So you’re ready for a new translation provider. Now what?

Perhaps the quality of your translations isn’t up to par, or the provider consistently misses deadlines. Maybe your translation service is not accurately conveying your brand’s voice, personality and values, or the fees are simply too high.

Whatever the reason, switching Language Service Providers (LSPs) can be a hassle. Ending any business relationship is difficult and uncomfortable, but changing LSPs presents unique challenges. The transition can delay important projects, and it takes time to educate the new agency about your brand, then develop a productive workflow.

However, delaying the inevitable creates bigger problems. Subpar translations can greatly damage your brand image, eroding credibility. You risk tarnishing the company’s reputation within an entire geographic region or culture. When you know a switch has to be made, it’s best to cut the cord as soon as possible to protect the business you’ve worked hard to build.

The good news: There are simple steps you can take to make the transition smoother. Follow these to successfully switch LSPs without the frustration of starting from scratch.

1 . Tell your translation company what didn't work before

To avoid the same problems with your new language translation company, it’s crucial to clearly spell out what wasn’t working before. What were you biggest gripes and pain points? Was it the quality of translations, the speed of service or the cost?

Create a detailed list you can present to the new translation service. This will be invaluable if you’re still deciding on a provider. Set up meetings to ask prospective companies how they would avoid problems like missed deadlines, communication breakdowns or inaccurate translations. If they can’t come up with strong answers on the spot, it’s probably wise to keep searching.

There are at least 18,000 translation services worldwide, so choosing one can be daunting. Seek recommendations from companies whose international work you admire, and ask prospective LSPs for references. To narrow down the field, you might consider starting with this list of the top providers in the world.

Keep in mind, too, that there is significant variance in LSPs.  Be sure to understand their strengths. Do they have the ability to support your expectations now, and can they grow with you in the future?

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2 . Share your existing collateral 

Once the new provider understands your goals and expectations, the real transition work begins. Any existing material you can provide the new LSP makes this process faster and simpler.

Share all your translation memories and glossaries with the new provider. Translators can build on your existing material so they’re not starting from scratch. This will reduce your overall costs and lead to faster project turnaround times.

If you were happy with the old provider’s translation quality but the relationship wasn’t working for other reasons, this process is pretty cut and dry. The new translation agency can start where the old one left off. Things get more complicated if the previous LSP wasn’t accurately conveying your brand’s message. Go ahead and provide existing memories if this is the case, but stress that you want to improve upon this material. And be sure to request an estimate for that work before signing off.

3 . seek your lsp's advice

Keep in mind that these are the experts. If you’re confident that the new LSP is credible and capable, let them tell you what needs improvement. Ask the team of language translators to review your existing materials to pinpoint errors and inconsistencies.

Where shortcomings exist, ask the new provider to edit and revise your style guides, memories and glossaries. You’re still not starting from scratch with this approach, and it is worth the extra cost to make sure the materials that serve as the basis for all your communications in another language are strong, accurate and meticulously crafted.

Chances are you’ve invested significant marketing dollars into crafting the perfect messaging in your source language. You don’t want to take shortcuts that deconstruct that work or alienate potential customers who speak different languages.

Steve Angell

Steve Angell

Steve Angell has been creating innovative strategies in the language services and life sciences space for over a decade. As managing director of corporate services at ULG, Steve dedicates himself to enhancing client relationships, engaging stakeholders and increasing market share. He lives in the Twin Cities.

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