Seven Ways to Leave Your Translation Vendor (A practical guide to minimizing your risk of change) The Translation Profession translation jobs
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Seven Ways to Leave Your Translation Vendor (A practical guide to minimizing your risk of change)

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Time and time again I speak with global communication managers who tell me how they've endured poor linguistic quality and poor project management from their translation vendor for quite some time. I often hear how they've been bounced around from one project manager to another and how they've tolerated the silent treatment and reactive responses to questions instead of proactive communications. I often hear how e–mails with bad news – like missing Friday's deadline – would appear quietly in their inbox at 6:30pm on Thursday. I've been told how much they have been paying for these services and how projects are completed in time–frames which seem far too long. Adding insult to injury, when I ask about their visibility into translation memory savings and current project status – I am usually left with a blank stare.

But even though they are black and blue from vendor abuse, they are still reluctant to change. Why would anyone in their right mind continue to work with a translation vendor providing such bad service?

That is a good question.

Then there are the people who tell me they are “relatively happy” with their translation vendor. But why aren't they ecstatic? Why are they settling for mediocrity? Can they articulate how their organization has profited from the relationship? And when the turnaround times and costs they are paying are shown to be far greater than what thebigword (or many of our competitors) can offer, that fact is still not enough for them to make a change. Why?

The risks that change represents are often perceived to be greater than the reward that a new relationship can bring.

So how can you lower your risk – perceived or real – while becoming aware of what advantages better service could provide you with? While there may be translation services that can offer you faster, better and less expensive services, when and how would you “pull the plug” on your current relationship – without jeopardizing what you have already accomplished? How could you make sure your deadlines are met and your web site stays current in all languages while you go through this change?

Cover Your Assets

Your strategy should be to first protect your Translation Memory ™ assets and your ability to make your current deadlines before you compare supplier's capabilities. With regard to Translation Memory, those assets are estimated to be worth 1.5 times your annual spend on Translation, so it's typically well worth the effort to get them from your current supplier.

How do you ask for your Translation Memory?

You can always tell your vendor that there is an intellectual property audit and that you need a full export of the Translation Memory by Friday to put into your asset management system.

Unlike many of our competitors, thebigword doesn't seize clients by their TM, but we act as a custodian of those assets. In the same way that companies often outsource their payroll, TM is a critical piece of a company's intellectual property which should be outsourced. We provide exports of the TM data as a deliverable at regular intervals during the year. Our clients continue to work with us because of the quality of our service and our experience in managing multi-language projects, all offered at the right price – not because we hold their TM hostage.

The Seven Ways

  1. Fire them. Now.

    While this takes a leap of faith, if you are really suffering then it may be a good alternative. Ask for an export of all your Translation Memory (TM) in Trados or TMX format and upon receipt, fire them. This is not recommended unless you have at least 3 months before your next translation project is due. However, if you've some time to spare for a proper new vendor evaluation and kick–off, go for it. If your current vendor is unwilling to send you your TM, sue them. It's your intellectual property.


  2. Get a quote from thebigword

    This is a simple way to get a side by side comparison of services and costs, but realize that volume discounts can be applied if a year's worth of work is taken into view. Simply send a Request For Quote out to both thebigword and your current vendor. If there is a Translation Memory, which your current vendor is using to analyze the new project against, you won't have an apples–to–apples comparison unless you can also share those TMs with thebigword. But what you can see are the rates side–by–side so you may be able to extrapolate what your savings would be using thebigword if we also had access to your TMs.


  3. Hire thebigword on a stealth project

    This is a good way to benchmark quality and customer service.

  4. Tell them: “It's not you – it's me”

    You can split your work load up by sending some to a new vendor – but only tell them your volumes are dropping over the next 3 months so they should expect a decrease in the amount of work they normally get. This will give you an opportunity to try out thebigword.

  5. Conduct an RFP process

    This is always an easy out – and a way for you to get a good view of what's out there.

  6. Get procurement to do it for you

    If your personal relationship with your vendor is good, but you are curious if you are really getting the most value for your money, have your internal procurement people conduct a RFP process for you. This way, you can leave the personal side out for the evaluation.

  7. Create a “multi–vendor strategy”

    You can always say that you are creating a multivendor strategy to lower your organization's risk on translation activity and will be working with 2 vendors going forward. While doing this requires a strategy on what projects go to whom and how TM is shared, it is done all the time by some companies with much success.

A Word about Quality, Turnaround and Cost

Everyone expects a perfect translation, as fast as possible and for the lowest price, but each of those measures is relative. Everyone places a different value on these three elements based on their job, their goals and their personality.

With regard to translation quality, you should expect linguistic accuracy as a given from any vendor you work with. However, it's the delivery of that translation – the way it's processed, reported on, and published which reveals the difference in suppliers. Quality translation also requires more than just linguistic accuracy; the translation must capture the tone, style and voice of the source text, yet at the same time be appropriate in its new cultural context. You will have to rely on your in–country reviewers to judge the linguistic quality, but don't make your judgment of a supplier's quality by only having them review a single paragraph – that won't give you the total picture. Some things to keep in mind when reviewing quality are whether or not they've used industry experts, whether they've adhered to your existing style guide or glossary, and whether or not they've maximized your use of Translation Memory in the process. Measuring quality is both an art and a science so be as creative as you want in setting up quality measures.

Since turnaround time can vary somewhat from vendor to vendor, the most important thing about turnaround is that the translation is delivered when promised. You can test the accuracy of the turnaround by running a trial project or speaking to one of their customers who fits your project profile.

With regard to cost, you will always find lower rates, so at some point you have to make a gut–level judgment on whether or not you are getting the best overall value. With word rates at an all–time low, no translation supplier is making a killing on providing these services. And if you think the pricing is too good to be true, it probably is. Many suppliers will find ways to charge you in the future to make up for their current word–rate losses in areas such as localization engineering, project set–up and translation memory management.

The staff themselves, however, must have the ability to view and change the files for analysis, file processing, translation, memory management etc.

Change takes work

Once you've decided to make a change to a new vendor, your day is not done. In order for those new processes – which promise a better return on your investment – to take root, you need to enroll everyone who is involved with translations in your organization to get on–board. To help you with the acceptance of the new vendor and proposed processes, thebigword offers an account management methodology called TranzManagement 360°. This process ensures that every stakeholder's translation goals and requirements are acknowledged while they are enrolled in the process of getting from where they are, to where they want to be.

Going with thebigword

While there are many translation services companies to choose from, we will distinguish ourselves from the competition by the people we are, the free technology we offer and our expertise in your industry. We would love the opportunity to demonstrate these things to you and describe how we've been able to help other clients in your position make a change for the better. To schedule a discussion with one of our Solution Architects, please call +44–870–748–8000.

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