CLI’s client relations team receives quite a few questions about interpreting services. It’s expected, of course — unless you’re in the industry, have used an interpreter yourself, or have prior experience working with language services, most people don’t know the industry even exists, so it’s only natural that questions will arise if you’re on the hunt for an interpreter.

We thought it would be beneficial to post six of the most common questions we receive, along with the answers, in the hopes we can help those less familiar with language services gain some insight. You never know when it will come in handy!

FAQs on using interpreting services

1. How much does on-demand interpreting cost?

Inquiring about interpreting quality should be first on your priority list, but cost is an important consideration as well.

Over-the-phone interpreting (OPI) and video remote interpreting (VRI) are priced by the minute, and you’re only charged based on the actual minutes you use. Most language service providers (LSPs) determine price for OPI and VRI based on language mix (what languages your customers speak) and volume (how much business you’ll be sending their way). Generally, the higher the volume of commonly spoken languages your customers speak (Spanish, for example), the lower the cost.

2. What languages do you offer?

The number of languages a provider will have available varies; most mid- to large-sized U.S. companies will offer somewhere around 200–300 languages for OPI and 20–40 for VRI.

But always make sure to ask if you don’t see the language you need on a company’s language list. LSPs like CLI should make every effort to obtain a qualified interpreter in whatever language you need, even if it’s not currently offered.

Related: Rare Languages: A Deeper Dive into CLI’s Recent Additions

3. What are your top languages?

CLI’s top languages for OPI closely mimic the top languages spoken across the U.S.: Spanish, Chinese Mandarin, Chinese Cantonese, Arabic, and Russian. For VRI, our top languages are Spanish, American Sign Language (ASL), and Somali.

While it’s imperative to know what languages a provider has available, it’s a good idea to look at your organization’s language needs first. If your company keeps data on the languages your customers speak, that’s terrific! If not, it’s never too late to start tracking this information. Not only will it help your agents deliver better customer service, but your customers will appreciate it, too.

4. How do I know what language my customer is speaking?

Identifying a language someone speaks can be tough, especially if you don’t have practice doing it. With time, you will begin to understand bits and pieces of your most-requested languages and be able to request an interpreter with no problem. At first, however, you might need to do a little digging to find the correct language. Here are some tips:

  • Ask what language they speak. It’s simple, but there’s a good chance your customers will know enough English to know how to answer this question.
  • Read off your top 15 languages. Your customer might recognize their language if you read it aloud.
  • Ask what country they are from and narrow down the languages spoken there. Just make sure you have a list of countries and their respective languages ready. CLI maintains a list on our website for easy reference!

But if you ever have any trouble, or run into a language not often requested, your LSP can help. At CLI, our customer service representatives are trained to assist our clients in identifying languages. (And they’re really good at it, too!)

Related: Assisting Limited English Proficient Customers in a Contact Center

5. How do I conference in a telephone interpreter?

An excellent question, and one where the answer depends on different scenarios*:

Scenario 1: You already have your customer on the line.

For this scenario, simply place your customer on hold, call your LSP, and conference your customer into the call.

Scenario 2: You contact your LSP before calling your customer.

This scenario can go two ways: You (or your LSP) can dial out to your customer before connecting to an interpreter, or your LSP can connect you to an interpreter before you dial out to your customer.

This scenario works really well if you already know the language your customer speaks (you’re calling about an appointment reminder, for example).

There is no wrong or right way to conference in an interpreter. Whichever method you choose will depend on your situation and your organization’s processes.

*These scenarios are based on our experience at CLI, and may not reflect how other LSPs operate.

6. Can I track multiple users, locations, etc.?

Absolutely. Most LSPs will give you access to your OPI and VRI usage data at no extra charge, so you can track the metrics that make the most sense for you, including different locations and users.

Did we miss any? Feel free to post questions to our Facebook page, or reach out to us at any time. We’re always happy to help!