Guest Blog: Building Language-Agnostic Customer Support with

June 15, 2021

Building Language-Agnostic Customer Support: a line of identical women strolling with suitcases and the last one soaring

If the coronavirus pandemic taught us anything, it was how to be more nimble and innovative with technology to better support customers. Being the leading travel technology company, combining flight and ground transportation from more than 800 carriers, at we felt greatly the impact of the global travel restrictions of 2020. We had an influx of customer questions and cancellations coming from around the world, which we needed to handle with a far leaner customer support staff than usual. To respond to this demand, our product team had to think quickly and build our own customer service helpdesk platform.

An important requirement of this platform was to empower our business process outsourcing (BPO) partners and in-house agents to communicate with customers in their native languages and allow switching from synchronous to asynchronous mode without problems. To accomplish this, we integrated our homegrown helpdesk technology with Unbabel’s Language Operations platform. As a result, we were able to move 80% percent of customer interactions to our new helpdesk, more effectively supporting customers while cutting down on the number of costly phone calls. Here’s more on how we did it.

Shifting from phone to messaging

The pandemic created a huge sense of urgency for us. When offices first shut down, half of our BPO workforce was temporarily offline until they were properly set up to work from home. Despite this reduction in workforce, all of our customer service channels (particularly phone) were, not surprisingly because of the situation, overwhelmed due to an 80% surge in cancellations at the start of the pandemic. Since our customers come from all over the world, our agents were handling queries in 12 languages.

At peak times, many of these customers had to wait a week or more for a response, depending on their native language and agent availability. We knew there had to be a better way of scaling our international customer service operations with technology. Our biggest priority was building a language-agnostic platform that could handle both email and chat inquiries from customers. Our goals were to drive efficiencies for our customers and keep costs low for our company — which is almost impossible when you’re in a crisis situation and handling so many customer inquiries on the phone.

Plugging in Unbabel’s API

Once we built out the core technology for our helpdesk platform, we easily integrated it with Unbabel’s Language Operations platform via its open API. Both our BPOs and internal agents have been happy with the new helpdesk workflow, and have said that the integration with Unbabel has been seamless for them. The best part of all is that the service for our customers is of a level that means the customer experience is not diminished by using the Unbabel-powered interaction.

Weathering customer service surges at 30% staffing

Our new, language-agnostic helpdesk platform helped our team weather the pandemic-related customer service surges at just 30% of our original workforce capacity. Instead of taking more than a week to respond to customers, our agents can now use the helpdesk to respond in minutes or hours, depending on the nature of the inquiry. Abandon rates for customer inquiries decreased from 35% to less than 1%.

We’ve now successfully moved about 80% of all inquiries to the helpdesk, reducing our reliance on the costly phone channel by 33%. With the helpdesk, our agents can respond to inquiries in any language. Thanks to our new language-agnostic helpdesk, we can serve more customers in less time.

We expect even more growth as the world reopens, and we know we won’t have any issues scaling up quickly without impacting customer service. We’re looking forward to helping our customers safely return to the skies — and our team will be ready to address any questions or concerns in their native language.

Want to learn more about how Unbabel empowers global businesses to offer hassle-free multilingual support? Read our case studies.

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Content Team

Unbabel’s Content Team is responsible for showcasing Unbabel’s continuous growth and incredible pool of in-house experts. It delivers Unbabel’s unique brand across channels and produces accessible, compelling content on translation, localization, language, tech, CS, marketing, and more.