InstantAtlas is used world-wide and the number of customers outside the UK is large and rapidly increasing. This is principally due to the InstantAtlas outputs being entirely language-independent and the desktop authoring tools coming equipped with English, French, German and Spanish interface language packs. Also, our main website www.instantatlas.com can be viewed in any of those four languages. The need to extract meaning from numerical or text-based data has no geographic or cultural boundaries and creating data visualization software to empower only local users would be missing a trick.
In the age of web conferencing you would be forgiven for thinking that providing support for this far-flung customer base should not pose too great a challenge. This is to some extent true – we are particularly fond of the WebEx web conferencing tool that allows us to deliver demos, support and training to remote areas that we could not travel to quickly or inexpensively.
However, there remains an obstacle for which technology has a tendency to be disappointingly ineffectual – language. Believe me when I say that Google’s translation tools will only get you so far.
We provide support mainly by phone and email/chat. Many of our overseas customers have English as a mother tongue or have learnt it to a high level – we can relax and allow their exotic accent to transport us to far-away places. Others only have the basics they picked up at school and this makes technical troubleshooting interesting to say the least. Others have no English at all. With that in mind, we have always viewed foreign languages as a big plus and our support team currently includes native speakers of English, French, Spanish, German, Dutch, Portuguese and Ghetto-Texan (err, that’s an official language is it Dorothy?).
A global and multilingual customer base makes for interesting support work. On Monday we’ll discuss how to map a dengue fever outbreak with Argentina’s Ministry of Health, on Tuesday we’ll plan the delivery of a child health census with analysts at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital and on Wednesday we’ll work on the design of a community information system with the research team at Pinellas County in Florida… by Friday we’ll have called all seven continents. It brings us into contact with a wide range of data, issues, work methods and mind-sets and challenges us to find the best solutions. Occasionally we even have the pleasure of dropping in on these customers to deliver consultancy or training in person.
Till next time | A la prochaine | Hasta luego | Bis zum nächsten Mal | Tot de volgende keer | Até à próxima
Pierre Jenkins, Head of InstantAtlas Support