Automation hits multilingual workforce with real-time translation software for businesses

With the rise of chatbots and automated phone systems, telephone-based customer service roles have seen increasing automation. One skill that has protected many workers from having their jobs replaced by software, however, is the ability to speak multiple languages.

But while software-based translation has traditionally paled in comparison to a multilingual human being, that’s beginning to change. The first gadgets allowing humans to carry out a conversation across two languages are starting to be launched, and even Google’s own free services are getting in on the act.

Now, however, companies are likely to follow suit, with the launch of a software suite for companies in need of multilingual support for helpdesks and service support.

Developed by Lionbridge Technologies, the snappily named GeoFluent for Enterprise Service Management is a package of business software that includes over-the-phone interpretation for over 350 languages, as well as a virtual translator for digital communications such as email and chat and a self-service document translator.

As a result, it effectively eliminates the need for major companies to hire multilingual workers for any form of customer service, instead replacing their skills with software.

Customer service has seen significant automation in recent years, but multilingual workers have until now been relatively safe

For businesses, the software’s main benefit is its ability to save them money, by not hiring staff to speak multiple languages or offer translation services.

“Service desk agents have historically had limited options to deliver multilingual support. Customised real-time translation technology is an increasingly important piece of IT service management solutions, providing a high-quality, cost-effective alternative to hiring bilingual staff,”  Robert Young, research director of IT service management and client virtualisation software at International Data Corporation, said in a press release about the software.

“It’s a significant challenge for service desks to communicate effectively across languages, channels, geographies, and time zones. GeoFluent for Enterprise Service Management eliminates that complexity by leveraging unified interpretation and custom-trained AI-based translation to existing communications platforms and channels,” added Tom Tseki, Lionbridge’s vice president and general management, customer care solutions.

“This platform and channel-agnostic approach allows service desks to cost-effectively eliminate language barriers wherever they exist.”

Manufacturing was one of the first industries to see significant automation in the modern era, but other roles are increasingly being affected

While those watching the technology’s developed will unlikely be surprised by the development, for many it will come as a surprise that multilingual skills can be so completely automated.

However, it is yet another example of skillset that not long ago was thought to be completely safe from the oncoming march of automation, but which is now under threat.

Many journalists, for example, are feeling less confident about their own roles with the advent of news-writing bots, while AI composers are likely to be raising some concern in the creative industries.

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