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How to Sustain Company Operations in a Crisis

A Q&A with interpretation expert Susan Gryder

Urgency demands action. In times of crisis, breaking down barriers to communication is critical. Companies must seek new strategies to keep information flowing with all their customers, including those whose preferred language may not match the company’s primary language. We reached out to our Director of Over-the-Phone Interpretation (OPI) Sales, Susan Gryder, to learn how Lionbridge’s telephonic interpretation, referred to as "OPI" in-industry, offers companies a real-time translation solution for emergency communications.


Q: What is telephonic, or over-the-phone, interpretation?

Over-the-phone interpretation (OPI) is exactly what it sounds like: real-time, telephonic interpretation. It is a service that bridges a speaker of one language to a speaker of another by including an interpreter on their phone call. Lionbridge OPI services let you reach more people, in more languages, than any other provider in the industry. Our interpreters are experts in over 350 languages, connecting you with cost-effective communication support—anytime, anywhere.


Q: How does telephonic interpretation surmount the challenges of remote operations?

Interpretation helps companies stay connected to all of their customers and users, regardless of the language they use. It keeps communication flowing in both directions. When carried out over the phone, it gives you the much-needed flexibility to deliver the most updated information to your customers, who can then respond in real time.


Q: How will telephonic interpretation help you maintain continuity of service for your customers during a crisis?

When companies are faced with an emergency, you will need to dedicate more resources to customer attention. If you are already managing remote communications, that means more customers contacting you for support. Companies whose customers represent a broad section of the general public will likely be juggling communication in a wide range of languages. The calls they receive will mirror the languages that are spoken in the region they serve.


Q: What kinds of crises can the real-time interpretation solution be applied to?

A weather-related disaster might cause a utility company to receive a sudden increase in calls, possibly overwhelming support representatives. With resources stretched thin, giving every customer the attention they need is complicated--especially for those that require specialized support such as multilingual interpretation. Still, call centers will likely receive calls from many Spanish- or Mandarin-speaking customers. But even smaller language communities such as Somali or Hmong need linguistic support. A good interpretation provider can help accommodate that call volume increase with multilingual support in the widest possible range of languages.

This is particularly true for a company that uses bilingual operators or customer service agents. What happens if those agents can’t get to work? Or if they can’t handle the volume of calls coming in that need their language abilities? Telephonic interpretation such as OPI can support quick call handling even in unexpected surge conditions.

A public health crisis may force a company that normally communicates with its customers face-to-face to figure out effective remote communication. That requires a whole new strategy for a virtual mode of emergency communications.

Lionbridge can help expand your use of call center interpreters you already have, or quickly onboard to go virtual for the first time.


Q: What is the process of implementing Lionbridge OPI? How fast can it be done?

The Lionbridge OPI onboarding process can be accomplished quickly and match the scale of your company’s operation. First, a project manager assesses your current telephonic interpretations or OPI setup. Then they strategize how to expand processes already in action, or onboard you as new user to Lionbridge OPI. Depending on the complexity of the project, Lionbridge can onboard a project in a matter of days. In an emergency, we have been able to fast-track that process to start and finish onboarding a client in 24 hours.


Q: How can a telephonic interpretation provider ensure their own services aren’t disrupted by a crisis?

Forward-thinking and crisis-prepared OPI partners should have operations dispersed across multiple locales. That way, the work they are providing isn’t dependent on the availability of one locale. At Lionbridge, a majority of our interpreters work on our “virtual call center” platform. They can access all features of our OPI platform from home or a remote location. If one of our locales is hit by an emergency, we are already set up to quickly and seamlessly shift the work to interpreters spread out all across the US.


Q: A lot of companies have multilingual employees on staff. Why can’t they just use them to translate?

Often in a crisis, companies want to leverage the resources they already have and trust by turning to their bilingual employees for translation needs. Not only does this risk pulling valuable employees from their other professional responsibilities, but interpretation is a separate skill that goes beyond being multilingual.

Lionbridge uses experienced, professional interpreters, specially tested and trained in different languages and subject matters to ensure quality and accuracy in our interpretations.


Q: What makes Lionbridge interpretation different?

Lionbridge OPI was built to handle volume surges and provide robust, reliable services even during an emergency.  Our virtual call center model connects interpreters with customers from remote locations all across the country. This ensures continuity of services in the event of localized or national events such as severe weather or disease-related quarantine.

All our interpreters have undergone a thorough vetting process and have been tested and well-trained. We offer interpretation services for a lot of rare languages, so our customers can be sure that our interpreters have the expertise to accomplish their project—no matter the language or subject.

On top of that, we've been refining and cultivating our telephone interpretation services for over 30 years. By partnering with an OPI provider with a long history of success, you’ll have peace of mind that your project will be quickly onboarded and effectively executed.


The Bottom Line

Real-time telephonic interpretation has the potential to sustain meaningful communication between companies and their clients. When disaster strikes, language need not be a barrier to communication. Lionbridge OPI enables companies to respond to their clients’ needs, regardless of the volume of information or the language they speak.


Get in Touch

Lionbridge has a plan for emergency communications. Access our crisis resources center.

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Sophia Eakins
Sophia Eakins