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A difficult client - suggestions needed
Thread poster: Emma Hradecka
Emma Hradecka  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 10:57
English to Czech
+ ...
Sep 6, 2009

Dear all,

I have come across a difficult client and would like to ask for suggestions. The best word to characterise her would probably be "time-consuming".

I have been doing regular (once a week) Skype interpreting for her for over two months and the interpreting in itself is just fine. However, she feels great need to communicate.

At the beginning of our cooperation she tended to ring me several times a week to confirm various (already confirmed) issues, not only the time and date for each interpreting session. She also repeatedly wanted me to try the Skype connection with her (obviously, she's not the technical type and keeps having technical problems), then she kept calling because of the need to change the time/date of the session (the problem is that she calls at the weekend, e.g. Sunday 10pm, and that she always feels the need to have a long chat). She keeps asking me to deliver messages to the other person by writing via Skype (because she can't write English, of course).

Gradually, I stopped answering her calls during the weekends (and also started thinking of not answering her regular calls the morning before the evening interpreting session just to confirm, again). They were replaced by text messages requiring me to confirm our next interpreting session (ok) but also asking me to state the time and date to try the connection, again. The last message I got was today (Sunday morning) telling me that she wants to talk about the last invoice I sent her and asking when I was available to discuss it. We have an interpreting agreement stating all the cancellation fees, the dates when the next session has to be fixed, invoicing conditions, conditions on counting the paid minutes, etc. So I wonder what she wants to talk about now.

I am starting to feel a bit tired and would't mind giving up this client completely. I am not able to force all her messages out of my mind and at the moment I am not thinking of getting a second - business - mobile phone (she has my number anyway).

Anyone can think of an elegant way of dealing with this situation?

Thank you.

Emma


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Marian Greenfield  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:57
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Be firm about your office hours Sep 6, 2009

Hi Emma,

I suggest you send a polite e-mail to this client asking her to take note of your office hours and asking her to please not call outside of your office hours. Also, remind her gently that time is money and that it is much easier for you to answer e-mail than to stop what you are doing to answer the phone so to please communicate whenever possible via e-mail.

The trick is to do all the above gently and politely.

Good luck!!!!

msg


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Sonja Kroll  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:57
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
I think you should make yourself clear. Sep 6, 2009

I don't know if it's elegant, but that is what I would do. I'd prepare and try to tell/write her calmly and friendly but firmly what my idea of the job is and in which respects the interaction differs from that scheme. I'd ask her whether she thinks she could be confident with the conditions I stated and, if so, give her another chance. If this didn't work out, I'd tell her so and positively let her go.
She can be as she likes, as much as you're unobliged to witness her affections.

(Edited for clarification.)

[Bearbeitet am 2009-09-06 20:52 GMT]


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Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 01:57
English to Russian
+ ...
I think your question already contains an answer Sep 7, 2009


I am starting to feel a bit tired and wouldn't mind giving up this client completely.


In my experience, people like this rarely, if ever, change. She sounds insecure, on the verge of paranoia. Chances are, if you try to talk to her about these issues, she'll deny there is a problem and will even act offended.

Sometimes you have to fire a client. If you need an "elegant" solution, invent a reason for "firing" her.

And I hope you have enough other clients!


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Geraldine Oudin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Japanese to French
+ ...
I had one like this person too Sep 7, 2009

I tried to set some limits politely, but it didn't work.
Once I didn't take her call at 10pm on Sunday because I was really tired and I knew she was going to talk about "nothing" for 30 minutes, and she sent me a message telling me I was not being professional.
Then I had to tell her I was not going to be able to work with her any more because of other commitments. She didn't appreciate at all, but she sent me a message amonth later to say that she had "forgiven me". She was probably trying to have me contacting her again, but I didn't call back...
If you feel that things are getting out of control, I advise you to give up on the client as soon as possible. You never know what is going wrong in their lives, and you are not a therapist!


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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:57
German to English
+ ...
Defining office hours Sep 7, 2009

is a good suggestion from above. You might also let her know that her phone calls are consuming X amount of time outside of the agreed parameters of your work contract, and that you will start charging for consulting, too.

It sounds as if she is calling just to talk for therapeutic purposes. If the various suggestions offered don't discourage her incessant phone calls, just try to keep the calls very short and to the point, even cutting her off by saying you have other work to do and everything has already been discussed adequately.

If none of that works, and you are completely fed up, then by all means tell her she is not only costing you more than you are being paid for in terms of time expended, she is also interfering with your other work.

Good luck.


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 10:57
French to English
+ ...
If professional is what she wants... Sep 7, 2009

France-Japon wrote:
Once I didn't take her call at 10pm on Sunday because I was really tired and I knew she was going to talk about "nothing" for 30 minutes, and she sent me a message telling me I was not being professional.


So be professional - charge her for your time!

Charge her double outside office hours.

Either she will get the message or, at the very least, you will be rewarded for putting up with her nonsense.

Terry.


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Emma Hradecka  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 10:57
English to Czech
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Sep 7, 2009

...for all your suggestions. I will set the limits with more emphasis and if she's not able to stick to them, we will have to terminate our cooperation.

Cheers.

Emma


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Henrik Pipoyan  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:57
Member (2004)
English to Armenian
I'd give her what she wants and charge her for that Sep 7, 2009

If she needs a psychoanalyst, and thinks you're the right person for her, why not charge her for that? I would learn the rates for telephone psychoanalytic sections, which, I think, are much higher than interpreting rates, and would suggest her. Of course, for unscheduled and after hours calls I would charge more. That would be an excellent refresher for you and a good source of income. Besides, if you feel that you're earning money rather than losing time, shell probably stop getting on your nerves, and you'll enjoy talking to here. On the other hand, if she refuses to pay for that, it will be a good reason to stop working with her or to explain clearly what your responsibilities are as an interpreter.

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Vesna Likar
Macedonia (FYROM)
Local time: 10:57
English to Macedonian
+ ...
Better now than later Sep 7, 2009

Dear colleague, in my experience, I wouldn't agree more with Alexandra. I've dealt with a couple of such clients myself, and it IS true is that all they want is to keep you "hanging over" always for them. You should have reacted the first time your client did that; now, it's too late. With such cloients, there is nothing you can do to improve professional relations. If I were you (and I did so on two ocassions), I would write an e-mail to her saying that, due to objective/unforeseen/force majeure private reasons I am unfortunately forced and regret to inform her that I suspend any and all of ouor business relation as of this moment; then I would kindly ask to be paid as to that moment and would block her on skype and would change my cell phone number etc.. Of course, this is if you haven't signed a very specific and unfavourable for you contract with the client; even then you can unlitareally and immediately suspend it due to personal Force Majeure.
This does not mean you let down a serious client; this means you put a definite end to a bothering practice that is neither professional nor profitable to you.
Best,


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:57
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Switch on the answerphone Sep 7, 2009

If she's persistently calling you on your land line at weekends, I'd switch on the answerphone at weekends. Then, whoever is calling can leave a message and if it's someone you want to speak to you can return their call at once. Also, if you don't answer the phone, in the UK you can dial 1471 and get the number of who just called. Again, if it's someone you want to speak to you can call them straight back.
Does a similar system exist in the Czech Republic? If she's calling you on your mobile, isn't there a way of seeing the caller's number and, again, ignoring it if you don't want to speak to them (at the weekend, for example) or answering it if you do want to speak?
Rather than lose someone who seems to be a regular client, that's what I'd do in your situation - for a couple of weeks, at least. I think that, that way, she'd fairly soon get the message that you're not permanently available at weekends. I mean, what if you were actually away for the weekend? She wouldn't be able to bother you then, would she?
Best wishes,
Jenny


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Emma Hradecka  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 10:57
English to Czech
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Mobile Sep 7, 2009

It's my mobile she calls to (we don't have a land line). And yes, I can see it's her, I do ignore her calls at the weekend (and she actually stopped calling and started writing text messages). But this doesn't prevent me from thinking what it is she wants this time and it can spoil the moment for me.
I guess that it's a good lesson for me to learn to be more assertive, to be clear when stipulating all the arrangements (in the contract) and I've also realised that when a client asks for regular cooperation it's always good to leave some "trial period" time and then decide if you want to go on with the cooperation. Because had I done that I wouldn't have come to this point at all - she was like this right from the beginning and I simply could have stopped such cooperation right away.

Thanks a lot.


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Geraldine Oudin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Japanese to French
+ ...
Exactly Sep 7, 2009

Terry Richards wrote:

So be professional - charge her for your time!

Charge her double outside office hours.

Either she will get the message or, at the very least, you will be rewarded for putting up with her nonsense.

Terry.


That's what I did. And when she refused, I explained to her I was too busy with other customers/pay work to spend my life on the phone for free (well, in a more diplomatic way)...That's when I decided to put an end to it.
I did not want to play the therapist, but I did learn to become more firm...good luck to you!


[Modifié le 2009-09-07 09:02 GMT]


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Sonja Kroll  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 10:57
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
Yes! Sep 7, 2009

Emma Hradecka wrote:
I guess that it's a good lesson for me...

When you're able to see it that way, I'm sure you are going to resolve it, as tough a nut it is to crack.


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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 05:57
Portuguese to English
+ ...
You'll have to end it Sep 7, 2009

I've had situations like this in my personal life, although not in my business life. People like this are emotional "stalkers" and for your own peace of mind you simply have to end it. In my experience there's no other way. Any other attempts at trying to get them to act "normal" are just a waste of time and will cause you more discomfort.

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