Monday, November 12, 2007

Speech market share - the role of non-European langauges

Some very good comments on the "Speech Market Share" posting I did in October, especially from Martin on Telisma and why they might have achieved such a large growth in European marketshare.

I was particularly interested to see that Telisma support Hindi and are working on another 18 Indian languages (including Indo-Arayan and Dravidian). This could be very interesting for a couple of reasons.

Firstly it's the established capability developed for the domestic market that I see as crucial for successful offshore operations. This is partly why in previous posts ("Offshore - why I would go for South Africa over India"), I've tended to rate South Africa ahead of India as a location for off-shore contact centres. If India can build a domestic capability then it's ability to take on offshore work will also improve. Also, and perhaps further off, the skills developed by Indian software developers working on speech for the Indian market could be very helpful for South Africa with its eleven official languages develop speech for its domestic market.

The second, and perhaps more unexpected use of speech is to serve migrants in Europe. These groups can be significant demographic segments and well worth offering higher service for. For example HSBC launched a UK Islamic bank in 2003 and it is easy to envisage it offering multi-lingual support for its customers. Perhaps further ahead is Canada. When I worked there I was expecting English and French telephone banking, but was surprised that Scotiabank telephone banking was available in not just English and French (as you would expect), but also Cantonese and Mandarin. It turned out that these languges gave them a competitive edge for winning business in the SMB market segment.

Given my experience of working with Canadian call centres, I am surprised that UK banks have not moved further with multiple language support. This may be a cost issue (given how cost concius the UK is) and perhaps the ability to offer automated support will change that.

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