MULTILINGUAL CHATBOTS: BENEFITS AND KEY IMPLEMENTATION CONSIDERATIONS

Introduction

Chatbot – the poster child of artificial intelligence is taking the tech world by a storm. Wonder why? It’s easier to realize a quick value add in terms of business outcomes and delivering superior experiences. Additionally, there seems to be an uptick in interest for chatbots that are natively incorporated into enterprise software applications.

For those who are still wondering what chatbots are  – A chatbot as the name indicates is a computer program or artificial intelligence which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods.

Chatbots are gaining immense traction in organizations globally. According to a report featured in Business Insider, 80% of businesses want chatbots by 2020. One of the most interesting advancements in chatbot technology is the bot’s ability to converse with users in hundreds of varied languages. This advancement is particularly beneficial for businesses that are regional specific or preparing to expand their market to new demographics.

Most business users may not be well versed in English, a language that is the globally accepted business-standard. In fact, according to a report by The Washington Post, only about 7.5 percent of the world’s population consider English their native language. This is also one of the foremost reasons why making your enterprise chatbot multilingual, is the need of the hour.

What is a Multilingual Chatbot?

Multilingual Chatbot allows enterprises to converse with users speaking various languages enhancing engagement and conversions. Traditional chatbot technology holds a limitation of conducting a conversation only in one specific language. For example, if you have your business in China, your website might have a chatbot that converses in Mandarin.

While this is helpful for Chinese customers, the chatbot’s inability to converse in other languages demands the need to either build a separate chatbot for a global audience or switch language preferences time and again. All this results in multiplication of efforts, time and costs.

On the other hand, multilingual chatbots are capable of conversing in multiple languages – not just translation.  Gone are the days where multilingual meant “Translate and Understand”.

Building multilingual chatbots requires more than just processing text or dialogue in English through a language translator.

To effectively converse in multiple languages, a chatbot must be aware of the end-users’ culture and able to understand regional nuances. This needs additional time and effort during the development phase.

While translator services are rapidly improving their capabilities to detect and translate, Natural Language Understanding (NLU) services are much ahead of the curve in language-specific processing.

For example, the NLU service of Microsoft – LUIS supports 11 Languages and supports locale-specific inclination (ex: Canadian French & France French). The growing demand for language and locale understanding capabilities in chatbots is driving the continuous evolvement of these services.

Business studies suggest that most customers, in spite of being multilingual, prefer to interact with your brand in their native language. In order to localize a brand, one must ensure that customers can interact in a language they are most comfortable with. Multilingual chatbots are thereby the most efficient and cost-effective answer to meet this demand.

Benefits of Multilingual Chatbots

Multilingual chatbots help your enterprise stay ahead of the curve by making it relevant and relatable in multiple markets globally. In the context of customer service, contact centres that have multilingual chatbots can offer help and troubleshoot problems for business users in a language that they are comfortable. Since companies don’t have to recruit resources of varied language proficiency, they end up saving a lot of money. A multilingual bot that can effortlessly switch between languages, enhances and personalizes the customer experience.

Other key benefits of using multilingual enterprise chatbots include:

CSAT and Gaining a Competitive Edge

When it comes to gaining a competitive edge in the market, customer service acts as an important tool. Given a choice between two companies offering similar products, most customers would prefer to go with the one that has better customer service and personalization. Hence, multilingual chatbots with an ability to interact with customers in a language they are comfortable with help increase CSAT levels. This gives the company a competitive edge amongst its competitors.

Reduce Costs

Most global companies spend a large amount of money on hiring native language speakers and translators to connect with the local customer base. While this may seem like a good strategy to expand your customer base, it is simply not efficient. Having to hire and train personnel to meet varied language needs increases costs substantially. So what is the alternative? A cost-efficient alternative to having a multilingual workforce is to implement multilingual chatbots instead. Depending on your customer base, you must train your chatbot to converse in various languages. This will remove any communication gaps that often occur when non-English speaking customers turn to the support team for help.

Expand Your Customer Base with Localization

If your company has been operating in a specific country but intends to increase its customer base, then your chatbots must be able to serve customers with different language preferences. Customers generally trust brands that offer services in their native language more than the ones who don’t. Without a localization strategy, it is almost impossible to enter the global market. A multilingual chatbot easily transitions from language to another, reaching out and appealing to a wider customer demographic.

As the number of languages that the chatbot can handle increases, so does the customer base. Multilingual chatbots are also useful in recording customer feedback in the customer’s native language. This means that you can reach out to more customers and build a formidable reputation as a global brand.

Boost Efficiency

When dealing with business users and customers on a global scale, a communication barrier leads to longer turnaround time. To boost efficiency, especially while handling customer issues, companies must focus on ironing out any existing language barriers. Having multilingual chatbots helps companies boost efficiency in resolving customer issues by offering support in native languages.

Key Implementation Considerations for multilingual chatbots 

The implementation of multilingual chatbots is not that easy. Here are a few aspects that you need to consider for implementing a multilingual chatbot.

Language Detection

One of the most critical success factors of a multilingual chatbot is its ability to detect the right language. While Language Detectors i.e the translator services in the market are efficient in detecting languages and have unique scripts of their own, they have their own limitations.

It sometimes becomes very challenging for translator services to differentiate between languages with the same script. For example, the second and third most spoken languages by native speakers – Spanish and English respectively are written in the same script (Latin).

Moreover, there are around 14 languages other than English and Spanish that are written in Latin Script including French, Turkish and Portuguese.

Here is another limitation: a simple word like “No” is used not only in English but also in many other languages (Ex: Spanish). Detecting the right language becomes even more complex when users use both languages in a phrase. This is because usually nouns exist only in one language and these can be used along with any other languages. In such cases, Translator services would require more words to figure out the language. However, nowadays services like Microsoft Translator can detect more than one language for a particular set of word(s).

Language detection plays a very important role and it shouldn’t be just dependent on what a translator service detects. If the language detection has to be efficient, your chatbot solution should also be able to influence the detection based on the user’s geography, the context of the conversation and other user details if available through user profile or user AD.

Language Understanding

Though Chatbots, with minimum training, can figure out the user intentions for most of the languages – one of the main challenges chatbots face these days is the ability to understand the different regional accents or linguistic varieties (Dialects).

Training the language understanding model with patterns of different linguistic varieties can help mitigate this. But if you are looking to roll out your chatbots to multiple countries in multiple languages, you might want to consider Language Understanding services that support different local languages.

A Language understanding model equipped with quality training data is second to none. But if your Language Understanding service provider can offer support in multiple locales, it’s even better.

Because the efficiency of language understanding will be better if the service itself supports the locale.

For instance, LUIS, the language understanding service of Microsoft supports both France’s French and Canadian French. So, if you are rolling out a chatbot in France and Canada with language support for both English and French, you might want to consider having different language models for English, France’s French, and Canadian French. This will help the chatbot in understanding better and will reduce the need for larger training data.

Another important aspect of Language Understanding when it comes to multilingual chatbots is Entity training. Although users tend to write nouns mostly in their respective languages, it is not the case every time. For instance, while some words are spoken in English, they have their own language variations as well.

For example, the Russian word for ‘Manager’ is Менеджер. So, when you are training entities in your language model, don’t assume that all nouns to be in the same language –  consider the language variations as well.

Conversations

It is not just the capabilities of a multilingual chatbot that make it successful – user experience counts as well. Every chatbots’ user experience relied on the design of its conversations. One of the typical strategies used when rolling out chatbots in multiple countries and languages is building the chatbot personality at a global level. This is not only incorrect but also risky for a chatbot roll out.

Cultures differ with regions. Some conversations that are polite in one country aren’t deemed the same way in another country. The word “Crazy” might sound funny in the UK but it’s offensive in the US. So, it’s very important for Conversational Architects to build a chatbot personality at a country level than at a global level.

This means having a single Conversational Architect for a multilingual chatbot wouldn’t be enough – even if he/she has an exceptional cross-cultural understanding. Having a cross-cultural team of Conversational Designers is a better bet. This will help to bring in the flair of language in conversations which might be very locale-specific at times.

One another important aspect of a chatbot conversation is Context Management. For example, the word “Ciao” in the Italian Language is used both for greeting and farewell. A chatbot with poor context management will not be able to differentiate scenarios like these. Thus, it is important that the chatbot has the capability to understand the state of the conversation and act accordingly.

Conclusion

Chatbots have gained traction globally, and with the help of evolving AI and language processing technology, they are expected to become even more empowered in the coming days. As an increasing number of businesses try to use chatbots in new and inventive ways, building multilingual chatbots helps enterprises connect with a wider and more varied audience. For a chatbot to be well-received and widely used, it is important that it can convincingly converse in a language that is most comfortable to the user. And since the business landscape has become largely global, multilingual communication has become a priority.

If you’re planning to build and deploy multilingual chatbots for your organization, please feel free to check out our enterprise chatbot builder platform – BotCore. BotCore is leveraged by large and medium-sized organizations to build, deploy, manage and train AI bots.

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