Quality Assurance
Thread poster: David Singer
David Singer
Local time: 01:50
Swedish to English
Feb 13, 2008

I was recently rather overzealous. My workload has in recent months increased quite a bit and I took on a large translation within a short deadline that would have stretched the best in the business in my opinion. I worked like hell on the translation and had brief email and phone discussion with the manager of the translation company concerning changes that needed to be made (4 or 5 in all). after sending the text in. The manager's feedback at the time was: 'This translation was pretty good given the short time with only a few changes needed'.

The manager today informed me that the customer was not happy with the translation and it apparently required 14 hours for it to be reviewed by another party (an exaggeration in my opinion although there were embarrassingly quite a few minor errors). The translation agency also commissioned an independent review of the translation where it was noted that many of the errors were minor ones but there were a couple of silly ones. The manager has asked for a 50% discount to the invoice since they have done the same for their customer.

My first response has been to accept that the job should never have been taken on and had we pushed for a deadline of Monday many of the errors would have been corrected by then by me, the translator. I have suggested ways that I might improve quality in future and have suggested we suspend a discussions about money until the translation agency accepts responsibility for the lack of their own quality assurance procedures in this case.

I would appreciate your comments. I like the agency, their PMs are great and the work has recently been steady. I have learned a very harsh but necessary lesson: There is no substitute for time, rest and reflection when it comes to producing high quality translation'. How do you assure the quality of your work? Peer support? Sensible deadlines? An extra final review after a good night's sleep?

I will keep you posted.


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Maayan Steinberg  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 03:50
English to Hebrew
I'm not sure I have an answer Feb 13, 2008

but here's something to consider:
It's common to ask a HIGHER rate for an urgent job, so if you got your usuall rate for this, and did your best under the circumstances, it seems highly unfair to ask you for a discount...

I work with an agency just like the one you described: one that I like, which provides pretty steady work.
Recently, they held me responsible for mistakes that should have been caught in the QA process (and they DO have a QA process). It felt horrible, since I know that I do my best, and that eventhough I shouldn't count on the QA, it's still not my fault that the it failed.
So I discussed it with other translators, whose comments were more extreem even than my own thoughts. Basically they said: An agency that respects itself has to have a QA process, or at least proofreeding.

They can't expect you to be superman. You do you best, but you're still human, aren't you?

Naturally, they can say you should have said you can't do the job.
But since their first comment was 'This translation was pretty good given the short time with only a few changes needed', they really can't say you didn't do a good job, can they?

I totally agree with the way you handled it thus far. They should certainly accept their responsibility, and if they didn't offer you an urgent job rate - there's no reason you should recieve an even lower payment.

Good luck!

(and I apologize if I'm not totally coherent. The flu can have that effect on people...)




[Edited at 2008-02-13 17:03]


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 21:50
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Agree with Maayan... Feb 13, 2008

I think it's entirely unfair to lower your fee by 50% or even at all, and I'd be willing to bet that they exaggerated about how much time was spent on reviewing it. In my experience, some clients will do just about anything to avoid paying. I've had non-native speaking reviewers pick my native English to bits in what was to me an obvious (albeit pathetic) attempt to get the price lowered or even waived. I'm not a cynical person, but I have seen quite a bit of this kind of thing. If the company likes you, they should back you up (which has almost always been the case with me.)


Amy


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:50
Dutch to English
+ ...
Rush job = compromising on quality Feb 13, 2008

I do rush jobs on a regular basis and I always tell the customer in advance that they will have to compromise on quality regarding minor unimportant mistakes. They tend to accept this. I just finished such a job and although there were little mistakes, nobody has asked me to reduce my price. They are very happy they could present the translation on time.

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George Fabian
Local time: 02:50
Polish to English
Short deadline excludes good quality Feb 14, 2008

Hi,

I had a similar situation with an agency I work with. They sent me a translation (in PDF) to translate over the weekend. Accepting the translation, I told the agency that I already have quite a workload over the weekend, but OK, the PM talked me into it saying its 'just' 15 pages.

Now this is an agency that I had been cooperating with for about two years already, saving their hind on numerous occasions.

Sunday morning I started doing the translation. A little more than halfway through the document, I discovered that I've already done the '15' pages that was initially said. But, taking into consideration the experience I had had with the agency to date, I took another coffee (probably the tenth one) and continued on with the translation. I was up until almost 5 o'clock in the morning but met the deadline.

Image my surprise when the next day I get an email from the PM stating that the translation is so far away from the standards of the agency that they will have to reconsider further cooperation with me due to the "significant amount of time the proofreader had to put into correcting the translation". Attached was the translation following proofreading. I checked the proofreading and noticed that a number of the changes had been done 'globally' with find and replace (about 2 minutes for the entire document). Significant amount of time?

So I wrote an email to the agency and described the entire situation and the cooperation we had had to date. I also pointed out three (3!) errors that the PM had made in her email to me writing in her naative language.

In any case, almost two years down the line, I'm still doing a significant amount of work for this agency. Mu suggestion, tell them that a short deadline EXCLUDES high quality. In as far as QA is concerned, that's what the agency get money for. When I compare the rate I get from the above agency to what they charge their customers, I'm shocked.

At the same time, set a higher rate for 'rush' jobs, i.e., jobs where you can't ensure the QA that you'd like to.

George


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David Singer
Local time: 01:50
Swedish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Feb 14, 2008

I appreciate your feedback. I spoke wirh a friend of mine tonight with 20 years experience of dealing with complaints at a corporation level. He informed me that we should have been clear about what they were buying from me before onward selling to customer. The more I think about this, the more I think it sucks. It has however spurred me on to 1) Create my own conditions before dealing with an agency or direct with a company. b) demand a quality assurance process before taking on any new work.

The other thing that comes to mind from a creative point of view is to create a virtual business whereby:
1. 1-2 freelance translators participate in a proofreading QA process for reasons of QA and peer support.2. To be able to handle excess spill-overs of work on a mutually beneficial basis . 3. To create a virtual alliance thet enables us to offer services with same or higher quality than agencies but for a lower sustainable price.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:50
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Urgent jobs Feb 14, 2008

What a wretched situation you're in - I do sympathise.
I've found that jobs are almost always desperately urgent these days. To "cover my ass", I now always write "URGENT" in the "comments" section of the "properties" box on each Word file I produce, or even "ULTRA URGENT" where applicable. I don't know if that would help cover me in the case of a complaint, but I think it might, and I also point out to the client on the phone (urgent jobs are usually announced by phone) that the deadline is extremely tight but that I'll do my best in the circs.
But "why oh why" are jobs getting increasingly urgent?
Back to my desperately urgent job ...
Best wishes,
Jenny.


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David Singer
Local time: 01:50
Swedish to English
TOPIC STARTER
I really appreciate your support... Feb 14, 2008

...I really appreciate it. I have not yet received a reply but will let you know what happens next.

Jenny, regarding all these urgent jobs and the reasons for this, I am certain that this is often because business processes are faster than ever and yet translation time ends up being an after-thought. So we are participants at a very stressful time in the process. You can almost picture the panic when the source text arrives.

Can you imagine hundreds of washing machines coming off the conveyor belt in Spain and someone says 'OK so where are the manuals in English? and everyone looks at each other and goes 'Oh my God!!' or possibly something stronger. Same with financial products.

Good luck with your urgent translations, Jenny!


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 02:50
French to Dutch
+ ...
I tried this Feb 14, 2008

David Singer wrote:
The other thing that comes to mind from a creative point of view is to create a virtual business whereby:
1. 1-2 freelance translators participate in a proofreading QA process for reasons of QA and peer support.2. To be able to handle excess spill-overs of work on a mutually beneficial basis . 3. To create a virtual alliance thet enables us to offer services with same or higher quality than agencies but for a lower sustainable price.

But the problem was that I had to ask for 3x my normal deadline and 2x the price. Nobody in my small language pair likes proofreading, so I got answers like: "yes, I can do that next week/in a fortnight", and received an invoice exceeding my own invoice for the client.
Since then I state to my clients that all translations are thoroughly proofed in-house (they are!).


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David Singer
Local time: 01:50
Swedish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Virtual teams Feb 14, 2008

Thanks for sharing your experiences. It is clearly very important to have the right people who are fully on board. I was thinking of a couple of committed people who are motivated initially by the need and peace of mind that comes from added quality assurance and peer support.

The longer term would be to deliver a service with QA equal or better then any agency allowing the team to offer direct services with competitive prices due to reduced overheads that virtual offices can offer potentially.

How did you start, NMR?


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Tatty  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:50
Spanish to English
+ ...
Are we all going crazy? Feb 15, 2008

I think your initial comments about getting a good night's sleep and checking it thoroughly yourself were much better. You won't be able to rely on people to proofread your work as they have their own work to do.

I don't have an opinion about 50% reduction, because I'm just not in a position to judge, but the bottom line is this: don't take on translations that you can't do comfortably within the deadline. The work would have been split between 2 translators and all this would have been avoided. You could even have offered your services to standardise the two parts, for a fee clearly.


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David Singer
Local time: 01:50
Swedish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks. Tatty Feb 15, 2008

I appreciate your comments.

I could not agree more regarding second paragraph. I acknowledge my contribution to the problem and am now aware of how to avoid problem recurring. An uncomfortable but but vital lesson.


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 02:50
French to Dutch
+ ...
As an answer to your question Feb 15, 2008

I started free-lance as a full-time DTP-er. Why do you ask that? Sorry but translation should also be a bit commercial. I know that I can deliver *this* quality within *this* deadline for *this* price. If I cannot meet the client's wishes, there is no sale. In my opinion, a translator should "translate to his best knowledge", not "doing everything that is possible and impossible to satisfy the client's needs" (such as a 20,000 words press release overnight - this is not a joke). If you translate to your best knowledge, there is no problem, in most cases, but sometimes it happens that a job is "bad" or going wrong from the beginning to the end. We all have this from time to time.

Sorry for my English, it's my fourth - and not very active - language.


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David Singer
Local time: 01:50
Swedish to English
TOPIC STARTER
I meant how did you start building team Feb 15, 2008

Thanks for your comment. I was wondering how you started setting up the team. People on PROZ? Known colleagues?
No need to apologise for English. Your English is great.


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