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Contact Centers And Importance for Interpreters

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I recently attended the Customer Contact Week in Austin, Texas, with a view to furthering my knowledge and understanding of the industry particularly as it relates to the interpreting industry. The CCW is the largest customer contact event series in the world, drawing in at least 3,000 attendees on an annual basis for over two decades. Professionals within the industry flock to the CCW every year to network with peers, glean valuable information from leading minds in the field, and find out more about which new technologies could impact on their individual vocations.

The 2019 CCW conference ran from September 16 – 19 and was, in my opinion, outstanding. Speakers included Alex Bentley of IBM, Micah Citti of ESPN and Utibe Bassey of Metlife, as well as key figures from Uber, Nike and Stitch Fix, among others. Topics covered included customer experience, employee experience and digital customer experience; executives shared about their own approaches to business, touching on what their best practices were, the challenges they’d faced and solutions they’d discovered along the way. You can find the full list of speakers here: [link:].

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Perhaps one of the highlights of the event was the address from celebrity keynote speaker Michelle Williams, formerly of R&B girl group Destiny’s Child. She delivered an inspirational speech about how she’s evolved as a professional since her time in the music scene, adding Broadway actress, television host and designer to her already-impressive resume. I found her address fascinating as she divulged more on Believe at Home, her latest collection of home products, and shared about her journey from world-famous musician to entrepreneur in her own right. I certainly took a lot away from her address, as well as those of the other speakers at the conference.

However, there were a number of additional facets to the event that I found particularly useful. My favorite aspect of the conference was the time spent in interactive discussion groups, during which attendees were given space to debate various topics within their individual industries. I’m definitely a fan of the “unconference” parts of these events, when participants get the chance to share about their own company experiences and best practices. Many of these conversations gravitated inexorably back to the subject of emerging technologies, particularly those that have the potential to disrupt the customer contact industry as a whole. For interpreters one of the key topics for discussion was Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Interpreters play a vital role in helping facilitate conversations with non-English speaking clients, and are often utilized in contact centers accessed by customer service representatives. Many language service companies (such as Translationz [link:]) have contracts with these contact centers, especially with those often experiencing difficulty communicating with their non-English speaking customers. In these instances, the contact centers can reach out to the language service company and speak to an on-demand interpreter who’s fluent in the specific language they require. Naturally, the introduction of AI into the interpreter industry could have huge implications for the human professionals who already inhabit it.

Speakers at the CCW devoted substantial time to AI and how its capabilities could impact on the future of the customer service field. In an ever-changing and adapting industry, customer demand for self-service channels is on the rise, with more and more tasks shifting from the human agent to the artificial operative. As a result, agents are now expected to engage customers on a deeper level and go beyond the standard exchange of information. Relatability and genuine connection are crucial. AI is often assigned to handle the mundane aspects of client contact, with customer service representatives usually taking over once personal details and the purpose of the call have been ascertained, inputting greater value into the interaction.

This is where interpreters are frequently required to engage with non-English speaking customers. Discerning executives understand the valuable role interpreters play in facilitating conversations in contact centers, where AI is often not yet capable of working through more complex interactions. Despite the ever-increasing presence of AI in the customer contact arena (and our everyday lives in general), interpreters certainly have a long-term future in the industry.

In short, I couldn’t recommend Customer Contact Week highly enough. It’s a fantastic opportunity to network with peers and increase your knowledge and understanding by drawing on the insights of the various speakers in attendance, as well as of those in your discussion groups. The Las Vegas conference [link:] is normally the most well-attended, but every CCW event is well worth visiting for anyone in the industry.

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Book your tickets now for the 2020 CCW conference. Next one is in Nashville in January. – I’d love to see you there.

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