1. “Do you use NRCPD registered interpreters?”

NRCPD (The National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People) is the registration body for Sign Language interpreters and other Communication Professionals.  By registering with NRCPD, the Sign Language interpreter is expected to work to certain standards. They must follow a code of conduct and show evidence of annual continual professional development to show their continual learning within the industry.

The NRCPD also have a complaints process. This ensures that communication professionals can be held accountable if they are working in a way that goes against the code of conduct.  Professionals must also have Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII), a DBS Clearance and undertake yearly Continual Professional Development.

NRCPD support training professionals, and overall ensure that a high standard of work is maintained. When choosing an agency to work with, it’s important to check that they work with NRCPD registered interpreters ONLY, to confirm that the Sign Language interpreter or other Communication Professional that they are providing you with, is at a high standard.

  1. “How do you choose the right interpreter for me?”

The agency you are contacting should have a process for choosing the correct interpreter for your booking. They should look at the nature of the booking (medical, legal, and child protection work can only be undertaken by a Registered Sign Language Interpreter), the location of the booking, the length of the booking (long and/or complex bookings may require two Sign Language Interpreters), and the content of the booking.

Agencies should always aim to book a Sign Language Interpreter who have worked in a similar field before. Most Sign Language Interpreters have preferred areas to work in, and so the agency should be able to book an Interpreter with experience in your field.

It’s always a good idea to ask this question, as it means the agency is really thinking about making sure the support is the best it can be for you and your booking – showing excellent customer service skills.

  1. “Is there a clear fee structure?”

From early on in your discussions it’s essential you know what the fees are and how much you will be expected to pay. Do the fees include VAT or travel costs? Are these added onto the fee?

Some agencies may have a lower fee for Universities than other fields to support student budgets, but not all agencies do this.

Having clarity over the costs will ensure there are no awkward discussions when you receive the invoice from the agency.

  1. “What are your cancellation processes?”

If you create a booking and then need to cancel it, you need to be aware of the cancellation process that the agency works by. Many agencies will follow the cancellation process of Sign Language Interpreters:

Cancellation within 7 days – full fee payable

Cancellation within 14 days – half fee payable

So, it is worth knowing that a cancellation may incur fees.

You should also be aware of the processes for if the interpreter cancels, or if the agency is unable to fill the booking. You should ask about communication between yourself and the agency, and the costs involved.

  1. “Do you have any experience working with an industry like mine?”

It’s always good to know that an interpreting agency has worked with clients in a similar field to yourself, so they understand what your industry-specific needs may be.

For example, if you work as part of a disability team at a university and you require interpreting support for your student, then it is ideal to work with an agency who has provided this support for deaf students before. The agency will understand how to achieve consistency of interpreters across a timetable, will know how to liaise with Student Finance England, and will more than likely already be registered on the QAG website.

Having this prior knowledge ensures that your booking process is as smooth as possible, as the agency will be the experts, and will be able to tell you the things you need to do for the process.

  1. “Can you provide me with a recommendation from a company that you work with, and a Sign Language Interpreter that you work with?”

Asking for a recommendation is a great way to see what other people think of working with the agency. This will show you the level of customer service you can expect from the agency.

It is equally important to find out how the agency works with their Sign Language Interpreters. Agencies and Sign Language Interpreters work closely together to provide support, so it is a good idea for you to find out if the people who work alongside the company would also recommend them.

  1. “How will the agency communicate with me?”

It’s crucial that you have clear communication methods with the agency from the outset. If your booking is last minute, then how often will the agency contact you to update you? Or if you have a booking, and the Sign Language Interpreter needs to cancel – will the agency inform you straight away, or wait until they can see if they can get the booking covered?

Ensuring that you have the best contact details for them, and they have the best contact details for you, means that communication can happen as efficiently as possible.

  1. “How can I keep track of my booking?”

If you are booking an interpreter for the first time, it can be reassuring to know how you can keep track of your booking. Some agencies may have an online system you can login to, others may prefer to let you know via email or telephone. Either way, it is important that you are aware of the progress and status of your booking.

  1. “What do I need to provide to make this the smoothest experience possible?”

Making this the best experience possible isn’t all down to the agency, you know! You’ve got a part to play too.

Each agency works differently, but it is always best to be ready to provide clear and detailed information about the booking, alongside contact details for the day. It is important that you provide as much information as possible; the more prepared an interpreter is, the better the booking will be.

But the agency will be able to tell you what you need to do to make the process the best it can be, and you should be ready to work with the agency to make the process a collaborative effort.

  1. “How will my feedback be used?”

Agencies should always be looking to improve their business, so feedback should be welcome. But it is important to find out how the feedback will be used, and what you can expect to get from the agency in the process.

Will you receive confirmation of receipt of the feedback? How long will you need to wait before they contact you with an official response and action plan? Your feedback should be important to them, so they should have processes in place to work with your feedback.