Scriptorium Publishing

content strategy consulting

Has your localization service provider (LSP) been naughty or nice?

Last month I posted about the five gotchas that will affect your translation turnaround time. That post focused on content quality, but I’d also mentioned how “a good LSP” would handle things. This month, let’s take a step back and look at five things that separate the nice LSPs from the naughty ones.

Santa Claus

Santa Claus By Jonathan G Meath (Jonathan G Meath) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Questions

Naughty: A naughty LSP will more often than not skip over all of the pesky project details to get to the word count and source file formats so they can turn around a quick quote. They’ll likely respond to your questions with hollow assurances that everything will be fine, and that they’ll follow up with any questions, if they have them, after receiving your files. The false confidence they exhibit usually masks problems until it’s too late in the project to properly correct them.

Nice: When first engaging a client or beginning a new project, a nice LSP will ask you informed, pertinent questions about your content, your content, and the purpose of the project. They will ask about technology, workflow, review, and other aspects of the project. Their goal is to understand all aspects of the project so they can deliver the best translations possible.

2. Advice

Naughty: You might not think it’s naughty behavior, but a naughty LSP will translate your files just as they are, whether it’s an easy or complex process for them. Why is this naughty? If they are encountering issues, they are not alerting you and explaining better ways of doing things, which could mean that you are paying more in project setup or DTP fees than you ideally should be.

Nice: Nice LSPs are open, honest, and helpful. They will point out issues in files, offer solutions, and often offer several options for their clients to choose from in correcting issues or in avoiding potential problems. Nice LSPs understand that helpful advice fosters collaboration and constructively builds long-term partnerships.

3. Workflow

Naughty: A naughty LSP has their own way of doing things, and will often strongly suggest you conform to their preferred workflow (or face possible additional charges). This may be because of their own technology investments (or lack thereof), or because they have no control over how their translators work. Worse, they may mandate that you conform to their workflow if you want to use them at all.

Nice: A nice LSP realizes that their clients may have spent considerable time and money on implementing technologies and training staff to create content in a certain way. They work to integrate into your workflow, or at least work to meet you part of the way so you can realize the ROI from your chosen workflow.

4. Pricing

Naughty: Naughty LSPs can be sneaky about their service pricing. Their terms may be unclear, and what you may save from a low price per word might be lost many times over via pricey DTP, project management, or file prep charges. Always make sure you have a complete pricing breakdown for your project and be aware of inflated pricing or effort estimates.

Nice: Nice LSPs are completely up front with their pricing models and explain every line item in their quotes. They explain how various approaches to a project, and how potential issues, will affect the pricing. Nice LSPs understand the value of transparency in process and in pricing, and they also understand that clear and honest pricing helps establish long-term business partnerships.

5. Translation Memory Ownership

Naughty: A naughty LSP may have no up front policy about translation memory (TM) ownership, or might either avoid or downplay any conversation about TM ownership. Worse, they might claim outright ownership of it or withhold it! In this case, forget the coal in the stocking and call the Krampus!

Nice: A nice LSP acknowledges up front and in writing that you own your TM and are entitled to receive a copy of it whenever you request one. They understand that they are providing you a service involving your intellectual property.

Author: Bill Swallow

Technical Consultant, Scriptorium. Two decades in tech comm, including content development, localization, and management. Specializes in content strategy with an emphasis on challenging localization and terminology scenarios. Also enjoys homebrewing.

4 Comments

  1. Excellent post, Bill! Indeed, translators are the best reviewers, so a good translator will ask questions or provide feedback. I hope some people from purchasing/procurement depts. read your post too, because some of them just want to see a (low) price per word and no questions asked.

  2. The low price per word usually comes back to bite you along with a very short turn-around time..

    I just had some questions from a new LSP regarding a quote:
    If they were to lay out the translation in typeset?
    How would we like to receive the final translated files? In a block Word format.

    We gave them the files in Frame/DITA xml, so why the word question? I didn’t know that anyone used typesetting for printing manuals. We had told them that the final product was to be in pdf, with the translated xml files returned to us.

    I understand questions from the vendors, but these were nothing that I have ever been asked before.

  3. Beth, they likely saw “Framemaker” and assumed DTP. Or, they are canned questions that an uninformed sales admin was asked to get answers to.

    Best response is “we’d like to receive the finished translated material in exactly the same form and format as the source files”, though it sounds like you may need to call them to make sure you’re all on the same page. Honestly, if I sent Framemaker and DITA source and they asked if I wanted Word back, I’d be extremely cautious if not actively looking for another LSP.

  4. Great post! As an LSP, we always try to optimize our process to adapt to our clients’ needs. Some of the things we do include building custom workflows on a per-client or even per-project basis, customizing file filters to extract translatable content from different file formats, and integrating with content management systems.

    I would also add that a nice LSP treats their linguists well. By giving the support our linguists need, we get a lot of useful feedback on how we can improve the process and how a client can optimize their content. It is a win-win situation.