Translating Gig Workers into Business Success

By Brett Frazer posted 10-02-2019 01:46 PM

If you attended the New Orleans CRS in March you would have seen Unbabel on the main stage with Microsoft, LinkedIn, Home Depot and Logitech. If you were at Denver CRS you may have attended Unbabel's Moments of Brilliance session with Edmund Ovington and @Sue Morris of Microsoft. If you weren't at either; and are not aware of who Unbabel are or what they do; they are changing the game in language support. Using a real-time adaptive machine translation layer to allow any Customer Service or Support agent anywhere in the world to handle questions from any customer, anywhere in the world, in any language through nonvoice channels.

You may be thinking great Brett, but this is a #GigEconomy blog, not an #ArtificialIntelligence blog so why are we talking about Unbabel's machine translation technology?

Great question, it is because as Edmund puts it, Gig workers, or Unbabel Community, are the secret sauce to Unbabel's success.

I caught up with Edmund, Unbabel's VP of Global Alliances, last week on his way between working with clients in Amsterdam and Slovakia to talk about this secret sauce. Here's what he had to say.

Gig: The Secret Sauce

"Unbabel's community of translators truly is the secret sauce to our success: they provide the polish and human nuance combined with our state-of-the-art AI to ensure that we are always at human quality in all synchronous or asynchronous interactions.

Right from the start of Unbabel, we knew that the flexibility, scalability and reach of the gig economy were going to be the backbone to our success in achieving the right blend of speed, quality and cost to be disruptive in the translation space for the customer service environment. We started with a few hundred editors around the world 6 years ago and have just continued to scale to where we are now."

The Role of AI

"We leave the grunt work of machine translation to our award-winning artificial intelligence systems. But to understand the context, linguistic ambiguities, cultural sensitivities, and the brand voice, we hand these outputs to our global community of translators who apply the finishing touches whenever necessary. This feeds back into our machine translation engines and helps it to continually push it to the excellence level.

In essence, as the human layer, they are the QA of the program. Because of this, we have a lot of focus on nurturing and curation of our gig workers' experience, including onboarding, making sure they are involved in the right tasks for their experience, and that they are happy, productive and always learning."

Early Lessons

"Looking back to when we first started, the biggest challenge we faced initially was getting the number of editors right. We didn't want to have too many people on the platform and no work, so they were not getting enough work and leaving the platform; conversely, we didn't want too much work and not enough workers to meet the needs of our clients. Especially when it came to peaks and spikes for some of our retail and travel clients.

This honestly took us a couple of years to get right, and now we have a very solid supply and demand capacity model in place."

Gig As a Lifestyle

"One of the things I love the most about working with the gig economy are the beautiful stories we receive from our community around the world about how we are impacting their lives. The concept of anyone in the world, without any limits being able to support themselves and their families throughout hard times without them needing to get to an office every day, or find childcare, or pick up and move their families is incredibly powerful."

A Bit of Advice

"If I were to advise someone considering starting down this path now, the first thing I would let them know is that for the gig worker, the experience really must be beautiful and elegant. If someone is going out of their way to do a task, it can't be clunky or painful. In that experience, you need to think of transparency in how they are earning money, how their performance is being measured, and what their rules of engagement are on who gets what jobs, etc. People have a choice, so you need to make it feel like the balance of power is in their favor and go out of your way to make their experience truly delightful. We have always had amazing developers dedicated to creating an amazing Unbabeler platform. 

Once you have the platform polished, it is then all about making sure that the users are central in the decisions you make in all other areas of the business that will impact them. Whenever we have a strategic decision, we always factor in how this will impact our community and making sure that they always get the best service from us."

Up Next

"While we fully utilize gig workers in this core deliverable of the Unbabel solution, as we are a high touch B2B organization, so far we are not utilizing Gig workers in our internal Customer Service and Support space yet. There is nothing that stands in our way from considering that in the future, we just have not explored it yet."

Big thanks to Edmund for giving us a peek into the success of utilizing gig workers in core functionality and a slightly different approach than what we have heard from some other companies so far.

This coming week I will be catching up with @Jonathan Marr from Sephora and @Hetal Shah from Postmates. Look for those blogs in the coming weeks.

#Member QA