Price is obviously one of the biggest factors when making a business decision. But when choosing a language service provider (LSP), there is more to price than meets the eye.
A bargain isn’t really a bargain if it means compromising on quality or security. And with so much on the line, selecting the wrong LSP based on price alone can have expensive consequences. This can include lawsuits, a negative reputation for your organization, and even a loss of life in some cases.
These are the three most important themes when comparing price:
- Quality Interpreters and Technology: Valuable information – not to mention your image with your audience – is at stake when you work with an LSP. It is essential that the interpreters you utilize are highly skilled. Likewise, a top LSP will maintain price integrity by employing quality information technology on its clients’ behalf.
- Availability and Scalability: The right provider can scale as demand changes. It will be able to handle your demand today and tomorrow as you grow.
- Security: A given LSP’s price may be cheap, but the services you receive may exclude the processes, policies, and guidelines needed to protect the security of your clients’ personal and financial information. There are significant risks involved with language access, both for compliance and identity theft. It is easy to call a service “secure,” but less easy to actually accomplish it. This is why you need a provider that is tested and trusted.
Quality Interpreters and Technology
As you evaluate providers, ask them for evidence of the quality of their interpreters and translators. Some important factors to consider include:
- Selection and screening criteria
- How the provider assesses the proficiency of interpreters and translators
- What type of training and continuing education they provide
- How they monitor calls for quality assurance
At a basic level, a less-skilled interpreter is likely to prolong a call. Let’s say Provider A costs $1 per minute and Provider B costs $1.20. If Provider A is using lower-skilled interpreters, using their services will likely end up costing more in the long run.
Of greater importance is your image with clients and patients. Essential information is being conveyed during interpreted sessions. If this information is miscommunicated or mishandled, the reputation you have worked so hard to build could be jeopardized.
The need for quality extends to technology, as well. The ideal LSP has a low percentage of dropped calls and a quick service-issue resolution time, as these are two areas that can drive up costs unexpectedly. Likewise, top LSPs are constantly evaluating new technologies and deploying them when appropriate.
A partner keeps up with the latest innovations in the language industry and will make recommendations to help your organization be more efficient, such as using translation memory to speed up a website translation or introducing a mobile app so employees can access quality interpreting from anywhere.
Availability and Scalability
Your organization may think you only need interpreters in the top 10 most common business languages in the global market or those most common to your region, but as the U.S. population becomes increasingly diverse, there’s a growing need to meet a wider variety of languages.
As this map from Slate shows, aside from English and Spanish, the most commonly spoken languages vary by state.
This doesn’t even account for the many other languages you’re likely to encounter if you serve a global population.
If your provider is unable to meet that need in a timely manner, you’re going to have a frustrating interaction with a current or potential customer. You also might think you only need phone interpreting, but forward-thinking organizations are adding new technologies like video remote interpreting every day to support communication in face-to-face situations.
Look for a provider with access to a wide range of languages and technologies that not only will meet your needs now, but have the ability to support your organization’s growth well into the future at all customer touch points. If you select a provider that cannot scale to meet your future needs or adapt to the preferences of your audience, you will miss opportunities and face costs related to switching providers down the line.
Sensitive information is shared during interpreted calls. A breach in the security of your clients’ or patients’ personal information can have devastating consequences for all concerned. An LSP’s ability to keep this information safe is a key component of evaluating costs.
Whether in a call center with hundreds of interpreters or a secure “center of one” working from home, best-in-class LSPs go to great lengths to ensure that the privileged and confidential information shared during interpretation sessions remains safe and secure.
Top LSPs have strict code-of-conduct policies that cover the safe and secure handling of client information. Typically this code is supported by various policies and procedures that are regularly monitored for compliance. These policies include things like background screening and drug test for interpreters, clean desks, interpreter system access, interpreter call note-taking, and more.
Best-in-class LSPs also carry insurance to cover security breaches.
Client security and operational audits are typically requested by the largest clients whose risk management requirements are strict. Passing these very stringent audits is an indication of the strength and effectiveness of the LSP’s security policies and procedures.
Efficiency Savings and Volume Discounts
If your organization has experienced mergers or acquisitions, you may be using several different providers within various departments or locations. That means managing multiple contracts and line items on the balance sheets. It also means that you are probably missing out on volume discounts a single LSP could provide.
Likewise, organizations often find themselves using different LSPs for each aspect of language access, thus paying a premium for each service. For example, they might use one organization for interpretation and another for translation. Savings would likely be realized by bundling these services with a best-in-class LSP.
You Need a Partner, Not a Provider
Language access should not be treated as a commodity. If you’re only asking for price quotes from an LSP, you’re asking the wrong question. By making a decision based purely on price, you’re likely to get a relationship that is purely transactional – and transactional relationships usually end up costing more in the long run.
Paying attention to below-the-surface areas like quality, availability, and security will maintain cost integrity and in fact keep costs lower in the long run.
While a language service provider essentially clocks out after you hang up the phone, a language access partner never stops working for you.
How can you be sure you choose a true partner? Check out this helpful guide to selecting a language service provider for evaluation criteria, questions and more.
Simon Yoxon-Grant is Vice President of Sales at LanguageLine Solutions.