(Originally Posted on March 09, 2015)
Previously I discussed differentiating based on your domain of expertise. This is probably the most common differentiator that comes to mind when discussing the topic of differentiation. Other forms of differentiation are Customer Service, Services Offered, Cost and Quality.
There are plenty of books available describing exceptional customer service (In Search of Excellence) comes to mind. This level of customer service is a noble objective which few achieve consistently over time. Like the Olympic athlete, you have times of peak performance with valleys of lesser efforts, then rise to the occasion once more before tapering off again. If you can consistently perform at the very highest levels of customer service all the time, you will be written about in the next book on that subject and achieved quite possibly the highest level of differentiation.
A potentially easier task is differentiating based on the services you offer. Consider the typical LSP web site advertising the following services:
Over the Phone Interpreting
Video Remote Interpreting
In an effort to cast the broadest net possible for customers, most LSPs offer the same services. From the customer’s perspective, if I am looking for a Narration provider, do I select one doing Narration as one of many services, or do I look for someone who only does Narration and nothing else?
We seem to have an irrational fear that by narrowing our focus, we will miss opportunities in areas we are confident we can provide a good service. But are we providing truly exceptional service in all those related areas? Do we farm out that work to another vendor or resell some of those services?
No easy answers and in the end it is a very personal choice to decide to narrow your offerings down to a “core” set of things you want to be truly THE expert in. No matter who you are, I bet if I asked you to name an LSP offering Hebrew services one name would come to mind. Can you name two? That is differentiation.
I won’t go into price differentiation. If that’s your thing, go for it but be careful you don’t differentiate yourself out of business.
That leaves quality as a differentiator. Along with Customer Service, differentiating on quality is extremely difficult and complicated by a lack of definition around just what constitutes quality in the language industry (and no, we won’t debate that in this post). Customer testimonials carry some of the load in terms of documenting your quality, and depending on your areas of specialization, you may be able to put more of a definition around your quality level to help differentiate it. Do you see anyone posting error rates? Do customers specify acceptable error rates when requesting work? A great man once told me that quality is assumed to be there by the customer, so you can’t compete on quality. I believe you can if you find a way to articulate and document it that customers understand.