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How do you make your Spanish client stop complaining?
Thread poster: Cedomir Pusica

Cedomir Pusica  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 16:27
Member (2009)
English to Serbian
+ ...
May 5, 2010

For the past three months (the time corresponding to the opening of my agency), I've been dealing with a nasty client. Namely, the client is native in Spanish, a university professor who has an agency of his own and does proof-reading of all texts before submitting them to his end clients.

Now, the small projects which he subcontracted my agency to do in the Serbian/Croatian/Slovenian-Spanish combination never lived up to his expectations. And he demanded discounts, which I never failed to grant without question. His attitute was such that I would be stunned after reading his emails of constant lamentation.

Then, I decided to employ stricter quality control, losing so much time myself on some small projects that it didn't really bring me any benefit moneywise - I just wanted the guy to be happy. But, nooo! I accepted to give him another discount, but brought the matter up to the translator and proof-reader engaged in the last project. They were appalled. The guy massacred their text, changing practically everything (I understand personal preferences, but you don't ask for discount every time you decide to adapt something to your own liking, or do you?).

My question to you is: how do you ensure that the document you submit may stand the trials of the pickiest of the picky? Let me just add: I speak Spanish rather well and translate from it. But what do you do with, say, Chinese!?

Thank you.


 

Rebekka Groß (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:27
English to German
a bit off topic May 5, 2010

Cedomir Pusica wrote:

For the past three months (the time corresponding to the opening of my agency), I've been dealing with a nasty client. Namely, the client is native in Spanish, a university professor who has an agency of his own and does proof-reading of all texts before submitting them to his end clients.

Now, the small projects which he subcontracted my agency to do in the Serbian/Croatian/Slovenian-Spanish combination never lived up to his expectations. And he demanded discounts, which I never failed to grant without question.


Err...why would you grant discounts without question? Did he provide evidence that the quality was not up to scratch? And did you agree?

Then, I decided to employ stricter quality control, losing so much time myself on some small projects that it didn't really bring me any benefit moneywise - I just wanted the guy to be happy.


Stricter QA is fine IF (!!!) there was a real problem. Your are not, however, in the business of making anyone happy. If your work lives up to standard, your clients should be satisfied/happy/delighted/whatever without you bending over backwards to please them.

But, nooo! I accepted to give him another discount, but brought the matter up to the translator and proof-reader engaged in the last project. They were appalled. The guy massacred their text, changing practically everything (I understand personal preferences, but you don't ask for discount every time you decide to adapt something to your own liking, or do you?).


You could, of course, give him evidence of the crap he's produced. But the question is: Is it really worth it?

My recommendation: Drop this client pronto!

My question to you is: how do you ensure that the document you submit may stand the trials of the pickiest of the picky? Let me just add: I speak Spanish rather well and translate from it. But what do you do with, say, Chinese!?


I don't subcontract nor run an agency so I leave comments/answers re this question to those who do.

Good luck with your business - seems to me you need to toughen up a biticon_wink.gif

[Edited at 2010-05-05 20:18 GMT]


 

Cedomir Pusica  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 16:27
Member (2009)
English to Serbian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
So true May 5, 2010

Rebekka,

Your comments are all to the point - I asked myself these questions over and over again. But the thing is, I wanted to do my best to keep this client and I did not take a very professional stand, I admit. I could understand his remarks, but personally, I would never have a cheek to ask for discount for something like that.

I believe you are absolutely right in that I need to toughen up a bit...icon_smile.gif

I'm just too human, still.icon_biggrin.gif


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:27
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Multiple discounts? May 5, 2010

Cedomir Pusica wrote:
he demanded discounts, which I never failed to grant without question. His attitute was such that I would be stunned after reading his emails of constant lamentation.


I accepted to give him another discount, but brought the matter up to the translator and proof-reader engaged in the last project. They were appalled.


Do you mean that only on this last occasion have you allowed the translator and/or proofreader the "right to reply"?

What happened before? Did you refuse to use the translators and/or proofreaders again? Did you pass on the discounts by reducing their fees? It seems highly likely that they were doing their jobs correctly. Did you commission an independent quality check? Maybe you should be getting rid of your client rather than your translators and proofreaders.

I'm not really in a position to give advice, not being an outsourcer, but as a translator I would strongly question any demand for a discount and would only grant one if fault could be proven and could not be rectified by me.

One big question that I have:

Why does he keep coming back to you if he is so dis-satisfied with your services?


 

Mohamed Mehenoun  Identity Verified
Algeria
Local time: 16:27
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
Your fault !!! May 5, 2010

1/ You shouldn't accept discounts and stand firm on your convictions...If you agree that your work or the work of your collaborators is of poor quality you should just quit translating !

2/The business is about money...You're not doing it the smart way if he isn't a big client you don't have to humour him (and even if he was you probably should draw a clear line) because you are losing energy and money on petty projects !

I know my words are harsh but you should change your attitude and be more professional. A real pro can make mistakes (we all do !) and if the clients points them you just have to lie low, but whe you don't do mistakes you don't have to humour the other part as they are wrong !


 

Cedomir Pusica  Identity Verified
Serbia
Local time: 16:27
Member (2009)
English to Serbian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I was the only one affected May 5, 2010

Sheila Wilson wrote:

What happened before? Did you refuse to use the translators and/or proofreaders again? Did you pass on the discounts by reducing their fees?
[/quote]

No. My translators and proofreaders were not affected. Actually, I was the only one who bore the burden of discounts - to show good faith, but I was obviously wrong, which is why I am asking for advice now. I don't want the same thing happening when the volumes start increasing.

I will most likely drop this client. It is definitely not worth my time. But I need to know how would you normally put someone in their place without being rude to them? I always try to be nice, and the nicer I get, the more I pay. However, I still believe in intellectual strength.icon_smile.gif (which I failed to show with this one)


 

Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:27
German to Spanish
+ ...
How do you make your Spanish client stop complaining? May 5, 2010

Cedomir Pusica wrote:

For the past three months (the time corresponding to the opening of my agency), I've been dealing with a nasty client. Namely, the client is native in Spanish, a university professor who has an agency of his own and does proof-reading of all texts before submitting them to his end clients.

Now, the small projects which he subcontracted my agency to do in the Serbian/Croatian/Slovenian-Spanish combination never lived up to his expectations. And he demanded discounts, which I never failed to grant without question. His attitute was such that I would be stunned after reading his emails of constant lamentation.

Then, I decided to employ stricter quality control, losing so much time myself on some small projects that it didn't really bring me any benefit moneywise - I just wanted the guy to be happy. But, nooo! I accepted to give him another discount, but brought the matter up to the translator and proof-reader engaged in the last project. They were appalled. The guy massacred their text, changing practically everything (I understand personal preferences, but you don't ask for discount every time you decide to adapt something to your own liking, or do you?).

My question to you is: how do you ensure that the document you submit may stand the trials of the pickiest of the picky? Let me just add: I speak Spanish rather well and translate from it. But what do you do with, say, Chinese!?

Thank you.



I think here you should consider two aspects:

a) If the translation was in/correct:

You must decide this yourself, but I would ask for advice to a native professional proofreader in your case.

b) if the customer only wants to pay short:

In Spain to be delinquent or asking for discounts has become fashionable because we are the unique country of the EC that is still in recession. You can imagine by whom and why some irresponsible people here require discounts for any justified or no justified cause.

If translation was correct or the client wants to pay short then stick to your guns.
If not, you should assume your share of responsibility.



[Editado a las 2010-05-05 22:19 GMT]


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:27
French to English
+ ...
You need to establish "where you are" in the chain May 5, 2010

OK firstly some practical things to consider:

- I always find I spot mistakes more easily from a printout, not on screen, so I *always* print out the translation for the final check-through (sssssh don't tell Greenpeace...); this also has the advantage that shredding is *very* therapeutic
- that said, I've also invested in a machine with a nice big, high-quality screen
- I make sure that spelling and grammar checkers are always on and the language of the text correctly set (yes, they produce false positives, but they do sometimes spot typos)
- when you're checking, think about having several "runs through" the text, each time looking for a different potential problem area (e.g. when checking through French, I would have a read-through specifically focussing on past participle agreements and infinitive/past participle confusion)
- I try to time jobs so that the final checking happens on a separate day, and do it when I've woken up "fresh" -- obviously in the real practical universe we live in, but it's certainly worth aiming for
- in a case like yours, I would consider offering the client the option of additional proofreading by another person (obviously passing on the cost)

BUT... if I understand you rightly here, one problem is there's a slight ambiguity here as to whether you are a "recruited translator" for the other agency, or whether you're supposed to be providing an "end product", including proofreading.

If you're the "agency" supplying the "end product", then it is your job to some extent to check through translations for occasional errors. Clearly, the translators that work for you should also be doing their utmost to avoid errors, but we're all human and that's why part of your raison d'être is to provide an extra "line of defence" (be it by checking the translation yourself if you can, or else hiring another proofreader). Personally (and I do outsource to other translators sometime), I don't mind if a translator who otherwise translates and writes excellently misses off, say, the occasional odd past participle agreement or even very very occasionally misunderstands a word/phrase in the text-- one of my duties as the outsourcer is precisely to pick up on these things.

But it sounds like the other agency is not wanting to assume its responsibility as the "end agency" in this case. So I would try and clarify: either they're doing the final proofreading or they're not. If they're doing the proofreading, then they have the right to expect a slightly lower price from you to compensate for the act of doing the proofreading. But if they're doing this task, then they accept that part of this task is correcting occasional mistakes-- the "cost" of proofreading isn't really dependent on the number of mistakes if they are very minor, and so the notion of a discount per mistake doesn't really have much logic behind it.

Of course, you also need to try and assess to what extent the "errors" are actually out-and-out "errors" rather than personal preferences and choice of different conventions.


[Edited at 2010-05-05 22:35 GMT]


 

Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:27
French to English
+ ...
@Sheila -- people will always try it on... May 5, 2010

Sheila Wilson wrote:
Why does he keep coming back to you if he is so dis-satisfied with your services?


I suspect your question may have been rhetorical, but just to make it clear-- there are unfortunately some clients that will just always try it on, looking for every possible excuse for a discount, just as there will always be people demanding free nights in hotels because there were no doileys with their teacups.

In the case of one book I translated, I had the publisher claiming a discount for a couple of spelling mistakes that their proofreader had spotted. After politely trying to explain that the usual reason publishers hire proofreaders isn't to angle for discounts on translations, and that their proofreaders presumably weren't paid a commission on each mistake, I in the end offered the discount. Like the poster's case here, it was one where the client was simultaneously so morally outraged at the mistakes that they demanded a discount, but then satisfied enough to ask me to translate another book...


 

mediamatrix (X)
Local time: 12:27
Spanish to English
+ ...
Easy! May 5, 2010

Cedomir Pusica wrote:
How do you make your Spanish client stop complaining?


Whether it's a client or your mother-in-law, the technique is the same: Stop listening.

MediaMatrix


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:27
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
What I would do May 6, 2010

A) Hire a professional proofreader who has proven experience in your customer's area and, without explaining the problem (so that the report is not biased), ask for an assessment of the quality of at least two separate documents.

B) If the proofreader reports that the documents had an acceptable quality, send the proofreader your customer's edits on the same jobs, and ask for a comment on whether the changes are justifiable or are just preferences.

C) If the proofreader reports that the changes are preferences.... drop the customer. He will probably give you more trouble than profit in the long run.

Edited to add this: When you drop the customer, make it in a polite way, explaining that you feel that your services might not be living up to his expectations and you encourage him to look for other translators who are more in line with his needs.

[Edited at 2010-05-06 05:59 GMT]


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:27
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
What a customer of mine did once May 6, 2010

Cedomir Pusica wrote:
I will most likely drop this client. It is definitely not worth my time. But I need to know how would you normally put someone in their place without being rude to them? I always try to be nice, and the nicer I get, the more I pay. However, I still believe in intellectual strength.icon_smile.gif (which I failed to show with this one)

I'm affraid that "putting them in their place" is something you cannot do in this case, as the customer is so convinced that he is right.

Many years ago I was visiting an agency customer in the US. The manager had a call form a customer who, despite his constant complaints about the work done, wanted more work done. The manager of the agency told him what it was probably better for him to look for another agency, since "they seem to have started on the wrong foot in the business relationship". The sentence was so brilliant that, after a decade, I am still waiting for an opportunity to use it!icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2010-05-06 06:06 GMT]


 

Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:27
English to German
+ ...
Yes you can. And there is another neat saying: May 6, 2010

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
I'm affraid that "putting them in their place" is something you cannot do in this case, as the customer is so convinced that he is right.


"The customer is always right. But it is up to us to decide if you are our customer."

icon_smile.gif


 

Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:27
Member
Dutch to English
+ ...
Some customers are never happy May 6, 2010

Ditch and move on, I would say.

I've done it twice in 25 years. The feeling you get is great!


 

Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:27
German to Spanish
+ ...
How do you make your Spanish client stop complaining? May 6, 2010

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

A) Hire a professional proofreader who has proven experience in your customer's area and, without explaining the problem (so that the report is not biased), ask for an assessment of the quality of at least two separate documents.

B) If the proofreader reports that the documents had an acceptable quality, send the proofreader your customer's edits on the same jobs, and ask for a comment on whether the changes are justifiable or are just preferences.

C) If the proofreader reports that the changes are preferences.... drop the customer. He will probably give you more trouble than profit in the long run.

Edited to add this: When you drop the customer, make it in a polite way, explaining that you feel that your services might not be living up to his expectations and you encourage him to look for other translators who are more in line with his needs.

[Edited at 2010-05-06 05:59 GMT]


Agree. To ask for an independent proofreader's not biased advice is what I had done in this case too.


 
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