If you have used a translation service to bridge the language gap, chances are that you know what an arduous task it is to choose a professional agency that truly meets your needs and delivers high-quality service. That said, it’s not as difficult as you might think, if you know what to look for.

First, recognize that in business communications, the way you express your ideas and the nuances in the language used matters greatly. Other people’s impression of you and your company is based heavily on your written materials, including your company website, brochures, presentations, and newsletters.

With that in mind, here’s some advice on selecting the right translation service to help you communicate effectively.

Tip 1: Know what you need

For a promotional message, you might need a greater emphasis on the merits of the product and provide the reader with a call to action. That’s vastly different from information contained in an operational manual where you would tend to value technical precision. When you entrust someone to translate, do they fully express the essence of your message without losing something in the translation?

Tip 2: Know who you’re dealing with

Find out what resources the vendor has at its disposal, whether they are a ‘traditional’ agency that depends entirely on the manual input of human linguists, or they have computer systems that aid and optimize the process. Computer-aided translation with features such as translation memory and a glossary/terminology management system can significantly improve the efficiency of human input methods as well as pick up errors or inconsistencies that humans are susceptible to.

Tip 3: Quality product

Not all translation services have the same expectations about what constitutes a ‘quality product’. Be sure to ask the vendor for samples of their past projects. What quality control measures do they have in place – for instance, do they have editors cross-checking the work done by their translators? Do they articulate the tone of what you want to say in another language in a way that the target audience appreciates and can relate to?

Tip 4: Fields of expertise

A one-size-fits-all approach undermines your intended communications goals. You should expect that a premium translation service will have vertical expertise in different industries. Not all vendors can handle legal documents or medical information. When it comes to information technology and finance-related content, experienced translators with in-depth knowledge on the subject matter will highlight nuances that resonate with industry insiders.

Tip 5: Speed

Ask about turnaround times. Also consider the agency’s ability to have the translation work done outside of your usual working hours. By having translators located in other time zones, premium agencies are better placed to accommodate your work schedule. Having international resources to draw from is a distinguishing factor compared to a local nine-to-five translation service.

Tip 6: Confidentiality

It’s important to understand how the vendor ensures the confidentiality of your information, such as where the documents are stored. If the company sends your material to a network of translators and editors, do they have confidentiality agreements in place? Furthermore, will the vendor sign a nondisclosure agreement for specific projects?

Top 7: Customer service

Take note of the questions the vendor asks you to clarify your requirements. It’s also worth considering how consistent they are in servicing you. For instance, can they assign the same linguist(s) to translate all your published materials in order to retain the same tone and a consistent voice? What is their procedure to re-submit a translated piece of work for a second edit?

Tip 8: Technical capabilities

Check out the systems a vendor has at your disposal. Is it a user-friendly cloud-based platform that provides transparency for submitting and archiving documents, presenting billing information, and interacting with customer service? Is there room for system integration for automated processes (translation API)? Over the long run, this will provide scope for expansion as you scale your business.

Tip 9: Price is what you pay; value is what you get

Affordability should not be the overriding consideration. Your priority should be the overall solution for the price paid. Having considered all the above factors when reviewing translation agencies, consider also the payment packages available and the ease with which you can make payment.

Tip 10: Additional services

Complementary services provided by your translation agency could add tremendous value to your business. These include search engine optimization (SEO) for your website, localization expertise such as choosing fonts and layouts, or cooperating with your advertising/public relations agent.

Making a good impression can be complicated when communicating in a language other than your native tongue. These tips will help you to partner with a professional agency that has the depth and breadth of expertise to meet your specific requirements.