Our communities are growing more diverse by the day. Already one in five U.S. residents speaks a language other than English at home. Nearly 90 percent of our population growth will come from immigration over the coming decades, to the extent that by 2045 America is expected to be “majority minority.”

These individuals are seeking services and support. Quite frequently, everything from simple tasks for complex interactions become daunting as a lack of understanding hinders clear communication. Frustration, fear, and confusion often lead to mistrust and avoidance.

There are more than 25 million limited-English proficient (LEP) individuals living in the United States today. Another 37 million report some degree of hearing loss. Taken together, these two communities amount to more than 10 percent of the U.S. population.

An organization can maximize its goals by serving members in their preferred language, including American Sign Language. The challenge is that no business, hospital, school, or other agency can possibly accommodate the more than 300 languages that are spoken across the country.

The solution is to bring in a language-access partner to assist with effective communication. Doing so enables an organization to achieve its goals, comply with laws and regulations, improve staff efficiency, and most of all, to provide a fulfilling customer or patient experience.

The Challenge

The challenge is that most organizations are new (or relatively new) to translation services. They are unsure of how to evaluate one provider of translation services against the next. Asked to choose a language-services provider (LSP), the often default to price for lack other information to help them discern one from the other.

The downside to this sort of selection process is that it may inadvertently put an organization’s reputation at risk, not to mention expose it to compliance and legal issues.

INFOGRAPHIC: America’s Majority Minority Future

The Solution

The first step to making an informed decision is to establish a buying criteria for translation services.

This buying criteria should take into account the services being offered, the support that accompanies that service, and the reputation of the company that provides it.

A defined buying criteria allows for equivalent comparisons across contenting translation services providers. In turn, a buyer can derive keen insight into their price-value equations. This is why simply selecting the lowest-cost provider – and using cost as the sole buying criteria – can negatively influence the ultimate value delivered by a language-access program.

READ MORE The Guide to Translation and Localization

We strongly recommend that the following buying criteria be considered when selecting a translation-services provider:

Evaluate the reliability and stability of the language-services provider – both its financial solvency as well as the steadiness of its technology platform.

Assess the quality of the company’s on-demand and onsite interpreting solutions, depending in your need. Are the interpreters highly qualified and trained? Are they given specialized training in your field?

Evaluate the support provided by the translation-services provider. Do they assist with implementation of their solution? Do they provide support 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

Ask questions about the company’s technical capabilities. Are they able to scale if there is a surge in demand? What is the total up-time for their platform annually? How quickly are you able to connect to an interpreter? How often to video calls roll over to audio when no video interpreter is available?

The Value Equation

How do you determine the potential value of a language-access program once these criteria are considered?

We often give prospective clients the following equation: Value = Quality + Service / Price

This often results in a working number that allows for an apples-to-apples comparison of translation-services providers.