This article originally appeared in the DEC. 2012 issue of CUSTOMER Magazine.
A non-descript office park in Tempe, Ariz., houses the 150-seat contact center run by a company called TransPerfect. An IKEA sits across the street, but, beyond that, there’s not a lot of international flare to speak of in the area. However, inside the walls of TransPerfect are interpreters who may be communicating in any of more than 170 languages.
TransPerfect, which claims the spot of the world’s largest privately held provider of language services and technology solutions, got its start about 20 years ago when NYU students Liz Elting and Phil Shawe came up with the idea for a translation services business and received a small loan from a venture capitalist to start the business. The company has since grown to 75 offices worldwide on five continents and $315 million in annual revenue.
It provides all manner of language services – from direct document translation, to localization of websites or software (the company has proprietary software that automatically updates translated sites with new content), to interpretation services. Website hosting is also part of the TransPerfect portfolio of services.
Ken Anders is chief operating office of TransPerfect’s remote interpreting division, which resides in Tempe. Pointing out that while translation is about the written word, interpretation refers to verbal communications, Anders says the division of TransPerfect of which he is in charge provides organizations and their customers with multi-channel access to interpreters.
Credit card businesses, health care organizations, legal entities and government agencies are among the customer verticals that TransPerfect serves with interpreter services, which are delivered both from on-site and remote workers. Any customer care representative at a company that has signed on for TransPerfect interpreter services can opt to bridge a TransPerfect agent onto a call to help address a caller’s inquiry. TransPerfect is sometimes used by companies that want to launch an offering to a new demographic for whom English may not be the first language; that way, the customer company can see if the new offering is successful before hiring on its own foreign language support staff. TransPerfect can also aid in face-to-face communications between companies and customers. For example, an airline recently tapped TransPerfect to aid personnel at concourses and ticket desks; if there’s a customer that can’t speak English, the concourse or ticket agent can reach the appropriate interpreter at TransPerfect via Skype (News - Alert) or another means of mobile communications.
“Our business is fast paced and we often have the need for rapid turnarounds,” says Nina Flohr, director of communications for VistaJet, a luxury private aviation company. “TransPerfect is able to meet our demanding deadlines while maintaining the high level of quality we need. Their partnership has been invaluable to our global expansion efforts.”The remote interpreting division has only been in operation for a little over a year, so the percentage of revenue it contributes to TransPerfect is very small at the moment, says Anders, but he adds that its potential for growth potential is significant. He says the largest interpreter provider, which is out of Monterey, Calif., had $335 million in revenues last year, and the next biggest had $34 million in 2012 revenue.
Anders declined to provide the names of TransPerfect’s competitors in the interpreting space, but a May 2012 study by independent market research firm Common Sense Advisory indicates the 10 highest-ranked language services companies are Mission Essential Personnel ($725.50 million), Lionbridge Technologies ($427.86 million), Hewlett-Packard's (News - Alert) Application and Content Globalization group ($418 million), TransPerfect/Translations.com ($300.6 million), SDL ($282.85 million), STAR (News - Alert) Group ($149.00 million), euroscript International ($133.71 million), Manpower Group ($113.00 million), RWS Holdings (US$105.06 million), and Welocalize (US$82.20 million).
The global market for outsourced language services and technology is expected to reach $33.523 billion this year, according to Common Sense Advisory, which reports that the demand for language services is growing at an annual rate of 12.17 percent.
"Language service providers in most regions of the world reported steady growth during fiscal year 2011, and their projected growth rates for 2012 are even stronger," says Nataly Kelly, Common Sense Advisory's chief research officer. "The widespread availability of online machine translation has not decreased the demand for high-quality human translation. If anything, translation technologies appear to be acting as a catalyst to generate more demand."
Edited by Brooke Neuman