Chatbots have been dominating the press of late. Though they’d gotten a fair amount of coverage in the past, Facebook’s launch of a bot development platform for Messenger kicked the chatbot fervor into high gear.
Everyone’s building the best chatbots possible for every messaging app in order to remain competitive in their respective markets. But, while brands are rushing to release bots for Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack, and other channels, they’re missing one important element to diversifying their chatbot array–multilingualism.
Businesses already segment their customers by demographics, affinity, and a host of other criteria (including preferred language) in most other aspects of their operations. But few have managed to reach such a level of sophistication in the early stages of their chatbot exploration, meaning that getting ahead of the curve and building chatbots for multiple languages could be a significant competitive advantage.
What to know about multilingual chatbots before you begin
Most bots today have been built and designed for specific markets, like the U.S. or Japan, leading to the exclusion of audiences who don’t speak the predominant language in those regions. And bridging the gap between the various languages spoken in a given customer base through chatbots and other technology is high on the list for many organizations.
Generally speaking, the technology to build a bot truly capable of seamlessly switching from one language to another mid-conversation as a bi- or multilingual human agent would isn’t quite ready for primetime. But it’s getting pretty close in some cases and solution providers are working hard to make it a reality. In the interim, many companies are opting instead to build bots one at a time for specific languages.
If your business is considering building chatbots for multiple languages to reach wider audiences, here are a few key considerations to keep in mind before you get started.
Understand the “who,” not just the how
When it comes to addressing multiple languages with chatbots, it’s not just the technology that poses a challenge. Words and phrases have meaning, which can vastly differ among regions, even if they share a common linguistic structure. Effectively building a bot for other languages requires acute cultural awareness and nuance to ensure user adoption and a pleasant experience. So, make sure to do your linguistic and cultural due diligence before going live with a new chatbot.
Simplify Translation Management
Building bots for two, three, even seven languages is a huge task. There’s no sense in adding to the workload (and, more importantly, the time-to-market) by trying to reinvent the linguistic wheel each time.
Simplify translation management with a cloning approach, using a primary, “master,” or “mother” language as the foundation for future iterations. For example, when one bit of content is created in the master language, dummy or placeholder content can be activated in the other languages, which in turn can be built out and flagged for the knowledge manager to translate.
Each addition of content further augments the knowledge base, strategically expanding the information your bot can leverage in the master language while helping to replicate the knowledge base in other languages. It’s an easy way to keep track of what needs to be translated and dramatically accelerate the process.
Employ a language detection tool
An important part of building multilingual bots now and in the future is understanding what language a user is speaking as early on in the exchange as possible. Using a language detection tool in a user interface can help recognize a different language being spoken than what was expected.
Language detection tools measure the percentage of words in a sentence belonging to one language or another. The language with a higher identified percentage of words becomes the primary language for that interaction, enabling the chatbot to ask the user if they want to switch the language. Of course, these tools only work if your business already has a multi-language knowledge base. Which brings us to the final consideration…
Maximize the scope of your knowledge base
Your knowledge base–the primary data store and the underlying set of facts, assumptions, and rules your system has available to solve a problem–is the very foundation of your chatbot program.
Your chatbot’s ability to connect and interact with customers in a natural way in any language depends heavily on how well-built and expansive your knowledge base is. Dedicating the time and resources (or looking outside the organization for support) to do the dirty work behind the scenes–building a lexicon, translating long-tail phrases and terms, and setting relationship rules–is vital to the success of any bot, regardless of how many languages you want it to speak.
As bots continue to gain popularity, businesses will continue to seek new and inventive ways to use them and connect with wider, more diverse audiences. When you’re ready to roll your bot out to a new region or language, don’t think of it merely as a translation project; think of it as a completely new feature set and treat it like your very first chatbot deployment.
Considering multilingual chatbots for your business? Schedule a free consultation with an Inbenta chatbot expert and learn how to successfully launch a chatbot in more than 25 languages!