than just one core language. Many areas of the business sector have caught on to this fact, especially if they operate or utilize call center-based customer services. Companies in this category have realized that providing language services to customers builds trust and brand loyalty. In fact, when surveyed, 3 out of 4 consumers with some English language proficiency agreed that: “I am more likely to purchase the same brand again if the after-sales care is in my own language.” That number jumped to 4 out of 5, or 80.6%, for consumers who had little to no English language proficiency.
As more and more businesses realize the value of supplying customer service in the form of telephone interpreting, many companies that have long utilized translation and localization services are now in the market for interpreting services. Some of the more dominant emerging customer service markets are likely to be found in the retail, tech, and travel and hospitality industries. The first place these newly enlightened businesses will turn to is their existing translation and/or localization firm for information on this new service; however, those who are familiar with the language industry are aware of how seldom translation companies also provide telephone interpreting services (and vice versa).
The value of partnerships
Most companies in the language service industry have a primary focus, be it interpreting, translation, web localization, etc. Even if they offer a combination of services, or all of the above, chances are that there is one service offering that is the bulk of their business. When trying to entice customers it is often beneficial to offer more than one service as many potential clients are looking for a one-stop shop to fulfill their various language service needs. Depending on what their distribution of services is, some language service companies may find themselves uncertain of how to service a high volume workload in an area that is not their primary focus. For this reason, many companies have developed strategic partnerships with one another in order to best leverage their services to meet the needs of potential clients.
In addition to the growth that the telephonic interpreting industry is seeing in new and emerging markets, these strategic partnerships are another area in which companies continue to expand. By developing relationships with telephone interpreting providers, translation and localization companies are able to offer a more diverse combination of services to better serve their client base. Typically, though not always, the telephone interpreting provider acts as a “silent partner” that provides the telephone interpreting services, while the translation company still manages their own interpreting accounts, often without their client knowing that there is a third party involved.
These types of partnerships have proven to work very well for companies that are needing to diversify their services but are unable to invest in the complex and generally proprietary infrastructure involved in beginning a telephone interpreting business. Although a strategic partnership with one or more language companies can be beneficial when diversifying your service offerings, there are several things that should be taken into account before considering “reselling” another company’s product.
When deciding whether to diversify your services, taking into account the needs of your clients and your potential clients is obviously key. Partnering with another company requires constant, involved communication between yourself and the partnering company, so choose a company that has a solid reputation and the ability to demonstrate the reliability of its infrastructure and business processes before you enter into any kind of contractual agreement.
While strategic partnerships can technically be a great way to diversify your brand and offer a more well-rounded product to your client, their brand essentially becomes your brand once you partner, and ensuring that your clients receive the best service possible is paramount. If you end up losing customers due to a partnership with a company with questionable quality, the financial drawbacks could easily outweigh any benefits that you would gain from diversification
The partnership arrangement can also be considered in reverse. Before partnering with a company, whether to sell their services to your clients, or have them resell your services to theirs, it is important to ensure that your core business is running as smoothly as possible. If there is any part of your business that is not operating as proficiently as possible, it is unadvisable to seek diversification of your service offerings as it will likely cause undue stress to your account management team and could possibly cause a strain on your most valuable resources as a company.
Where emerging markets are concerned, one trend continues to dominate where language companies are concerned, and that is growth. While it may be tempting to jump into these new markets, slow sustained growth that minimizes risk and maximizes quality for the customer is considered a more responsible business practice.
Language companies will continue to serve new kinds of clients moving into the future. Hopefully, they will continue to strive for technological innovation that drives service offerings and creates opportunities for strategic partnerships to help the language industry continue to grow and celebrate diversity worldwide.
Kristin Quinlan has been with Certified Languages International since 1999. She is accountable for overseeing the managerial staff and the overall success of the company. She has been responsible for substantial revenue growth each year and led the company in a turnaround effort that has seen the company realize substantial growth and profitability. Under her direction, in 2010, 2011, and 2013, CLI was named in the Fortune 500/5000’s list of America’s fastest growing companies in addition to being named a finalist for Oregon’s Entrepreneur of the Year award.