The company contracted to provide courtroom interpreting is investing heavily in technology to improve its performance, its chief executive has said, after the Leeds-headquartered company failed to hit its contractual target and complaints surged.

Thebigword took over from Capita Translation and Interpreting in October last year to provide face-to-face interpretation and translation (including telephone and video), and translation and transcription. Latest Ministry of Justice figures show that thebigword achieved a 97% success rate between January and March this year, a percentage point short of the contractual requirement.

The company achieved a 98% success rate for standard language requests. The success rate for rare language requests dropped from 92% in the first quarter of last year, to 86% in the same period this year. The success rate for special services requests increased from 93% between January and March last year, to 'over 99%' a year later.

Larry Gould, chief executive of thebigword, told the Gazette the company is pleased with the progress it is making, but 'we are constantly reviewing our performance to identify ways to deliver the best possible service. We are investing in technology and our staff to improve our performance and ensure the effective and efficient use of taxpayers' money'.

The company has begun piloting a mobile phone application, which will enable linguists to manage their booking schedules remotely. The app will detail confirmed bookings and provide an online map with directions. Linguists will be able to submit timesheets and verify these on the spot with clients to avoid billing discrepancies. The app can also be used for telephone interpreting services.

Around 30 linguists are involved in the project.

Thebigword has also commissioned the International School of Linguists to provide short, educational videos for solicitors, barristers and judges to help them work effectively with court interpreters.

Latest figures show there were 730 complaints between January and March this year, up by 290 compared with the same period last year. The ministry points out that the latest complaint rate - just under 2% - is still lower than the 4% complaint rate in the equivalent period under the old contract.

'Interpreter was late' accounted for 170 complaints. Gould said thebigword 'takes complaints about our services very seriously and listen carefully to all feedback so we can improve our work with the Ministry of Justice'. The company has received 'excellent feedback from judges about the quality of our services,' he added.