How Babbel learns from our learners
In the second post in a series on what it means to describe Babbel as a learning company, two Babbelonians discuss our learners’ essential contributions to optimizing and improving our courses.
Speaking at a conference in 2016, Babbel’s CEO Markus Witte explained why it’s essential to always keep the individual customer in focus, especially when you have over one million of them. The challenge of maintaining a sense of connection with, and responsibility to, a massive customer-base eventually confronts any consumer business which experiences explosive growth. Babbel’s transparent, subscription-based business model ensures that we never lose focus on our learners and their goals. Our app is designed to help people, many of whom have never tried learning a new language, to become conversational quickly and efficiently. We can only succeed in direct proportion to our customers’ success in reaching their language goals.
“What we care about is that the customer’s knowledge, and what we know about customers and what they want, gets back to the company,” Markus said. “And we can work on that and iterate on that.”
How do we actually live up to this high standard? The most important and obvious way is to listen carefully to the feedback and criticism our learners generously share with us, and use this to drive innovation from within.
Customer Service: your first contact
Since the inception of Babbel in its current form in 2009, the company has developed many structures to both assess and respond to customers’ experiences with our courses. Leading the way is Babbel’s Customer Service Department. This team of over 70 people has an average customer satisfaction rating above 90 percent–extremely high for the industry. Tasked with personally responding to everything from billing issues to often quite detailed feedback on individual courses or lessons, the Customer Service team receives on average more than 2,500 enquiries per day. They recently hosted a karaoke party at Babbel’s Berlin headquarters to celebrate an impressive milestone: their three millionth resolved customer issue!
“People who write to Babbel are sent satisfaction surveys once their problem has been resolved,” says Chris, Head of Customer Service for English and French. “We did this initially to measure how happy people were with the service they received, but we soon found we were learning a lot from the comments customers left – not only about the service we provide but also about Babbel itself. People are somehow more open to providing honest feedback there.”
To make sure that customer requests are shared throughout the company, Chris and his colleagues record each and every request. This customer feedback data is then made available to all departments within Babbel. We know, for example, exactly how many customers have requested that we add new learning languages like Thai or Swahili. In fact, Russian was introduced as a learning language due in large part to the sheer volume of requests for it.
In addition to the quantitative data, Customer Service also shares qualitative data in the form of internal blogs about customer issues. These can be organized by topics like user requests for specific features and functionality within the app, feedback and criticism from specific countries and regions, and a “best of” with some of the most thoughtful as well as the funniest and most colorful exchanges with customers. Some prolific Babbel fans have written literally hundreds of tickets with quite specific requests or suggestions for improving course content. In this regard, Babbel’s courses are never truly fixed or finished, as customers’ comments can lead to revisions at any time.
This massive accretion of individual contact points and dialogue between Customer Service and Babbel users is an incredibly useful resource for the whole company. Chris and his colleagues have been instrumental in ensuring that our customers’ valuable insights aren’t simply lost: “We put a huge amount of effort into not only addressing a user’s immediate issue, but also ensuring that their voices are heard within the company. When a customer puts across a point in a particularly eloquent way, that can carry far more weight than any statistic.”
CORE QM: integrating customers’ feedback
Customer Service is only the first filter for customer feedback regarding issues or suggestions our users may have about our courses. The second is Babbel’s Didactics Department, the 150 language experts who design, record and optimize all course content; it is no coincidence that these two departments share the same floor of Babbel’s Berlin headquarters. At the nexus of Customer Service and Didactics sits CORE Quality Management (QM), a team within Didactics responsible for bringing users’ feedback to the attention of the course designers.
Rossana, Content Quality Specialist in CORE QM, has been with Babbel for nearly five years. She explains that initially the amount of user feedback related to the content, or bugs related to the content structure, was relatively low, and her team could respond in detail to each user’s requests or issues. However, as the number of learning and display languages expanded, and the customer-base grew exponentially, this proved unsustainable.
“From its very inception, one the CORE QM Team’s major responsibilities has been troubleshooting on all manner of issues. These can include bugs like missing images or crashing lessons, to typos and mistranslations, to concepts that users find poorly or inadequately explained,” says Rossana. “Sometimes the fix is as simple as re-recording a sound file to make the pronunciation clearer. I remember an amusing bug first discovered by a customer. He wrote to us, ‘Are you trying to make me start drinking again?’ We checked the page he referred to and discovered that, due to a bug, clicking on the English word ‘soft drink’ triggered the sound file for ‘alkoholisches Getränk,’ which means alcoholic drink in German!”
Responding to user feedback often requires more creative thinking and close collaboration with the experts for a certain language in Didactics. “Based on a certain volume of feedback from learners, we might, for example, devise a more comprehensive grammar explanation page for a certain language combination,” Rossana went on to explain. In some cases, they may change the translation of a word, the image associated with a specific word, or even the structure of an entire lesson, to make it more comprehensible and memorable.
Rossana’s own knack for languages has helped her understand and empathize with customers’ difficulties: “I love to work with both customers and other team members from different backgrounds; they’ve helped me see languages from a different perspective. I speak Italian as a native, as well as English, Swedish, some Portuguese and a bit of Spanish and Norwegian. I remember a Portuguese speaker learning German wrote to us asking how on earth he could ever learn such a complicated language if o leite (masculine in Portuguese) turns feminine in German (die Milch), whereas o quarto (also masculine) is neuter: das Zimmer! It’s definitely a challenge.”
Having spent years working with learners’ feedback, Rossana respects their keen eye for detail: “Our customers are great observers. They notice if the same word is inconsistently translated throughout the course, or when a translation of an animal displays the wrong picture. We definitely learn a lot from them.”
The entire Babbel Team values your insights and is inspired by your passion for languages. Have you ever interacted with Babbel’s Customer Service? Has Babbel helped you attain one of your language learning goals? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below.