On-site vs. Over-the-Phone vs. Video Remote Interpretation

Companies that engage with customers both domestically and globally require different channels to effectively communicate. In order to overcome any spoken language barrier, there are a variety of solutions that these organizations can employ.

First, let’s break down the different types of interpretation.

On-Site Interpretation Over-the-Phone Interpretation Video Remote Interpretation
On-site Over-the-Phone (OPI) Video Remote (VRI)
Interpretation is done face-to-face in the location where the customer (patient, member, employee, etc.) and the organization’s representative are both located. Sessions are usually booked in advance. The interpreter serves as the bridge during a telephone conversation between customer and representative. Wait times to connect to an interpreter are usually within seconds, which makes this solution ideal for on-demand needs. The interpreter, customer and representative use video conferencing technology to communicate. This solution bridges the gap between in-person and over-the-phone. It can be effective in communicating with the deaf and hearing-impaired.

Next, let’s ask a few clarifying questions to better understand which solution(s) might benefit you.

  1. How do you interact with customers (patients, members, employees, etc.)?
    1. Is it in-person at a retail location, office, court room, clinic, hospital, etc.?
    2. Or is it by phone?
  2. Do you engage with your customers one-on-one or in a group setting?
  3. Do your customers set appointments in advance when they will interact with you?
    1. Or do they contact you at their convenience?
  4. What are your customers’ most commonly spoken languages?
  5. Do you support customers that are deaf or blind?
  6. Are you communicating sensitive information with/to customers?
  7. What kind of budget do you have to support language access?
  8. Do you have access to web-enabled devices that customers and/or representatives in different locations can use?
  9. Where are your customers located (i.e., US, Spain, India, etc.)?
  10. How frequently do you experience interpretation needs?

Finally, let’s break down how answers to the above questions can help you determine which solutions(s) are right for you organization.

Interaction Points: How your customers interact with your organization largely dictates the options available to you. If you run a call center where customers contact you by phone at their convenience, then OPI is clearly your best bet. If your customers schedule in-person appointments, such as with a doctor, lawyer, financial representative, etc. then on-site interpretation is likely ideal. But you may need to consider budget, in which case VRI may be worth exploring.

Additional factors to consider are how or where your customers engage you, the speed or convenience with which they engage your services, the specific language barriers, the location of your customers or representatives and the size of your audience (individual vs. group).

Communication Details: The details of how and what you communicate with customers should also weigh into your decision. On-site interpreting is often more personable and suitable especially in scenarios where building rapport, sharing good or bad news or sensitive personal information is required. An on-site interpreter can build relationships between both parties and is able to pick up on nuances of facial and body language which are crucial for making both parties more comfortable.

Cost & Location: Location matters. But let’s face it, so does budget. If you run a small business or a non-profit, your organization might not have the budget for on-site interpreting, which is the most expensive solution of the three, and typically charges by the hour. If your customers or representatives are located around the world, you’ll likely need a solution to handle coverage across time zones. For these organizations, OPI or VRI are more cost-effective solutions that charge by the minute.

Current Climate: Looking at the unique set of circumstances we are facing in the world right now with COVID-19, ISI has found that on-site interpreting is not currently a solution our customers are willing to employ. These organizations are turning to OPI and VRI as alternatives to bridge the gap during these unprecedented times.

ISI offers a full suite of interpreting services. Give us a call or shoot us an email at sales@isitrans.com if you’d like to further discuss which solutions are best for you and your organization.