Just when the CX sector seems to be humming along nice and smooth, something overturns the apple cart.  There is never a dull moment in customer experience.  The latest such trend was emblematic at the 2024 CCW conference, held last week in the German capital of Berlin, where AI-driven real-time voice translation was at the forefront of discussions.

Visiting this incredible city, a flashpoint of so many earth-shattering events over the past century and a half, always provokes deep reflection.  For many in the CX world, CCW  2024 was a gathering not to be missed, and it lived up to all expectations.  On display were offshore operators from Egypt, Kosovo, Turkey and Serbia, among other countries.  So too were different vendors of emerging customer experience delivery models, including yoummday.  But without question, the talk of CCW 2024 was the trend toward real-time voice translation.

And with good reason.

For years the CX services space has been dominated by providers promising enterprises that can drive the best customer outcomes with multilingual capacity at a cost-effective price.  This has been accomplished through a variety of models, including offshore/nearshore delivery, distributed pools of remote agents with specific linguistic talents, and sourcing from cheaper onshore locales.  To some degree this business model remains valid, but there can be little doubt that each of these options is starting to show wear and tear.

At the risk of digging up unpleasant memories, recall from high school trigonometry that parallel lines never meet. As a corollary in the customer management space, voice-based multilingual delivery and technology functioned as parallel lines.  At CCW 2024, however, voice-based multilingual delivery converged with technology.

The fact is that tools capable of allowing a consumer to speak to an agent in their mother tongue and have the same agent reply using a real-time interface that permits them to use their own language and have it translated to the consumers with undistinguishable latency is quickly becoming a reality. For instance, a caller from Paris could be serviced in French by an agent based in Manila speaking English, whose words will be simultaneously and accurately translated into la langue de Molière.

Real-time multilingual translation powered by AI is a game-changer that no enterprise leader or BPO executive can ignore.

These new offerings take pressure off tight labor markets in North America and Europe. It will also open up a discussion over the long-term viability of the traditional application of offshoring, initially from a cost angle. Quality will also be a point of differentiation as these solutions improve. The same will apply to the use of distributed home-based agents, a model that has been effective in sourcing talent for hard-to-find niche languages like Dutch or Scandinavian countries.

However, execution and quality assurance will be the keys to success when deploying real-time voice translation tools.  One need only look at the extent to which many firms hopped on the AI-hype cycle bandwagon of late, jumping the gun by putting in place digital front-line interfaces supposedly powered by watertight AI architecture, only to encounter glitches and substandard CX.  Sometimes it pays to wait until a solution has been stress-tested to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty are not negatively impacted.

Here’s the bottom line: the CX market is brooding for this disruption.  The fact that several publicly listed outsourcers saw their share prices get hit badly after the announcement by Klarna that AI is replacing a large number of its support staff speaks to this.  To maintain the momentum of AI-driven voice translation tools, vendors must make certain that they are not overselling their offerings’ functionality to enterprise and outsourcing clients will be key to its success.