Emmersion and the Rise of AI-Powered Language Evaluation
In a 2020 report, staff writers of the Customer Contact Week give four reasons why language testing for companies—especially ones like contact centers—is a challenging, strenuous process for which companies don’t readily have solutions. It’s clear that high-quality communication skills are imperative for any linguist (or any employee in the language industry, for that matter), but previous methods of linguistic evaluation and hiring aren’t as accurate as people think they are. “Existing, manual measures tend to be as inefficient as they are ineffective,” says CCW, “yielding recruiting processes that are costly and time-consuming without even offering the rewards of better agent performance or retention.”
There are four specific reasons why existing language evaluation tests are inefficient, according to CCW:
Conversational testing is vulnerable to significant bias and subjectivity. An in-person recruiter may mistake a candidate’s natural charisma for language competency, leading them to hire people who will ultimately struggle to develop product knowledge and support customers.
Manual testing can be a time-consuming process, which is a luxury many contact center recruiters do not have. Some are responsible for immediately hiring a mass of agents to meet an internal or third-party need. Many, moreover, recruit from a talent pool that expects an “on-the-spot” offer following a successful interview.
As they assess “academic” language capabilities, traditional language testing may not sufficiently inform an agent’s ability to engage in natural conversations and deliver stellar experiences.
Often broad and static in nature, traditional language tests may not sufficiently determine whether an agent can handle a company’s specific issues or support a particular demographic of customers.
In short, current methods for evaluating language proficiency aren’t simply robust enough to fully evaluate a subject’s multifaceted linguistic capabilities. This hurts the company in both their customer service and training costs; if a company mistakenly hires an unqualified linguist, the company either has to train them or suffer a blow to their customer experience.
This was before COVID-19 when offline, face-to-face interaction was the norm. Back then, companies could at least help train unqualified agents in person; now, workers are spread far and apart and customer demand for online communication never seems to stop increasing. CCW gives four additional challenges to language evaluation that COVID-19 poses:
Dealing with dramatic changes in volume and new customer expectations, some companies need to quickly increase their headcounts. Infamously time-consuming, traditional language tests prevent companies from rapidly scaling their recruiting efforts.
Already subjective and ineffective when conducted as part of face-to-face meetings, language tests can be even harder to execute during remote video interviews.
With COVID-19 increasing omnichannel communication, agents require the ability to successfully communicate via voice and text. Language testing, therefore, needs to evolve to assess competency in all communication channels.
With fewer opportunities for face-to-face guidance, new agents will have to independently develop knowledge and perfect their customer engagement skills. They will also have fewer opportunities to ask their peers or supervisors for help during interactions. Strong language skills are essential for succeeding in this more autonomous landscape.
Emmersion offers a solution to these problems with its speaking and writing evaluation tests. Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, Emmersion’s tests are adaptive and efficient, taking into account the varieties in people’s dialects and the linguistic differences between academia, the workplace, and everyday conversations.
In a recent podcast hosted by Slator’s Esther Bond and Florian Faes, Emmersion CEO Brigham goes into more detail on how Emmersion’s products work. One particularity is Emmersion’s very own AI assessment engine, which not only offers adaptive language evaluation tests but also gives full, detailed reports on the tester’s language skills. The whole testing process takes around 15 minutes or so, minimizing time and manual resources spent on language evaluation.
Like other language evaluation programs, Emmersion’s AI assessment engine does use general front-end services (such as those offered by Google) to run an initial speech recognition, analyzing the speaker’s words for pronunciation. Emmersion, however, goes above and beyond, also analyzing for language abilities, grammar, and a plethora of other categories, thus compiling a more nuanced, thorough picture of a person’s linguistic abilities.
The 2020 CCW report notes that Emmersion’s innovative products will effectively yield better customer service, providing six specific benefits that Emmersion brings to the automated language evaluation field:
AI language testing solutions, such as the TrueNorth Speaking Test by Emmersion, can quickly, accurately and objectively assess speaking ability.
Tests, which do not need to be administered by an in-person “proctor,” account for candidates’ ability to process conversations, repeat and rephrase information, and confidently answer open-ended questions.
The AI-driven tests can be adaptive, tailoring prompts based on the candidate’s background and company’s needs.
The robust, instant scoring system accounts for various nuances of a candidates’ speaking ability, including difficulty of vocabulary, repetitive use of phrases, pauses, and quality of sounds and words.
In addition to providing a more accurate assessment, this robust evaluation helps recruiters understand the pros and cons of each candidate. With this information, companies in a staffing crunch can intelligently relax certain standards while still ensuring they are hiring agents with enough competency to perform pivotal tasks.
The nuanced scoring can also help companies make accurate predictions about a given agents’ long-term success and happiness on the job, leading to higher retention rates and thus more consistent customer experiences.
CEO Brigham Tomco claims that taking the recruiter out of the equation could save at least 30 minutes per applicant, totaling up to over 2,500 saved per year for recruiters. In turn, these hours saved translates to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars saved.
These are trends, CCW posits, that are here to stay. With the advent of automated language evaluations, “operational productivity will rise, internal engagement will increase, and customer happiness will skyrocket,” according to CCW authors, and Emmersion’s products and results are proof that these practices work. With 750 clients—academic institutions and business enterprises alike—under their belt, Emmersion signals a new paradigm for language evaluation in a world where artificial intelligence is utilized to complement and improve the human experience.
Transcription Company Verbit Acquires UK-Based Take Note
Mergers and acquisitions are an increasingly common trend in the language industry; Amplexor’s 2021 merger with Acolad was one of the biggest events of the industry last year. The process—M&A for short—has a long history, dating as far back as 1784 when the Italian banks Monte dei Paschi and Monte Pio merged as the Monti Reuniti, and 1821 when the Hudson’s Bay Company merged with its rival North West Company. The result, almost always, is a movement towards market domination and risk reduction—which, in other words, signifies improvements to financial performance alongside a number of other monetary benefits.
Such is the case for Verbit, a New York-based multilingual transcription company. Its acquisition of Take Note—a similar transcription provider, but based in the UK—takes Verbit one step closer to its “goal of becoming a one-stop-shop for all voice AI needs.” But the acquisition wasn’t just out of the blue; Take Note specializes in market research, and in acquiring the company, Verbit can expand its “corporate services portfolio” for its market research customers, all the while enhancing its usage of UK English. Slator notes that this acquisition will bring “a degree of consolidation to the fragmented transcription market.”
Take Note is the latest acquisition in Verbit’s widespread expansion in the transcription industry. Slator’s Esther Bond tracks Verbit’s history of acquisitions: “the company bought media captioning company, VITAC, in May 2021, and government and education-focused captioning provider, Automated Sync Technologies (AST) in December 2021.” To Bond’s question of how the company will develop specific automation solutions, Verbit CEO Tom Livne responded that he sees “a wide range of use cases for our Voice AI solution” in the field of market research.