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Client Education is Added Value
Thread poster: Parrot

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:58
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 20, 2003

My thanks to Angela Arnone for this unforgettable anecdote:



Recently come to Italy from Britain, she was asked by a prospective client how much she would charge to translate a document from Italian into English. So she told him. \"Isn’t that rather high?\", he asked. \"It’s my rate for the quality control I offer\". A pregnant silence. Then, \"couldn’t you put in a little less quality at a lower price?\"



Laugh at it, folks, or try to imagine Angela producing translations like someone gluing soles on shoes. There would be no problem if it were merely a matter of forgetting to wipe up the slops. But it would frankly cost me more effort to \"put in a little less quality\" if I’m used to working at a certain standard (shouldn’t I charge extra for a convincing adjustment?) Yet, this is precisely the problem so many of us are up against: the fact that the outsider’s idea of \"good language services\" often comes coupled with an abysmal ignorance of the product, which may be largely due to no fault of his.



The question is, are we helping him perceive this? Take the case of the client who comes in with 100 typewritten pages \"for the day after tomorrow\". The language school boss – who has never taught a word to anyone outside his family circle, much less translated one – positively glows in the anticipation of a 65% profit over the takings (the 65% mentality is endemic to language schools) and shoves the manuscript to the only person in the office he has contracted to attend to translation. This happens to be a court-certified person (the prerequisites for the post are stringent) who has decided to opt for the security of an in-house job rather than risk his neck alone in the wilds. But since he may sit on his ass unoccupied for days on end, the boss expects him to teach, too, and not to miss a single class, whether in the office or on the other side of town. \"Impossible\". \"What do you mean impossible? Put as many teachers as you need on the document in their spare time and we’ll pay the hour rate. I don’t care if it takes 20 different persons.\" 20 different styles. 20 different interpretations for each recurring term, and people working in the office past midnight.



Was it so difficult to say, \"that’s a tall order\"? Another colleague of ours has asked in such cases (KudoZ to Berni Armstrong), \"how long did it take your secretary to type this? Give me two and a half times as much.\" Nooooo, I can hear some saying, I’d lose the job. You may lose worse than that; whether you’re a freelancer (frilansa) or an agency, you’re risking your reputation.



\"But it’s such a competitive field\". Use your head: what kind of outfit would be in a position to deliver without any risk? A big one? No, not necessarily. The outfit that bends over backward and fails, or causes the client unnecessary worry while constantly trying to reassure him, \"in another hour you’ll have it,\" might never see that client again, whereas the one that succeeds in bringing home to him exactly what kind of organization his job requires, what procedural, price and timeline options he has to choose from, and the real costs involved has, at the very least, given him a solid reason to consider coming back: peace of mind. (More than translation quality per se, this is what standards audits try to bring home).



Client education is an added value. Believe me, all good managers appreciate coming out of a first experience with that bit of useful extra knowledge in their heads, whereas no one likes being scathed by an unjustified and inexplicably low-quality output watered down by lame excuses. \"We did it to meet the overheads.\" Wrong: give a client a good reason to default or to allege damages and soon enough you won’t even be having a roof over your head.



Another case: X translates from French and English into Spanish, and gets a request for a letter into French. A common experience in the lives of many translators: no one (not even some agencies ) really pays much attention to language directions. \"Ah, but you DON’T work in French?\" And X, intimidated by the client’s méfiance, decides to give it a shot. \"After all, I’m near-native, shuttled back and forth from a job in Perpignan for three years\".



And the client comes back: \"Wasn’t this even PROOFREAD?\"

\"Er – you didn’t give much of a budget for that\".

What was wrong with passing that on to a French colleague and letting HIM haggle? Over the long term, he could’ve done you a favor worth more than the 70 euro you sent his way...



I’ve opened up this thread because I observe that some of us need a fresh perspective on the real problems underlying competitivity. It’s not just \"a matter of 2 cents\" – mine or anybody else’s. I’m sure that a lot of you have other experiences to share.



Cecilia

[ This Message was edited by:on2003-01-20 16:43]


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xxxPaulaMac
French to English
+ ...
Absolutely Jan 20, 2003

I had an experience recently in the same vein. A regular client called on a Tuesday and asked for a rush job relating to a regulatory hearing. I was busy working for another client (under contract, so I could not renegotiate their deadline), and told the first client I could get to their job by Thursday and deliver it in stages on Thursday night, Friday and over the weekend, if necessary. She couldn\'t wait. I called another translator who I knew could handle the translation (very specialized terminology), but she was busy. The client asked me what it would take to put aside my work and devote my attention to hers - \"a miracle,\" I replied, because I could not break the terms of my contract with the second client. She understood, and said she would find someone else. I knew I had lost that job, and that there was a chance they would find someone else to handle the rest of the application/hearing. However, there was no way I could give them what they wanted without seriously compromising quality and my relationship with another client (whose work is much more steady). Well, at 5 pm on Thursday they called, in a panic. They had found someone to do the job, and it was unacceptable. The translator had not bothered to go to the regulatory agency\'s website, or consult the application in question, and had no idea what the document was about. The result? A mess. I redid the translation, got it to them my Friday night (about 10,000 words) and charged them rush rates. I don\'t know if they paid the other translator - in my opinion, they should refuse payment. But I was able to educate the client in a very useful way. She now knows a) I am a busy translator, cannot drop things at her request, and require a heads up if she is working to a regulatory schedule and has an idea when documents will be coming in (which she has promised to provide in the future), b) that translation is a profession, and you better use an expert, particularly when it comes to regulatory and legal documents, c) you get what you pay for. Yes, I took a risk that I might lose that client, but compared with my reputation - no contest!



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Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:58
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
Hard way of learning how to say NO Jan 20, 2003

Great overview, Cecilia, and sooo true!



The “put in a little less quality ..” bit: how frequently I hear: “It doesn’t have to be perfect, just make it quick”, or “it’s just ONLY 5 pages, could I have it by the end of the day?”, and so on. This is particularly true if you work more with direct clients, you need to be very careful because so frequently translations are arranged by secretaries or other administrative staff who never then read what we’ve produced. The document goes to someone else within the company, if it was done in a rush, that is quick, not perfect, the secretary is reprimanded, you are the one to be blamed and next time she calls someone else – no education in it.



Another type of job to AVOID by all means: the client asks for “help”. They have this report (grant application, important document) which must be delivered in two days time. The deadline is absolutely crucial, because in case of failure they are not paid (they have to pay or they loose something other way). Now, they do not have the document ready yet, but they will send you a first part tonight and the rest by the next morning. The whole thing won’t be longer than 20 pages. BEWARE! Don’t feel pity for them, don’t think ‘oh, it’s such a good customer of mine, surely I will help them in troubles, I can stay longer this one night”. You asked for trouble yourself! What happens is that they start to send you little bits and pieces, in no particular logical order. You have very short time to do the job, yet you need to deal with masses of e-mails and phone calls (“don’t translate the bit I’ve sent you 2 hours ago, I’m revising it again..”) and your deadline becomes even shorter because now they need more time to put all the translated bits together. And they still write their report...the estimated 20 pages becomes 40, than 60, than.. in one extreme case I was sent last 5000 words just 2 hours before their final deadline for submission of the document! And by the end of the day YOU are blamed for not meeting the deadline, YOU agreed to do the job within 2 days, they counted on you! And if you worked all night to achieve the impossible, you are then blamed for poor quality or lack of consistency in terminology. If however, you manage somehow to meet the deadline AND produce a good job, next time they will expect you to do it within 1 day!



Been there, done that. Sometimes you agree the impossible deadline and before you know your translation is in the net with your name on it – it doesn’t matter how much you’ve been paid for this, it’s there and nobody cares that you’ve been working 20 hours in line to do that, but everybody see all your silly mistakes..



Magda



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Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
Clients as a whole are incapable of being educated Jan 20, 2003

Yes, you can educate some of them, those few that you know, but trying to educate the Client as such is like ploughing the sands while drawing water in a sieve to help the process.



Think of big corporations, banks, etc., involved in multi-million dollar cross-border deals with hundreds of people drafting documents, negotiating them and sending them back and forth. Really, the translator is the very last, invisible, link in this chain. How sad to be \"just\" a translator! What I see in my practice, for instance, is that the term \"deadline\" has disappeared. Translations are needed \"asap,\" period. That invariably means PaulaMac\'s Tuesday and not Thursday and, invariably, it ends up meaning Friday. Learning is a complicated process. Some will never learn.



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Angela Arnone  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:58
Member (2004)
Italian to English
+ ...
Wise words Jacek Jan 20, 2003

Yes - it\'s me, the person asked to do reverse quality control....I\'m still translating - but not for that agency, strangely enough.

Basically the only way to educate clients is to say the little word beginning with \"n\" and ending with \"o\".

No - I won\'t work for that amount

No - I cannot translate in 45 minutes what you took 45 days to write

No - I can\'t read the fax of the fax of the pdf of the download of your friend\'s website

No - I don\'t translate documents that have not been proofread in the original and therefore lack capitals, punctuation and sometimes even verbs ....

and so on and so on and so on.



Sadly, if you don\'t do it they generally find someone elso who will and therein lies the rub, and that is why Jacek is probably right. Why should the client change bad habits if a few phone calls will solve the problem?

Angela



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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:58
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Around the world in 48 hours Jan 20, 2003

I periodically check the directory to find out when I\'m going to have a companion in the combination German>Tagalog, and the only one I see listed is an agency I work with already. It\'s admittedly a white elephant combination (with white elephant rates, despite what some people may think of outsourcing to the Third World in the hopes of finding cheap labor.)



I won\'t say it was a question of rates for the first outsourcer who buzzed me on this; more, as in Paula\'s case, a matter of having the time for it or not, and prior translation commitments to resolve. The money wasn\'t the point. The point was, I had to work on something else for two days more, and the outsourcer decided to fish elsewhere for a translator.



24 hours later, I got a line from an agency in Vietnam asking me if I could do a document from English into Tagalog for the following day. Fine, I said. It turned out I had to sign a contract and a forex clearance that had to be processed, Vietnam being one of those countries where you could get red-taped for charging even just a small amount in dollars. In the meantime the delivery of the document itself was delayed. A further 24 hours later, they were still negotiating their own margins with the European outsourcer. Finally - wonder of wonders - it turned out to be the job I would have had to postpone for 2 days, only, translated this time into something more \"edible\", combination-wise. Needless to say, 72 hours later, the European outsourcer had backed out of negotiations. (I can only hope it was finally done, but I can imagine the total cost it would have summed up to).


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Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:58
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
Yes, but what to do, then? Jan 20, 2003

How to avoid it or probably better: how to live with it?



I agree with Jacek: clients do not learn their lesson. If they are forced to pay a fortune because of delayed or poor quality translation, next time they make the very same mistake: expect the impossible but from another translator. And they ALWAYS find somebody.

The faxed pdf copy of the download Angela? The client of mine who had to change an entire (fortune worth) contract in the very last minute, keeping their client waiting just because this client name was wrong all along (on the fax copy I received the C looked as G !) insisted on translating from a fax many times later again!

It is good to have rules. Mine would include: no fax copies, no bits and pieces (great point Angela with translating documents that have not been proof-read in the original!), no more than x pages a day, I’m setting the deadline, no urgent revisions (“our lawyer have just looked at the original and changed some bits, would you incorporate it, no, he doesn’t know how to use track changes function..”), just for a start. But then, who I would work for?

For all these years I had 1 (one) customer who would call me a week in advance to book my time and then send a document of exactly agreed size and allow not less than a week for translation of a 10 pages doc. An mind you, he cares about both quality and price: I was expected to agree slightly lower price for him, because I had steady flow of good quality work. And the work from him accounted for may be 1% of my jobs. Now for rush jobs we always request higher rates. Rush jobs are of poorer quality by definition. Yet 90% of jobs are rush! Who cares about quality? Client gets what he pays for. And they pay more for poorer quality.



Magda



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Oleg Rudavin  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 15:58
Member (2003)
English to Ukrainian
+ ...
Educating ourselves? Jan 20, 2003

So, the Client is not teachable; are we? Sometimes it takes years of experience to learn the true value of (1) quality; (2) observing deadlines; (3) ability to say \'no\'. And some of us never learn. You refuse an impossible deadline - one of your colleagues will accept it, and might even succeed in providing a more or less passable piece of work. You believe that the rate of 0.0N is disgraceful - but there\'s always someone happy with it, or who at least wouldn\'t mind because (s)he hasn\'t got anything better at the moment. You tell the client the job is not in line with your specialization - and here goes he job to a rookie in translation who claims to be an expert in virtually every imaginable field on earth...

Educating the client (with little hope for the utmost success) and educating ourselves (an evergoing process, considering the \'birth rate\' of new translators) are the two ways to TRY to improve the situation.

[ This Message was edited by:on2003-01-20 20:12]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:58
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
It's a two-way exchange Jan 20, 2003

Quote:


On 2003-01-20 20:10, Urdvani wrote:

So, the Client is not teachable; are we? Sometimes it takes years of experience to learn the true value of (1) quality; (2) observing deadlines; (3) ability to say \'no\'. And some of us never learn. You refuse an impossible deadline - one of your colleagues will accept it, and might even succeed in providing a more or less passable piece of work. You believe that the rate of 0.0N is disgraceful - but there\'s always someone happy with it, or who at least wouldn\'t mind because (s)he hasn\'t got anything better at the moment. You tell the client the job is not in line with your specialization - and here goes he job to a rookie in translation who claims to be an expert in virtually every imaginable field on earth...





Both sides learn. But I doubt that someone who has already got burned will come back the same road if he can avoid it.



The flip side of it (i.e., the ones who don\'t learn) are perhaps better avoided. I\'ve always followed my nose when it told me a client or an agency was unstable - and some of them DO disappear overnight (you can guess how).

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