Photo by University of the Fraser V on Flickr
Christmas was humbug: There is no doubt whatever about that. The famously tight-fisted, bad-tempered, uncharitable and unforgiving old curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge never gave a fig – or a figgy pudding – for the damnable holiday. The old coot remained that way until the day when Christmas suddenly offered something that could make even the blasted old blackguard offer a cheerless, rapacious, thin-lipped smile: Cyber Monday, which springboarded a global orgy of conspicuous consumption that left the grizzled old geezer grinning through the January White Sales.
Eventually his website designer Bob Cratchit launched Scrooge’s Scrounges for heavily-discounted online bargains. Together they ran an online marketplace where they sold all manner of gimcracks and gewgaws. In days of yore Scrooge’s business had been a counting-house, but he had embraced burgeoning eCommerce with this Internet thing and instructed Cratchit to go out and learn how to design a website if he wanted to keep his job, and no, he may not expense any books or training. Professional development was his own business and if he didn’t keep up his employer could find a high school kid to do the same for less money.
Now, Scrooge had his eye on the international market. He and Bob Cratchit had begun to take note of how many website visits they were getting from other countries in Google Analytics.
“Mr. Scrooge, Sir,” said Bob Cratchit in his soft, gentle voice (for he was always just on the edge of terrified when he was around his irascible boss),”we’ve got an uptick in visits from Denmark with interest in our matchboxes. Perhaps we should think about localizing the website for Danish.”
“Rubbish!” spat Scrooge.” It must be that lazy Little Match Girl. She’s got no money.”
“But there’s also Danish interest in clothes,” replied Cratchit. ”I suspect perhaps the Emperor needs some new ones!”
Scrooge lifted a bushy eyebrow thoughtfully. The Emperor was filthy rich.
“And we’re getting some attention from Russia,” continued Cratchit. “They like our mousetraps and nutcrackers.”
Scrooge nodded once and waved a finger to indicate Cratchit should add that particular localization project to the business plan. The Russians had money, and Putin had a very rich friend in the United States who was about to come to power. It was a good localization bet.
“France ranks high. Repeated hits for blunderbusses, crossbows, flintlock pistols and stilettos,” Cratchit answered.
“That would be The Three Musketeers rather than Carla Bruni. Very well, add French localization to the business plan.”
Cratchit dutifully punched it in to his iQuill.
Weeks later the heavily-localized Scrooge’s Scrounges went live.
“Mr. Scrooge, sir, we’ve got a problem,” Bob Cratchit informed him, trying not to shake in his boots.
“Well, out with it!” growled Scrooge, looking up from his 10K report.
“We’ve, ah, had a customer inquiry for a potential order. It’s a Mr., ah, Shoemaker but his question is in German.”
“What? Don’t you speak German?” Scrooge thundered, as though perhaps Cratchit had lied on his resume, failing to mention this all-important professional knowledge gap.
“No, sir, and he appears to be interested in our elf repellant. There is also a question from China by a young lady named Mulan. And–“
“Oh, don’t batter my ears with your silly excuses! You’re going to tell me you don’t speak Chinese!”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Cratchit replied, eyes downcast. “I’ve never had any call for learning it. Not even from our counting-house days.”
“Well learn it, then!” Scrooge roared with rage. “And give our website a thorough Chinese localization!”
“Er, Simplified, Traditional, Mandarin, Cantonese, or Hakka Chinese?”
“ALL OF THEM!” Scrooge howled.
“Er, that will be a bit costly,” Cratchit murmured.
“THEN THE CHEAPEST ONE!” Scrooge hollered, his pasty face growing as red as a mug of mulled wine.
Cratchit beat a hasty retreat to his cubicle.
“And Mr. Cratchit!”
“Yes, Mr. Scrooge?”
“Learn German and all the Chineses!”
“All of them, sir?” Bob Cratchit quailed at the thought of the time and expense.
“ALL of them! How are we to support our customers otherwise?”
Related: Three Keys To Success In The Asian eCommerce Market (Yappn white paper)
Later….Back at the localization ranch, er, cubicle…
Bob Cratchit made a remarkable discovery after this exhausting exchange.
It turns out there’s a much easier way to offer multilingual customer support for one’s website localization. There were plug-ins for live chat software apps to enable one to speak to the foreign website visitor in his or her own language – German and all the Chineses included! Well okay, not all of them, but Traditional and Simplified at least, and Bob Cratchit was quite sure that covered almost everybody. The results were quite impressive – Mulan asked him questions in Chinese and he saw them translated into English, and then he responded in English knowing she saw it in Chinese. It was a Christmas miracle of technology!
Related: The Impact of Multilingual Support on Customer Care (Yappn white paper)
Bob Cratchit didn’t tell his employer how he’d fixed the problem with a less time-intensive and more cost-effective way than hiring CSRs – or learning foreign languages on his own time and dime and for good reason.
“So, how are your Chinese lessons coming along?” Scrooge asked him one day.
“Oh, I’m finished with them,” Bob Cratchit answered. ”I’m handling requests daily from China and responding in kind.”
“You learned it that swiftly?”
“As it turns out, I’m a quick learner, sir.”
“And you learned all the Chinese dialects?”
Scrooge frowned but didn’t push the issue. ”And how’s your German?”
“Sehr gut, sir,” Bob Cratchit replied with a smile.
“And your French?”
Scrooge’s eyes crinkled warily. ”Combien coute?” he asked.
Bob Cratchit’s eyes widened, but he surreptitiously pulled up a chat screen and typed in the question. “Pardon me, sir, how much is what, exactly?”
“Why didn’t you answer in French?”
Cratchit’s fingers flew over the keyboard. ”Oh, of course. À quel article parlez-vous, monsieur?”
Scrooge’s bushy eyebrows lifted. ”Very good, Mr. Cratchit!”
“Thank you, sir. In fact, I was speaking to Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook who was on our website the other day. He was impressed with my language skills. He called me a ‘big shot polyglot.’”
“Did he now,” Scrooge drawled, and he looked a little discomfited.
“Yes sir. He said someone with my multiple fluencies is much in demand now, in fact, they might have an opening at Facebook for me.”
“Mr. Cratchit, you wouldn’t think of leaving me after all these years, would you? How much am I paying you now ?”
“Fifteen shillings a week, sir.”
“I will raise your salary! And I will throw in some better healthcare for your son, what’s-his-name–”
“Tiny Tim, sir.”
“Yes, the lad with the ukelele and the tulips. Do you have any idea how much just one bilingual customer service person costs in England, Mr. Cratchit?”
“Over £18,000, according to Salary.com,” said the clerk. ”Although Mr. Zuckerberg laughed like a hyena when I mentioned that. And then he added. ‘Hell, that’s what we pay the janitor here!’”
“Yes, well, you will stay right here!” Scrooge insisted. ”Whatever that scruffy kid in the hoodie said he’ll pay you, I’ll double it!”
“Thank you, thank you, Mr. Scrooge!” Bob Cratchit grinned.
“Now get back to localization of Scrooge’s Scrounges before you dot another ‘i’ and cross another ‘t’, Bob Cratchit!” his employer said in Polish.
Bob Cratchit typed quickly at his terminal. “Pójdę do niego natychmiast, Mr. Scrooge!”
Yappn Corp is an enhanced machine translation company offering translations in 67 different languages and a helluva lot of chutzpah when it comes to taking liberties with venerated holiday classics. For more information or an abject apology to literary purists please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at +1.905.763.3510 x246.
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Written by Nicole Chardenet, Sales Development Rep at Yappn