E.g., 11/18/2019
E.g., 11/18/2019

The Translation Quality Lottery

By: Renato Beninatto (Common Sense Advisory)


04 May 2007

Language service providers (LSPs) the world over contend that their key differentiator is quality. If every LSP offers excellent quality, then there is no differentiation among suppliers of translation and localization services. Are you giving buyers what they are looking for? Are you exceeding their expectations? Is there more you could do to differentiate your services from your competitors?

In my opinion, when buyers evaluate an LSP they should ask for references and proof of quality performance – such as sample translations. These test projects will help them assess quality of service, vendor responsiveness, and value for money.

Unfortunately, when a buyer of language services requests a sample or test translation, language service providers tend to see it as a nuisance or a risk. Some even decline to bid on projects that require an evaluation of translation quality, unless they have the opportunity to speak with the person who will evaluate the test – something that is not always possible. LSPs that place too many conditions on their bids are committing a faux pax. In a market where there is little or no differentiation between service providers, a sample translation may be the only opportunity in the sales process for an LSP to stand out from the crowd.

Improve Your Chances of Winning the Lottery
As an LSP, if you are not a gambler and you trust the value of your process and your resources, you can increase your odds of winning this lottery. How?

  • Buy a ticket! If you want to win the translation quality lottery, buy a ticket! Put your best team on it and treat it as you would a real revenue-producing project. A test translation gives an LSP a great opportunity to show its proficiency. It is like an “open book” exam at school. There is no excuse for failure.
  • Compete with yourself. Some LSPs will put three teams of translators and editors to work on the same sample and submit all of them. The client then has the opportunity to evaluate different levels of service and pick the one that subjectively pleases the reviewer the most. Of course, this puts an added burden on the already stressed reviewer, so this tactic might not work for buyers that are chronically short of resources.
  • Dazzle the client with science . LSPs will sometimes send the client an extensive document describing how they handled the sample translation, what assumptions they made in the process, and how they might improve the output. They use this opportunity to influence the reviewers and make sure that their samples are used as the benchmark for all translations.

The downside to these approaches is that they cost money and take time. However, wise LSPs will consider sample translations to be a cost of doing business.

What's on the Mind of the Buyer
Do you really know what your customers and prospects think? When I was the vice president of sales for localization service companies, I often asked myself this question. I wanted to know what they planned to do the next three years. I wanted to know whether they planned to outsource more work or bring it in house. What I really wanted was to be a fly on the wall at planning and operational meetings.

How can LSPs determine what buyers find most important during the procurement process? Ask the buyer. The LSP is the language expert and should guide the buyer through the process by asking questions that are part of a checklist. Questioning buyers about what they want to accomplish with the translation project will go a long way toward helping produce a good test translation.

If you have a strong relationship with a potential buyer, it never hurts to be a part of the development of the Request for Proposal (RFP). If you are helping to develop the RFP, you will certainly know how to put your best proposal forward.

And Finally...Exceed Expectations
Though it sounds all too obvious, when providing a sample translation to an interested buyer or in response to an RFP, instead of providing a two-page-per-language sample translation, offer a "sample translation package." As opposed to just sending simple attachments to the RFP response, produce a full package with sections that touch several points, including clarification of terminology choices and recommendations for translation optimization. The effort you put forth in this early part of the process will highlight your company's willingness and ability to accommodate the client's needs, and it may even help you to secure the winning ticket.

Renato Beninatto is COO and VP of Consulting Practice for Common Sense Advisory . He has over 20 years of executive-level experience in the localization industry. Renato specializes in making companies successful in global markets and in starting businesses that span across borders. Renato can be reached at [email protected] or by calling +1-866-510-6101.