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It’s that time again – your contract with your over-the-phone interpretation provider is coming to an end, or perhaps you’re doing an RFP for the first time. Language services is a niche industry, and sometimes it’s hard to know what to ask or to receive the assurances you need. We’ve compiled our top five questions to pose to your current provider and other potential vendors so you can choose the best services for your organization.


Whether you have a question, need to resolve an issue, or want to review your data, you'll need to know who to contact. Your language services provider (LSP) should supply an experienced, knowledgeable primary contact that simplifies access to the larger support team.

Q: How do you help clients make the most effective use of language services?

 Why ask: Having a contract with a language services vendor does not guarantee your staff will use the service easily or when lawfully required. This will show if the vendor will help staff access the service easily and routinely when appropriate.

Interpretation quality

Miscommunication between staff and limited-English proficient people may negatively affect satisfaction or even open up your organization to lawsuits.

Q: How do you control the quality of your interpretation? Which training, coaching, and ongoing education tools do you employ?

Why ask: Learn how the provider can provide interpretation that consistently meets its quality standards. Using an LSP with consistent, trained, and culturally competent interpreters can help reduce risks and noncompliance.

Information security

Interpreters regularly handle sensitive information. You need detailed information about the LSP's security measures to protect your organization and patients or customers from a data breach or HIPAA noncompliance.

 Q: How do you protect Private Health Information (PHI) or Personally Identifiable Information (PII)?

Why ask: If the LSP stores or collects PHI or PII, verify that it is managed appropriately. Organizations are responsible for vendor compliance with applicable privacy regulations.


Your time is critical, so you need to feel confident that interpreters for the languages you need answer your calls right away. It’s important to note that many LSPs rely on independent contractors, whom they cannot schedule.

Q: Which workforce management and technical processes do you maintain to handle surges in call volume? Please provide historical data on call volume surges and how you served them.

Why ask: The vendor may have trouble ramping up to meet your volume needs if they rely on an existing pool of independent contractor interpreters. It is also unlawful for a vendor to schedule independent contractor interpreters.

Externally-verified business practices

External verification is a process that involves the use of a third party to confirm or verify the business activities, often as part of an audit.

Q: Which externally-verifiable accreditations or standards support your vetting and training processes?

Why ask: Vendors sometimes present claims about their interpretation quality as objective standards, despite a lack of externally-verified facts. Learn which available external standards confirm the vendor’s interpretation quality. These may include ISO 9001:2015 for Quality Management Systems or ISO 13611:2014 for Guidelines for Community Interpreting.

Want more questions?

See our RFP guides (healthcare/ business/ 9-1-1) to see what other questions you may want to ask your OPI provider.


Regina Wetzel

Regina Wetzel

An experienced researcher, writer, and editor on language services-related topics, specializing in how language works and translation services.