One might say a translation agency or language service provider (LSP) is a mere middleman between the linguist, who does the translation and the client, who pays for the service. In the age of the internet and modern communication where we can easily find hundreds of translator resources through the numerous directories available online, what are clients buying from LSPs? Certainly not translations.
If an end client wanted to buy translations or even interpreting services, they would simply hire a translator or an interpreter or in some cases, use in-house multilingual employees. What a client really buys when working with an LSP is a whole set of services that includes vendor management, project management, consulting and technology so that they don’t have to worry about the translation or interpreting assignment and save on all the associated costs and resources.
There are many directories and marketplaces online where you can find translators but engaging the right professional for your project is a time-consuming and resource-intensive process. It involves lots of research, contacting linguists, testing them, negotiating rates and terms & conditions, defining processes… This process can become particularly expensive for companies who are not familiar with working with linguists. A translation project, for example, might involve a 2nd independent reviewer and a desktop publishing process which would require you to hire additional external resources.
LSPs have access to large databases of tried and trusted translators; based on your project requirements, they are able to source the most suitable professional with the right subject matter expertise and relevant experience. They take care of sourcing and managing teams of linguists and DTP specialists and are able to provide an all-in-one solution where they provide the entire workflow. The result is a team of dedicated translators who are experienced in working with the client’s content. Your texts, your style and tone of voice are part of your brand. It is very likely that it has helped shape the way in which some customers perceive your company. You almost certainly have a clear tone of voice in your native language and the same should apply to the other languages you translate into.
Large and complex translation projects are very time-consuming and require extensive resources. They require managing and communicating with large teams of translators and reviewers, defining and optimising processes, managing files and deliverables, managing linguistic and terminology assets, all of this while ensuring the project is delivered within a set timeframe and budget.
By working with a language service provider, your translation projects are usually managed by a dedicated project manager (PM) who understands your specific requirements. The role of the project manager is crucial in the client-agency relationship and the PM will look after all the project management aspects of translation and localisation mentioned above while being the main point of contact and support. Due to their extensive experience through similar clients’ past projects, PMs are well placed to consult on language processes and address any pain points a client may have in managing its multilingual communications.
Translation projects may involve sophisticated processes such as system integration, string extraction, handling of complex file formats, managing termbases and translation memories, handling of fonts and scripts, machine translation and AI solutions… all of those require specific technologies and expertise which involve additional costs and resources in researching, purchasing and implementation. An LSP adds value by bringing its entire stack of technologies and will be able to address client-specific requirements by providing expert consultation in language solutions and optimised workflows.
Another important aspect of translation and localisation is the confidentiality and security of your data. If you wish to translate sensitive or confidential material, you need a partner who is able to ensure your data will be handled securely and within stringent cyber security policies. A competent LSP will be able to sign NDAs and guarantee that your data is processed in a secure manner, ideally, on its private servers.
Multilingual asset management
Companies that work directly with translators or use in-house bilingual resources, without a localisation manager or processes, may be missing out on an important aspect of managing translation and localisation: multilingual assets. When you translate content, you create multilingual assets. Those assets can be reused to improve quality and consistency over time, create glossaries, save time and costs, or train custom Neural Machine Translation (NMT) engines. When you work with an LSP, those assets are usually structured in translation memories and termbases. Translation memories are still considered to be the single most valuable multilingual asset for companies.
Your LSP partner curates and reuses those multilingual assets in your projects allowing you to enjoy all the benefits associated with their usage. Furthermore, they will be maintained and optimised over time to ensure they correspond to the latest terminology and style requirements of their clients. Your LSP partner may also create style guides where they define the tone of voice and style that need to be used in your translation projects.
Sales & marketing
The latter might surprise you. How are you adding value to my business when you are trying to sell me something? However, there are a few ways in which an LSP brings value to its clients and prospects during the sales cycle. For example, pre-sales activities such as marketing are valuable as they often give knowledge and insight to localisation and translation buyers. It could be that you’ve downloaded a white paper on an LSP’s website and you learned something useful or found a solution to one of your current challenges, or perhaps you’ve gained some useful insight from reading a blog, viewing a webinar or receiving newsletter content. LSPs tend to have an educational approach in their content marketing because their industry is little known.
During the actual sale pitch or meeting, an LSP would listen to your requirements, objectives and pain points and suggest solutions and offerings. This a valuable piece of knowledge whether or not you decide to go with a provider as you may gain more understanding of how to achieve your business challenge. Perhaps you’ve found the perfect partner or perhaps you learned something useful that will allow you to make a more informed decision or improve your internal processes.
Lastly, even after the sale is closed, an LSP is able to add value to your business thanks to account management. Account management within an LSP consists of regular health checks, quarterly business reviews, reports and analytics that give the customer unique insight into what is happening in their localisation activities.