The customer is always right? Not really
Thread poster: Mikhail Kropotov

Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 11:34
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
May 30, 2016

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alexander-kjerulf/top-5-reasons-customer-service_b_5145636.html

[Edited at 2016-05-30 04:39 GMT]


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 02:34
German to English
+ ...
trying to put this into the context of freelance translation May 30, 2016

The article is in the context of companies and their employees, and whether to side with the employee or the customer in what seems a rather brainless application of the term "the customer is always right" --- who will be "right": the customer or the employee. As a freelance translator I don't have a boss to side with anyone. That is, I do work with agencies. I remember the time that an agency had outdated software, they opened my translation and when they closed it again the software had turned all the Umlauts into squiggles, and passed that on to the end client. The client said "This person can't even spell German proper names", and the agency turned around and yelled at me. That's the closest I can come. I'd say the problem here was less that of siding with anyone, as it was in lack of knowledge and skill. When there is a problem you need to know enough to get to the bottom of a thing so you can handle it intelligently. It is not usually a matter of siding with anyone.

As the "boss" of my own business, my attitude toward clients is that whatever I do should be in their best interests, serving their needs. I have the expertise, so at times I may go against their wishes because in my professional knowledge it is not the correct thing to do. Here the customer is not right. If the client really insists that I write Mrs. Dr. Dr. Dr. Prof. Jones because that's how it's written in German, I might relinquish because it doesn't change meaning, though it makes me look stupid. If the client insists that I mistranslate something, then that's no go. At least I am not an employee plonked into an uncomfortable position of "client relations" with no real decision making powers and a passle of policies to uphold - often parrot-like, as we see. (Which can make clients frustrated and irate).

A lot of clients need guidance (I deal with many end clients), and they may be under a lot of strain. Often if they understand they are in good hands they will let up. I got a phone call one early morning by a client who seemed to be bossy, suspicious, and almost hostile right off the bat. It turned out that she had been put into a bad position through false promises by an employer bringing her over for a year, she needed to have a measly little birth certificate translated to file her application with the government, and she was being quoted $200 and $500 for that! A PM from an agency later told me this is done because nobody wants to do small translations. When I took care of her request in a reasonable manner, this was the sweetest customer you could imagine. Some clients are scared, and some are treated like "nothing" because they are "unimportant". We've all been down that road.

Then there are customers who are abusive and overbearing in character. Fortunately we can choose to not deal with them, or to not be cowed, because there is no boss standing over us saying "The customer is always right."


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 08:34
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
I couldn't agree more! May 30, 2016

Maxi Schwarz wrote:

The article is in the context of companies and their employees, and whether to side with the employee or the customer in what seems a rather brainless application of the term "the customer is always right" --- who will be "right": the customer or the employee. As a freelance translator I don't have a boss to side with anyone. That is, I do work with agencies. I remember the time that an agency had outdated software, they opened my translation and when they closed it again the software had turned all the Umlauts into squiggles, and passed that on to the end client. The client said "This person can't even spell German proper names", and the agency turned around and yelled at me. That's the closest I can come. I'd say the problem here was less that of siding with anyone, as it was in lack of knowledge and skill. When there is a problem you need to know enough to get to the bottom of a thing so you can handle it intelligently. It is not usually a matter of siding with anyone.

As the "boss" of my own business, my attitude toward clients is that whatever I do should be in their best interests, serving their needs. I have the expertise, so at times I may go against their wishes because in my professional knowledge it is not the correct thing to do. Here the customer is not right. If the client really insists that I write Mrs. Dr. Dr. Dr. Prof. Jones because that's how it's written in German, I might relinquish because it doesn't change meaning, though it makes me look stupid. If the client insists that I mistranslate something, then that's no go. At least I am not an employee plonked into an uncomfortable position of "client relations" with no real decision making powers and a passle of policies to uphold - often parrot-like, as we see. (Which can make clients frustrated and irate).

A lot of clients need guidance (I deal with many end clients), and they may be under a lot of strain. Often if they understand they are in good hands they will let up. I got a phone call one early morning by a client who seemed to be bossy, suspicious, and almost hostile right off the bat. It turned out that she had been put into a bad position through false promises by an employer bringing her over for a year, she needed to have a measly little birth certificate translated to file her application with the government, and she was being quoted $200 and $500 for that! A PM from an agency later told me this is done because nobody wants to do small translations. When I took care of her request in a reasonable manner, this was the sweetest customer you could imagine. Some clients are scared, and some are treated like "nothing" because they are "unimportant". We've all been down that road.

Then there are customers who are abusive and overbearing in character. Fortunately we can choose to not deal with them, or to not be cowed, because there is no boss standing over us saying "The customer is always right."


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Texte Style
Local time: 09:34
French to English
notalwaysright.com May 30, 2016

There are some amazing stories of employees being bullied by customers on notalwaysright.com .

My customers are not always right: they need a professional translator because their English is not good enough. Since everyone "can English" as Sheila so neatly puts it, they often demand the use of certain terms or turns of phrase. For terminology, they are often right, after all they know their field better than I do. However when it comes to idiomatic expression, well, I keep a folder of customer howlers for my own private amusement and to reassure me that I mostly do the right thing.

Only last week I had to plough through reams of remarks from somebody who made five serious grammatical mistakes in two lines of text in his native language. Luckily they pay a pretty steep rate so the extra ploughing time didn't cut into my profit margin.
Hopefully after a couple of translations like this where I only accept a couple of changes to placate them (in instances where it doesn't make any difference to quality) and refute everything else with long-winded explanations and oodles of links as backup proof, they'll learn to trust me. It's happened before, and difficult clients then become favourite clients.

I'm lucky enough not to be the primary earner in our household so I can tell people to f--- off when I can't take their bullying.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:34
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Me too May 31, 2016

Texte Style wrote:

There are some amazing stories of employees being bullied by customers on notalwaysright.com .

My customers are not always right: they need a professional translator because their English is not good enough. Since everyone "can English" as Sheila so neatly puts it, they often demand the use of certain terms or turns of phrase. For terminology, they are often right, after all they know their field better than I do. However when it comes to idiomatic expression, well, I keep a folder of customer howlers for my own private amusement and to reassure me that I mostly do the right thing.

Only last week I had to plough through reams of remarks from somebody who made five serious grammatical mistakes in two lines of text in his native language. Luckily they pay a pretty steep rate so the extra ploughing time didn't cut into my profit margin.
Hopefully after a couple of translations like this where I only accept a couple of changes to placate them (in instances where it doesn't make any difference to quality) and refute everything else with long-winded explanations and oodles of links as backup proof, they'll learn to trust me. It's happened before, and difficult clients then become favourite clients.

I'm lucky enough not to be the primary earner in our household so I can tell people to f--- off when I can't take their bullying.


I am currently going through a similar experience with an academic who thinks thinks he knows English (so why did he hire a translator?) and keeps sending back my translation criticising it, basically for not reading better in English than his original reads in Italian (which is awful, and takes delight in being incomprehensible).

Fortunately I'm being staunchly defended by the agency, a long-standing client with which I have a very good relationship. But it is coming to the point where, like you, I'm going to tell him to F off. I don't even care if I don't get paid! That's how bad it can get, sometimes!


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Mikhail Kropotov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 11:34
Member (2005)
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
This is meant for agencies May 31, 2016

Maxi Schwarz wrote:
trying to put this into the context of freelance translation


Well, that's easy. Translation agencies depend on freelance translators to run their business, yet they often bow to the (often unreasonable) demands of end clients at the detriment of those freelancers as well as their own. That's what my post was about.


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