Providing your services in a range of languages is an effective way to break into new markets and expand your client base.
But, if your translations are more confusing than helpful, they may dissuade rather than attract curious customers.
Often worse, inaccurate translations of internal policy and guidance documents significantly hinder or damage operations and collaboration.
If you’re worried your translators might be doing your business more harm than benefit, it may be time to seek out a new language service provider (LSP).
This article identifies some of the most common translation issues businesses encounter and how to find an LSP such as LinguaLinx with the know-how and attention to detail to avoid them.
1. Translations Leave Much To Be Desired
In one of the most infamous localization errors in business history, KFC’s legendary slogan, “It’s finger lickin’ good!” was translated into “Eat your fingers off!” in Mandarin. While the fast food giant’s prowess spurred a quick recovery in China, in some situations, such blunders can be devastating.
Translation errors don’t have to be so glaringly obvious to deal damage to a company's reputation, either. Even minor mistakes can subtract from your business’s professional image. That’s why quality translators always pay attention to:
- Grammar and syntax
- How idioms translate into the local language
- Colloquialisms that can add to the natural feel of a translation
- Correct placement of punctuation
- Culturally relevant information and how a translated piece will be perceived in the target language
Since (the majority of the time) business owners don’t understand the languages their services are being translated into, they have to trust that their LSP knows exactly what they’re doing. That’s why it’s essential to entrust a reputable company that employs certified native speakers with your client-facing translations.
2. Onboarding Issues
Expanding into new locales can also mean adding team members from the target market. They’ll need to be brought up to speed on the finer points of your business’s operations, but you might not necessarily share a common language.
Despite linguistic differences, global collaboration is growing increasingly common in our interconnected world, and figures prove it’s a major benefit to businesses:
- 66% of U.S. companies used overseas talent in 2022.
- Over half of those businesses cut costs by doing so.
- Nearly a quarter said it increased their efficiency.
Working with overseas employees can both improve and expand your business. But if foreign talent is having trouble getting adjusted to company culture, it might be neither your expectations nor their abilities causing the issue—it could be due to faulty translations.
Not every translation is public-facing, and often, complicated internal documents and processes need to be precisely interpreted to facilitate fruitful collaboration across languages. When LSPs miss key details or fail to inform readers of specific company procedures and intricacies, it can throw workers off their tasks or lead to much greater problems.
Some common signs your overseas talent isn’t getting the whole story from your LSP include:
- Frequent miscommunication
- Projects not delivered to your specifications
- Details missing in returned documentation
- International employees or outsourcers taking excessive time to get settled into their roles
Multinational collaboration can be a positive method of growing a business’s scope and profits—but only if the parties involved understand each other. When translating crucial internal documents or communicating with key team members, choose an LSP that provides a human touch with ISO 17100 compliance, and rest easy knowing your message and meaning are fully conveyed.
3. Failing To Translate Your File Types
While the world would be a lot simpler if everyone only used PDFs and JPEGs, it simply doesn’t operate that way. An LSP that can’t adjust to new file formats and changing extensions is going to leave its clients in the past.
Perhaps worse than failing to translate file types, however, is translating them into proprietary formats that require the LSP’s proprietary software to access. It’s a too-common technique used to create reliance on a particular provider and follows a familiar pattern:
- A language services company takes on work translating a cache of files.
- After the files are translated, the LSP then converts them into a proprietary file format, requires a proprietary portal for access, or imposes similarly restrictive methods.
- The client must continue to pay for access to the translation company’s software or services to view the contents of their own files.
- If the client wants to change LSPs, their old provider retains the contents of their translations (either temporarily or until a fee is paid) under surreptitious contractual clauses.
- The difficulty and high price of switching LSPs means many companies can’t afford the time or money necessary to change. So, instead, they stick with the provider that keeps their translations under digital lock and key.
Reputable LSPs shouldn’t rely on such underhanded techniques to attract and retain clientele. Instead, they should let their work speak for itself.
When translations come in the most common and familiar file formats available, things are simpler for you and your audience. Using popular extensions:
- Makes it easy to download, view, and edit translations
- Facilitates sharing files—either internally or with clients or partners
- Doesn’t require employees to install and learn to use any new software
- Allows for a hassle-free change of LSPs whenever a company sees fit
To show that they appreciate your business, LSPs should never hold your files or translation memory database hostage. You should return to their services because they understand your company's needs and industry's intricacies rather than enact major impediments to making a change.
4. Services Don’t Live Up To Their Word and Claimed Value
Many LSPs talk a big game (in multiple languages), but they can’t back it up with consistent professionalism and commitment to projects.
Even if a company does seemingly solid work, sticking to assigned due dates is half the job, and half the time, they don’t get it right. That’s no exaggeration—only around 52% of businesses report finishing projects by their originally scheduled deadlines.
When an LSP fails to deliver a project on time, it’s not just them that gets held up. Their client is suddenly left scrambling and is forced to deal with:
- Employees who need those resources to continue with their assignments
- Clients who won’t have their orders fulfilled on time because of the delay
- Finding a reliable LSP that can pick up the slack where the other is falling behind
Inconsistent delivery may have you questioning what exactly you’re paying for. If projects keep coming late, the quality of their content is likely dubious as well.
Unlike 6th grade Spanish class, hasty, half-hearted translations done after the deadline won’t cut it in professional settings.
Go with an LSP that will commit the resources to finish your project in a timely and accurate manner—even if it means assigning a full fleet of linguists to translate over 100,000 words per day.
5. Unexpected Price Hikes and Service Fees
Another way of thinking about services meeting your expectations is whether you feel like you’re getting what you’re paying for. And, unless you feel like the quality is improving, you can reasonably expect the rates you pay to stay in the same ballpark range. Or, at least, you should.
Instead, you might be contending with surprising and disappointing price hikes—
- Greater per-word or per-minute rates – While small increases in price are to be expected across business relationships, an abrupt jump may be cause for concern.
- For example, some LSPs are known to increase prices by up to 15% unexpectedly, which can put pressure on an organization if there is a dire need for translation.
- Additional (unrequested) service charges – Some LSPs may require clients to use a specific platform (or several) and add a Software-as-a-Service charge to monthly billing.
- In situations where this expense is added later (or waived for a trial period only to be resumed), companies might rightfully wonder why they’re paying for it.
If a price hike seems conspicuous to you, you should follow that instinct and interrogate that response. It may mean that you don’t believe the services you’re getting are worth their new prices—or perhaps even the old rates. In any case, it’s probably time to shop for a new LSP.
6. Failure to Provide Consistent Value Over Time
Finally, the last indicator is directly related to both prior ones.
Sometimes an LSP relationship will begin to show signs of wear through subtleties and slights (intentional or not) that belie a lack of interest or commitment. Think about this: when was the last time you heard from your LSP? Was it about, or around, a contract renewal?
A strong LSP relationship is built on more than a contract. You want a partner who’s invested in your business, in your team, and who wants to grow alongside you and share in your success.
That also means sharing in innovation—like informing you of newly available technologies.
On a logistical level, this all boils down to showing that interest through regular communication. A dedicated customer service team is ideal, but you should generally have someone who’s reaching out to you with the occasional “Cómo andas” in addition to standard business talk.
If not, it might be time to find a new—better—LSP. Like LinguaLinx.
If You’re Experiencing These Issues, It’s Time For A New LSP
Quality translations can make or break a business. Meeting users in their mother tongue is a savvy way to connect with your audience, allows you to burst into new markets, diversify your teams, and communicate across languages and cultures.
But if an organization can’t consistently rely on its LSP to provide accurate translations in their accessible formats by their given deadlines, it adds a nearly insurmountable barrier to conducting business outside its mother tongue.
Instead, trust LinguaLinx.
We specialize in translation, localization, and interpretation services, and all of our translation professionals are ISO 17100 certified. Just as crucial, we’ve compiled a proven track record of clients picking us time and time again—not because they are locked into proprietary software, but because they’re thrilled with our services.
If you’re considering switching providers, get a quote from LinguaLinx and reimagine how swift, accurate, and friendly LSPs can be.
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- 12 Tips to Prepare for Your LSP Sales Call