A crucial step in the procurement process!
For most requests for proposals (RFPs), an organization and its prospective language services providers (LSPs) will meet after all bids have been reviewed and the short list has been established. Typically, each LSP will present its services at the organization’s offices or via teleconference. This somewhat impersonal approach means buyers’ final choice is made with little consideration for the selling points that are less quantifiable but could make all the difference in the end.
Paying a visit to a potential LSP can be very informative. In fact, there’s no better way to get a good feel for who you’re dealing with. As you will see further along, not only can it spare you from some unpleasant surprises, but a face-to-face meeting at the LSP’s offices can also have plenty of advantages.
No nasty surprises: Getting the full picture from the outset
Behind a compelling bid and website may well be the top-notch company you’re expecting, but you may also find just the opposite. The following are the three unfortunate surprises businesses come across most often.
A bare-bones operation
The provider may only have a tiny office with just a minimal team of project coordinators and no on-site language experts. Or worse, you may discover that their address is just a post office box and that the local team presented in the bid doesn’t actually exist.
An industrial approach
An impressive, client-focused provider may, in reality, have an internal culture that’s not conducive to linguistic excellence. If you pay them a visit, you might discover a rigid and impersonal work environment and work methods focused on quantity rather than quality, giving it more of a factory feel than that of a professional agency. This is a bad sign.
In 2017 alone, the Translator Scammers Directory identified more than 5,000 people passing themselves off as professional translators, often by stealing the résumés of qualified translators. While your prospective provider may not be a fraud within the meaning of the law, they could be one of the many amateurs without credentials who call themselves translators just because they can get by in more than one language.
10 decisive advantages to an on-site visit
Visiting a prospective partner early in the selection process
1 – Meet your dedicated experts
A serious LSP won’t just give you a tour of their offices, they’ll introduce you to the experts who would be dedicated to your organization and give you the chance to speak with them. You will be able to see for yourself that they have been appropriately selected and are familiar with your line of business.
2 – Get answers to your questions
A conscientious LSP will arrange a meeting after the office tour to address any important issues or questions you may have. This way, you can go over and above the standard RFP questions and ask questions on the spot to verify their knowledge of your business sector and key issues.
3 – See how their tools and systems work
The LSP can demonstrate some of the systems you may have heard about without necessarily knowing exactly how they work.
4 – Check security measures
An on-site visit is also a good occasion to verify existing security measures and speak with the people in charge of IT and information security.
5 – Gather critical RFP information
When you visit, you can gather critical information that will be useful in preparing your RFP and defining your selection criteria. You can add key criteria you may not have thought of before and remove less-relevant requirements that might open the door to bids from providers lacking the necessary credentials.
Dropping in on your selected partner
6 – See how important you are to them once the contract is signed
A serious partner will remain just as enthusiastic and keen to keep you satisfied after the contract is signed, contrary to providers who may be talented salespeople but who only give you mediocre service once you become a client.
7 – Gauge their flexibility
If the LSP is attentive, they will adapt to your needs and welcome you at your convenience (even last minute). If they aren’t based in the same city as you and you happen to be passing through on business one day, they will be delighted to welcome you in between your meetings.
8 – Assess the stability of your dedicated team
By periodically visiting your LSP, you can reassess the team dedicated to your organization to make sure your partner is keeping the same people in place to maintain consistency and continuously improve the services you receive.
9 – Discuss specific issues
Some issues are more complex than others and are best discussed in person. A partner that means business will provide a prioritized agenda for this very purpose.
10 – Maintain a positive, productive partnership
Even though your translation coordinators and their LSP counterparts may speak and email each other regularly, an occasional on-site meeting can go a long way in making sure that your business relationship is as smooth as possible. This approach helps turn your partner into a natural extension of your organization.
A wise investment of your time
Just one hour can be enough to meet with a potential partner and determine exactly who you’re dealing with or to discuss your business relationship. But don’t hesitate to ask for a longer meeting and to make your expectations known, either before, during or after your selection process. This often-overlooked strategy can make a huge difference in the quality of the partner and partnership you end up with, which will directly impact the success of your choice.