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It is important to ask the right questions when interviewing a language interpretation services company. This article will list 10 industry-specific questions you should always ask when interviewing a language service provider (LSP).
1. How do you ensure your interpreters provide quality interpretation services?
Ask for a copy of the company’s recruitment and testing policy for their interpreters. Also, ask about how they monitor their interpreters on an ongoing basis. Interpreters should meet these minimum requirements:
- At least two years of experience as a professional interpreter.
- Tested in both English and their target language, with a proficiency score of 80% or higher.
- Be familiar with specific terminology for your particular industry (such as medical, legal, financial, or social services).
- The company should have a process for evaluating and monitoring interpreters even after recruitment to ensure consistent quality.
2. How do you schedule your interpreters to cover 240 languages 24x7x365?
The language company should have a specific department dedicated to and responsible for scheduling. This work is typically called workforce management. Scheduling should be done by the hour, language, and interpreter’s skill set. Some companies wait for incoming calls and then contact interpreters, hoping that they will be available. This leads to long wait times and a bad user experience. You should make sure the language company you use can forecast and schedule all languages preemptively to ensure faster connect times and interpreter availability.
3. Am I able to access a customer service team member 24x7x365 if I need help or have a question?
Even if you are connecting directly to the interpreter via an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system, you should always have the option of connecting to a live operator who can answer questions, handle feedback, or connect you with an interpreter.
4. Do you have in-house telephony, programming and help desk staff?
Make sure your language service provider is not simply outsourcing their programming to another country. If there are changes or concerns, it may take a long time to resolve them. Your provider should have their customer support team located domestically, and available 24×7.
5. What is the size of the company you are considering?
Smaller companies may have great customer service but may not be able to offer all the various bells and whistles you may want, such as access to a client portal. Conversely, larger companies may not give you the attention and service you deserve. It is also good to know if the company you are considering is growing and expanding. If they are, they are likely to partner with you and build a trusting relationship that will last.
6. Do you have your own interpreters or are you using another interpretation company’s interpreters?
Believe it or not there many interpretation companies that do not have a single interpreter on staff. These companies typically have five to 10 employees who are focused only on sales. They then sub-contract with large interpretation companies in order to have access to interpreters. This means your calls could be going to several different companies, located all over the world. And in some cases, these companies switch vendors whenever they can get a better deal, meaning your access to services can be inconsistent and unreliable. In addition, you may not able to talk directly with your provider’s customer service team if you have concerns, as all communication will likely be routed through the secondary agency. Make sure the company you are working with contracts directly with their interpreters.
7. How much volume do you handle?
How many minutes per month does the company handle and how many minutes per month in the specific industry you are in? They should be doing at least 500,000 minutes a month to be a viable option for you. How many customers do they service and how many customers do they service in your industry? They should have at least 500 interpretation customers, and many of those should be a similar industry as you. This ensures they already have interpreters with the experience to provide you with the services you will need.
8. What are the connect times to get to an interpreter?
Connect times are very important; the shorter they are, the more time and money you save. Taking too long to connect to an interpreter may cause your customer to hang up. Connect times should be about 20 seconds on average for Spanish and between 20-30 seconds on average for all other languages. Languages of lesser diffusion (rare languages) can sometimes take longer, especially after regular business hours. Whenever possible, let your provider know what languages you will need and when. This way, the workforce management team will be able to adjust schedules to ensure coverage and faster connect times.
9. Do you have a real-time portal to access calls, reports, and invoicing information?
You must have the ability to get on a customized portal and review a call after it is completed. The portal should include your language reports, invoicing reports, and spending reports. It should be easy to use, and your provider should have a team that can train you on it, at no charge. Ask for information on this prior to choosing a vendor.
10. Can I make a test call?
Ask the vendor to make a test call. The only thing that matters is that you connect to a quality interpreter quickly. If this does not happen during a test call, then you should not move forward with the company.
It is important to pick a good vendor that you can trust to consistently provide a good service that is reliable and fast. Asking the above questions will help you to make a great choice and set you up for a long-term partnership with a quality interpretation services provider.
Sarah Gamble, Marketing Director
Sarah oversees our Sales and Marketing departments, and has been with Language Link for many years. She manages our inside and outside sales staff and directs the company’s marketing efforts. Sarah has been in many roles during her time with Language Link, including Interpretation Division Manager.
About Language Link
At Language Link, we excel at helping our customers grow their brands through our translation and interpretation services. Headquartered in Vancouver, Washington and incorporated in 1991, Language Link has more than 27 years of experience as a full-service multilingual communication agency. We have highly qualified linguists working in over 240 languages and dialects. We also offer a comprehensive suite of translation options, including audio visual services and eLearning and website localization, as well as Over-the-Phone and Video Remote Interpretation.