Translation agencies come in many shapes and sizes but they all promise the same things – high-quality translations and affordable prices. Sometimes, the translation you ordered does not meet your expectations, which may lead you to order the translation again from another agency. And the next time from yet another agency, and so on.
Is the cheapest always the best?
Unfortunately, in many organisations, the mindset is “the cheaper, the better”. Especially in public-sector tendering, the criteria have often been defined so that the true competition is in prices, even though quality is, at least nominally, part of the tendering process. For this reason, the prices in public tendering have spiralled downwards so that at times they don’t even cover production costs. But unsurprisingly, customers are rarely happy with the quality produced at the cheapest price.
You rarely get a good translation at a cheap price. In our opinion, tendering should not be based solely on prices; instead, the choice of a translation agency should also be influenced by quality. The price depends on the content of the service. Does the price of the service include proofreading, rounds of corrections or professional customer service? When organising tendering for translation agencies, it should be ensured that both the price and the quality meet the needs of the tenderer.
Comparing individual translators in tendering
In public tendering, quality is often assessed on the basis of assessing the translators who work for translation agencies rather than the agencies themselves. Tender organisers demand to know how many years translators have worked in the profession and how many pages they have translated, which really says nothing at all about how good or bad their translations have been or will be, or what types of quality assurance processes are used or what kind of added value the selected translation agency can offer to the customer. Not to mention the fact that the same translators work for several agencies, their references are not comparable and no one can guarantee the availability of a certain translator or translators for all translations during the contract period.
Is there then any sense in comparing translators in tenders? You don’t compare individual cleaners and their experience when tendering out for cleaning services.
Choose a translation partner that suits your needs
The private sector, however, has got its act together in tendering processes and is now better than before at organising tenders. Customers who use translation services often know how to compare the offering and customer promises of translation agencies. They know what kind of technology an agency needs to offer and what kinds of processes best suit their needs. The main focus is on the translation agency’s expertise, and the choice of translators is just one part of the bigger picture. Informed customers also direct their purchase decision towards a provider whose operations convince them already during the tendering process. The customer also has to believe a good partnership can be established with the selected provider. The public sector has to operate within the parameters of the procurement legislation. However, it might be worth considering the quality criteria used by the private sector also in public tendering.
The purpose of tendering should be to find a translation agency best suited for each situation and with which a good, long-term partnership, or at least partnership for the duration of the contract period, can be created. Sometimes, the most suitable option is the cheapest, as long as the ordering party knows what they are ordering. If a customer needs certain system integrations to facilitate their own work, the agencies with suitable solutions should be looked for in tendering. If a customer needs a quick translation agency, turnaround times should be looked for in tendering. If one is in the market for a high-quality translation agency, attention should be paid to quality assurance, service processes and expertise in project management. When you know what you want, you usually get what you are willing to pay for.