Being tasked with selecting a language services provider (LSP) for your organization may seem daunting. Before you start, it is important to assess and identify your organization’s specific requirements for language access, such as which services you need. Check out our blog post on the differences between interpretation and translation to learn more about which services might be needed in your organization.
Once you’ve identified your main requirements, you’ll be ready to start crafting an RFP. We’ve created a starter list of topics to cover when going out to RFP for language services. Check out five key subject areas below to learn more about what to ask to find the LSP that best meets your organization’s needs.
Your preferred language services vendor will have extensive experience with language services and provide access to the primary languages you need. Ask questions like:
- How many years has the LSP been in business?
- What is your experience supporting other clients in our organization’s industry (healthcare, business, etc.)?
- How many languages do you provide for remote interpretation (phone and video), onsite interpretation, and written translation?
Additionally, ask for client references of other organizations similar to yours in industry and size. Talking to LSPs’ references will provide insight into their past performance and help determine if they will be an effective partner in supporting your unique goals.
2. Service quality & efficiency
Language access is often time-sensitive and may include communications covering complex topics, such as a patient’s medical diagnosis. Your LSP partner should provide interpreters and translators who are trained and qualified to effectively convey the intended meaning of your communication, especially if it includes technical terms relevant to your industry. For example, many LSPs use 1099 (contracted) interpreters, meaning they are legally prohibited from training them. LSPs that directly employ their interpreters can provide initial and ongoing training throughout the interpreters’ employment. Here are a few questions that can help you learn more about an LSP’s service quality and efficiency:
- How do you vet interpreter and translator candidates?
- Do you use employee interpreters or contracted interpreters?
- Do you have a training program in place? How many hours is it, and what does it cover?
- How do you provide ongoing training and monitoring for quality? What competencies do you monitor?
It would help if you asked how they track customer satisfaction, on-time delivery, and utilization.
3. Information security
LSPs often deal with sensitive or confidential information, so they must have a security program in place. You should ask if they collect and store client information and whether they conform to privacy laws such as HIPAA and HITECH. Confirm how they answer, route, and service calls. You should also ask if they are certified for information security (such as through the International Organization for Standardization) and request copies of any certifications or accreditations they have related to interpretation, translation, and information security.
4. Account support
Your preferred LSP should provide a long-term account manager who will learn about you and your business to provide the best service possible.
Ask who will manage your account and how many years of experience they have as an account manager. Also, ask if that account manager will be dedicated to your account for the duration of your contract. If an LSP regularly assigns new account managers to your organization, your language access program may suffer because they must continuously re-learn your needs.
Learning how and what an LSP charges is significant for your bottom line. There are several factors you should take into consideration. Ask questions related to the cost of services you need, such as:
- Most remote interpretation services are charged at a per-minute rate, but when do those charges start? Do they start when the call is placed or when an interpreter picks up the call?
- Does the per-minute rate include account support and implementation, or does the client pay for that separately?
- Do you charge separate or unified rates for phone and video interpretation?
- For written translation, do you charge by the word or the page?
- Is the rate the same across all languages, or do you charge different rates per language?
- Do you offer discounts for matches through translation memory (TM)?
LSPs should be transparent with their pricing and present it clearly in their proposal.
Conclusion: Be direct with RFP questions
These five areas should be your main focus when crafting a language services RFP. However, depending on your specific needs, you can include other topics such as equipment requirements, technology requirements, or other questions relevant to your organization. Remember to ask direct, pointed questions to gather as much information as possible to make an informed choice.
Want to learn more?
Check out our RFP Guide to learn more about what to ask when selecting a language services partner. For questions, connect with our GetStarted team at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out an information request at start.cyracom.com/contact.
In business for 25 years, CyraCom is a language services leader that provides interpretation and translation services to thousands of organizations across the US and worldwide.
Providing the best language services is a complex formula, and CyraCom considers every piece of the equation: quality, availability, security, speed and accessibility, and client support.