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How neural machine translation and artificial intelligence can enhance the customer experience

(Image credit: Image Credit: Georgejmclittle / Shutterstock)

Whilst content may be king, too many businesses overlook the fact that its ability to resonate with audiences is wholly dependent on them understanding it. Content can only ever truly resonate and drive compelling customer experiences (CX) if it is translated in a way that connects with the reader.

After all, so much time is dedicated to creating meaningful messages, stories and information for readers, it would be amiss for companies to undermine this with poor translation. 

Taking this into account, achieving positive customer experiences (CX) should be top of the agenda for any business with a digital content strategy. This is why it is more important than ever for brands that are global, or have ambitions to go global, to wake up to the demand for quality translation. 

A mistake or a glitch in your language translation or cultural understanding can completely derail the customer journey.

Customers use and demand a wide variety of content before they make a buying decision on a product or service. This can include in-depth product information such as manuals, user guides and technical content, to educate themselves throughout their buying journey. Any inconsistency or hurdle within that journey puts their willingness to buy at risk. And why would any business do that?

The bottom line is - with today’s digital consumers being more demanding, and harder to gain long term loyalty from - providing a quality customer experience is essential. 

You need to speak your customer’s language

It is fundamental for a brand to be in a position where they can address their customers directly by speaking their language.

CX differentiates brands from one another. In today’s digital market, it is no longer just about the quality of the products or services on offer. It is about convenience, ease-of-use and the pleasure a consumer derives from their experience when engaging with a brand.

In a world in which brand loyalty is no longer a given, customers will switch off from those brands that don’t respect the language, customs or rules of etiquette in their local market.

A deep understanding of these aspects, coupled with the latest technology advances in Neural Machine Translation (NMT), helps brands to develop their global userbase.

Lost in translation

Despite the proliferation of opportunities for brands to grow their customer base globally, too many still fail to speak to customers in their native language. This results in the delivery of a poor customer experience that will only serve to turn them off.

Many marketers have realised this and are making active efforts to improve their offerings. However, many of them are still missing a key element: neural machine translation.

Translation is such a fundamental part of the very concept of great customer experience. And, to please today’s demanding consumers, it has to be so good that they cannot even spot it.

This means that every single customer touchpoint- as well as the numerous points of engagement that consumers can potentially have - with a brand must speak directly to people in their own language, both literally and culturally.

Neural machine translation: The backbone of good CX

According to a recent study, 75 per cent of companies say their top objective is to improve customer experience. So then, why are so many brands and marketers still failing to speak directly to their audiences in an accurate and efficient way, and on an on-going basis?

Despite companies having this goal, too many marketers are still surprised to find that quality machine translation (MT) is the backbone of good customer experience. It allows brands to not only find new customers but to encourage existing customers to stay loyal, due to the high level of engagement they have with the brand.

Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine translation allows businesses and brands globally to translate content, both externally (for example, on their website or mobile app) and internally (such as on a company email) at scale, in a matter of seconds.

This means that technology is able to really “listen” to people at a global enterprise level, at a national level and at a hyper-local level – enabling business and marketing communications to become more accurate, relevant and effective.

Cultural nuances, local context and etiquette

Successfully communicating with locals requires considerably more than just learning and speaking the local language. It demands a deep understanding of specific localised messaging. For example, the colour red in China symbolises good/prosperity, yet represents bad/danger in most Western countries.

Elsewhere, in the US, stocks that are up are green; stocks down are red. Yet in Taiwan, it’s the reverse.

It is vital that brands are able to understand these local nuances in order for them to serve relevant content to each customer.

In addition to cultural differences and nuances, there are also numerous etiquette differences that machine translation can factor in. For example, calling someone by their first name is common in the US, but in Japan, you would not address an elder and child in the same way.

The value of MT: educating the wider business

In the age of the customer, the Holy Grail for brands is delivering a seamless and personalised experience across every channel to each consumer, new and old.

With this in mind, it is vital that more marketers and C-suite executives start to see machine translation as a “must-have” and not a “nice-to-have” in the broader business strategy mix.

The fact is that machine translation should be central to any marketing and business strategy. Yet, precisely because it is largely an invisible part of the customer experience, it’s often overlooked. The C-suite need to better understand its value and business benefits.

After all, if management teams are not bought into the wider, longer-term business benefits of MT - such as the real-time translation of high volumes of content with ever increasing quality - then its adoption will be severely limited.

Machine translation is the engine behind successful marketing. It puts the brand in touch with the customer in a more personalised way than ever before. It enables brands to find new customers and to encourage existing customers to stay loyal because of the personalised experience they get every time they engage.

Mihai Vlad, VP AI & Machine Learning, SDL
Image Credit: Georgejmclittle / Shutterstock

Mihai Vlad is VP of Machine Learning Solutions at SDL. He is in charge of the Commercial Strategy for the Machine Translation division, and all the Machine Learning and AI solutions SDL is bringing to market.