Five Golden Rules to Achieve Agile Localization


Five Golden Rules to Achieve Agile Localization

Illustrations by Julia Feng (

Agile_Loc_LogoOver the past decade, many software development teams have switched their development methodology from a waterfall model to something much more agile such as Scrum. Through this transition, their expectations towards other teams such as Localization have changed and these teams have had to improve their agility too.

At Adobe, we have a centralized Localization group that currently supports 135 product and functional teams. Most of these teams have adopted some form of agile development methodologies and have reduced their development cycle from 18-24 months to yearly, quarterly, monthly and, these days, bi-weekly releases. A couple of Adobe product teams and other companies are even releasing updated versions of their product multiple times per day, making it imperative for Localization to keep improving its agility.

Drawn from our experience, this article presents Five Golden Rules that need to be satisfied in order to achieve optimal agile localization.

Rule 1 – “We are one Team!”

Within many companies, Adobe included, Localization is a centralized function serving all product and functional (e.g. Marketing, Sales, Legal, etc.) teams. This structure makes sense because localization is a specialized field, therefore resources (people, tools) and processes can be leveraged across the company. Nonetheless, localization should still be everyone’s concern. The Localization team can come up with many solutions, but the best ones originate when there is a true partnership between the product/functional and localization teams.

We're one team!

We’re one team!

The most agile teams treat Localization staff as if it were part of their own team.

A core aspect of Scrum is to include all skill sets, including localization, required to deliver a product to users. Therefore, Localization team members must be included in all development aspects – from backlog review to retrospective – so they could plan and address international issues early on. Strong partnerships also need to be established with localization vendors when companies, such as Adobe, engage with partners and vendors for their translation and testing activities.

Customer engagement is a key aspect of agile methodologies as it validates the quality and usefulness of the work performed thus far. We recommend engaging with international customers too, because their issues increase awareness around internationalization.

In summary, all stakeholders (development teams, functional teams including localization, vendors and customers) need to collaborate closely in order to achieve great agility.

Rule 2 – “Internationalization is King”

In our Globalization Myth Series, we defined Internationalization (commonly abbreviated as i18n) as an engineering exercise focused on generalizing a product so that it can handle multiple languages, scripts and cultural conventions (currency, sorting rules, number, date and time formats…) without the need for redesign.

Internationalization is King

In other words, the better internationalized an application is, the easier it will be to localize.

In the waterfall model, teams could possibly work around some of the internationalization deficiencies because of longer development cycles. Unfortunately, in the agile world, there is not enough time to look for work-around solutions anymore. The code needs to be internationalized from the get-go.

There are various approaches to improve internationalization in a company, which includes the following:

  • I18n_EducationEducation: Training core developers is an effective way to reduce the number of internationalization issues in a product. By exposing engineers to localization and internationalization issues, they gain a broader perspective on the impact of their code and avoid some of the classic internationalization pitfalls.


  • I18n_LibrariesInternationalization Libraries: Leveraging Open Source internationalization libraries, such as ICU or JavaScript i18n, is another good practice. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, engineers can reuse code that has already been validated by others. Also, i18n libraries usually support 100+ locales, which require a significant amount of research and development time. It will be hard for a single team or even company to support so many locales.
  • Peer_ReviewCode review: Practicing peer reviews  is an effective method to reduce internationalization defects in a product. Since developers know their code will be reviewed, they pay more attention to its quality (peer pressure effect) so it also benefits internationalization. Some companies even automate this review process using tools such as Globalyzer.
  • Globalization Report Card: Benchmarking products against an ideal architecture helps to improve internationalization too. As part of our World-Readiness program, we created a Globalization Report Card system to assess the degree of world-readiness in each Adobe product. This scorecard measures products against a set of internationalization criteria (ability to input international characters, display date formats, translate the user interface, and so on…). It is an efficient way to track progress made by each team over time and can even create some healthy competition among product teams. These teams are motivated to be on top of the i18n charts!

Globalization Report Card

Rule 3 – “Integrate Localization into the Development Process”

To release a new product, development teams have many high-priority tasks and usually prefer not to have to worry about localization until necessary. As a consequence, localizability issues are often discovered too late and encounter the risk of being deferred to a future release. Product teams don’t always anticipate the impact of a particular task/feature on localization, and quite often, the Localization team isn’t able to influence design or development until the feature is already implemented.

In an agile process, features and development tasks are tracked in a backlog and reviewed at the beginning of every sprint. To eliminate the side effects of the “throw-over-the-wall” model described above, it is critical to include Localization representatives during these sprint-planning meetings so more visibility and importance are given to the localization tasks. This also provides great educational value to all stakeholders who can then understand the impact of their decisions on the localization process. Localization or a proxy should also attend the daily sprint meetings to keep up with the development pace and decisions. By attending these meetings, Localization team members can be much more proactive and influent.

Localization Process Integration

Adobe Revel and are examples of teams that integrate localization into their development process. They also prioritize localization intensive features/tasks upfront – carving enough time for the Localization team to run its process and deliver high-quality localized releases.

In a recent Localization World event, Amrit Singh (International Program Manager for our Installation technologies) presented LocBan (Kanban applied to Localization). Just like in a Toyota factory, the Localization team maintains a board of “To Do”, “Work In Progress” and “Done” tasks which provides great visibility on the localization “conveyor belt”. Similarly, it would be beneficial to maintain Kanban boards for each translator. In the waterfall model, translators used to receive large localization kits, which they had to scramble to complete within the deadline. In the agile world, translators are now able to “pull” work as their bandwidth opens up.

Localization Kanban

By using an integrated Kanban board, everyone has a clear understanding of all the various dependencies and accountabilities, resulting in stronger collaboration and higher success rate.

Rule 4 – “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”

Localization can generate a lot of waste if not planned properly. So, it is key to become “green” in order to become more “agile”.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle


It is clear that reducing the localization effort will have a positive impact on a team’s agility. This could be achieved in 2 ways: by validating the localization scope and by reducing the translation waste generated during the localization process.

  • Reducing Localization Scope

The Localization Manager’s job is to ensure the company localizes the right product and content into the right language set. At Adobe, we have had situations in which we were localizing too much content. For example, using Adobe’s Digital Marketing Suite, we discovered that Russian customers prefer reading Development documentation (such as API descriptions) in English rather than in Russian. We were able to save a lot of time and cost by removing this component from our localization requirements.

Similarly, through market research, we discovered that most Middle-Eastern Creative Suite customers prefer to use an English user interface with Arabic or Hebrew documentation. This combination makes English content such as videos and tutorials more accessible to them.

In short, tracking web analytics and engaging with customers, power users, pre-release testers and geos constitute a great way to validate the localization requirements and improve agility.

  • Reducing Localization Waste

Once the localization requirements are confirmed, it is key to limit the translation waste generated during the localization process. This obviously impacts the translators’ work but also the bandwidth of the localization staff.

Sweep Away Waste!An effective way to reduce localization waste is by understanding its root cause. At Adobe, we categorize all localization defects through a common set of keywords, which provides us with a good picture of the issues faced across products. We can then develop solutions to reduce, if not eliminate, these defects.

Localization waste sometimes originates from English strings -assuming English is the source language. Indeed, translations created before English strings get finalized will need to be revisited and will likely generate some waste.

In the agile world, we can’t afford that extra time, so it is important to validate the English content before handing it off to the translators. Doing something as simple as spell checking can help to reduce a lot of localization waste. In a product such as InDesign, about 3% of the English user interface strings are updated once they get reviewed for spelling and grammatical mistakes. For a product that is localized into 25 languages, this represents a waste equivalent to 75% of a single language scope!

Also, many of the software localization testing activities are necessary because localization is happening out of context. Solving that problem can tremendously speed up the localization process. In an ideal world, localization should be a product feature that allows translators to translate the user interface in-context. Facebook did a great job in this area by enabling translators (in this case its user community) to translate and provide feedback within the application itself. Alternatively, translators should be provided context information through builds, screenshots or meta-data information (e.g. developer comments, feature name, expected delivery time, etc.).

To reduce waste, it is also recommended that localizers develop glossaries, style guides and tools that leverage previous localizations.

Ultimately, it’s critical for translators to validate their work as they translate. That way, activities down the production line can be eliminated or reduced, which makes the entire process more agile.


Reuse when it makes sense!Reusing strings can sometimes be a source of challenging defects in software localization, so it has to be handled carefully. For example, the English string “none” could be translated as “aucun” or “aucune” in French based on the gender of the noun to which it refers.

That said, reusing strings – in the same context – could also help to improve agility, since these strings won’t need to be translated multiple times.

An area where Adobe has experienced positive results with reducing and reusing English content is in our instructional content. In documentation, Adobe relies on Acrolinx to control the quality of the English (source) content. Authors need to use a certain authoring style (e.g. shorter sentences) and are encouraged to leverage existing paragraphs (e.g. legal disclaimers). This improves consistency in the English documentation and has the great benefit of reducing the localization workload too.

Similarly, DITA (read Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: Developing a Reuse Strategy for DITA) and Content Management Systems such as Adobe Experience Manager (formerly known as Day CQ) are designed to reuse/share content across multiple channels and publications.


Recycling is the process of transforming existing materials (or waste) such that they could be reused again – sometimes for a totally different purpose. Creating polar fleeces from used plastic bottles or isolating walls using old denim jeans are classic examples of recycling.

Such transformations can apply to translations too. Translators don’t need to translate every sentence from scratch. Translation technologies such as Translation Memories and Machine Translation engines can help translators recycle previous translations and speed up the translation process. At Adobe, we have experienced dramatic productivity gains when we used these technologies. In general, a translator supported by these technologies will deliver in an hour what other translators would deliver in a day. These are impressive gains that contribute to localization agility too.

Rule 5 – Automate, Automate, Automate

The last requirement to achieve agile localization is automation. With agile, you can’t afford to send translation requests through e-mails or cut and paste strings from a spreadsheet to a source file. All translation hand-offs should be automated and managed through a centralized system. Over the years, Adobe’s Globalization team has developed such a platform. This system is able to connect with various source control systems, manage translation jobs, leverage existing translations across projects and content types and provide machine translation engines. In the Globalization Myth 4 article, Guta Ribeiro introduced Airport, our new system to automatically connect with our vendors and help us march towards our lofty one-hour translation goal.


Beyond translation, it’s also important to automate other aspects of the localization process, such as build, quality assurance, bug fixing, screenshots and distribution of the localized releases. We can only go as fast as our slowest component, which is why it’s critical to automate all aspects of the localization process.


Localization agility can be achieved as long as all stakeholders work as a unified team. It is critical for core engineers to develop well-internationalized code from the get-go. This can be achieved via training, code reviews, usage of (Open Source) internationalization libraries and globalization report cards.

The localization process should be fully integrated within the overall development process so that all dependencies and accountabilities are clear. We recommend using Kanban boards (via tools such as Trello) to raise this visibility. To become agile, it’s also important to act “green” (i.e. reduce, reuse and recycle). Doing so represents an effective way to control waste generation before and during the localization process. Finally, all efforts should be made to automate all parts of the streamlined localization process.

At Adobe, not all localization projects are handled with great agility – yet! Some projects are more agile than others. However, based on our experience, we believe agility can be achieved by adopting these Five Golden Rules:

  1. “We are One Team!”
  2. “Internationalization is King”
  3. “Integrate Localization into the Development Process”
  4. “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”
  5. “Automate, Automate, Automate”


Special thanks to Rob Jaworski, Amrit Pal Singh, Ashish Saxena, Janice Campbell,  Leandro Reis, Peter Green, Julia Feng and Quynn Le for their invaluable feedback on this article.


The Oxford City Council Partners With Language Services Associates to Make Local Government Services More Culturally and Linguistically Accessible


The Oxford City Council Partners With Language Services Associates to Make Local Government Services More Culturally and Linguistically Accessible


Media Contact:
Keri Robinson
PR & Marketing Communication Manager
Language Services Associates

The Oxford City Council Partners With Language Services Associates to Make Local Government Services More Culturally and Linguistically Accessible
New Partnership Includes Telephonic Interpretation Support for all Enquiries Related to Council Services

Redditch, England (April 29, 2013)Oxford City Council announces a new partnership with Language Services Associates (LSA) to improve the provision of language services for its linguistically diverse community.  Through this new partnership, Limited English Proficient (LEP) residents of Oxford will have greater access to on-demand interpretation support in more than 200 languages for all enquiries related to Council services, including housing services, community safety and tourism.

“We were keen to engage with a language provider who would aim for excellence in terms of responsiveness in user information / tools and also management reporting and data regarding the use of the service,” said a Council spokesperson.  “After taking references from a prominent London Local Authority, where LSA currently provides telephone interpreting services, together, with a competitive quote, we felt that working in partnership with LSA would lead to real opportunities to deliver a great language service to the citizens of Oxford.”

According to 2011 Census data, international migration has been the key driving factor in the city of Oxford’s population growth, resulting in an increase in ethnic and linguistic diversity and, thus, the number of LEP residents relying on the Council for culturally and linguistically accessible services.  Out of Oxford’s total population of 151,900, 28% were born outside of the UK (compared to 19% in 2001), with the most common non-UK countries of birth being Poland, the United States, India, Germany and Pakistan.

Via LSA’s premier INTERPRETALK® Interpreting by Telephone service, Council Customer Services Officers will be able to access a qualified telephonic Interpreter within seconds when faced with a language barrier.  These new and improved interpretation services are currently available for the LEP residents of Oxford when making any enquiry through the Contact Centre and / or visiting the St Aldate’s Customer Service Centre for in-person Council services support.

“The Council is extremely progressive in its aim to create greater accessibility to public services, and their drive to be efficient in doing so will always present a challenge to any specialist partner,” commented LSA’s European Commercial Director, Jon Potter.  “Particularly pleasing was the natural synergy between the way the Council wanted to move forward, and the methods LSA routinely employs to support Authorities in exactly this way.  The benefits have already begun to emerge, and we’re looking forward towards facilitating greater ‘equality’ in a city that represents such heritage.”

About Language Services Associates
Founded in 1991 by Laura K.T. Schriver, Language Services Associates (LSA) is proud to offer a full range of premier language-based services, including Translation and Localization, Video Remote Interpreting, INTERPRETALK® Interpreting by Telephone, Face-to-Face Interpreting, American and British Sign Language and Intercultural Consulting.  With over 150 employees and a network of more than 5,000 Independently Contracted global Linguists, LSA fulfills the multicultural communication needs of more than 2,000 clients worldwide in over 200 language offerings across virtually every industry segment.  For more information on LSA, EMEA, please call 0808.234.1917 or visit us online at


Posted – April 29th, 2013
Categories – Press Releases .

Hospitals implement LSA’s video-interpreting



Media Contacts:
Keri Robinson
215.259.7000 X55356

Daniel Hollingshead

Connected Patients, LLC Announces New Video Remote Interpreting Module on ConnectMeTM Computer Systems
New Service Will Eliminate Language Barriers While Improving Patient Care and Satisfaction

Lexington, KY (January 3, 2013) – Through a new partnership with LSA Video, Inc., a leading provider of professional Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) services, Connected Patients, LLC is pleased to announce a major enhancement to its ConnectMeTM computer terminals.  Effective immediately, ConnectMeTM users will be able to access qualified American Sign Language (ASL) and foreign language interpreters on demand via the bed-side, touch-screen computer system.

Dan Hollingshead, President and CEO of Connected Patients, LLC sees a lot of upside in the new partnership.  “The ConnectMeTM system is incredibly simple to use but also powerful and flexible.  We’ve leveraged those strengths, adding on-demand video interpreting which we know will help our customers improve communication with their patient population which is becoming more diverse every day.  Partnering with LSA, a leader in this space, ensures the highest level of service and professionalism.  We’re very excited about the possibilities!”

The new ConnectMeTM VRI module will not only help hospitals better meet the needs of its Limited English Proficient, Deaf and Hard of Hearing patient populations, but will help improve patient care and satisfaction.  Through the secure VRI platform,  patient and clinician will be able to see and hear the remote interpreter as if he or she were right there in the room, ensuring timely, effective and completely accurate communication for both parties.  With the ability to instantly connect to a live professional interpreter (removing the patient / provider communication barrier with just the click of a button), VRI helps hospitals and healthcare organizations comply with the new Joint Commission Standards for Patient-Centered Communication.

“We’re very pleased to announce our new partnership with Connected Patients, LLC, and we’re looking forward to our VRI platform being added to the already successful ConnectMeTM computer systems,” said Starla Keith, Executive Vice President, LSA.  “We anticipate a long and mutually rewarding partnership for years to come as we work together to eliminate patient / provider language barriers and enhance the patient experience through cutting-edge technology solutions.”

About Connected Patients, LLC
Connected Patients, LLC is a Lexington, KY-based technology company committed to providing health care facilities and their patients with solutions leading to a better patient experience. The company specializes in user-friendly ConnectMeTMterminals which can either be installed bedside or mounted on an articulating arm, readily useable by clinicians, patients, and their families. The ConnectMeTM terminal has an LCD touch-screen with large, easy to use virtual buttons. The system can be viewed at

About LSA Video, Inc.
LSA Video, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Language Services Associates (LSA).  Founded in 1991 by Laura K.T. Schriver, who still holds the title of President and CEO, LSA offers a full range of language-based services, including Translation and Localization, Video Remote Interpreting, INTERPRETALK® Interpreting by Telephone, Face-to-Face Interpreting, American Sign Language and Intercultural Consulting.  With over 150 employees and a network of more than 5,000 Independently Contracted global Linguists, LSA fulfills the multicultural communication needs of more than 2,000 clients worldwide in over 200 languages.  For more information on LSA Video, Inc., please contact Jon Potter on 0808 234 1917 (ext 55373)

The UK’s First National Flexischooling Conference


SC Education is an organisation that provides a range of programmes, training and support services to help people better understand and adopt progressive learning practices, such as flexischooling and home education. Here is further general information from the two main different perspectives:

The UK’s First National Flexischooling Conference is being held on 2nd November 2012 at the Britannia Hotel, Coventry. Book your place here

If you’re a head teacher, governor, or someone with a vested interest in education, it is worth investing some time learning about how flexischooling can work for you, your students and your teachers. This conference carries an open invitation to be introduced to or learn more about the subject of flexischooling, its benefits, implementation and challenges.

Delegates will hear from some of the UK’s top educators who have experience of flexischooling from both a practical and pedagogical viewpoint. Sessions will cover a range of issues on the subject of flexischooling, including:

  • What is flexischooling and what is a good model?
  • Examples of flexischooling in action.
  • Benefits and challenges of flexischooling

This is an unmissable event, and the following speakers list represents an unprecedented level of experience and expertise:

Dr Paul Kelley
Best known for his innovative headship of Monkseaton High School in the North East, Paul has worked with BBC,
European Union, OECD, UK government and others to create, test and share better educational solutions. More…

Graham Stuart MP
Graham has been active as MP for Beverley and Holderness since 2005. He is passionate about education and joined the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee in 2007. Following the General Election in 2010, he we elected as Chairman of the Education Committee. More…

Peter Humphreys
Chair of the Centre for Personalised Education, Peter has many years experience as a primary headteacher. He has since worked extensively as an educational consultant and currently works with the Birmingham City University on their teacher training programme. More…

Dan Buckley
Fellow of Education Impact, Dan is also winner of the BECTA Secondary Leadership award and the UK National Teacher of the Year award for Innovation and Creativity. He  has considerable experience of innovation in learning and teaching. In his current capacity as Director of Research and Development at Cambridge Education he has developed the PbyP (Personalisation by Pieces) framework. More…

Alison Sauer
Alison is an elective home educating mother and director of SC Education – the company responsible for bringing you the Flexible Futures conference. She works extensively with local authorities and is currently liaising with the DFE to promote flexischooling as a recognised and credible system.

Lord Lucas – Chair of discussion panel
Lord Lucas has been in the House of Lords since 1992 and has edited The Good Schools Guide for many years. As someone passionate about education, he often comments and debates on government education policy.

Janette Mountford-Lees
Janette is headteacher of Hollingsclough School in North Staffordshire and has seen major improvements since introducing the flexischooling programme. Her implementation of the system has drawn wide media coverage and she is one of its most ardent supporters.

Fatima D’Oyen
Fatima is the principal of the Manara Academy in Leicester – a Montessori-inspired Islamic school with a flexischool programme. She is widely experienced in the area of holistic education and is a founding trustee of The Quest Foundation for Learning.

Simon East
Simon is headteacher of Erpingham Primary School in Norfolk and has made great strides while presiding over their flexischooling programme. School roll has increased and the school has gained a solid reputation among flexischool parents across the region. More…

  • Click here to register for the event.
  • Download a PDF copy of the conference leaflet.
  • Download a PDF copy of the provisional conference schedule.
  • Click here for our flexischooling page.

Language Services Associates and Action Deafness Communications Join Forces to Eliminate Language Barriers




Media Contacts:
Keri Robinson
PR & Marketing Communication Manager
Language Services Associates
215.259.7000 X55356

Russell James
Communications Manager
Action Deafness Communications

Language Services Associates and Action Deafness Communications Join Forces to Eliminate Language Barriers
First Partnership to Offer Video Remote Interpreting Services for British Sign Language and Foreign Language Support in the UK Through a Proprietary Platform

Redditch, England (May 4, 2012) – Language Services Associates (LSA), a global language services provider offering a full suite of translation, localization and interpretation solutions, is pleased to announce a new and unprecedented partnership with Action Deafness Communications.  Through this strategic partnership, Local Government Authorities, including recently Walsall Council, are able to meet their sensory impairment and foreign language requirements in a unique and innovative way.  Front-line services now have access to Action Deafness’ highly qualified and specialist British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreters, as well as LSA’s foreign language Interpreters, on demand through LSA’s cutting-edge Video Remote Interpreting platform.  The LSA / Action Deafness Communications partnership is the only UK entity offering a fully functioning, fully qualified, secure video-remote proprietary platform for obtaining interpreters in both BSL and foreign language.

Through a dedicated online Web portal, Council Staff have instant access to both organizations together.  The e-mail addresses and phone numbers listed on the dedicated website channel communications instantly to LSA and Action Deafness Communications simultaneously, allowing the Council seamless and trustworthy contact with both specialist organizations.  Users also have the option to book professional interpretation services online, over the phone or via e-mail.

“LSA’s partnership with Action Deafness Communications is consultative and inclusive, based on many levels of operational integration, and designed to offer a single channel of access to both spoken languages and high quality specialist deaf-related services and expertise,” said Jonathan Potter, European Commercial Director, LSA.  “We look forward to a long and very successful partnership for both organizations in their unified support for front-line Government services.”

“I am pleased to announce that Action Deafness and LSA are working together to provide a comprehensive range of services to both foreign language and Sign Language users,” said Craig Crowley, MBE, CEO of Action Deafness.  “I am confident that our joint commitment to quality and value for money services will enhance the range of services available to the clients that we support.”

About Language Services Associates
For more than 20 years, Language Services Associates (LSA) has been facilitating foreign language communication and eliminating multicultural communication barriers across various industry segments, including healthcare, government, financial services, manufacturing, education and life sciences.  With a focus on the latest innovations and newest technology solutions, LSA’s premier language-based services are completely customizable and have been designed to enhance the client’s overall experience, reduce costs and improve end-user efficiency and productivity.  Founded in 1991 by Laura K.T. Schriver, who still holds the title of President and CEO, LSA is proud to offer a full range of language translation services and language interpreter services, including Translation and Localization, Video Remote Interpreting, INTERPRETALK® Interpreting by Telephone, Face-to-Face Interpreting, American Sign Language and Intercultural Consulting.  With over 150 employees and a network of more than 5,000 Independently Contracted global Linguists, LSA fulfills the multicultural communication needs of more than 2,000 clients worldwide in over 200 language offerings.  For more information on LSA, please call 0800.234.1917 or visit us online.

About Action Deafness Communications
Action Deafness Communications provides Sign Language Interpreting as well as other forms of communication support for Deaf, hard of hearing, deafened and Deafblind communities.  The service currently employs five Interpreters as well as drawing on a large pool of freelance Language Service Professionals (LSPs).  The organization ensures that all LSPs are CRB checked and are registered with the National Register of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind people and have appropriate Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII), in line with the national minimum standards required for Sign Language Interpreters.  The service is completely confidential and available for use within a wide variety of settings, such as events and conferences, meetings and training sessions, medical and legal appointments and workplace interviews.  For more information on Action Deafness Communications, please call 0844.593.8443 or visit us online.


5 Ways to Improve Call Center Customer Service, While Controlling Costs (by Lynn Dick)


In today’s competitive environment, call center managers are under more pressure than ever to reduce costs while improving efficiency levels and overall customer satisfaction. And it’s no surprise that exceptional customer service support leads to an increase in customer satisfaction. This article will provide contact center professionals with five tips for improving customer service in the call center while controlling costs.

1. Live Chat Support
In today’s multi-channel world, where online communications are becoming more and more popular, live chat support is an easy and cost-effective way to improve the customer’s overall experience, while enhancing your customer service offering. It’s important to note that live chat support should not replace other methods of client communication but should be added to your existing customer service touch point model (i.e., phone, email, face-to-face and social media).

With live chat software, your contact center agents will be able to engage in multiple chats simultaneously, making your online customer service offering much more cost-effective than the phone. Your customers will also be able to submit their inquires via a Web-based interface, eliminating their need to dial the call center for non-call center related issues, reducing overhead costs on both personnel and phone expenses. Live chat support will put the human touch into a self-service customer care option, while ensuring customers get the help that they need when they need it – in real-time.

2. Incentive-Based Programs for Agents
As every call center manager knows, one of the easiest and most effective ways to motivate call center staff is through the development and implementation of incentive-based programs. It’s no surprise that employees are more motivated to provide exceptional support when they know they will be recognized, and rewarded, for their hard work.

A big misconception, however, is that these programs will cost an organization a tremendous amount of money. That is not necessarily true. There are simple, easy-to-implement contests that will allow for healthy competition in the call center – while still controlling overall costs. For example, you can award Paid Time Off (PTO) to the contact center agent who has the fastest connect time, best answer speed or highest number of calls taken by the end of the shift, day or week. Awarding your employees with time off is a great way to keep costs down, while still enticing your contact center staff to perform to the best of their abilities.

3. Cross-Train Non-Call Center Employees
Cross-training non-call center employees to work in the call center is a great way to ensure client service levels will always be met – no matter what. When you train other employees in the organization to work in the call center, you are broadening your pool of available resources.

So let’s say, for instance, there is a flu outbreak and half of your call center staff is home sick. In that particular situation, you would be able to utilize employees from other departments to work in the call center, ensuring your clients still receive the best service possible and the fastest connect time. Cross-training is often viewed as an effective component of a contact center’s business continuity plan.

4. Real-Time Reporting of Performance Metrics
When you implement real-time reporting of agent performance metrics in your call center operations, clients will be able to see in real-time how well your contact center agents are performing – from answer speed to connect time to completed call percentages. Clients will view this reporting feature as a customer service add-on and your call center agents will be motivated to provide the most efficient service possible, knowing their performance metrics will be constantly evaluated and measured.

Real-time reporting is very popular in contact centers as it’s often used as a powerful management instrument. With real-time reporting, call center supervisors can review statistics to track trends, forecast schedules and adjust resources accordingly. If your call center does not have real-time reporting features currently available, this technology is a great way to enhance your customer service offering, while increasing overall contact center efficiency.

5. Total Customization of Services
When you customize every aspect of your call center operations to meet client’s specific needs, you are not only improving your customer service offering but you are also increasing contact center efficiency. Total customization of services leads to a decrease in Average Handle Time (AHT) as the entire call process is focused on the unique needs of that particular client.

Some of the many steps you can take to offer total customization of services in your contact center include:

  • Dedicated toll free numbers
  • Specialized call routing options
  • Client-specific intake scripts
  • Devoted Contact Center Agents per Account

I hope that you have found the information presented in this article useful and informative and that you may be able to use some of these ideas in your contact center to help improve customer service while controlling costs.

About the Author

Lynn Dick

Multilingual Call Centers: Meeting the Needs of Limited English Proficient Customers (by Starla Keith)


Multilingual call centers are those that provide services in various language offerings, ensuring the needs of all customers are met. Call centers that provide multilingual support have many advantages over traditional call centers. They create a positive customer experience, increase efficiency and agent productivity, improve customer service standards and drive sales and revenue in new markets. In today’s global business environment, call centers need to offer some level of multilingual support to remain competitive.

One reason that many call centers have shifted to a multilingual business model is to meet the needs of the growing diverse population in the United States. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report analyzing data from the 2007 American Community Survey, and over a time period from 1980 – 2007, the number of people ages five and older who spoke a language other than English at home has more than doubled in the last three decades and at a pace four times greater than the nation’s population growth. In that same time frame, the percentage of speakers of non-English languages grew by 140 percent, while the nation’s overall population grew by 34 percent1.

Another reason call centers decide to deliver services in multiple language offerings is to meet the needs of their customers who are expanding globally and establishing international operations. Providing multilingual support allows call centers to continue servicing its existing customer base while also going after new business opportunities and generating additional revenue.

Once a call center has identified the need to offer some level of multilingual support (and the perceived benefits in doing so), the next step is to determine how this demand will be best met. There are a number of ways calls centers can offer foreign language interpretation and translation support, such as hiring bilingual employees, outsourcing calls to an offshore call center or partnering with a language services provider.

Bilingual Employees

While the use of bilingual employees can be a very effective and cost-efficient strategy when it comes to meeting the demands of more common languages (i.e. Spanish), the same does not hold true when it comes to Languages of Limited Diffusion (LLD). For example, you wouldn’t want to staff a full-time Punjabi bilingual employee if your call center receives just a few Punjabi calls a week. Rather, it would make more sense to outsource those calls to a reliable third party (i.e. a language services provider), where you are benefiting from a per-minute rate structure. By doing this, you will cut costs, while also increasing call center efficiency and agent productivity. However, if your call center receives a significant amount of volume in a particular language, bilingual employees should absolutely be considered a component of your overall language access plan.

It’s important to note that a bilingual is not the same as a professionally trained and highly-qualified interpreter. Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest misconceptions in the language services industry. A bilingual is someone who speaks two languages fluently. An interpreter, on the other hand, is someone who has been professionally trained to mediate between speakers of different languages. Many bilinguals become professional interpreters but only after participating in relevant training programs, and after successfully completing a series of language proficiency examinations. If your call center decides to use bilinguals as interpreters, it’s extremely important to properly evaluate their language competency skills through assessment testing. Call centers can either do this in-house or partner with a reliable third party who offers these services.

Call Center Outsourcing

When it comes to providing support in various language offerings, some call centers may decide to outsource calls to an offshore location. One of the most obvious advantages to call center outsourcing is the cost savings. In countries such as India, the Philippines and Malaysia (where many offshore call centers are located), educated workers can be hired for a fraction of the cost, compared to the United States, Canada and Europe. Additionally, infrastructure and overhead costs are much lower in these countries.

One of the biggest disadvantages to using an offshore call center is having to hand over control of the customer relationship to a third party. And because employees at an offshore call center are not invested in the company, they may not be motivated to provide the caliber of customer service you expect. In addition, off-shoring has the potential to damage a company’s brand, image and reputation, as a result of its negative connotation in today’s business environment.

Partner with a Language Services Provider

A language services provider (or LSP) is a company that offers interpretation, translation, localization and/or language assessment services through either a network of independently contracted interpreters and translators or staffed linguists. While the independent contractor business model is standard practice in the language services industry, some LSP’s do employ linguists.

There are a number of reasons multilingual call centers decide to partner with a language services provider for interpretation and/or translation support. For starters, because LSP’s offer services in a number of language offerings, call centers are able to meet the demands of its increasingly diverse customer base and break into new markets, resulting in an increase in sales and revenue.

As mentioned above, an interpreter, unlike a bilingual, is someone who has been professionally trained to mediate between speakers of different languages. When call centers partner with LSP’s for multicultural support, agents have immediate access to highly-qualified interpreters, those who are prepared to interpret in virtually every industry segment, including financial services, insurance, healthcare and the legal sector. As a result, call centers benefit from accurate and thorough interpretations and the calls are completed in the most efficient manner possible, saving the call center time and money, while ensuring client service levels are consistently met.

Some LSP’s will offer their clients real-time, web–based reporting metrics of language data. Call Center Managers can use the data from these reports to staff bilingual employees (based on top languages/peak volume times), analyze demographics of client metrics and make amendments to corporate-wide initiatives. For example, if the reporting data reveals that Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are the peak call times for Spanish, you may decide to staff bilingual Spanish employees during those shifts. On the other hand, if the reporting data reveals that Thursday and Friday afternoons are the off-peak hours for Spanish calls, and you have Spanish bilingual employees working those shifts, you may decide to readjust the call center schedule accordingly.

This is just one of many examples that demonstrate the true power of real-time reporting of language data for call centers. Call center executives can use this data to better manage costs for interpretation and translation support, while also analyzing trends to better meet the needs of its diverse customer populations. Giving call centers access to real-time language data is a great example of how a language services provider is often viewed as a true strategic partner and an extension of a call center’s overall operations.

Is your multilingual call center currently looking to partner with a language services provider for interpretation and/or translation support? If so, please use the below checklist to make sure you’re selecting the best provider out there.

Your LSP should offer the following:

  • Real-time reporting metrics of language data
  • A completely customizable call intake process (ensuring the fastest connect time possible)
  • 24/7/365 call center support
  • Telephonic interpretation support in at least 200 language offerings
  • Designated Quality Assurance Department dedicated to monitoring and assessing interpreter capabilities
  • IM and online chat customer service support
  • E-mail translation services

Remember, partnering with a language services provider should be considered a component of a successful language access plan, not the only solution. Other options should also be taken into consideration when your call center decides to become multilingual (i.e. staffing bilingual employees). It really comes down to the specific needs of your customer base and what makes the most sense from a cost savings and call center efficiency standpoint.

(1) Language Use in the United States: 2007; American Community Survey Reports