“Using highly efficient LangOps, organizations can grow globally without having to worry about hiring expensive native speakers. AI-powered translation, along with humans who can weigh in and help perfect the language, means a higher ROI, a larger customer base, and thus, more profit from its global outreach,” says, João Graça, Co-founder & Chief Technology Officer at Unbabel, in an exclusive interview with TalkCMO.
TCMO Bureau: What role does Natural Language Processing (NLP) play in digital marketing, and why should brands care?
João Graça: NLP plays an essential role in digital marketing, because it bridges the gap between machine translation and human understanding. With natural language processing, brands can do a better job of capturing the contextual and cultural nuances of a language. The more brands can connect with customers on a “human” level, the more trust is built.
When it comes to digital marketing, language is often used in headlines to create emotion and urgency, which spurs action. However, if the language is off, the “feeling” doesn’t translate. Brands should care, because customers today want authenticity and shared understanding when they interact with a company. NLP is helping to capture that, in any language.
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TCMO Bureau: How can voice assistants and chatbots driven by natural language processing (NLP) assist in offering better, more focused customer and employee service responses?
João Graça: Absolutely! One of the key things about NLP is that it infuses human intelligence, the soft skills that machines do not inherently have. For example, being able to detect emotion or offer empathy to a customer or employee that has an issue that needs resolution. The next generation of NLP will improve the quality of responses by “reading between the lines” of language. Perhaps the words themselves do not say something, but a particular tone or language usage might raise red flags. Picking up on the subtleties of language with voice assistants for example (intonations, pauses, etc.), will help customer and employee service agents to better focus on what’s most important to the people on the other end of the line.
TCMO Bureau: What impact does AI-powered LangOps have on business performance? How can AI-powered LangOps help increase customer satisfaction and brand awareness?
João Graça: Integrating a LangOps platform, which combines the best of language tech with the expertise of human editors and operationalizes it across every function of a company, will turbo-charge business performance. Rather than language/translation/localization being in a silo (isolated in customer service for instance), language technology is infused across all functions (marketing/sales, product, finance, etc.), which brings huge efficiencies and economies of scale to global brands.
Rather than having to hire native speakers in every region, LangOps allows for human agents to become super polyglots (speaking 30 languages instantly). With the help and combination of AI and human editors, they can now respond to customers in their native tongue. LangOps enables businesses to expand their reach faster by being able to keep up with the growing global demands. By enabling anyone to communicate in a specific language, LangOps also encourages organizations to hire the best person for the role, rather than prioritizing what language someone can speak.
AI-powered LangOps means connecting with more customers in their language across all functions, which boosts satisfaction and brand awareness, as companies can reach more people in their preferred languages.
TCMO Bureau: What role does an AI-based translation service play in a company’s growth and profitability?
João Graça: AI-powered translation services are a catalyst to company growth and profitability. Thanks to technology, geographic boundaries have essentially been erased. The last remaining obstacle for global expansion is often language — how can you communicate with new markets?
Using highly efficient LangOps, organizations can grow globally without having to worry about hiring expensive native speakers. AI-powered translation, along with humans who can weigh in and help perfect the language, means a higher ROI, a larger customer base, and thus, more profit from its global outreach.
TCMO Bureau: What effect has the pandemic had on the quality of language translation and localization?
João Graça: According to Unbabel’s recent Language Operations (LangOps) survey of decision-makers at organizations operating globally, 62% of companies have increased their translation and localization efforts since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The massive spike in online shopping across borders during the pandemic is one of the biggest drivers of this increase. Research from eMarketer found that worldwide retail ecommerce sales grew by 27.6% during 2021 (despite a mid-pandemic prediction of a 16.5% growth rate).
While we didn’t study the impact on the quality of translations during this time, we do know that the need for translations skyrocketed. In turn, the awareness of the need for a unified global solution – one that would boost quality across the organization – has also increased.
Technology enabled more interconnectedness between populations and brought to the forefront the need to communicate frictionlessly in any language. Global brands need to provide standardized customer service, independent of a customer’s language, to attract and retain customers beyond their borders.
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TCMO Bureau: How can a Translation Engine help marketing, customer care, and sales teams?
João Graça: These three teams are all external-facing, and are critical to a company’s success and brand reputation. A translation engine helps make first impressions as positive as possible, as it makes sure people working in marketing, customer care and sales are speaking in a prospect or customers native language.
As language is the key to communication, and ultimately understanding, having a translation engine working for your brand is a secret weapon to building customer trust and loyalty. These are the foundation of an ongoing customer relationship, which is what all brands are trying to forge.
TCMO Bureau: How do AI and Content Marketing Technologies help campaigns be more effective at each stage of the user journey?
João Graça: From the first impression (via marketing) to the first interaction (questions to the sales team), and first purchase and customer service inquiry, marketing campaigns must accurately speak to the users’ current stage in their journey.
Synching up AI with content marketing can help ensure that this happens, so that someone who has already purchased a brand’s product is not getting a piece of content targeted to a prospective client. The “smart” part of AI knows the context of a user’s relationship. Delivering the right content, with the right messaging, at the right time can make or break a user’s impression of a brand.
João Graça is a Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Unbabel, an AI-powered Language Operations platform that helps businesses deliver multilingual support at scale. Previously, he worked with INESC-ID developing research in natural language processing (NLP) and went on to do his PostDoc in NLP at the University of Pennsylvania. João developed a new statistical learning method that allowed for the insertion of declarative knowledge during learning, unlocking previously impossible-to-tackle problems. He is also one of the co-founders of the Lisbon Machine Learning Summer School (LxMLS).