Far too many of our business development calls start with the client question “What is your translation price per word?”. While cost is certainly an important aspect of buying translation services, the next 6 questions are the most important.

1. Please explain your quality process or how do you insure that I will receive high quality translation?

This is the question to ask when you are trying to establish if the firm has a documented quality process. You can ask to see their Quality Assurance Manual, you can ask if they have any registrations like ISO 9001:2008 and also ask about how they select their linguists for each project. This topic should help determine what you can expect in terms of quality.

2. Data is very important in our budgeting process, how do you provide costing data on every project? It is important for me to understand my net cost per language and per service (page production, interpretation, translation).

I would ask to see a sample project report that lists the linguists who performed the translation and editing functions. The report should also list all financial information (cost per language, etc) and then ask to see the information summarized by quarter or year. Your vendor should be able to provide sufficient data to help you in your budgeting efforts and help make the case for your translation projects.

3. How do you handle client feedback or client reviews?

From time to time you will receive feedback regarding translation from customers, employees or distributors. Ask the vendor how they handle client feedback. How quickly do you respond? How do you document the feedback and resolve the issues? How do you insure that terminology changes or preferences are recorded so that the issues do not occur again in the future? Do you have a special process for facilitating cutomer review?

4. What is your typical turnaround time on quotations?

This is an important question to ask if you typically have rush projects.

5. Do you charge add-on fees like project management, rush fees and change order fees?

Many translation providers quote very low top-line prices per word only to gain margin back on projects by adding in project management fees, rush fees, exorbitant page production fees, etc. My all-time favorite is “XML engineering fees.” One of our clients came to us from a competitor that customarily charged XML engineering fees for handling XML files from a content management system. Simply ridiculous. If you hear of an XML engineering fee you should run as fast you can in the opposite direction of that vendor.

6. What technologies can you provide me that will assist in my day to day oversight of your service?

Proper translation management is an orchestration of many moving parts. We manage many projects that require multiple languages for completion on a single delivery date. A typical 28 language project will require 56 linguists (28 translators and 28 editors) as well as one project manager and at least one page production specialist. Does your provider have the ability to track progress of each linguist? Properly tracking resources helps to meet deadlines. Additional questions to ask under this topic are: Can you provide a customer portal for access to regulatory certifications on current and historical projects? Can you provide a portal for in-country review of the translation? These technologies can avoid costly delays in your production schedule.

In closing, while the question of cost per word might seem to be the most important, the subsequent questions will help you determine the total translation cost of your projects.

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