How Localization Buyers Will Benefit in The Age of Distributed Trust
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How Localization Buyers Will Benefit in The Age of Distributed Trust

There has been much talk about how AI and ML could be the end of the translator, yet few seem to be asking whether “distributed trust” is the end of the global enterprise’s need for a Language Service Provider (LSP).

The history of trust in business

Trust, whether in technology, business, relationships or society, is actually an incredibly complex conversation. Trust is assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something. Think back to medieval times, when villages were isolated and basic human needs had to be met within their small populations. There was one butcher, one baker, one cloth merchant. You had no other option but to trust them in order to get the goods that you needed to survive.

In a more recent example, our parents and grandparents trusted the insurance agent who lived on their street and had been insuring members of your family for years. There was proximity and accountability in the relationship by nature of it being local. But this local trust wasn’t scalable, and as people moved away and the need for wider groups of suppliers emerged, that trust started to unravel. In response, companies began to write up terms and conditions, policies and procedures, contracts and NDAs, signatures and notaries to basically promise their trustworthiness and provide peace of mind.

Fast forward to today, and that trust has been broken. Numerous banks have been found guilty of significant financial fraud over the last decade. Corporations have squandered away their employees’ pensions. Even social media sites we trust with our personal data are getting caught in the act of selling our information.

So, if we can’t trust big institutions and we don’t know our neighbors, now what?

Distributed trust: the next evolution

Enter “distributed trust,” which aims to take trust back from the large organizations that have failed us and place it into the hands of the people once again—only this time, it’s coupled with technology. Rachel Botsman, a leader on exploring the evolution of trust in business and society, explains in a recent article that, “The easiest way to think of it is trust that flows through networks, marketplaces and platforms. And so, it takes trust away from a top-down institution and decentralizes it using technology.”

This is definitely what we are seeing in many industries. There has been a move away from traditional transportation, media and finance models, with consumers obtaining services and data through more and more technologies such as social media, apps and cloud-based platforms. The distributed trust model is a major contributor to the rise of the sharing economy and many of the world’s most influential startups today.

Here’s a practical example of this evolution. When I was a child, my mother spent a significant amount of time reinforcing the idea that I should not get into a car with a stranger. Nowadays, I summon a complete stranger through an app on my phone and climb into his or her car without a concern that harm will come to me, because Uber and Lyft provide the platform that has allowed me to live without owning a car, and I trust that they have vetted their personnel. But these peer-to-peer platforms don’t own the assets or guarantee the well-being of participants, and therefore, are merely facilitating the transaction.

So, who should I trust: the independent driver (Sam or Sarah), the institution (Uber) or the system (the technology enabling the transaction)? The movement is towards trusting the system itself. The trust that the ride will be successful is mitigated by an algorithm, and the institution gets involved only when things go poorly (a concept called exception management). Trust in that system gets questioned when, for instance, a consumer requests an SUV to pick up their large party and a compact car arrives. Clearly, the equation did not work, but the system is also equipped to solicit user feedback in a variety of ways (in-app ratings, user reviews, social media comments), and continuously improves if the institution takes that feedback seriously.

This ability to more easily receive suggestions, complaints and satisfaction information from users is another key factor in the distributed trust model. Society is shifting their philosophy to trusting their peers over company advertising or messaging, and the power of the crowd can make or break a company’s reputation.

How localization buyers draw benefits from LSPs

This leads us back to the original question of whether LSPs will be disrupted by distributed trust, or whether they can join in. Customers are able to take their business elsewhere more easily than ever before, as reported by 76 percent of respondents in a recent study. Brand loyalty is declining, yet customer relationships are in demand. And, let’s throw in the recent new breeds of loc industry competitors: online machine translation services and language technology providers who also offer localization.

Like with other businesses, LSP brands may be losing impact. Strangers to the LSP such as linguists and buyers, motivated by justifying their own choices and helping global companies make good decisions, are creating reviews—which means they control the story rather than the LSP. Therefore, the companies that provide a satisfying and personalized experience can win over companies that have great products and services alone.

So, in this new world order of trusting systems and technology over what the brand tries to portray, what are the value-adds you should look for in an LSP?

Your data drives a positive customer experience. Proactively, the Language Service Provider is able to clearly identify and understand your global position, goals and program strategy, then gather data, create metrics and measure performance to ensure those needs are being met. They create a personalized program for each client that measures what matters to them. The Chief Data Officer will be the new role in the LSP to work across the organization to improve the customer experience.

A culture of trust is built. Businesses are looking for differentiated experiences based on trust and understanding, too, according to Salesforce. To gain this trust, LSPs will need to be transparent in how they use customer data and give clear details on how the experience will improve once the Language Service Provider is trusted with that data.

Connecting experiences across a wide number of customer touchpoints and channels. Seamless handoffs between departments behind the scenes, combined with contextualized engagement with the customer based on prior interactions are key to supporting more business. Investing in intelligent business processes will naturally reduce manual tasks, shorten processes, save time and cut costs—all of which lead to a greater ability to focus on and serve customers, making the savvy LSPs rise above their peers.

Old-school customer service. In the end, only humans can provide the level of attention, communication and problem resolution through creative thinking that makes an effective business relationship possible.


It may seem that at the enterprise level, you don’t need to rely on relationships with individuals to get the job done. And it is tempting to go straight to the ‘systems’ through which localization services can be procured. But the best LSPs can still provide buyers with substantial value-add (and thrive as a result), even in this culture of distributed trust, by providing their customers with an intimate level of support and interaction, anticipating and meeting their needs through innovative solutions and, above all, ensuring their satisfaction.

In this era of distributed trust, how has your experience buying products and services changed?

Many thanks to Michael Stevens, our Director of Client Growth Strategy, for this post.