Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Tokyo Readies for 2020 Olympics with Plans for Free Contact Center with Interpretation Services

January 09, 2015

For any country that is awarded the Olympic Games, which now include both the regular games as well as the Paralympics, it is never too early to plan ahead.  Tokyo, who will be hosting the 2020 Olympics is an example of just how important it is to get an early start, and interestingly contact centers are part of their early preparations.  It comes in the form of an announcement recently that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to establish a multilingual contact center in fiscal 2015 to enable Japanese tourism businesses to provide interpretation in English, Chinese and Korean to prepare for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

“The plan is part of an effort to remove language barriers so foreign tourists can stay and travel without trouble,” an official in the metropolitan government stated. “The service will be introduced largely to prepare for the 2020 Olympic Games.”

Reports in Japan’s media indicate the service will be outsourced. And, since this is being viewed as important for enhancing foreign visitors’ customer experience, the government is saying the services will be free to use by hotels, restaurants and cab drivers. Plus, it will be available 24/7 with agents available who will be able to provide assistance in any of th, the official said. It allows employees to contact interpreters 24 hours a day for help in the three languages currently being targeted for the initial deployment.

The metropolitan government plans to set aside ¥10 million (roughly $1 million USD) in the budget for fiscal 2015, which begins April 1, and start the service within the year. It was also noted that a similar center in Kyoto was launched in September 2011 offering interpretation in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Portuguese.

Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe has pledged to hold “the best ever” Olympics and Paralympics and the city is accelerating efforts to remove language barriers. It aims to round up 35,000 supporters to provide language assistance by 2020, according to a long-term vision it announced last month.

This is all part of the metropolitan government’s plans to use the latest technologies, including digital signage, mobile apps, etc. to accommodate the needs of what is expected to be 15 million foreign tourists in 2020 which for context is more than twice the record high of 6.81 million who visited Tokyo in 2013.

The plan also happens to highlight two important trends in contact centers that are worth noting, the use of outsourcers and the growing popularity of having multi-lingual capabilities. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle