CX: Creating a Competitive Edge in the Translation & Localization Industry

In a highly competitive industry, LSPs and translation agencies have traditionally tried to differentiate between themselves in areas such as price, speed, breadth of services, geographic coverage, customer service, marketing and branding.

Many of these areas however no longer provide the competitive margin they once did.

For example, it is easy now for a small, growing translation agency to add on design, interpreting and maybe voice overs to take on their bigger competition. Setting up a presence abroad through satellite offices again is easily achievable over the internet. Anyone working in translation knows full well about the commodification of pricing over the past 10 years or so and the declining margins in rates.

Today, the battleground has shifted away from those areas to the new one – technology, IT and how big your CAT tool is. Trademarked, super-speedy machine translation tools, that localize, optimize and digitalize the needs of the modern-day global organisation seem to be the zeitgeist of the translation and localization industry, especially in terms of differentiation.

This leaves a massive gap….actually lots of massive gaps, but let’s focus in on one in particular.

With a large percentage of LSPs still competing on traditional terms, and with most of the larger LSPs investing their time and efforts into machines that will eventually turn evil and kill us all, this leaves a gap for the LSP in the middle.

This is where Customer Experience comes in.

Within the industry very few are focusing on Customer Experience (a.k.a. CX) in the buying and selling cycle of translation, localization and language services.

Customer Service in many LSPs is excellent, but Customer Experience as a strategy, approach and a culture has not yet been embraced.

This provides a clear opportunity for those LSPs who want to shift into a new way of thinking and to move away from those old ways of competitive differentiation.

Although you may not be able to invest the millions into a The Terminator, you will be able to carve out a niche at the level you operate and start to become a leader in terms of customer acquisition.

So, if you are an LSP and want to take CX seriously what do you do?

Well, you if you don’t have the time, budget or energy you could ask a fantastic training company that specialises in CX workshops for translation companies to help you.

If you do have the time and energy, then great – you don’t even need a budget to get started!

Here’s 12 really simple steps we have put together for you along with some solid resources to help you start implementing a CX approach and culture at work.

1. Start reading & learning about CX

If you decide to go the DIY route you really need to start learning about CX. What does it mean? How does it work? When do we use it? Why can it fail? If you are new to CX then start with this really good introduction.

Then start spending regular time reading articles, listening to podcasts and soaking in as much as you can. If it is possible to have a few people involved it would really speed things along. Check out these resources here for a really comprehensive list of videos, podcasts and articles. Remember to always bring this back to translation and your own customers.

2. Pin down your company values

CX is about your company values being translated into how you make your customers and clients feel. If you don’t know what your values are, you’re CX will never amount to much as it will be built on weak foundations.

There are a number of ways of defining your values as a company. In some LSPs the big boss may simply say what they are. Others may want a more consensual approach. Others something in between.

As part of developing a CX approach and culture it is important to at least get employees involved in talking about and agreeing upon the values. Here is a link to some simple ideas on how to run team exercises that elicit values pretty well. You can do this in one session, or across many sessions such as weekly team meetings. If you don’t know what your core values are, what they should be, or need some inspiration, have a look at some of the more common examples of corporate core values here. 

3. Identify how you want to make customers feel

Once you understand your values, you will then have a much clearer idea of how you want to make your customers feel. Emotions are central to successful CX but you need to be very clear as to what emotions you actually want to bring about in your customers – if you want to deliver a relaxed experience with a West Coast ‘hey duuude’ vibe then your CX structure, approach and goals will look very different to one where you want to deliver an experience that stresses you are working with a company that places value on family, loyalty and security.

This is difficult for many companies, let alone LSPs, to do as the starting point is an emotion – something we are not used to focusing on in business. Have a read of this blog on emotional design and when you have time also check out this report from Forrester on measuring emotion in CX which offers lots of valuable insights. Remember to start with the customer – not yourself.

4. Create a Customer Journey Map

A Customer Journey Map is really simple and gives so much valuable information. This captures every single possible interaction and interface a customer ever has with your company. Every LSP should do one regardless of CX or not as it pretty much always exposes weaknesses in a company’s offerings, whether that’s how the website performs, how efficient communication is between teams or where there are opportunities for rationalise and simplify processes.

Here is a great resource on creating a journey map from Oracle; remember if you can’t get your whole team together for a long period of time to create the map, simply find a wide open space in your office where people can add to it over a coffee or when they think about things.

5. Identify strengths, weaknesses and gaps

Once you have completed the Customer Journey Map you need to sit down and run through a SWOT analysis of your company in terms of its ability to meet its CX goals. This should look at everything your company has to offer and where it needs to either improve or address issues.

This honest self-appraisal will then help you amplify your strengths into CX, remove or reduce the effects of your weaknesses and fill in any gaps with fruitful, positive ideas. If you are new to running a SWOT analysis with a team, here is a really handy guide to use.

6. Create a CX team

CX is too much for one person to deal with. Make sure you create a team that can drive CX forward in the company – empower them to do so. This not only ensures the responsibility is shared and that too much pressure is not piled into one pair of shoulders, but also brings in more views and opinions.

If possible, try to have people from different departments contributing to the team and it is critical that employees who actually deal with clients and customers are involved. Have a read of some ideas on what makes for a good CX team here as well as how to get the best out of them in this article here.

7. Make CX part of your meetings

CX will not work if it becomes a side project, assigned to an elite team that only shares information and updates now and again. CX is a daily thing – constant. As a minimum you need to start talking about CX in your regular meetings, whether weekly or monthly. This can be done as of now, even if it is mentioning that the company is going to be adopting the approach.

Until serious work starts you can always use team meetings to teach and learn about CX. For example, you might assign people with blogs or people to follow and each week someone explains about what they’ve read. Also may think about other ways of having your team meetings which can encourage ideas and sharing. Here are some for starters.

8. Start small with your CX ideas

CX is about momentum. If you don’t start with something, CX can often get lost, forgotten or diluted. Make small changes in the office ASAP. They don’t need to be complex, expensive or even that creative. Have a brainstorm as a team over 3, 5 or 10 things you can all start doing as a team to affect CX – this could be how phones answered, what you have on your email signatures, your website’s language or images, fun challenges between teams or even creating a small budget to make impressions on valued clients through Random Acts of Kindness.

9. Incentivize CX innovation

Especially in the early days, incentivizing CX ideas is a great way to encourage people to get involved. Everyone in a company needs to be involved from IT to HR to finance – this is not something for only sales and marketing. Think about how people can give their ideas, how and if they are recognised and rewarded and also how they may be realised. Remember not everyone wants cash so think about other ways to incentivize people…..or just give them cash!

10. Remember human beings

When forming your approach to CX remember you need to find a balance between technology and the human touch. Not everything can be automated. Some things which can, may be better left to human beings and vice-versa. A lot of this will come to your customer and what they need and want  – if slick, one-touch technology turns them on, then that’s fine, but remember this may turn off plenty of others. It is important to find the right balance, a point made by KPMG in their report on our digital future.

11. Recruit for CX

If you want to deliver great CX you need staff who are naturally dispositioned towards doing so. If the plan is to project an image of the company that is of shiny, happy people and your staff are a bunch of introverts who don’t like speaking to people before 10am and 3 coffees, then your CX plan will fail.

This is why you need to hire people for the purpose. Hiring people who are customer centric is crucial. In the world of translation, this also comes down to hiring of translators or linguists. Have a read of this blog from the Czech LSP Zelenka which looked at the hiring needs of the translation industry and how there is much more of a need to hire with clients in mind in order to produce better translations and thus a better customer experience.

12. How do you measure CX success?

As with any project, it is important to be able to measure if it’s working, or not. Many people assume that because we are dealing with emotions and something that is intangible that it is impossible to track or measure. Wrong.

There are plenty of ways such a some of these examples here, but ultimately the metrics you decide to use will come down to your own objectives as a company.

So, you ready to start the CX revolution at work? Good luck – go mix things up a bit and create a clear difference between you and the competition.