Communication is vital to the IT support and service desk industry of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. For companies that wish to ensure and maintain effective communications across a spectrum of end users, or customers, spread over both geographies and channels, a broad language offering is paramount. However, language itself can act as a barrier, particularly to the efficiency of their service desks.

Industry surveys are showing that traditional multilingual support approaches are today showing signs of ineffectiveness, leaving a big void for some service desks. And, as the first in a two-part blog series, I’ll outline why language continues to be so crucial to the industry, and the challenges faced in a world where diversity and accessibility have become indispensable.  

Both blogs are based on a new Service Desk Institute (SDI) and Lionbridge report entitled “Eliminating Language Barriers in Enterprise Service Desks.” As well as a soon to be released study of service desks and languages, conducted by HDI and Lionbridge.

Language is fundamental to IT support

End users expect service desk communications to be in their native language, and meeting this demand is key to the success of the modern-day service desk. Yet a soon to be released study of service desks and languages, conducted by HDI and Lionbridge, finds that only 21% of IT support centers offer multilingual support at all levels, with those interactions being predominantly limited to voice-only.

As IT becomes ever-more important to businesses, and as customer experience makes its way into internal IT support operations, overcoming language barriers needs to be a priority in the IT service desk industry. Ultimately, providing a multilingual, omni-channel service platform is key to enabling an effective transfer of information and knowledge, allowing companies to become digitally agile. This in turn improves operational efficiency and provides organizations with a greater understanding of their end user requirements.

The four traditional approaches to providing multilingual support

Providing multilingual support is by no means a new challenge in the service desk industry. Four traditional approaches to language support have commonly been adopted by organizations new and old. Each have their pros and cons, particularly as the importance of end-user experience is brought to the forefront of industry conversations.

  1. No formal multilingual support. A reactive approach that looks to identify the means of support, ad hoc, at the time that it is required (often relying on the off-chance presence of multilingual staff, often from other departments). For businesses looking to expand services, this method will not hold its own on a larger scale.
  2. Over-the-phone interpretation services. Although the most widely used method, over-the-phone interpretation is now proving limiting as end-user preferences move away from voice-only services, and demand omni-channel support. As this approach does not extend to omni-channel support, there’s potential for a raft of modern users to be left ostracized.
  3. Staffing service desks with multilingual agents. While desirable, this approach is costly and effective-recruitment is a challenge. The HDI language study found that for 41.9% of organizations, the biggest challenge of providing multilingual support is finding and retaining multilingual analysts. What’s more, staff absences also cause severe issues. With so many limiting factors it’s no longer deemed an effective stand-alone method of multilingual support.
  4. Creating in-market service desks. It’s a highly-expensive option when installing across a myriad of supported markets (geographies). Furthermore, once implemented, challenges still exist in the way of maintaining consistency and creating a seamless IT support structure, especially for time-poor executives with budget constraints.

For the vast majority of organizations, providing an IT service desk capable of catering to all necessary languages, in-keeping with the traditional methods that are currently adopted, is an unrealistic prospect. The effectiveness of such approaches can be limited by several factors, leading to high operational costs, an unnecessary strain on staff and resources, and ultimately an inefficient service that will stunt brand growth.

Meeting the new demand for multilingual IT support with a fifth approach

The challenges of current methods can be overcome with the implementation of real-time translation technologies. These technologies provide quick and seamless omni-channel translation services that help to eradicate language barriers for organizations and can positively impact operational efficiencies of the IT service desk.

In part two of this blog series, learn how these real-time translation technologies have emerged as a solution to the language issues affecting modern-day service desks. If you don’t want to wait, then download the SDI report now.

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Tom Tseki is the Vice President and General Manager of GeoFluent and Customer Care Solutions for Lionbridge, a leader in multilingual solutions for service desks, contact centers and global enterprises. His experience and expertise include helping organizations implement and leverage omni-lingual and omni-channel strategies to improve employee, customer and partner experience while gaining internal efficiencies. Tom has a deep background in technology as it relates to languages, communications, analytics and workforce optimization. He works closely with leaders on strategies to improve care while increasing productivity and satisfaction.