How to Master Multilingual Support in the IT Support Center


by Justin Robbins and Tom Tseki
September 14, 2017

It’s no secret that our world is becoming smaller and more connected each day due to the rise of globalization and advancements in digital technologies. Business is seamlessly conducted across borders, and today’s workplaces are more diverse than ever. But this shift toward cultural and technological diversity presents a number of challenges to IT support staff, who must be able to effectively communicate with a broad range of employees and partners in an era when immediate support is the expectation. To adapt to these changes and drive success, translation and interpretation plays a vital role in ensuring service desks can support employees in their own language, across a variety of channels, and ultimately increase their speed of response and resolution.

While the need to support employees across a growing number of languages, channels, geographies, and time zones is clear, executing on that strategy is easier said than done. Service desks have historically had limited options to deliver multilingual support. They are often staffed with limited bilingual speakers that don’t support non-primary languages, and hiring agents that speak the broad range of languages required to support today’s diverse employee base can be cost prohibitive. Additionally, many organizations currently manage multilingual IT support via a variety of methods including over-the-phone interpretation, outsourcing, internal translators, and in-country help desks. While they have their pros and cons, these methods can create inefficient and inconsistent experiences and deliver poor UX.

Service desks have historically had limited options to deliver multilingual support.
Tweet: Service desks have historically had limited options to deliver multilingual support. @justinmrobbins @ThomasTseki

The Need for Language Support

The data that demonstrates these challenges is telling, but opportunities abound. According to a recent study from HDI and Lionbridge of how service desks support languages, more than 71 percent of respondents feel that multilingual support is a priority, but more than 41 percent find the biggest challenge to providing multilingual support is identifying and retaining multilingual analysts. Other challenges include the expensive costs of hiring bilingual staff or business process outsourcers (37 percent).

While these barriers exist, the study also found that quality measures improve dramatically when support is provided in an employee’s native language (73 percent indicated that CSAT scores were better, and 46 percent said first contact resolution improved). Additionally, support staff overwhelmingly prefer supporting employees and partners in their native language, with 88 percent indicating it as the best method for engagement. Lastly, the study found that only 21 percent of support centers currently offer multilingual support at all levels, with those interactions predominantly limited to voice-only. The need to shift towards multilingual, omni-channel support is clear.

How Best-in-Class Companies Support Languages

More options exist than ever before to help organizations provide multilingual support, and it helps to understand how best-in-class companies support languages:

  • Leverage Technology to Reduce Costs. A recent study from Aberdeen Group found that 21 percent of businesses use real-time translation technology to enable multilingual communications, and another 20 percent plan to adopt it this year. By leveraging this technology, companies can streamline communications and reduce the high costs associated with hiring bilingual staff.
  • Match Volumes to Solutions. Companies can enhance support by applying the most appropriate solution per language. For example, it could make sense to hire a Spanish bilingual agent and use an over-the-phone interpretation service for less popular languages. By looking at language volume, service desks can identify the most appropriate solution while providing better experiences and reducing overall costs.
  • Incorporate Language Solutions Across the Enterprise. Service desks aren’t alone with their language challenges and the most progressive organizations take an enterprise-wide versus departmental approach. By building a centralized, linguistic knowledge base consisting of brand guidelines and language terminology across different channels, organizations can leverage this information to address language challenges in all parts of the enterprise. The result is streamlined support and significant advantages to areas such as service management, employee satisfaction, marketing, internal communication and collaboration, and more. 
  • Utilize Over-the-phone interpretation and AI-Based Real-Time Translation. Leveraging these technologies allows service desks to support languages that aren’t staffed for, receive broader service coverage, and support geographic expansion without hiring language talent. Furthermore, AI-based real-time translation can add support to existing self-service and agent-assisted digital communications platforms like chat, email, and ticketing. As a result, enterprises can cost effectively eliminate language barriers and reduce inbound calls, all while providing better experiences.

Best-in-class companies are leveraging these techniques to provide personalized employee experiences via preferred channels, resulting in reduced costs, increased satisfaction, and efficiency. Whether your service desk is advanced or just beginning, consider the following steps to master multilingual support:

  • Identify factors that enhance user experience, such as what preferred channels are available, how easy it is to report an issue, any gaps in coverage, the effort or time it takes to receive a response, the accuracy and relevancy of information being given, and more.
  • Track and quantify the requested languages across the employee base to determine which languages are high in volume or demand.
  • Measure and dissect metrics such as CSAT, FCR, CPC, TTR, Cost Per Incident, etc. by each language and identify which languages need more support, as well as what actions need to be taken.
  • Determine major gaps and ensure language support is provided to both primary and non-primary speakers.
  • Streamline journey maps to reduce employee effort and allow users access to a simplified path to issue resolution.
  • Investigate staffing options based on key metrics to determine which support solution is the most relevant for each language. 
  • Test, optimize, and expand—rinse and repeat.

Multilingual support is a growing priority for enterprise service desks. Second generation, artificial intelligence-based real-time translation technology is eliminating language barriers across chat, email, knowledge base, and other communications channels at a lower cost of service. In conjunction with over-the-phone interpretation, it’s easier than ever for service desks to provide the language support that employees, partners, and suppliers want and value.


Justin Robbins is a customer service expert focused on contact center operations and helping organizations appropriately define and achieve success. Over the past two decades, he's coached thousands of individuals around the globe on customer experience best practices. Justin leads the content strategies and community engagement initiatives for HDI and ICMI and is a speaker, trainer, and writer on topics such as customer service best practices, key performance indicators, and motivational business leadership. He's a professional member of the National Speakers Association and has been featured by the New York Times, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, Fox News, and numerous other media outlets.

Tom Tseki is the VP and general manager of Customer Care Solutions at Lionbridge. His experience and expertise includes helping organizations implement and leverage language and omnichannel strategies to improve employee, customer, and partner experiences while gaining internal efficiencies. He has a deep background in technology as it relates to communications, analytics, and workforce optimization, and he works closely with leaders on strategies to improve care while increasing productivity and satisfaction.


Tag(s): supportworld, technology, support center

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