Three translation RFP questions that shouldn’t be asked

Creating an effective translation RFP is no easy task. The questions you ask are important. Learn about some questions you shouldn’t ask for the best results. Many firms turn to Translation RFP (request for proposal) initiatives to find the best match for it’s translation needs and budget.

The questions used to gain important knowledge and points of differentiation across prospective vendors is very important. We have responded to 100’s of these Translation RFP’s and have seen a lot of really good questions and a fair amount of really bad questions! Here is a link to receive a selection of the really good questions we have seen summarized in a Translation RFP template.

Here are the questions I wouldn’t include or would at least modify before including them in a Translation RFP:

  • Who were the last two accounts you lost and what is their contact information?

The motive of this question makes sense. The buyer wants to learn about the shortcomings of the vendor. However, this question doesn’t make any sense in practice. Before the translation provider can submit a company name and contact they would have to ask permission. Asking a former customer for permission to have a prospective customer call for information is awkward and not a common business practice.

This is also a really odd request. Before you married your spouse did you ask for the name and number of their previous two partners? Awkward.

Potential modification to improve the question: Asking for 2 to 3 current customers as references is a common approach. Why not ask each reference to list something that the vendor could improve in their service. Another potential question to ask is to discuss a time when the vendor caused an issue with their service (missed a deadline, made a mistake, etc.). Learning how the vendor reacted to a mistake or recovered after a service issue is valuable information.

  • Will you agree to set mandatory discounts for errors (errors are determined completely by the client)

Asking for discounts for errors might seem reasonable but without any additional information a vendor would be opening themselves up to unlimited liability. The clause “…errors are determined completely by the client” needs to be clarified.

Potential modification to improve the question: A better way to phrase this would be “…errors are determined by a discussion between client and vendor. When the vendor is made aware of an error, these errors must be documented and the root cause and solution must be discussed with all team members. In the result of a disagreement on what constitutes an error a third party may be engaged to break the disagreement. Stylistic changes do not constitute errors.

  • What is your per word rate

The intent of this question makes sense but when asked without any additional questions the information you receive will be of limited value. Here is a great blog post that really dives into this point. The main reason this question falls short is that it doesn’t address how translation memory matches will be discounted. The discounts provided through proper management of the translation memory can reduce your budget significantly. We have one software developer that saved 76% of their budget last year due to translation memory matches.

Potential modification to improve the question: This question should really include a sub-question asking How will you price 100% memory matches, Context matches, Fuzzy matches and Repetitions. I would also ask how will you report those matches. Will you provide pricing transparency in estimates and will you also report these savings on a quarterly and annual basis. Here are a few resources that might help illustrate the importance of this point.

-To learn more about how translation memory works and how it impacts your translation budget please review this post.

-To learn more about one method of reporting matches and savings please watch these short videos: reporting on estimates and reporting on a quarterly basis.

These three questions have the basis for good questions but unless they are modified, the information you receive in return will be of limited value or even worse could potentially prevent a language service provider from answering your RFP.