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Mobile interpreter helps passengers and customer service staff at Helsinki Airport communicate past a language barrier

21.5.2018 at 09:00
Last year, Helsinki Airport adopted Túlka, a mobile interpretation service. How has the service been received? People of the airport share their experiences.

In summer 2017, Finavia launched a pilot project at Helsinki Airport to test a video interpretation service, Túlka. The service connects customer service staff to a professional interpreter through a mobile app to help them communicate with passengers when they have no language in common. Finavia has helped launch the pilot at select shops and customers service points at the airport to help improve the level of customer service.  

Interpretation is available in more than ten languages, including Chinese, Japanese and Russian. Túlka is currently used at Iittala, at Arctic World of Santa Claus, at the Duty Free Store for long-haul flights and at customer service points in the airport. How has the service been received? 

Service in one’s native language is a relief 

At the Arctic World of Santa Claus in Terminal 2, Túlka has been found very helpful. Customer service personnel are pleased with the quality of the service and the smooth collaboration with Finavia and Túlka. Although staff members speak several languages, there are occasionally situations where they can’t find a common language with the customer. 

“We use Túlka especially with Chinese customers, but also sometimes with French passengers. With Túlka, our customers always get an excellent service experience,” says Satenik Gevorkyan. 

According to Gevorkyan, situations where Túlka is useful, are varied.  

“For example, French customers usually want to find out about our products and their properties. Asian travellers, on the other hand, can ask us about anything related to the airport, such as where they can find drinking water or where a certain shop is located.” 

For Asian travellers, a Finnish airport can be an entirely new experience, so they may not expect to find service in their own language. 

 “Many Chinese customers are clearly relieved to see and hear a Chinese interpreter,” says Gevorkyan. 

Video contact with an interpreter in thirty seconds 

What makes Túlka exceptional is the fact that it offers visual contact between the customer and the interpreter. The high-quality video connection creates an experience that's quite close to normal, face-to-face communication. At times, the interpreter may end up presenting the shop’s entire selection to a Chinese customer. 

“Before, we had to use a lot of body language and gesturing to present our products when there was no common language. Túlka really helps us close the deal,” Gevorkyan says. 

According to Gevorkyan, Túlka is very simple to use. The service is used through an ordinary smartphone. You only need to open the app and select the language that needs to be interpreted. 

“We reach the interpreter in approximately thirty seconds. It's a short enough wait so the customers will usually stick around, even if when we don't have a common language to explain what we're waiting for.” 

Interpretation also helps sales 

Remote interpretation is also useful at the airport’s customer service points. Even though the staff speak many languages, there are times when there are no Chinese or Russian speakers nobody on duty.  

“Túlka helps us communicate with passengers,” says Tuija Klubb, Service Advisor at Finavia. “We use it either when there is no common language or if we feel that the customer doesn’t fully understand our advice.” 

For customers, remote interpretation means a higher quality of service and a smoother experience at the airport. Sometimes, it can even increase sales. 

Huda Elwan, Account Manager at Túlka, describes how a Chinese customer, who was looking for one specific product at the Beauty Store at Helsinki Airport, ended up buying five products after getting service in her mother tongue. 

“It’s the unexpected ease of shopping that can inspire you to buy more. Customers feel appreciated when they receive service in their own language,” Elwan concludes.

Read more about effortless shopping at the airport    

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