home Customer Experience, Disrupt the Disrupters Jeeves.Plus, the ‘Babel fish’ for international customer service

Jeeves.Plus, the ‘Babel fish’ for international customer service

In 1978 Douglas Adams wrote about the ‘Babel fish’ in his comic Sci Fi novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy. By placing the Babel fish in their ear, a person can translate every known language in the universe. Jeeves.Plus, an enterprising Australian start-up, is turning the fictional fish into a practical reality.

Launched in 2017, Jeeves.Plus is a Multilingual Text (SMS) based customer service platform empowering full two-way conversation with customers regardless of what language they speak or their location.

Envisage a Chinese businessman travelling to Sydney who speaks very little English, but needs to check into his hotel, sort out his room details and ask advice for where to eat and what attractions to see. He pulls out his mobile phone and starts texting in Mandarin. The hotel’s concierge receives the texts in English, responding to the traveller’s enquiries. The Chinese businessman receives all the information he needs immediately and in Mandarin.

A discussion that led to a great idea

David Hayes, CEO and cofounder, explains how Jeeves.Plus was hatched. “The key trigger for Jeeves.Plus stemmed from a conversation with Dr Jerry Schwartz, Schwartz Group of Hotels, one of the largest investors in the Australian Hotel Industry. Dr Schwartz believed in the potential of SMS for customer engagement, but what would be of real interest is a facility by which his staff could communicate with guests in their own language and on their devices”.

Inspired by this discussion, Hayes saw an opportunity to capitalise on the global trend of messaging as a cost-effective channel for customer engagement. Hayes and co-founder, Graeme Campbell, both have extensive experience in voice and messaging platforms. They knew they could build the ideal solution.

“It took us 9 months to design and develop a prototype and initial platform. After testing and receiving feedback from clients and potential clients we reshaped the functionality of the platform. They all wanted simplicity so as operators could be as efficient in responding as possible. Much of the original functionality was stripped out as basically unnecessary.”

The platform was launched in 2017 in association with the launch of the Sydney Sofitel Darling Harbour, providing staff with the ability to communicate with their guests in 104 languages.

“Though originally developed with the hotel industry in mind, our clients now range from hospitality to include corporate and government. Our strongest growth is coming from the government space as we are empowering them to communicate with their constituents in their language and on their device. It’s saving them considerable resources on employing live translators, which at times can be very hard to organise”.

How does it work?

Jeeves.Plus allocates a dedicated mobile number for each client. The client then promotes the use of that number to customers as a communication channel to communicate with staff for any request. The Jeeves system allows a customer to send SMS messages written in a foreign language. Jeeves.Plus automatically translates the text into English and presents it to a call centre agent or customer service representative who will reply in English. Jeeves.Plus automatically translates the response into the customer’s original language.

“To date we have experienced a very high level of accuracy in the 104 languages we automatically translate. The platform is continually learning. The more it’s used the more accurate the translation”, says Hayes.

The future Jeeves.Plus is currently expanding overseas targeting contact centres in US, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Mark Atterby

Mark Atterby has 18 years media, publishing and content marketing experience.