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direct contact to end client
Thread poster: Rolf Kern

Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 10:38
English to German
+ ...
Dec 17, 2008

The Professional Practices for Language Service Providers, that I have endorsed, stipulate "do not directly contact end clients...". It concerns the case when I work for an agency. This should be formulated differently. Reason:

Direct contact for getting direct business is clearly out of question.

But according to my experience, in more than 50 percent of the cases something is not clear in the source text and needs clarification, if not to say discussion.

Now there are three classes of translation agencies:
1. The one that gives you in the order sheet the name and contact address of the end client, asking you to get in touch with them if any problem arises. This is the ideal case, but exists and gives proof, that quality is the paramount concern of that agency, not cost or delay.
2. The one that normally does not give you the end client, except when you ask for it. This is similar to (1), only a little time consuming.
3. Most of them belong to this class. Their fear that you steel them away their customer is so great, that they do not allow you to contact their customer. Questions must be asked in writing to their girl agents, who do not understand what it is all about and pass it on to the client. The answer is passed to me as is, and normally I notice that the customer has not understood my question etc. So this may go on with question-answer-question-answer until I have to give up. Discussion is impossible. This system gives proof that the main concern of the agency is business, not quality, and should be banned out of our Profession.


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:38
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
So? Dec 17, 2008

Your observations are fairly accurate here, but I'm not sure what you intended by raising the point. I also object to the phrase "girl agents", though I'm sure you did not intend the sexist and ageist condescension that is so apparent in that phrase. Yes, a lot of PMs are female, and yes, most of them are younger than you and me, but let's show a little more respect. Most of them are well past the minimum age to vote or drink, and I've seen plenty of air-headedness in all age groups. Not to mention thick male PMs with limited skills.

If this is supposed to be a justification of contacting the client anyway, I'll have to object. As much as I love quality and efficient processes and hate dealing with the back-and-forth of misunderstood feedback/questions, I not only respect the right of my agencies to play an intermediate role, I welcome and encourage it and will work with them to carry out this role more effectively. I have had a few very bad experiences where my contact data was given to end clients to "streamline" a job, and I do not care to repeat such things. In one case a secretary who had bungled the translation of part of her boss's Ph.D. thesis called me in tears at midnight to beg me to go line-by-line through the document, which the Big Man had told her had to be brought up to my standard in the other 50 pages. There isn't enough money in the bank to pay me for putting up with that. There is a reason that I take most of my jobs from agencies, and stuff like this is a big part of it. These people earn their cut even if they are "Umtüter" (box-shifters) who shield me from having to deal with such unpleasantness.

I am probably just as impatient as you are with bungled communication, probably more so. But the answer isn't to take the shortcut to the end client. Work with the agency/PM to help them do a better job, and if they are too incompetent and you are too frustrated, go find a better partner. There are lots of fish in the sea.


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Ligia Dias Costa  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:38
Member (2008)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Filter Dec 17, 2008

Kevin Lossner wrote:

I am probably just as impatient as you are with bungled communication, probably more so. But the answer isn't to take the shortcut to the end client. Work with the agency/PM to help them do a better job, and if they are too incompetent and you are too frustrated, go find a better partner. There are lots of fish in the sea.


Agencies are "filters". For better and for worse. They can filter contacts with end clients - and we do not like it because it can lead to misunderstandings - but they also filter the crap that some (SOME) clients may say or do with our translation work - and this is soooo confortable!

Ligia


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Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 10:38
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
So? Dec 17, 2008

I raised this point because I think this clause should be re-formulated "...for the purpose of acquiring direct business" and not ...without permission".
Besides, if the agency does not disclose their client, you will in any case not be able to contact ist, except a few cases where , the conact person in obvious from the source text.
I was in fact too careless, when I wrote "girls". This should have been "ladies".


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:38
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
... or even women ? Dec 17, 2008

Rolf Kern wrote:

I raised this point because I think this clause should be re-formulated "...for the purpose of acquiring direct business" and not ...without permission".
Besides, if the agency does not disclose their client, you will in any case not be able to contact ist, except a few cases where , the conact person in obvious from the source text.
I was in fact too careless, when I wrote "girls". This should have been "ladies".


Or even, perhaps, "women"? Actually, the older I get, the more I like being referred to as a "girl" - ain't it sad?
Love,
Jenny


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:38
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
I disagree Dec 17, 2008

Contacting for any purpose without permission is simply not acceptable.

Nor is "ladies" any less unacceptably sexist I think (really - incompetence knows no gender), but perhaps this point isn't so obvious given the rather late date at which women were given the vote in some cantons.

[Edited at 2008-12-17 12:04 GMT]


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AdamsTransSC  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
As long as they can do their job... Dec 17, 2008

... I really fail to see how their gender is relevant.

However, assuming that you have signed a competition clause with the agency, I agree that there should be no objection to you directing your queries directly to the end client. On the other hand, that's a decision for the agency to make, and most of the agencies I work with prefer me to direct questions through them. As long as I word the question correctly and the PM passes it on correctly, I don't see this as a major problem. In addition, I imagine that some end clients might prefer to have one sole contact, rather than contact with a number of translators.


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Anett Lindner
Germany
English to German
just formulate your questions clearly Dec 17, 2008

Dear Rolf,

It is completely understandable that agencies do not wish their translators to contact the end client. Also I doubt whether an end client wants to be bothered by 20 individual translators during a project that involves localization to several languages etc.

One of your main points was that direct contact to client would be necessary so as to avoid misunderstandings as questions would only be forwarded to the client. To circumvent this problem I suggest to simply formulate such questions in a clear and understandable way (i.e. clear and understandable for someone who is neither a linguist nor a translator), where any implied meaning is made explicit, indicating the exact location of the source text in question, by means of giving examples etc, colour coding for differentiating between your questions and possible mistakes in the source text spotted by you etc.

This is just what you would do in a direct conversation with the client. I do not see any reason why such information cannot be communicated in written.

Regards,

Anett

P.S. Also I do not see any reason for not considering project managers (irrespective of their gender) in their role as contact person and interface between you and the client as partners in the localization process reconciling different and sometimes also opposing needs and expectations. I even guess failure to do so will function like a self-fulfilling prophecy in many though not all cases.


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RichardDeegan
Local time: 03:38
Spanish to English
How could there be an "innocent" contact? Dec 17, 2008

How would it be possible to contact an end client WITHOUT indicating that you are the person assigned to actually do the translation by Agency XX? Obviously, if you DON'T provide this detail, your mail should go into a discard box.
So, since you provide this detail ("I am the one actually translating the work you're paying XXX to do"), is there an end client that wouldn't wonder how dealing with you directly might affect its cost structure?


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Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 10:38
English to German
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
You do not understand what I try to say Dec 17, 2008

It is clearly not the question of clear formulation of the question, there will always be a communication problem. What is required, is a discussion, not an alternate question-answer game. We all know in conversation, when we put somebody a question and get an answer, we will have to put a counter-question and so on, until the point is clarified.

[Bearbeitet am 2008-12-17 13:05 GMT]


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Anett Lindner
Germany
English to German
formulating questions for the client Dec 17, 2008

Dear Rolf,

I have understood the point you were trying to make. However, I argue that already in the very first Q&A sheet you are sending to your agency, questions can be framed in such way that avoids further back-and-forth sending of the sheet (i.e. questions in which also the format of an answer expected by you is outlined). So far this approach has worked quite well for me.

Regards,

Anett

P.S.:
As regards discussion of questions relating to a translation: For the translator a text to be translated is the matter that enjoys their utmost professional interest. For the client it is just one item on a long agenda for the day and a tool for matters of higher interest. Therefore, straightforward answers to clearly put questions may well be sufficient for both sides.

[Bearbeitet am 2008-12-17 13:26 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:38
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Or maybe "people"? Dec 17, 2008

Rolf Kern wrote:
I raised this point because I think this clause should be re-formulated "...for the purpose of acquiring direct business" and not ...without permission".
Besides, if the agency does not disclose their client, you will in any case not be able to contact ist, except a few cases where , the conact person in obvious from the source text.
I was in fact too careless, when I wrote "girls". This should have been "ladies".


Or maybe "people". We should not look at what's in the pants of the people we work with. They are persons, people, citizens, individuals. The fact that they are men or women, their age and their personal approach to life does not matter to our work I reckon.


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:38
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Quite clear to me Dec 17, 2008

Rolf Kern wrote:
It is clearly not the question of clear formulation of the question, there will always be a communication problem. What is required, is a discussion, not an alternate question-answer game. We all know in conversation, when we put somebody a question and get an answer, we will have to put a counter-question and so on, until the point is clarified.


We have had this situation of questions and answers through the PMs for over a decade and in fact we have been quite happy about it. It gives us some relief as we don't have to chase around end customers to get a reply: we explain the matter to the PMs and they are the ones who take care of the chasing while we continue to work. And we thank our wonderful PM clients for that!


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Kaiya J. Diannen  Identity Verified
Australia
Member (2008)
German to English
Understanding and empathy Dec 17, 2008

Rolf Kern wrote: It is clearly not the question of clear formulation of the question, there will always be a communication problem. What is required, is a discussion, not an alternate question-answer game.

I have to say that I empathize with Rolf on this point. While I don't want to take a position regarding the wording of the guidelines or even with regard to whether the translator should or should not contact the client, I have definitely had translations where simple question-and-answer mails were not enough and became extremely frustrating and time-consuming.

In the end, what was required was an ongoing dialog about expected terminology, phrasing, preferences, past translations used, etc.

Sometimes PMs are able to help, and I am grateful for those situations. But by the same token, sometimes the intermediary role, no matter how well-intentioned or even how well it is performed, takes too much time - time that is valuable to all of the parties involved. I couldn't agree with a sweeping generalization that it is never ok to have contact with the client.

And aren't there translators here who have been sent on-site through agencies? I have. That type of situation certainly puts something of a dent in the whole "mysterious anonymous translator" concept...


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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 09:38
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Demz da breaks Dec 17, 2008

Janet Rubin wrote:
Sometimes PMs are able to help, and I am grateful for those situations. But by the same token, sometimes the intermediary role, no matter how well-intentioned or even how well it is performed, takes too much time - time that is valuable to all of the parties involved.


True, and in some cases a well-considered decision may be taken with the agreement of all parties to take a shortcut. However, I will not make that decision on my own, and if the PM sends the client to me without my approval, we might very well have a firm discussion about the matter. End clients who contact me on their own (it happens if, for example, they have my contact data on a stamp used for certifying a translation) get sent quickly with little discussion to the agency. Agencies have an important role to play, and I will insist on that. I have enough end client of my own to be cared for; I do not need the additional burden of routine discussions with an agency's clients. Any exceptions require everyone's agreement.

If you feel a direct contact is needed in a particular case, Rolf, just explain that clearly to the PM. If s/he disagrees, tough luck. They are accepting the responsibility for any resultant problems. Document this. CYA is a very useful acronym.


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