Five Trends Driving the Evolution of Omni-lingual Support in Contact Centers

By Tom Tseki, Vice President and General Manager of GeoFluent & Customer Care Solutions, Lionbridge

Tom Tseki, Vice President and General Manager of GeoFluent & Customer Care Solutions, Lionbridge

For decades, voice dominated in call centers, and brands did not have to worry much about multilingual support. Over-the-phone interpretation (OPI) previously worked as the primary and often sole multilingual strategy. However, the rise in digital technologies and consumer expectations in today’s world have forced contact centers to focus on new, innovative ways to reinvent their language strategies.

Five trends now position contact centers at an inflection point where brands and their IT leaders must evolve their language support. Otherwise, they risk ignoring consumer preferences and leaving them with a high-effort journey.

1. Voice has Given Way to the Multi/Omni-channel 

For the first time ever, research from Forrester shows that voice is no longer consumers’ preferred communications channel. Seventy-six percent prefer to use a company FAQ website and 58 percent prefer online chat options. Providing OPI as the primary multilingual support option is no longer effective and positions brands as laggards in terms of customer experience (CX).  

“Language is core to providing more personalized and relevant interactions – the gold standard for contact centers” 

Additionally, consumers are increasingly demanding a seamless experience across all channels and devices –a recent study from Yankee Group estimates that 60 percent of interactions across the customer journey are interrelated. Furthermore, 57 percent of calls made to a contact center originate from a website visit, and 30 percent of callers are still on a company’s website when they call the contact center. This makes multilingual support across channels especially important.

2. Language is Directly Related to Value and CX

Consumers increasingly prefer to learn shop and transact in their native language and expect that brands communicate with them accordingly. A recent study from Common Sense Advisory showed that 84 percent of consumers are more inclined to purchase products online when related information was presented in their own language. As a result, it is imperative for contact centers to localize a website with proactive chat options in order to provide quality customer experiences. In fact, Gartner predicts that 89 percent of companies will compete mostly on the basis of customer experience by 2016 – an astonishing jump from 36 percent back in 2010.

3. Contact Centers Struggle with Multilingual Support

The Common Sense Advisory and Gartner research underscores the importance of language to customer value. Contrast it with new findings from the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), showing that only 19 percent of contact centers provide multilingual voice support (the percentages drop significantly for other channels).

4. Consumers Want Self-Service

Forrester recently reported that consumers are more likely to go online before they pick up the phone. This is heightened with millennials who expect self-service options. Accordingly, brands need to respond with chat, website, forum/community and mobile support. Online chat is a critical component of effective online customer engagement, with Forrester reporting that 55 percent of consumers are inclined to abandon their online purchase if they cannot find a quick answer to their question or pursue a live chat option. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that 33 percent of contact centers plan to implement web chat in 2016.

These self-service channels need to be enabled with omni-lingual capabilities to benefit the largest group of customers. If the majority of content is presented in only a single or select group of languages, the channel isn’t helping non-primary speakers.

5. Consumers Expect 24/7 Support

Consumers also increasingly expect 24/7 support, including the ability to connect through channels such as mobile and social media in real-time, regardless of the time of day or day of week. Forrester reports that 77 percent of respondents say valuing their time is the most important thing a brand or company can do to provide superior online customer service. By enabling multilingual channel options, brands are in a much better position to provide that 24/7 support. Additionally, providing language support through self-service and digital channels reduces the amount of inbound calls, which in turn drives down OPI costs. Subsequently, it results in a win-win situation for both consumers and the brands.


Language is core to providing more personalized and relevant interactions – the gold standard for contact centers. So, how can brands ensure they’re delivering this? Today’s savvy CIOs are moving beyond OPI to broader multilingual support across the omni-channel. This ensures that the customer experience they deliver becomes a differentiator in today’s global marketplace and aligns with digitally-savvy and demanding consumers. 

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