As the number of coronavirus cases worldwide approaches the one-million mark at the time of writing, with no end in sight, no one will argue that business must go on (for the sake of all our livelihoods — and sanity!). And language service providers (LSPs) have learned to adapt to this new normal.
According to a new Head of Sales and Business Development, they have been encouraging clients to use remote interpreting instead of cancelling assignments to lessen the impact on the livelihood of interpreters. The VP of a provider based in Italy, meanwhile, said their adaptive machine translation service is on offer at no cost until the end of May.
A Director of Localization said they supplement virtual events by maintaining good, regular pay, allowing flexible hours, and providing generous sick leaves. And a Sales and Vendor Manager said they are using social media to keep the team spirit up as well as to exchange lockdown advice on dealing with kids and pets.
Bjorn Touqan – Språkservice
“It changed my role quite a bit actually. Heading into a role you have a pretty clear picture on how to approach, for example, sales and new business,” Bjorn Touqan told Slator in regard to the current coronavirus pandemic.
On March 2, 2020, Touqan joined Swedish LSP Språkservice Sverige as Head of Sales and Business Development fresh off nearly four years as CMO of rival Hero Tolk. Based in the Språkservice branch office in Stockholm, Touqan reports to CEO Jens Kofoed Hansen.
He is responsible for all project managers and administrators on the translation side of the business, as well as sales, business development, customer relations and marketing, and key accounts for certain clients, Touqan said. “But when the crisis really hit, I also noticed that Språkservice as an LSP had the possibility to contribute in ways which we usually are not used to. Like community responsibility for example.”
He explained, “We noticed early on that authorities in Sweden were a bit late in sending out information regarding how to act to stop the spread of the virus in different languages, and that people who were not native speakers could miss valuable information. So we had to rethink our strategy and draft an action plan on how to offer our services for this.”
According to Touqan, they “assigned a dedicated team of translators who only worked on translating Corona information, dropped our express fee for rush jobs, and made sure that translation regarding information on the virus was delivered as soon as possible.”
The interpreting side, meanwhile, encouraged clients to “try remote interpreting instead of cancelling assignments,” Touqan said, “which, in the end, will affect people’s lives; for example, those needing their asylum case tried, or interpreters losing assignments and their livelihood. We, of course, also arranged that our employees from risk groups are set up to work from home as long as necessary.”
Michael Stevens – Translated
“The effect of the coronavirus has been significant since our headquarters is in Italy, with everyone personally affected by the outbreak. Our goal has been to keep employees healthy (out of intensive care) and employed,” Michael Stevens said, adding that they have been successful on both fronts.
Stevens stepped into his role as Vice President of the Americas for Rome-headquartered LSP Translated on February 1, 2020 after having worked for a combined seven years in the Moravia organization. He reports to CEO Marco Trombetti and is based in Seattle, Washington.
His focus is on expanding the business to include additional enterprise translation buyers, and business development roles report to him. At this time, according to Stevens, the top priority is “the safety and security of our employees, then expand outward.”
He said, “Linguists also require consistency in crisis; therefore, delivering on contracted rates is our way of supporting the most critical part of work, the people. In many ways our metrics have not changed at this moment, rather we look for opportunities to serve.”
On how they support their people, Stevens said, “In the transition to working from home, 20% of our company experienced challenges related to child care. Therefore, support for childcare has been provided to our employees.”
He said they are also “creatively working with buyers to find reasonable terms in these uncertain times,” calling it “just good business practice.”
“We came up with an idea that helps buyers with budget constraints and linguists desiring to improve their productivity while leveling up. Through May 30, 2020, we are offering our best adaptive machine translation service, ModernMT, at no cost,” Stevens said.
Matteo Natale – IDC
“We are fortunate to be keeping busy with work. In many ways, we’re feeling just as connected and mutually supportive now as when we were all sharing the same physical space every day,” said Matteo Natale, who is based at the International Digital Centre (IDC) headquarters in New York City.
Natale took on the role of Director of Localization at IDC on January 20, 2020. He joined the multimedia service provider after having spent two years in a similar post at Prime Focus Technologies, and film distribution giant Deluxe the decade prior. He reports to IDC President and CEO Marcy Gilbert.
All project management, language services, translator recruitment, and quality control roles within IDC’s Localization and Accessibility Services report to Natale. He is also responsible for “relationships across the localization value chain.”
As New York enters its third week of lockdown, Natale said, “The virtual events and spaces we foster include some focused on our work, which is pretty standard, but also others dedicated to more fundamental personal and social needs. This is supplemented by our ability to maintain good, regular pay, and generous sick leave policies.”
According to Natale, “We understand that all our people have different circumstances when working from home, doing what they need to do to keep themselves and their families safe, whether it be homeschooling or taking care of sick family members. So, we provide flexible working hours to support the diverse needs of each individual in our workforce and value chain in New York, Los Angeles, and around the world.”
Nicolás Fontana – Comunica
“All are allowed to work from home. They are provided with laptops and all hardware and software needed to perform their daily tasks. The company is also providing portable Internet devices to those who are unable to have a proper connection,” said Nicolás Fontana about how they are dealing with the lockdown in Spain.
On March 3, 2020, Fontana joined Spain-based LSP Comunica as Sales and Vendor Manager. He reports to Managing Director Tina Julsgaard and is based in Fuengirola, Málaga. Fontana said his main responsibilities include overseeing freelance translators and finding new clients.
They were “fully prepared to have all workers and roles working remotely, home-based,” so the current situation “is not affecting my position metrics.” And while there could be some impact on client-generation, Fontana is looking to other ways to contact people other than attending conferences and events.
Aside from LinkedIn, Fontana said they also use Slack and GoToMeeting, and “a WhatsApp group to support everyone in Comunica´s family, by sharing news, medical information, and advice on how to handle the lockdown with kids, and pets.”
He said that “for those alone, we provide support, and organize calls and chats to keep the spirit up almost 24/7. Payments are guaranteed and there won’t be any reduction as the workflow is not affected, so far.”
Fontana added that they are now working on a long-term contingency plan just in case the lockdown drags on for two months or more.