LanguageLine Blog

Video Interpreter Tool for LEP Customers

Written by Julie Carson | September 3, 2015

A few months ago, we met Bo, a Mandarin-speaking man whose afternoon of errand-running turned into an emotional roller coaster as he dealt with the difficult – often frustrating – experience many limited English proficient (LEP) retail customers have when trying to purchase things they want and need at stores.

When quality language access wasn’t available, Bo left the store without spending anything, or at least spending less than he otherwise would have. When quality language access was available, Bo purchased what he needed and went home with a great story to tell.  The store gained a loyal client.

As noted in that article, having easy access to on-demand interpreters via telephone is a cost-effective and beneficial means of bridging that gap and helping your multicultural customers feel more comfortable and more willing to do business with your store.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if the interpreter could actually be paired with a customer to see what the customer sees and share information in the language they understand? That is exactly what can happen with our professional video interpreting app, LanguageLine InSight.

InSight has found great success among early adopters in the medical field. Secured iPads on rolling carts, “Interpreter on Wheels”, travels with a patient from Admissions through consultation to procedure and beyond if necessary.  So, if a video interpreter can assist a patient throughout the hospital, why can’t it also follow a customer from aisle to aisle in your store?

How is video different from telephone interpreting?

While telephone interpreting is highly effective, and still remains the workhorse of on-demand interpreting services, there are aspects of the interpretation interaction that are limited by the telephone.

Scientists have long understood that only a small percentage of what we communicate as humans comes through the actual words we say. In actuality, the majority of the message we are communicating comes through body language, facial expression, and gestures, along with our tone of voice and word choice.

This is the case in all languages, and some even more so than others.

A professional telephone interpreter can do an excellent job of providing interpretation of what an LEP individual says and can use clarifying questions to ensure the context is accurately relayed. A video interpreter has the huge advantage of being able to actually see those other aspects of communication, as well as the retail store environment in real-time, which results in a more accurate and efficient interpretation session. 

How can InSight be used in a retail setting?

If your current retail sales floor staff are English-speaking, and a customer comes in who is interested in browsing or making a purchase, but they don’t speak English, they’re essentially on their own. They may end up buying or they may not. They may be able to find what they’re looking for, or they may not.

The biggest trouble is that you just don’t know. And all your sales team’s talent and experience is of no value because they can’t communicate with this customer.

Sometimes, the customer will have a bilingual family member or friend with them who can act as an interpreter. This certainly seems to help, and it may be a great way to offer some guidance and possibly make a sale. But how proficient are they, really? Can you be sure the 12-year-old who’s busy watching the X-Box display behind you is really effectively interpreting all the flat screen TV specs you’re trying to discuss with his father?

The more complex the discussion, and the more expensive the purchase, the harder it is to rely on bilingual friends and family to educate your customer and reduce the chance of misunderstandings and returns.

On the other hand, imagine having an on-demand video interpreter available on an iPad on the counter where a salesperson can access it at any time. Within moments of greeting a prospective customer and learning they do not speak English, the salesperson can grab the tablet, locate the proper language, access an interpreter, and continue with their normal routine of helping the individual and making the sale, just as they would with an English speaking customer.  “Just think of InSight as a member of your customer service team.”


For more details on how the InSight program can benefit your retail store, contact us today for a free demonstration.