How can you be sure you have the right translation vendor before you invest your time, budget — and reputation — in their work? It’s tempting simplify the process by inviting some vendors in for a discussion and judge whether you can trust them. That’s a useful step, but it shouldn’t be your only step. Your HR recruiters will tell you that in hiring staff, the best predictor of future performance is past performance. That’s handy advice in selecting your translation vendor and there are several ways to gauge this.
Talk to Your Network
Nothing beats word of mouth and the experiences of your colleagues and peers. Get their experiences and you’ll see how different vendors work in real business situations with budget constraints, actual timelines. This is more useful to you than a meeting with vendors in which they simply present their credentials.
As you talk to your contacts, focus on who they recommend and why. Of course it’s also useful to learn who they don’t recommend and why. To be fair to the vendors and the validity of your investigation, keep in mind that the best comparison is with projects similar to the ones you need to do. For example, if your friend’s experience was in technical documentation, it may not be valid to apply it to a retail packaging project.
In addition to the subject evaluations like the vendor’s ability to gain confidence and their understanding of the customer environment, find out about some objective points.
- Did the localization vendor set accurate timelines?
- Did they meet deadlines?
- Were their costs within expected limits?
- Did they return all of the needed deliverables?
- Did they update and deliver the translation memory?
Talk to Your Candidate Vendors
These discussions will help you figure out which are your top candidates. In my experience, you’ll have the best selection if you ask 4 or 5 localization firms to review your project and provide estimates of time and cost. Pick a few with acceptable estimates and ask them for their client references — preferably from your industry. These will of course be hand selected references who will say positive things, but you can gain important benefit anyway. Don’t forget that you’ve already heard the real story from your network in the first place. The utility to you of these selected references is to learn what it takes to manage the vendor for the best results.
- How did they react to scope changes?
- Do they need extra attention in writing a statement of work that meets Finance’s criteria?
- Was the company’s management involved with the account? Was that a good thing?
- What training was most useful on their dashboard?
Get Public Information Too
In addition to these conversations, don’t forget to research them on the web for any ratings and reviews that might be available. Don’t forget that your purchasing manager will probably find web information and you’ll want to be sure you have the answers to any questions it might raise.
Given the importance of localization and translation to your business, it pays to understand the subjective and objective views of any vendor you hire. It will help you find the best fit in the first place and it will help you to manage the relationship with them over time.