Translation quality from a business perspective

Translation quality from a business perspective

What mistakes are lying in wait for us when translating business content? We have already discussed translation mistakes and linguistic errors resulting from the lack of context or wrong assumptions here. Now, it’s time we looked at mistakes that are important from a business perspective.

How does business look at quality?

Quality is a very broad term. We should, therefore, start by explaining what it means.

According to some definitions, quality is simply a good product:

Quality is the goodness of a product. W.A. Shewhart (1931)

But which product is the good one? Another definition suggests that it’s the product that meets certain requirements:

Quality is conformance to requirements. P. Crosby (1979)

However, the “requirements” alone are not enough. There are definitions of quality that will appeal to the businesspeople of today. Why? Because, among other “requirements”, they put a particular emphasis on the price:

Quality is the degree of excellence at an acceptable price. R. A. Broh (1982)

If you happen to order any type of services, you’re probably sick of being assured that they’re of the highest quality. How can someone guarantee quality without knowing the client’s needs? For some people, quality doesn’t necessarily have to mean “perfect”, but rather “good enough” or “adequate” – at least when it comes to certain projects. If you know what we’re talking about, you might be interested in the rest of our text.

How does business look at translation quality?

We have been in this industry for many years; therefore, we know what our clients care about the most. Here are some examples:

• Fulfilling communication and tone of voice objectives. Every brand cares about its voice, even if it hasn’t been formalised in any document yet. What’s also important is following style guides that specify phrases to be used, phrases that are forbidden and even phrases that shouldn’t be translated (put on the DNT list – “do not translate”).

• Adjusting processes to their schedule. For projects with a tight deadline – e.g. a premiere of a highly-promoted app in a new market – it is an absolute necessity. The deadline has to be met and that’s the end of it.

• Working around their budget, which means adjusting the processes and the quality control level to the financial resources of the client (and project). Their budget might be flexible, but those are rare cases. Sometimes, if the budget is really small, the only possibility is to limit the scope of work.

• After all, quality, meaning the number of mistakes. Whether they concern wrong assumptions, grammar or punctuation, mistakes always happen, though there is a certain limit of the acceptable ones. Problems begin once you’ve gone over that limit. The Airbnb company realised the importance of this issue and, having optimised their translation processes, reduced the average number of errors by almost half.

In 2018, Airbnb wanted to improve their localisation processes. Before that, they had been translating their entire content into 31 languages. However, in order to fulfil the company’s objectives connected to the globalisation of their services, they needed to change their approach – from translation to localisation. Among other things, it involved adapting the content to local contexts. The first change was to reinforce the foundations for localisation. What turned out to be the key to success was choosing one trusted translation service provider.

It allowed the company to speed up translation processes and improve the quality of their content. Thanks to this solid basis, the company was able to focus on their development plans. In 2019, they introduced another 33 language versions. It was a spectacular undertaking that not only made big waves in the business world, but also allowed Airbnb to successfully reach a vast group of new customers. At the same time, the company continued to work with one language service provider, which, over time, resulted in shortening the time needed for translation and reduced the number of mistakes by almost half.

Airbnb went from 15 mistakes per 1000 words to 8 mistakes per 1000 words (Giammarresi, 2022).

How to avoid traps (that are always lurking)?

When thinking about the budget and deadlines, it’s easy to fall into a trap – though you might fulfil the easy-to-check criteria, it’s possible that you’ll fail to meet the expectations of clients or users. We can offer solutions to this problem.

1. Error rate. Business is brutally simple. If we cannot measure something, we cannot control it. That is why Airbnb measures the number of mistakes and checks how many mistakes per thousand words they come across. It is a very easy, understandable and comparable method. On one condition: to use it, we have to verify our content.

What are the benefits? After some time, we will be aware what number of mistakes is acceptable for our business and its recipients. We can use this value in agreements with translation agencies, and treat it as the KPI and the parameter for setting goals.

2. In-house translation and localisation coordinator will solve the long-standing problem: if a process doesn’t have its own strong representative, it will always be overlooked. An in-house coordinator will take care of the localisation process and will be able to provide the resources needed for its completion from the very beginning.

What are the benefits? It has been observed that tight translation deadlines are the result of not giving localisation much thought in the first place – some companies don’t perceive it as a valid process. However, such an approach can quickly get back at the clients – the shorter the deadline, the harder it is to get satisfying quality at an acceptable price. An in-house translation coordinator will make sure that the localisation process is planned, budgeted and included in the schedule at the very beginning of a given project. Better planning gives better results.

3. Trusted partner. Having many business partners at the same time gives clients a false sense of security. If one fails to provide, others will step up. Sometimes, it’s necessary – for example, if one partner is not able to deliver the final product on time due to a shortage of employees. However, when it comes to fulfilling communication and glossary objectives, one partner will do best.

What are the benefits? A trusted translation agency will get to know your company and your expectations. You don’t have to explain the same things over and over again, as project coordinators and linguists involved in your projects are already familiar with them. Cooperation with one partner will make it easier to use translation memories – a solution that saves you money and shortens translation time. Let’s see what Salvatore Giammarresi, Head of Localisation at Airbnb, has to say about this:

One initial key strategic decision was to outsource all translation work to a single best-fit localization provider […] and establish a long-term partnership working as one team with clear common goals. This single decision allowed Airbnb, over time, to continuously increase translation quality and velocity while reducing costs.

4. Preparation. You want to keep your brand’s voice in new markets? You have clear expectations that need to be met? Prepare a detailed style guide before you start working with an agency. Guidelines, target group characteristics, your brand’s tone of voice, a list of the most important names and phrases, as well as phrases that shouldn’t be translated –information like that can take up several A4 pages; therefore, it’s best to prepare it in advance.

What are the benefits? Only by providing a translation agency with guidelines can you expect the translators to follow to them. And you can measure the extent to which they’re met and use it to assess the agency’s work or during the reporting process.

How to evaluate translation effectiveness? Goals, KPIs and ROI

Your goals depend on what you sell, who you sell to and how you sell it. And, in turn, KPIs depend on the goals you’ve set.

The aim of translation doesn’t necessarily have to be to deliver content to recipients who speak different languages. When it comes to business, more often than not, the goal is boosting sales, arousing interest or building your image. Less frequently, it is accessibility.

We adjust KPIs to our goals. If you can’t come up with any ideas, take a look at these suggestions.

Traditional indicators:

  • error rate – requires content verification;
  • effective rate per word – it’s something more than cost per word or page given by agencies at the beginning of the project. It’s the final cost of translation divided by the number of words. When using modern tools that minimise translation costs of recurring text fragments, the effective rate may be much lower than the initial one.

Current indicators:

  • newsletter open rate (per language),
  • number of errors reported by end-users (per market),
  • CTR per each language version (for localised Google Ads),
  • user conversion (per language version).

Current KPIs help to assess results and to identify problems. And not only those connected to translation!

A low CTR in one of the markets and a higher percentage of returns or abandoned carts may be related to translation, but they also may be a result of failing to adjust the user interface, graphics or payment methods to the reality of one’s target market. Those aspects cannot be determined without a factual problem analysis. Those looking for simple solutions won’t find them. Why is that?

Even the best translation will not save a bad product, lousy content or poor UX. Does that mean translation should be exempted from all responsibility? Absolutely not! We should still measure the effectiveness and quality of translation.

If you know the aim of your translation project, but don’t know which KPIs should be used to measure the quality and effectiveness of translations, we can help you to specify them.

We translate for business

As an agency, we understand the motives and goals of both larger and smaller companies. What makes our clients different?

They care about quality – the linguistic one as well. We work only with the best translators and reviewers. We do not tolerate sloppiness. We make sure to provide superb services and work with the best tools available on the market.

Does it cost a lot? It certainly costs less than dealing with the aftermath of disastrous localisation!

But you’re surely looking for details. Among our clients you will find:

  • market giants;
  • the biggest Polish companies providing services in several foreign markets;
  • e-commerce agencies;
  • technological companies that operate in Poland and neighbouring countries;
  • niche Polish brands and service providers who sell their products abroad, particularly on Amazon.

What these companies have in common aren’t their size or record profits. They are different from others because they understand how important translation and localisation are to their success. Thanks to those two things, they are able to offer their products and services to clients all over the world, systematically generating more and more profits in stable currencies such as the dollar or the euro.

We offer services adjusted to their needs and options (in terms of time, budget or quality).

If you want to know the key to global success of the companies that we work with, contact us and we will tell you what we have to offer.

Garvin DA 1988, Managing Quality: The Strategic and Competitive Edge, Simon and Schuster, p. 41.
Giammarresi, S 2022, ‘The Evolution of Airbnb’s Localization Strategy’, Multilingual, June, p. 17.
Soundaian, S 2019, New Dimensions of Management, MJP Publisher, p. 147.
‘The Absolutes of Quality: The Definition of Quality’, Gagen MacDonald, 2 July. Available at: (Accessed 29 November 2022).

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