It is no secret that booking a sign language interpreter can be a costly endeavor. It always is when engaging intelligent, well-trained people with uncommon skills.
That said, there are 5 mistakes that people regularly make when booking a sign language interpreter, which unnecessarily adds to the cost of these services.
So, what are these mistakes and how can you avoid them?
Let’s start with the most common and then go the more obscure ones.
1. Booking late
This may seem like a no-brainer, but frequently people wait until just a few days before to place a request. This immediately leads to a 20% (or more) increase in the cost of the services. Most agencies maintain a late request or “emergency” fee for requests placed within 72 hours of the start time of a booking.
Sometimes this can’t be avoided, but work to make sure that you get your booking request to the agency with sufficient time to avoid these fees. Getting your booking in early will also improve the chances that you will be able to locate the exact interpreter you need when you need them.
2. Canceling late
Again, this may seem like a no-brainer, but it happens. Most agencies maintain at least a 48 hour or 2 full business day cancellation policy. So, if you cancel your request with less than 48 hours notice or 2 full business days notice, you will be required to pay the entire amount of the service arranged as if it occurred.
Cancellations are often the result of fluid business schedules, personal conflicts, and/or sometimes just Murphy’s law. A couple of things to consider when working to avoid late cancellations.
1. When scheduling your meeting or event, make sure that attendees know that an interpreter will be scheduled for the meeting and the time isn’t flexible.
2. Remain in regular contact with the Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing person attending.
3. Time extensions
Costs do increase when meetings or events going over their scheduled time. Most agencies maintain a policy that an extension of time is billed in 15 minute or half hour increments. So, if your meeting ends 10 minutes late, it’s possible it could cost you a full half of an hour of time.
Clearly, sometimes this is necessary. Unfortunately, these costs are often discovered after the services have been performed. This because the person running the meeting or event and the person booking the interpreter are different people and have not communicated about the extension.
When trying to avoid the cost of time extensions, it is important that the person booking the service be the one to approve the extension of time. In order for this approach to be effective, the person who booked the interpreter needs to be readily available during the time the interpreter is booked.
4. Insufficient information
This can be a costly mistake. When an agency is not provided sufficient or incorrect information about the booking, it can lead to conflicts between interpreters and those they are working with and can ultimately lead to the need to cancel the services in their entirety.
In most cases, this is at a cost to the person booking the services.
The easiest way to avoid the costs associated with insufficient or incorrect information is to ensure that you are comprehensive in your booking preparation.
5. Multiple assignments on one day
If you are booking a large amount of sign language interpreting services, it is entirely possible that you are booking interpreters for several meetings on one day. There is a big opportunity to find some savings on the cost of services in this scenario.
The key here is leveraging the 2-hour minimum requirement when booking services. This may be most easily understood by example. If you had two meetings, one from 9am-10am and one from 11am-12pm, you could place your request with the agency from 9am-12pm and have the interpreter interpret both (assuming they were qualified and appropriate). This would result in you only needing to book 3 hours of service instead of four (if you booked the booked each meeting separately, there would be a 2-hour minimum charge for each of them.
People have taken this to the extreme. They have attempted to book 2 interpreters for a 4-hour meeting. One to do the first two hours, the other to do the last two hours. This to avoid hiring two interpreters for the entirety of the 4-hour meeting. It is important to understand that when this type of thing occurs, the quality and continuity of the interpreting is compromised.
At the end
In the end, what is important is that the Deaf Community receives the services of a qualified sign language interpreter when they require one. By avoiding these 5 costly mistakes, you will be better positioned to consistently manage the cost and perception of these services within your organization.