Lessons Learned from 2020 and What to Carry with Us into 2021
Over the past 12 months CSA Research has conducted surveys with thousands of participants, run many virtual councils and open webinars, and had many one-on-one discussions and briefings. We’ve been humbled by the language sector’s empathy and perseverance through a very tough year. Organizations large and small stepped up in support of one another—competitors became collaborators, colleagues became friends.
During a time of uncertainty, hearing from peers and leaders helps and we have been sharing feedback from multiple constituents to help organizations focus on what really matters as well as find opportunities in the middle of a crisis and get ready for the re-entry phase and growth in the post Covid-19 economy.
In this final post of 2020, we share analysts’ thoughts on the toughest year to date, and what to carry with us into 2021.
DR. DONALD A. DEPALMA
We were wrapping up our “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” surveys with global consumers and business users in early February, right before the COVID work-from-home edicts began. The findings echoed our 2006, 2008, and 2014 surveys and demonstrate again that despite rising levels of English competence, people strongly prefer using their own languages. Additional data shows that the post COVID-19 preference for local-language support is growing due to digital transformation, the importance of global content to business growth strategies, and the move of consumers around the world to digital channels. Simply put, the primary data demonstrates that you need to speak the language of your customers, employees, and partners. If you don’t meet their expectations, a competitor will.
Almost every company I’ve spoken with since the pandemic began reports that they’re moving faster to automate more. I would challenge everyone who’s doing this to step back to analyze what their real goals should be for AI, machine learning, and just plain old technology. In addition to how automation plans will improve – or not – the customer experience for local markets, companies also need to appraise the effects of their plans on internal teams and external partners. The fallout from the pandemic affords all of us the opportunity to take greater stock of what really matters before we plan our next steps for how to move ahead.
DR. ARLE LOMMEL
If 2020 has shown us anything, it is how badly most enterprises were prepared to help their customers during difficult times, something doubly true for their international ones. Our 2019 report “The State of Global Customer Experience” made early recommendations for how enterprises could improve the online experience that global customers deserve and demand. Those organizations that followed its guidance would have been far better situated to respond to the challenges of COVID-19. As you plan your initiatives for 2021, focus on the experience your company must provide global B2B and B2C customers to help them deliver a top-notch digital experience, build strong brand loyalty, and emerge stronger.
We've spent months honing our remote working skills; learning how to juggle home schooling or family commitments or even a hungry cat and a delivery guy knocking (loudly) on the door while shifting to digital experiences and still presenting a professional face to the world through Zoom or Webex. Data from our surveys and interactions with enterprises show that there will be no sudden switch back to the old ways of working in an office. Instead in 2021, we'll learn to embrace global and digital more, and rethink our values dealing with families, friends, and co-workers. We'll be traveling again, and the next office could be that well-equipped beach with a sunshade and high-speed internet, far from the crowded city.
The hot topic for 2020 has been how to keep going despite travel challenges, social distancing, and health risks. Hospitals minimized risks for in-person interpreters and turned to online solutions. Government institutions adopted new technologies to comply with mandates to support multilingual meetings. Enterprises added a multilingual component to their online events to wow their customers. These groups were insatiable in their quest for more information on remote simultaneous interpreting, captioning, and subtitling platforms. For a lot of companies, emerging stronger in 2021 will require expertise at using such technologies to help their organizations deliver a positive digital experience with employees, customers, and partners.
I’m not the first to refer to 2020 as “The Year That Revealed Us” -- “us” is you and me, our organizations, governments, countries, cultures, and nearly everything else. It likely revealed some strengths and weaknesses. What now? Data-driven organizations should analyze what they learned, and seek trusted and reliable data, insights, tools, and advice before making any decisions. High-quality, reliable data can make a big difference for organizations of all sizes. Can’t find the data you need? Ask us. Don’t settle for what you think is the best or nearest thing available. 2020 revealed that “good-enough” isn’t going to cut it anymore. It’s an illusion that it ever did.
New Year, New Schedule
Beginning in 2021, our weekly insights will shift to bi-monthly. Until then, from all of us at CSA Research, we hope you have some time to relax, reflect, and recharge.
Find time for yourself each day—take a walk, read a book, and just appreciate the many things you might previously have taken for granted.
Happy New Year and we look forward to reconnecting in 2021.
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