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Translation Providers & Translation Clients are a Team

Katrina Nabavi works in Dell’s localization department, so she knows something about working with translation providers. She’s been with Dell for a decade. Before that, she worked for a translation provider. So, she knows both sides of this relationship. Perhaps those of us in the translation business should listen when she discusses the importance of translation providers having the right attitude and the right approach to working with their client.

Translation providers, personality matters

“People and partnership,” Nabavi preaches in an article in the Globalization and Localization Association newsletter (, are “the key factors in a successful relationship.” She describes how, in seven years, her localization team has only changed translation providers twice. Both times involved a misfit between the translation providers’ company personality and her department. Not price, quality, nor turnaround. Personality. “As soon as the ink had dried on contracts,” she recounts, she knew that the chosen LSPs “weren’t a good fit for us.”

Translation clients invest in their vendors

Nabavi points out that an enterprise client like Dell takes a big risk when selecting a translation firm. If things go bad, they’ve sunk irretrievable time and resources into the relationship. Now they must begin at square one. Even worse, the LSP may have botched something that costs the client in terms of revenue, liability, reputation, or all three. That’s why Nabavi and her localization manager peers take such care screening translation providers. “We estimate it takes nine months,” she says, to train new translation providers in the Dell way of doing things. Consequently, the company has a vested interest in forming the client-vendor relationship for the long term. “It’s not in anyone’s interest to switch vendors yearly based on lowest-price bids,” according to Nabavi.

Client expectations of translation providers

Translation providers, Nabavi emphasizes, should be “so much more than just button-pushers.” And this from a localization manager of a huge, multinational, established firm with rigid, established processes and procedures. Dell, after all, doesn’t need its translation providers to guide it in how to be more efficient. It has armies of internal staff for that. Yet, even with so much established orthodoxy, Nabavi et al expect more from their vendors than the blind following of instructions. Language services vendors, she claims, should “invest time learning the nuances and needs of our different business units, understand where the company is heading…”. In other words, they should demonstrate a proactive interest in their translation client’s needs and processes. For translation providers, going through the motions is insufficient.

Other professional etiquette

Aside from a basic interest in her localization needs, Nabavi lists some other necessary attributes in her LSP partners. Most of these relate to adaptation: adapting to Dell’s reporting requirements, time zone coverage, round-the-clock availability and the like. She also reveals some definite dislikes. These include disparagement of rivals — no matter how obliquely such disparagements are couched — “the inability to simply own up to a mistake,” and a “focus on making sales” at the expense of meeting the needs of existing clients. For most translation providers, these should stand as self-evident. However, Nabavi, apparently, has experienced situations illustrative of said dislikes.

A validation of U.S. Translation Company doctrine

U.S. Translation Company has always striven to be one of the most customer-friendly translation providers anywhere. As I discuss in “Clients Want an Easy Translation Experience,” we understand that each corporate customer has a unique set of needs — yet all share the need for a client-centric, can-do, adaptable vendor to proactively take care of them with a minimum of hassle. In short, we have always tried to be the model translation firm of which Nabavi speaks. Now, how to get her attention…

About The Author

David Utrilla