Bargains are often deceptive and can have significant consequences when it comes to getting limited English speakers the access they need.
You buy a friend’s used car that seems perfect for your 16-year-old daughter, only to spend twice the list price on repairs in the first two months.
Buyer’s remorse can also happen when it comes to shopping for affordable language services—and sometimes, the results have significant consequences.
Here are three costly effects of choosing the lowest-cost language service provider without regard for quality.
1. Legal consequences
When people with limited English proficiency are unable to voice their concerns, they turn to advocates who speak for them. This often leads to lawsuits that come at a substantial cost to an organization’s reputation and bottom line.
For example, a major human services department recently reached a substantial settlement with a civil rights advocacy group over its repeated failure to provide language services that were required by law. The department’s failure to provide interpreters caused serious harm to local residents, according to the lawsuit. One woman had her food stamp benefits cut by two-thirds, and another had her health insurance benefits canceled when she was seven months pregnant.
The department was required to follow a designated plan under the direction of a specially trained ombudsman, and was ordered to pay $120,000 in damages and court costs.
2. Loss of revenue
Customers won’t buy what they can’t understand.
In a global study by Common Sense Advisory, 75 percent of respondents said they were more likely to buy products online if the information was in their language.
Meanwhile, 74 percent said they would be more likely to purchase the same product again if follow-up sales communications were in their language.
Accurate, contextual website translation unlocks the global customer experience. By contrast, poor language translation can cost companies revenue.
Additionally, when products benefit from hands-on demonstration or require more in-depth assistance, quality on-site interpreting or video remote interpreting can make the difference between a customer who makes a purchase and one who walks away out of frustration.
Unfortunately, too many companies cut corners by relying on customers’ friends and relatives to interpret, or by hiring part-time staff members who lack the experience or availability to provide on-demand support. The most effective providers are accessible at all times. They use interpreters who have been qualified by objective standards—such as fluency tests—and have been trained to provide an exceptional customer experience.
3. Serious injury or loss of life
No one can put a price tag on health, and unfortunately there are times when poor interpretation can be life-threatening.
In a hospital setting, for instance, having instant access to accurate language interpretation services is essential to providing life-saving care in an emergency. Relying on friends or relatives in those situations may be less expensive, but studies show nonprofessional interpreters are significantly more likely to cause errors.
Nonprofessional interpreters produced error rates as high as 22 percent in a clinical environment, compared to a 2 percent error rate for professional interpreters, according to an article in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
In one unfortunate case, an 18-year-old baseball player suffered debilitating brain damage after being treated for a drug overdose instead of a cerebral hemorrhage. Medical professionals believed he was under the influence after misunderstanding a term his family members used: intoxicado, which is a general term for feeling unwell in Spanish. In addition to one young man’s life being permanently altered, the misinterpretation resulted in a $71 million settlement.
As we’ve seen, the least expensive solution isn’t always the wisest choice. To avoid lost revenue, hidden costs, and other serious consequences that can result from miscommunication, organizations must consider quality in addition to price when evaluating affordable language services providers.
Learn more about how price can be misleading when comparing language service providers.
For more on what is important and what questions to ask, please check out this comprehensive guide to selecting a language services provider.