The difference between a good sign language interpreting agency and all the other ones aren’t always clear.
The search for American Sign Language interpreting or spoken language interpreting services shouldn’t be a difficult one. Yet, plenty of companies currently in business market their translating services as quality enough to hold up in a court room. The reality is, those services are cheap, they’re often well reviewed by their own staff and simply don’t have the quality customer service clients require.
Of course if you’re not a member of the interpreting industry you’re probably not familiar with much of the nuance involved in sourcing high quality and professional services. At Flamingo Interpreting, we like to support our clients in finding services even if they choose another more cost effective provider. While we’ve seen many clients return over the years, we’re never thrilled to hear they’ve had a sub-par experience elsewhere. If you’re looking for the right agency and just not sure what to look for, check out our five top categories to pay attention to.
Are they proactive in meeting your needs? While it’s common to submit a request with information, it’s more common they follow up with asks for more information including the names of the service users. You don’t have to provide any of this information of course but a good agency will keep an open line of communication with you to ensure that when something does come up, it doesn’t fall through the cracks.
As an example, we typically get a full idea of what the request specifically will retire before touching base the client when the interpreters is confirmed to exchange contact information. This way, if something comes up specific to the interpretation – you can ensure the party that will be involved is answering the questions. We provide the referral and let you communicate how you see fit. Once confirmed we check in again the day before services are scheduled to double check any changes.
You should expect a great agency to ask you for materials the interpreter can use to prepare their interpretation. If you’re booking a board meeting, they should ask for the agenda. A PTA meeting may call for questions surrounding the topics and relevant notes. A job interview would be best served with the interpreter meeting the interviewer or candidate ahead of time. Most agencies will ask you to always book a couple books out for best results but truly, prep work is king.
While interpreters are incredible at what they do, they do best in supported environments where all the tools they may need are a their disposal. Often, the best tool in their arsenal is the ability to prepare and embody an interpretation that is clear and effective.
How do they talk about their interpreters?
Do they have a personal relationship?
As an interpreter run company, we only work with colleagues. We’re certainly not the norm. More often than not, the people operating the business are not interpreters. Many coordinators are former interpreters without an active tie to the community. In our world, we focus on fit and comfortability. We work with top quality interpreters, so really we could send anybody but we don’t. We’re not in business to send interpreters to jobs that don’t make sense.
We’re in business to change the industry and help our clients see that when you have the right fit and not just a warm body with an interpreting degree, real magic happens. You can tell this by the way we talk about our people. We’ll ask you questions and give you context for who you’ll be working with in such an intimate capacity. They’re not just another contractor, they’re a colleague with a specific skill set and we’ll help you see how beneficial it can be in your board room.
What do they specialize in?
Agencies love to service requests for any niche possible. That’s impossible without a massive pool. While generalists do exist, I don’t want a generalist in a speciality they’re not tenured in. To illustrate, imagine having a family physician performing your neurosurgery. You’d absolutely ask for a specialist who has studied the specific arena. Even a neurosurgeon would tell you that within their surgical spectrum there are multiple specialties. We do the same thing with interpreting. While a small insignificant meeting for you may feel like anyone could do it, we care that your best impression is always made with us.
A great agency will be honest and tell you “we don’t do that” and hopefully offer a referral. We work with a handful of partnering agencies we trust and often will refer clients to them for areas we simply don’t work in. We’ve found those clients to be far more successful and retuning to us at a later time because we’ve built a reputation of sending interpreters they can trust.
Who are they?
Agencies are made up of people, but their websites are often just icons of the world or a corporate building’s shimmering facade. Find an agency that has people you can talk to and get to know. Those people should be in your corner with every new request and support you long term, a website can’t really do that. When you don’t see any human presence behind the website or social media you’re seeing, it’s a major red flag that they don’t connect with their people, their contracting interpreters or their clients.