If the client is not satisfied with the translation
Thread poster: Anna Parish

Anna Parish  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:14
English to Russian
Oct 30, 2012

A prospective client asked me what come back they would have if they are not satisfied with my translation. Do you normally put a clause in your terms and conditions regarding this and what would you put? Somebody recommended in the past to put a clause saying that in case of dispute we would choose a third party proof reader accepted by both parties and their decision would be binding. I am also thinking to offer a sample translation and suggest that the first task would be a smaller translation to see if they like it. Do you think that would be the right way to do it or you have any other suggestions? Thank you.

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 04:14
Chinese to English
My version Oct 31, 2012

If asked, I put in a clause saying I'll do unlimited corrections at no extra cost. I prefer not to specify procedures for non-payment in case of irreconcilable disagreement, because they're hard to design. Beyond that, the answer to your client's question is: the same remedies are available to you as under any other contract. In case of disagreement, we can pick an arbitrator; or you can take me to court. The arbitrator or the court can make the decision; it's a waste of time for us to try to make up arbitrary standards now.

But unless they've got a heavy lawyer on the case, they're not interested in those legalistic remedies. What they want is a good service, and some kind of guarantee that you won't give them rubbish and walk away. So a guarantee that I'll do corrections free of charge helps. It leaves me open to some risk of time-wasting, of course, but I've always found that risk to be manageable.


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Laurent KRAULAND  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 22:14
French to German
+ ...
Unlimited corrections? Oct 31, 2012

This sounds a bit excessive to me, but then you'll have your reasons.

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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 22:14
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Set a time limit Oct 31, 2012

One agency I worked for said clients had to complain within 14 days, but in fact acknowledged liability for six months after delivery.

Unlimited corrections within 14 days and then a third-party proofreader if the issue is not settled and forgotten by then would seem sensible.

Most clients are really only interested in clearing things up fast, and in practice a lot of 'complaints' can be explained away with diplomacy.
(When the translator does not write what the client expects, but it is not actually wrong.)

An indication that you are qualified and do your best, but are only human, is probably what they are looking for. If not, find more sensible clients as soon as possible!


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:14
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Discuss it up-front. If you don't, the client will probably suspect the worst. Oct 31, 2012

Anna Parish wrote:
suggest that the first task would be a smaller translation to see if they like it. Do you think that would be the right way to do it

That's always a good way to go. Not only do they get to see your work, you get to see if they pay! Mind you, I've had a disappointingly large number of clients who have paid the first invoice promptly and then got worse and worse at paying up.

A prospective client asked me what come back they would have if they are not satisfied with my translation. Do you normally put a clause in your terms and conditions regarding this and what would you put?

I offer to put right any errors (no limits, but I really do mean errors), but only until the invoice is due. That gives them one month. I'll also answer questions and discuss the possibility of style changes - but I make it clear that this will be within reasonable limits. If they want to know why I used X word instead of Y word, I'll be happy to help, but if they want to know why I chose these 256 words instead of those 256 words, they can pay by the hour. Once the invoice is (over)due, I don't accept that I have any further obligations. Maybe the courts would see it differently.

Somebody recommended in the past to put a clause saying that in case of dispute we would choose a third party proof reader accepted by both parties and their decision would be binding.


That's possible, but who would pay? I don't see why I should unless there are major errors found; the client probably wouldn't want to if the proofreader made any changes at all. As a proofreader myself, I've learned to be very sparing with the 'red pen', but it is sometimes difficult to determine exactly how bad an error is. OK, an error's an error, but does it render the text unintelligible? Does it show the company in a bad light? Would it lose them money? I mean, for example, a couple of typos and 3 sentences that read a little awkwardly in 10 pages would not be something to brag about, but should you have to pay the proofreader's invoice?

When I enter into collaboration with a direct client, I always discuss this problem. My basic rate includes thorough checking of the target against the source, plus a final proofreading of the target text. If they want a second pair of eyes to proofread the text, they either pay extra or they commission a proofreader themselves.
Most say they 'know someone who can check it' (normally a non-native, but it's their text) or that it doesn't merit further polishing. I know sometimes it's absolutely essential to remove all errors, but nowadays there's a lot of stuff being translated that can either be very easily amended later on (no re-publishing charges, just a couple of clicks and it's done), or will do the job even if there are slight imperfections. There always has to be a line drawn somewhere been affordability and perfection. Suffice it to say that no client has ever taken up my offer to obtain reasonably-priced 2nd proofreader services for them.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 22:14
English to Polish
+ ...
Another necro today Jun 11, 2013

Anna Parish wrote:

A prospective client asked me what come back they would have if they are not satisfied with my translation. Do you normally put a clause in your terms and conditions regarding this and what would you put? Somebody recommended in the past to put a clause saying that in case of dispute we would choose a third party proof reader accepted by both parties and their decision would be binding. I am also thinking to offer a sample translation and suggest that the first task would be a smaller translation to see if they like it. Do you think that would be the right way to do it or you have any other suggestions? Thank you.


Another necro today, but these issues are of great professional interest to me. I'm so fed up with the translation 'industry' that I'm tempted to return to law practice, in which case, I guess, I'd inevitably specialise in the translation area of practice. I also want to share my experience and my thoughts in these threads, as they serve as future reference for people facing similar problems. Thus, I'm not really even addressing the OP here but rather the reader.

Anyway. You have two major approaches to the type of problem indicated by the OP:

– adequate service/performance (e.g. some kind of service level agreement, SLA), or
– satisfaction.

(Adequate service is tied more to Romano-Germanic legal systems, i.e. continental Europe and areas of influence; satisfaction is more of a common law construct. For comparison, Poland's Civil Code, and Poland has a system that combines German and some French influence, defines adequate goods as average quality goods, while services are a bit more complicated due to diligence issues.)

The adequate service standard guarantees adequate service for the client but shields you from grief. On the other hand, satisfaction does not shield you from grief, but it's probably harder to complain about any objective inadequacy of any subjectively satisfactory service or product confirmed to be such by the client.

Since some people are more fussy than others. We all have at least a little difficult personality in some regards, at least one or two mild issues etc., but some people have more. Reasonable satisfaction is a compromise. The client needs to be satisfied, but in pursuing that satisfaction and also in determining what that satisfaction is or what merits it, the client needs to act like a reasonable person, the reasonable person being the pillar of business law without whom everything would come down crumbling, but it basically means an all-round well... reasonable person, self-evident.

The above essentially means the client is allowed some subjectivity and his wishes do count, but on the other hand the client cannot fly off the handle too much and diverge from statistical average and universally acceptable business practices.

A compromise entertained in some countries (notably Denmark, thanks to the Danish translators for explaining that one to me) is that a client 1) is entitled to tweaks and changes to bring about some satisfaction and a good product overall, but 2) needs to pay for anything that's not error correction strictly speaking. That has very little to do with any legal theory I can think about that should be applicable in such a situation, but it's actually a very reasonable, balanced solution (which is basically the purpose for which business law exists).

I would say you should avoid spoiling your client irresponsibly, such as a satisfaction guarantee, especially anywhere close to a big shiny '100% or money back'. On the other hand, you need to show your client that you care, and you need to take responsibility for your work. Unfortunately, some parts of our work have little to do with good translation per se but instead concern client service.

Also, another thing to bear in mind is that that not all translators are good. Not all have the requisite competence in their source and target languages, not all have the knowledge of their fields. In some cases, I tend to think that an overall above average intelligence, mental lucidity, specific frame of mind (including emotions and psychic aspects) and a couple of other things are required that are simply rare to be found, and, consequently, most translators don't really have them, at least not in a spectacular degree. Your client may well be a seasoned veteran that has seen a lot. I had also seen some before I became a translator. Strike at the root of the problem, don't just deal with the symptoms: reassure your client that you are a professional.

... Credentials, samples, achievement, public credit: he has probably seen such from people who have possibly badly failed at their jobs. Nonetheless, those are the tools you can use to reassure your client, and you don't really have any other tools, at any rate. But references from other guys in his area of business in particular should go a long way towards satisfactory reassurance.

Don't promise discounts. The hassle is probably more than a discount can repay. The client isn't probably looking for a risk-based deal. He wants reassurance, not a promise of conditional benefits that he will become entitled to if you do a bad job or if he thinks you've done a bad job.

Since you're wondering how to address the problem – presumably in a mutually satisfactory way – I'd offer another suggestion. Since you're wondering already anyway, how about you just talk to the client? You don't need to have prepackaged solutions for every single contingency possible (or impossible until it happens). Sit down with the client, pick his brains, try to build a win-win. Make sure you're both in the same team. I will sound like a therapist (or, more likely, a cheap coaching peddler but anyway), but reassuring your client of your professionalism and validating his concerns (but only if they are valid), showing that they matter and addressing them, is a good idea.

... Translation depends very much on goodwill anyway. The standards of both language per se and rendition of meaning are so subjective that litigation is madness anyway, and it's harder on the translator than on the client, by the way. Get yourself some working, human-like interpersonal relationships to build your business existence on for until you retire peacefully. Happy clients will quickly turn into disappointed clients when they spot a real error, but happy clients are less inclined to complain on imaginary, dubious or ambiguous grounds. They're actually likely to be forgiving, especially if nothing bad really happens.


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