Six Tips to Make Sure You Get the Right Localization Provider
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Six Tips to Make Sure You Get the Right Localization Provider

If you’re procuring localization services on behalf of a large company, chances are you’re looking for a language service provider (LSP) capable of the volumes, languages and timescales that inevitably come with the territory.

But a request for information (RFI) of this nature comes with its own pitfalls, and there are a lot of providers to choose from. So here are six tips for procuring localization services for a multinational company.

1. Culture: Meet the people you’ll actually work with

Making sure you can work together well is hugely important, but it may be impossible to gauge the corporate culture of your localization provider from the people handling the request for information.

If you want a sense of what working with this supplier will really be like, you need to meet the people you will be interacting with on a day-to-day basis: the project managers and lead production people.

Questions to ask:

  • Where are the people I’d be working with based?
  • How do they communicate?
  • What kind of training and qualifications do they have?
  • How can I be confident that they will deliver the work I need?

2. Quality: Look for value in the right place

As a procurement manager, it can be overwhelmingly tempting to ask potential suppliers to translate a document as a test to establish their quality. The problem is that translation quality is not a reliable differentiator, because samples at the RFI stage don’t necessarily offer true insight into the bidders’ processes.

If a company is serious about winning the RFI, there’s every chance that this particular sample (or samples) will be translated and proofread by an army of their top people—but who may not end up working on your account. As a result, most LSPs are able to produce quality in a one-off translation.

But what about a different language? A different subject matter?

If your needs are limited to a narrow range in both categories, then it’s easier to appreciate why you’d want test pieces. But for large organizations, it’s often impossible to predict the different permutations you’ll require, and impractical to test for them all even if you could.

A better way of establishing the value of a bid is through asking about the level(s) of service your language provider offers.

Questions to ask:

  • How do they recruit and vet the best localization resources for my project?
  • What is included in their project management service?
  • How do they balance speed, quality and budget for different jobs?
  • What value-added services do they provide beyond translation?
  • How do they innovate over time?

3. Stability: The value of a long-term relationship

The more you and your language service provider become accustomed to each other’s processes and requirements, the more valuable the relationship becomes. But it makes no financial or strategic sense to build this kind of relationship if you need to change suppliers often.

If stability is something you look for in your RFI process, it’s worth establishing whether a localization provider is financially secure and has invested in providing long-term solutions.

Questions to ask:

  • Are they financially stable?
  • What is the average length of their client relationships?
  • Do they work on a project or program basis?
  • How well established are they in the translation industry?

4. Scale: Are they in the right place at the right time?

If you’re a multinational company, it makes sense to have a localization provider with offices in the same places as you. Not only can you build relationships more easily, you can also achieve economies of scale that just aren’t feasible with providers that have a smaller global presence.

It also means that should an urgent job need immediate attention, you will almost certainly be able to speak to someone, regardless of when it surfaces. And if you anticipate requiring high volumes of documents to be translated, make sure your chosen provider has the capability to deliver them on time by using multiple production offices to handle your work (sometimes called a ‘follow-the-sun’ business model).

Questions to ask:

  • Do they have a presence in my relevant countries?
  • Can they handle the work across time zones in order to manage fast turnarounds?
  • Where will my main point of contact be located?
  • What time zones can they cover?

5. Technology: Don’t be taken in by own-brand solutions

A lot of localization providers have made their translation technology a unique selling point. It’s often marketed as proprietary as though you may be missing out on something special. The truth is that most of these branded solutions offer no unique benefit over third-party software that is broadly available. And, those proprietary tools may not ‘grow’ as you do, and you’ll be locked in, unable to easily switch to a new tool if your needs change or you switch vendors.

While there are certainly strengths and weaknesses to any solution, you’re more likely to get neutral advice as to the best option for your business from a provider that doesn’t have its own technology to sell.

Questions to ask:

  • How will they help me choose technology?
  • Do they offer customizations and integrations?
  • Will they be objective about what technology is best for me?
  • How will they add value in terms of technology deployments?

6. Cost: Low price is not the same as good value

It’s inevitable that unit price is a major focus when assessing bids, but it’s not always the most helpful differentiator.

At its most basic level, you need to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Are your vendors pricing for professional, experienced human beings, or are they offering machine translation with post-editing?

If you need content to be truly localized for another country, culture and language, machine translation will not be sufficient quality, but it will be cheaper. A very low unit price also usually means a completely different level of service and quality.

Another problem with looking purely at the per-word price is that it might not include project management or costs for engineering, testing and other localization tasks. You should receive per-hour prices for many of these services, and project management is often charged as a percentage of the total project cost.

Questions to ask:

  • Are the per-word prices for human or machine translation?
  • What level of service is included in the price?
  • What are the rates for testing, engineering and other localization tasks?


Procuring localization services can be a minefield for global organizations, which have to deal with so many more variables than smaller companies. But a little bit more planning during the RFI process can pay real dividends further along in the relationship with your new provider. If your global enterprise is ready to find a localization service provider, don’t hesitate to get in touch to discuss your program’s needs.