Springer Nature and Unbabel Talk Translation Quality at Scale with Human-Refined MT

February 8, 2023

The internet is full of free, general-purpose tools that can produce machine translations (MT) at the push of a button. And while these website products and apps are suitable for the everyday person, are they right for your business? 

Well, they may be faster and more scalable than hiring freelance translators or contracting a translation company. On the flip side, the quality of the translation work may not meet the necessary quality standards of your business, negatively impacting customer experiences and brand reputation.

At last year’s LangOps Universe, Alon Lavie, Vice President of Language Technologies at Unbabel hosted a fireside discussion with Dominic Pettit, VP of Global Customer Service at Springer Nature. They discussed whether general-purpose MT is the right call for a business’s customer service department. Short answer: No.

Here’s why Springer Nature prefers a bespoke machine translation solution

Giving BPO agents multilingual superpowers

Springer Nature, a large international publisher, relies on a BPO based out of the Philippines to provide 24/7 support at scale. Most customer support tickets come by way of email or a structured ‘contact us’ form. But most support agents’ only language besides Filipino is English, which can be challenging for a brand with a global presence. Fortunately, Springer Nature also operates small, local customer service departments in locations like Germany, China, and Japan, which are open during regular business hours. So what happens when international support tickets come in after-hours?

Dominic explains that by using Unbabel’s MT to translate support tickets into the target languages of the support reps and the customers, Springer Nature can provide round-the-clock support to anyone, in any language, all over the world. 

More importantly, both parties receive good translations that are equivalent to that of native speakers: Unbabel’s AI machine translations leverage professional translators who provide quality checks to enhance the AI software by correcting translation errors and omissions, ensuring high-quality translations.

General translators fail to reflect the brand

The problem with general-purpose translators, as Dominic explains, is that they don’t accommodate the unique terminology specific to a brand, leading to low-quality translations and frustrated customers. “If you’re going to have those kinds of problems in your translation in a customer service context, that’s going to get in the way of resolving their issue,” Dominic said.

Alon added that, for businesses, the quality of a translation is measured in part by how accurately it reflects the brand. The terminology must be correct to deliver a customer experience where customers feel like they’re talking with someone who’s speaking about the subject matter in their native language. 

To that end, Unbabel’s translation technology can be trained with a brand’s glossaries and style guides for better quality assurance. The software integrates seamlessly with CRMs and within a BPO’s workflow, providing quality that approaches human translations — all at scale, so Springer Nature can deliver fast and frictionless customer service at all hours of the day or night.

“We’re not in a position where we can hire lots of people speaking lots of different languages who are all able to provide 24/7 support. (…) Not only does [Unbabel] allow the level-one BPO team to leverage what they offer, but it also means that the internal teams in different regions speaking different languages can provide support for each other as well,” Dominic said.

Within Unbabel’s human-refined translation process, the software performs a translation quality assessment to determine whether the AI-generated translations should be sent to a human editor for manual review. Dominic noted that, even when human translation review is needed, it happens so expeditiously that the final translation reaches the intended person within a short amount of time.

Security is non-negotiable for businesses

For businesses, translation services must do more than just provide rapid and accurate translations — they must also ensure customer data stays protected and complies with government regulations.

Dominic mentioned that many companies have data protection concerns when using a generic translation tool. “You don’t necessarily know if what you’re going to put in the generic free translation tool is going to include customer data, sensitive data, or confidential data until you translate it and find out the hard way.”

Unbabel uses robust encryption and is compliant with data protection regulations like GDPR, so confidential, sensitive, or personal data remain secure. By leveraging the platform, Dominic and the support teams he depends on can avoid the unacceptable data security risks associated with general-purpose translators found on the internet.

Flawless FAQs

Like many businesses, Springer Nature and its customers prefer to help themselves when possible. So the company offers FAQs in multiple languages. Unbabel proved instrumental in the translation and localization of the FAQs too, allowing Springer Nature to input source text and receive highly accurate machine translations. The translations match the company’s brand lexicon and style. And for quality management, the software turns to human review. “It’s much longer content. It’s not as time-sensitive, but, in most cases (…) the FAQ translations were completed within an hour,” said Dominic.

A breakthrough in quality estimation

In an effort to continuously deliver precise translations to create better, more frictionless customer experiences, Unbabel constantly upgrades the technology powering its LangOps platform. Recently, the company had quite a breakthrough in improving technologies for measuring translation quality in real-time.

This development in continuous translation quality intelligence allows customer service teams, and ultimately customers, to actually see in real-time the quality of every translation. Similar to the way a spell checker will pinpoint typos in a document, this new feature helps identify mistranslations, enabling corrections. The result: Target audiences receive translations that are indistinguishable from those of native speakers, helping customers leave support interactions with smiles on their faces.

Watch the full session, “Is General Purpose MT Right for My Business?” and others at LangOps Universe On-Demand:

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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.