Jul 30, 2020

The Long Term Benefits of Human Driven Multilingual Customer Service

Research shows that 72% of consumers are more likely to make purchases of products with information in their native language. 56.2% of those feel that access to information in their preferred language is even more important than price!

With the vast majority of consumers drawing emphasis on products and services being available in their native language, it’s no surprise that providing multilingual customer support is a feat every brand is trying to achieve.

Through this article, we cover the different avenues you can take to translate your customer service communication and the cost and quality comparison of each.

Machine Translation: Jumping onto the Bandwagon

Whether it is your online self-help portal, chat support, ticketing system or social media platforms, enabling multilingual support takes a bit of doing. Hiring agents with native language proficiency may be possible for languages in which you receive a high volume of customer queries. However, what about languages that aren’t as common but whose speakers you’d still like to cater to?

At this point, many brands consider machine translation models that can easily get the job done. However, remember, nothing good in life comes easy.

You’d wonder why we don’t recommend machine translation, a method that’s seemingly fast, and generally accurate. The answer lies within the question – machine translation isn’t entirely accurate.

Drawbacks of Machine Translation

This is because even the smartest of AI and machine learning technology can’t produce translations that are:

  • Contextually and Culturally Relevant: Culture and language have a long-standing relationship. For example, in India, where many follow the joint family system, with people of all ages co-existing under the same roof, there’s tremendous emphasis given to respect, as a dimension of social interaction. In Hindi, for example, there are three ways you can say the word ‘you’. They are; tu (highly informal, for someone younger, a close friend or relative), tum (neutral, for same-aged acquaintance or relative), and aap (formal, for someone unknown, an older friend or relative).


A machine may have the database of the three words listed above but it will have a difficult time determining how to use each word in the right context.

  • Emotionally Appropriate: Human elements like emotion, tone, and intent are among the finer aspects of language that a machine has trouble picking up. You know how we all have that one friend who never understands sarcasm at the first go? If you find that annoying, machine translation is not going to impress you!


The errors associated with machine translations can lead to consequences that range from public embarrassment to lawsuits.

Human Translation: The Road Less Traveled

Fortunately, all hope isn’t lost! You can still win at multilingual customer service, without hiring someone full-time or relying on inaccurate machine translations.

So how exactly do you offer human translation without hiring humans? By partnering with a language service provider who employs native language experts from around the world! Simply start using integrations created for popular tools like Zendesk or Freshdesk to get started with fast and easy multilingual customer service!

Busting Some Myths About Translation Pricing

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Many prospective clients, on the cusp of choosing human translation, are deterred by a crucial defining factor – the cost. The initial cost of human translation can seem high, but we fail to consider the long-term hidden costs of machine translation. Let’s take a simple example to understand this.

Say at the beginning of a calendar year, a company has 3 clients from whom they generate a revenue of $100.00 each, in the first 3 months. The short-term situation would look something like this:

Machine translation: If we consider machine translation expenses as $1.00 per client, at the end of 3 months, the company’s profit ($300.00 revenue – $3.00 translation expenses) would be $297.00

Human translation: If we consider human translation expenses as $8.00 per client, at the end of 3 months, the company’s profit ($300.00 revenue – $24.00 translation expenses) would be $276.00

Now, let’s see how each scenario would pan out in the long term when clients begin to notice the quality of multilingual customer support that they’ve been receiving from the company.

Costs Machine Vs. Human Translation

Machine translation: Faulty translations cause 1 of the 3 clients to take their business elsewhere, and 2 of the initial clients reduce their business so that the combined revenue they generate is only $180.00 At the end of the next 3 months, the company’s profit ($180.00 revenue – $2.00 translation expenses) would be only $178.00

Human translation: The initial 3 clients are happy with the multilingual communication offered by the company. Their positive reviews help the company win over one more client leading to an increased combined revenue of $440.00 ($110.00 from each previous client + $110.00 from the new client). Since the volume of translations has increased, bulk and translation memory discounts bring translation costs down to $7.00 per client. At the end of the next 3 months, the company’s profit ($440.00 revenue – $28.00 translation expenses) would be $412.00

By the end of 6 months, not only has human translation helped the company win over a new client, but they’re well on their way to steady growth in profits. This goes to show that accurate and reliable translations lead to higher customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

Although machine translation looked like a fast and inexpensive translation option, in the long run, it actually led to a decrease in profits because of unsatisfied customers and faulty translations.

Human translation, on the other hand, helped the company generate a profit of $203.00 more than machine translation by the end of 6 months.

The graphs below will help you understand the relationship between revenue and translation costs for machine as well as human translation.

Human Translation Revenue and Costs

Over time, the costs of human translation decrease as the translation memory database builds. Simultaneously, high-quality translations help revenue increase, eventually leading to higher profits.

Machine Translation Revenue and Costs

Machine translation has a low starting cost. However, a decrease in volume and number of clients due to the low quality of translations reduces revenue. This leads to a significant decrease in profits.

The Verdict

Although the initial costs of machine translations appear low and therefore attractive, human translation is a safer approach in the long run. Accurate translations help you earn higher profits, gain more customers and keep your existing ones more satisfied. Additionally, your translation turnaround decreases over time as your translation memory builds and previously translated content is easier to retrieve. An investment in human translation now, will help you avoid the future costs of machine translation forever.

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Ruju Patel

Ruju Patel

Ruju Patel leads the Content and Design Team at Translate By Humans. She has a background in Psychology and Business and former experience as an HR professional. She is a people's person and a pro at drafting contracts, policies, and articles. Her creative edge helps give life to all the written and graphic content produced by the company.

When she's not writing, you'll find her reading with her cats or combining her love for food and culture by traveling around the world!

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