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Non-cooperative clients
Thread poster: Heinrich Pesch

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 19:10
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Mar 7, 2006

I would like to share some experiences with different clients and hear you opinion.

One of my long-time clients, an agency, sends regularly jobs, mostly updates of manuals, and pays promptly. But whenever I have a question about a job, they do not react upon my inquiries nor do they forward my question to the end-customer. Sometimes they want me to put all issues into one Word-file to be delivered along with the translation. So I have to cope with it and translate as I seem appropriate.
Some other customers, direct clients, who deliver the source text in-house, are offended when I put forward some technical mistakes: Just translate as it says there! One other client never delivers any drawings along with the manual, though the machinery is a complicated one, and the text is not continuous, but segments from a data-base, so one never knows if a segment is a caption or part of a list or a sentence inside a paragraph.
You get the picture.

How should one deal with such clients? How to convinvce them that cooperation is good for them and the more a translator knows about the job the better the final text? How to make them realise that a translator is the only person that reads a text throughly and with thougt befor it is published and the mistakes are for all to see?

Regards

Heinrich


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Levan Namoradze  Identity Verified
Georgia
Local time: 21:10
Member (2005)
English to Georgian
+ ...
Dear Heinrich, Mar 7, 2006

There exists the specific weapon class as 'Fire and Forget'. I would like to provide you with my own interpretation of that phrase: 'Translate, Get Paid and Forget', if you deal with a client you describe in your letter. On my mind, they may appear good professional not willing becoming friends with you. Never mind! I am sure, you got others!

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Iza Szczypka  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:10
English to Polish
+ ...
I know the type Mar 7, 2006

Those are business people who simply happened to set up a translation agency instead of e.g. a warehouse of automobile spares. On the managerial side, they are quite good - taxes and liabilities paid on time, staff selected on the efficiency basis, good promotion, etc. The motto is quick turnover, no hassle. And you're the troublemaker, because you insist on quality.
With time. they either learn to manage the QA or get out of the market. In the meantime, the only thing for you to do is to decide if you prefer prompt payment or self-esteem and friendly cooperation. And it's a very personal choice, so ...

[Edited at 2006-03-07 13:35]


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Anita Cassidy  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2005)
English to German
Frustrating, I know! Mar 7, 2006

"Just translate what it says" must be my all-time favourite from unenlightened clients...

I think all you can do is go to even more trouble of trying to explain to these clients, by providing them with easy-to-understand and very detailed examples of WHY it is that you need more context/reference/pictures/diagrams to produce a high-quality translation (i.e. try to explain to them in a way that you think they will understand that providing YOU with more information will give THEM better results).

As to clients who get offended when you point out poorly written source text or mistakes - maybe try to be more careful in your use of language ("... I THINK that there MAY be some SLIGHT inconsistencies...").

If they still don't understand what the fuss is all about, I guess you have two choices - stop working for them and find more cooperative clients or be forced to muddle through... this can be very frustrating.

Luckily, there are a few people out there who understand that translation is not just as simple as typing out a text in another language.

All the best,
Anita


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Daniele Martoglio  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:10
Polish to Italian
+ ...
Iza, kocham cie! ;) Mar 7, 2006

Iza Szczypka wrote:

...And you're the troublemaker, because you insist on quality.


SUPER! It will be my motto from today: "I'm the troublemaker, because I insist on quality"



Super.. and ALL my solidarity with Heinrich. I know the problem, i think many of us has such clients.. Or i can be also more cruel: "Every translator has some clients which don't take care about quality, but not every translatory notice it"

Daniele, The Troublemaker


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Dina Abdo  Identity Verified
Palestine
Local time: 19:10
Member (2005)
Arabic
+ ...
Don't give up asking for what you need. Mar 7, 2006

That agency: I guess they're trying to comfort the client as in "just give us the papers and don't worry about it". And I'm sure that the poor client has no idea about what's going on. That agency is trying to provide the client with a special image as in "WOW! I gave them the papers in a language and received them in another ... no questions asked. Those guys are good" ... know what I mean?

I had some clients of the sort, and I used to ask questions and demand for answers. They got used to it. Now, I'm using a different way, I submit a report including all my notes along with my translation (in a different document). I do it when I'm dealing with an agency that would keep bothering me with notes and comments about points I already asked about and got no answers. They use my report and get back to me sometimes when their client is aware of both source and target languages; i.e. a client who can know that something's wrong with the document translated.

That end client: I avoid similar clients, and whenever it happens, I insist on my opinion as long as I'm 100% sure it's correct. I send them something like: "With all due respect, and while knowing it's none of my business, I have to tell you that bla bla bla" .. you know?

As a matter of fact, I recall a project I handled in which I sent the client that "either I do it correct or you go find yourself another translator". He had to listen to me, and became one of my best clients actually.

Levan Namoradze wrote:

'Translate, Get Paid and Forget',



I have to disagree with you Levan. When you're dealing with an agency, it's your output the client may be complaining about later. When you're dealing with an end client, it's also your output the end client will discuss. I wouldn't give my clients a chance to blame me for something that wasn't my mistake in the first place. Not to mention that it may end up with that agency and/or end client calling ME a bad translator.

I believe you should do what is right, even if you're going to lose a client.

Best Regards,
Dina


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Levan Namoradze  Identity Verified
Georgia
Local time: 21:10
Member (2005)
English to Georgian
+ ...
Did I say quality? :-) Mar 7, 2006

Dina Abdo wrote:

Levan Namoradze wrote:

'Translate, Get Paid and Forget',



I have to disagree with you Levan. When you're dealing with an agency, it's your output the client may be complaining about later. When you're dealing with an end client, it's also your output the end client will discuss. I wouldn't give my clients a chance to blame me for something that wasn't my mistake in the first place. Not to mention that it may end up with that agency and/or end client calling ME a bad translator.

I believe you should do what is right, even if you're going to lose a client.

Best Regards,
Dina


Dear Dina,
If you read my message again, you will note that I did not concern professional relationship. Just have another careful glance over.


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Dina Abdo  Identity Verified
Palestine
Local time: 19:10
Member (2005)
Arabic
+ ...
OOOPS! Mar 8, 2006

Levan Namoradze wrote:

Dear Dina,
If you read my message again, you will note that I did not concern professional relationship. Just have another careful glance over.



Guess I got it wrong in the first place, my mistake ... sorry *blush*


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Adam Podstawczynski  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:10
Polish to English
+ ...
Sometimes you just can't do anything Mar 8, 2006

Heinrich, this does happen to me as well, and the cases are not sporadic. The most recent one: a 200-word long list of phrases in an Excel sheet (phone software localization), with several out-of-context cells, e.g. "Closed" which can be translated in at least 4 different ways into Polish. Somehow I knew that any queries to such a short translation would be unwelcome. But I asked. The PM responded immediately, asking what problem could I possibly have with comprehending the source text... well, everybody understands "Closed", don't they?

At which point I just decided to forget it, and use the most obvious Polish forms that come to my mind.

I believe sometimes there's no point in further discussions; all you can achieve is getting labelled as a poor translator (!) in some PM's mind. Future translations would go to other people who are either too dumb or too smart to make any queries whatsoever.

Unfortunately, "to deliver a successful translation" sometimes doesn't mean "to translate the best you can", but "to be able to meander between excellence and your PM's peace of mind". This may spark off outrage here, but paradoxically, this attitude is for the sake of the translation; if not you, then someone else will do it "the way we want".


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Aleksandr Okunev
Local time: 20:10
English to Russian
Keep it up Mar 8, 2006

Not an unfamiliar situation.
I am doing exactly the same job now.
I would advise you to deliver the best reasonably
possible quality and feedback. If you relax, your
professionalism is going to deteriorate, similarly to
being on a tennis court against a weaker
opponent – if you relax you may soon be
defeated by the newbie.

Stay well everyone
Alex
~~~~~~~>

P.S. An opposite of the above is demanding
flawless translation of a crappy original with
huge voids in its meaning.

[Edited at 2006-03-08 11:45]


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ICL  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
More often than you wish Mar 12, 2006

I think this happens rather frequently. In this respect, I would like to bring up an aspect that is crucial, which is the Project Manager (PM). In many cases, I am never sure that the agency is totally to blame for such attitude, but, like Adam mentioned, a good part is the PM's dealing with projects.

But being fair (and positive), I have also encountered some wonderful PMs who are actually delighted to work with someone who points out such issues. They exist, believe me, they are not an urban legend. So I am always looking for and trying to work with more of those, just for the sake of improving the quality of my work life, even if that means working with less "famous" companies.

So, if you have to deal with the less understanding ones in the meantime, I think there have been some really good advices here, but I definitely agree with including your queries (in a positive tone) when you do the translation, just to avoid the potential for any post-mortem blames.

With sincere solidarity to Heinrich and all those who keep trying to be professional,

Ivette


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