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What to expect from a global translation agency

Global Translation Agency
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…well, besides global translation that is

Selecting your translation & localization strategy really depends on your company’s processes, goals and products, but partnering with a translation agency for your globalization needs can boil down to a few simple things.

Translation and localization is no easy task, but the business need is imperative and is upon us! In today’s world



  • millennials will head to Amazon before any other website at a percentage of 59% (Inviqa)
  • by the year 2040, 95% of purchases will be through eCommerce (Nasdaq)
  • by the year 2022, it will take 16 languages to reach 90% of internet-accessible GDP (eGDP) (CSA)

companies have no choice but to interact with multilingual audiences, which do not necessarily have to be located in different countries. If you think at the multitude of languages spoken in the US (World Atlas), multilingual audiences are just next door neighbors.

As in every first encounter, yes, you can talk about the hard facts, such as the number of languages, the resourcing strategy, the technology tools, the different workflows, and the overall localization strategy to follow. However, as the interaction progresses and when things start to get interesting, what would really be the tipping point towards one global translation agency versus another?

More often than not, it is not the facts and figures that tip the scale, but instead that inexplicable feeling one has that they would be better off with one partner rather than a different one. This is the human mind assessing the soft ‘skills’ and making sure they get to count in the selection process.

What are the soft skills for a global translation agency?



Most call it ‘customization’, but that applies to products, services or solutions, not to people. The first are set in a particular way and though they can be modified, altered, adjusted or tweaked, there are limitations to doing so. Getting personal – no pun intended – applies to people, and you, as a customer, qualify as such. The least you should expect is for your aspiring partner to

  • do their research as to who you are, what you do and most importantly how you do it
  • be transparent in proving what the competitive advantage would be if you partnered with them
  • of course, be willing to customize their standard offering to match your processes, goals and products – thus customize it
  • but also be open to integrate themselves in your setup as is


Assuming we are past the personalization step – which also assumes that you, as a prospect buyer of a potential partner’s services, have been open to sharing all the relevant details of your processes, needs and aspirations – the offering must strike some level of relevance. Detail is important as most offerings will be pretty similar or, even if quite different, differences could be hard to spot by an untrained eye;

so the game will be won or lost in the details that will strike the appropriate relevance chord.

At first glance, when comparing offerings, the eye can be easily biased by first impressions, and one offering might include the whole roster of technology and automations and tools and processes and workflows and you name it, while another just a couple. Being left dumbfounded by a huge pool of translators, say 10,000, and a 20-step patented process for translation and review and proofreading and back-translation and validation and rebats etc. is easy. But how applicable are these for your own targets, if you are only looking to expand to just a couple of countries for now thus needing only a couple of languages, or if your current localization needs are limited to some internal documents for gisting purposes?

Maybe the real value lies in the simplicity of a relevant offer without noise that distracts from the particular need.

Responsiveness & timeliness

Product launches, update releases and in general any outbound company activity should not be the exclusive responsibility of your internal teams. The same level of responsiveness and promptness should also be expected by your global translation agency. To the extent these expectations are reasonable for your internal teams, it will also be reasonable for your external partners.

Knowledge & awareness

It is bad enough when, especially during the sales cycle and before any deal closes, the teams you interact with on the part of the translation agency do not really have an in-depth knowledge of their offering, but isn’t it even worse when they have absolutely no idea of their industry and competition? Your aspiring partner is not by any means expected to know every tool or process that every other competitor is offering – there are more than 40,000 translation agencies registered on ProZ only. But a global translation agency must be in the know about what is going on in their industry, what capabilities are there and what progress is made in new fronts, such as machine translation. If they don’t, how are they going to support you meaningfully in your goals – not theirs?

Although we are big fans of ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’, with the localization business being a people industry, we also vote strongly for ‘not everything that counts can be counted’. Unfortunately, RFPs, and procurement processes and platforms do not usually account for the soft skills – and how could they? Procurement teams are by definition all about hard facts, but the time has come that these facts – as hard as they may be –change sooner or later; and it better be sooner, if you ask me.

On the other hand, strong and successful partnerships are founded on trust gained quickly and proactively, and sustained over time. And this is an exclusively human attribute.

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