Guides, Localization

How to choose the right Language Service Provider (LSP) or Translation Agency (TA)

Here it is – your business, proudly built from scratch and on the verge of going global. Whether it’s an e-commerce store,...

Written by Pedro Souto · 4 min read >

Here it is – your business, proudly built from scratch and on the verge of going global. Whether it’s an e-commerce store, an app, or software, you’re ready to set the course for international growth.

But there’s just one small thing – adapting your product, brand, as well as company information to foreign markets. You might think that what works in your home country, will work across borders, or that it’s enough to have an English version of your webpage.

The truth is – that’s all in the past. Thanks to the Internet, even small businesses now have access to the global market which means international customers are now expecting information and services in their native languages.

Here’s where translation agencies or language service providers (LSPs) come into play.

Language service providers are companies that provide translation, interpretation, localization, language, and social coaching solutions. There are plenty of LSP options available out there, and it might be overwhelming to choose the most suitable provider.

To help you make the right choice, here are 6 factors to consider when choosing a translation agency or language service provider for your business:

1. Language capabilities

The first thing you need to figure out when picking a language service provider is your linguistic needs, aka how many – and which – languages you need to make your content available in and which LSPs can provide that for you.

  • If you only want 2-3 languages, you can opt for a single-language vendor (SLV) or even a freelance translator to ensure a more personal approach and attention.
  • If you’re looking for translations into several specific languages (Hindi, Danish, Norwegian Nynorsk, Swiss German, etc.), you might want to consider working with a multiple language vendor, or MLV, as they will have more extensive linguistic resources.

Not less important, it will be easier to manage a 10-language translation project working with one LSP rather than multi-managing and overseeing the work of ten separate SLVs or freelancers.

Also, keep in mind that what LSPs may work for some, may not be the best option for other businesses. What we’re saying is – you should pick an LSP who’s familiar with the conventions and jargon of your industry, or has had similar clients in your niche.

Say, you often need to translate advanced texts on banking and insurance. It’s highly unlikely you’re going to find a match with an LSP who specializes in medical texts exclusively.

2. Technical capabilities

Today, translation is not just about speaking the language, it’s about non-linguistic assets, like the technological prowess, as well. Think about your potential language service provider considering these aspects:

  • Is the LSP using reliable and modern technology so that you can easily be in touch?
  • Is the LSP constantly evaluating new technologies and trying them out to upgrade their service?
  • Can the LSP provide an easy-to-use platform to manage the translation?
  • Does their technology integrate well with other hands-on services?

Look – when overseeing translations, especially projects that involve sharing large documents, it’s easy to get lost in hundreds of email threads and extensive spreadsheets. It’s just not a viable approach.

Using a translation management tool, on the other hand, makes sharing documents and tracking the status of projects much easier and efficient. Therefore, by working with a language service provider that uses such a platform, you will save time and energy, as well as gain the necessary context to stay on top of your project.

3. Quality

At the end of the day, a language service provider is built around the people – interpreters and translators whose work will give the first impression of your business. These professionals must be qualified in the relevant language and trained to manage your project.

To make sure you can expect an accurate, coherent translation, check the following with your LSP:

  • What qualifications they require from translators and linguists they employ
  • What training the new translators get to do to maintain project quality
  • How they monitor the quality of the translations
  • How they address complaints or concerns
  • What systems they use to collect data and keep it secure

You should opt for a language service provider with a documented quality assurance process – one that includes editing and proofreading alongside the original translation. Sure, their translators might be with plenty of years of experience. But a second set of eyes won’t hurt to ensure great results throughout the whole project and avoid low-quality translation.

The bottom line is – if a potential LSP doesn’t seem to meet your standards, their translations won’t probably meet them either. A reputable language partner, on the other hand, should be able to provide training records, records of compliance audits, and other evidence to demonstrate their quality measures and put your mind at ease.

4. Price

There’s a plethora of language services providers out there, meaning that there will be different price ranges to choose from. Should you go for the most expensive option, or try to save some money on LSP?

Even if you’re on a tight budget, don’t go for the lowest possible price. Otherwise, you risk working with a questionable LSP, getting poor quality translations, creating the wrong image of your business and damaging your reputation. Remember the saying “you get what you pay for”? It totally fits the case.

Besides, if you plan on working long-term with your LSP, you might be eligible for discounts and price re-negotiating as a loyal customer.

 

5. Support & communication

LSPs play an essential role in representing your brand and creating its identity for international markets, which means – you must be able to reach them and communicate with them easily anytime you need, especially when an emergency arises.

Talk to your LSP to find out whether their customer service is reactive or proactive. For example:

  • Will they provide a single point of contact or a project manager responsible for your translation?
  • Do they understand your project?
  • Will they be available to discuss issues throughout the entire process?
  • Will there be real humans on the line when you need them?

Keep in mind that the translation industry is fairly international, meaning that most suppliers can provide customer service in multiple languages. If you’re thinking of working with an LSP that’s based outside of your home country, make sure they can communicate with you in a language of your preference.

6. Testimonials

Seeing references from satisfied customers is a great way to find a language service provider who is trustworthy and has a good track record. If you don’t want to rely only on what is said on their website, contact the referrals and previous clients to ask how good their experience with the LSP was.

You can also tap into your own network and approach similar companies in your industry to ask for their experience with translation and localization.

In addition to that, examine the LSP’s social media presence to see what the general opinion is by both clients and employees.

The right LSP for a booming business

Choosing a language service provider can require a fair amount of research. But just like with other vendors, the more you know about them beforehand, the more likely it is your working together will be successful.

And when you find a good fit, the results will be worth it. Good luck!