Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Translation agencies' complaints procedures
Thread poster: Catherine Skala

Catherine Skala  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:57
Member (2014)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Jan 20

I am interested in information about what a translation agency's normal complaints procedure should look like, both from the translator's and end client's point of view. Within how many (working) days should any complaint be submitted, and once it has been, what is the process? How do they handle payment? I understand, of course, that this can vary and that there may be individual agreements between the agency and the translator/end client, but I'm more interested in what the 'normal' (if there is such a thing) procedure is. Any answers would be most appreciated.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:57
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Why? Jan 20

What do you need the information for? It would doubtless be helpful to know. If you just want a general answer, I've never heard of two agencies that approach it the exact same way, although fortunately I've had very little personal experience of any of their complaints procedures.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Catherine Skala  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:57
Member (2014)
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
No experience of complaints either Jan 20

I have no experience of complaints procedures either, which is why I'm asking. A company I've been working with on and off for the past two years all of a sudden, five weeks after delivery, told me there has been 'negative feedback'. They refuse to tell me what this alleged 'negative' feedback is. This company has struggled with payment every single time I have carried out work for them, but in the end, they have always paid, albeit many weeks, or even months, late. They never reply to emails and the last payment was paid into the wrong account. Email addresses have changed inexplicably. I'm feeling very uneasy and 'at their mercy' as I am given no information. Surely, giving me detailed feedback is the very least I can expect, or?

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Catherine Skala  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:57
Member (2014)
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Further info Jan 20

Just to clarify, I am of the opinion that I have delivered a translation that is of my usual high standard. I carried out the work in the agency's state-of-the-art translation tool, which has an elaborate QA and spellcheck function. You cannot sign the work off without applying this function. As per my normal QA process, I proofread the translation in both the tool and in Word format. I did final spellchecks in the bilingual file and in Word. I hence strongly feel that there is something odd happening here and I have no control over it as I receive no information.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:57
French to English
1° complaints procedures; 2° Warning signs? Jan 20

1) Complaints procedures
As Sheila has pointed out, it's variable. There's no hard and fast rule. Some contracts between agencies and their freelancers will set out deadlines within which complaints can be made, others do not mention it. One way or another, where common sense prevails (and sometimes it does), then the client must clearly come back within a "reasonable" time. I have had one experience of this, recently, after more than 20 years in the business. A client returned a piece six week after it having been delivered. I considered that unreasonable. Honestly, if the work is handed in on time, and it is often considered urgent, just how important was it to meet the deadline if they have the luxury of complaining over one month later?! I do not think 5 weeks is reasonable either. I don't actually know what "reasonable" is, by the way; I am not seeking to define it, as it will depend on the circumstances. But there are obvious limits to it. A client needs reasonable time to receive the work and someone can be absent, etc. So, a week might not give them enough time, for example.

Secondly, I do not think it reasonable for any client agent or direct client, to complain without substantiating that claim. He who asserts must prove. You need to see what they are indicating is not of sufficient quality and you must have a chance to consider that.

Thirdly, if this work has been done via an agency, then the agent is the one to supply the work and who is responsible for making sure that it is of a sufficient quality. An agent is not just a post-box for putting client and freelancers into contact. They also have to assume responsibility for the work they supply to their clients. The agent has privity of contract with the freelancer but also with the end-client. The freelancer and client have no contractual link.

There is a balance to be struck between reviewing and reworking a piece that has been returned by a client. Not to mention the fact that client who complain are sometimes non-native speakers of the text in question, that has been translated by a native. A non-native client may of course spot mistakes, come up with some helpful suggestions and make some valid points. If they do, it makes sense to take them on board. Indeed, it can also be diplomatically useful to point to one or two before going on to defend the work you submitted.

As I have pointed out, I had a similar experience recently, with the advantage of the "corrected" piece being sent back to me for comment. Three pages of the 5-page document had been "corrected" by an experienced member of staff within the client organisation, and who no doubt speaks reasonable English. As professionals, we know, however, that that is no guarantee of ability as a translator, all the more so when working into one's non-native language. As it turned out, although there were one or two suggested terminology improvements, the document had been substantially altered, making it overall very "franglais". Structure, tenses and syntax had been "corrected" into anything but English and the text had essentially been Frenchified. A couple of false friends had been added. There were even some significant alterations to the original making the returned version a revised version of the original document I had received to translate. It had also been read in-house by a native speaker of English before being forwarded to the client. After spending a number of hours noting my comments and corrections with explanations and sources, I finally returned the piece. The agent had asked me to "finish the correction" of the document along the lines suggested by the client. I drew the line. After having referred the agency to consider the remarks I had made, I replied that I would be only too happy to do what the client had asked and for my usual hourly rate. I estimated that it would take me a further three hours to do so. In fact, it would have been a complicated exercise to remove the essence of what made the document English and to inject such French mistakes. I was glad I did not hear anything more about it, bar a mail saying that they were considering what to do about it.
I received a couple of further orders from them, but no longer wish to work with them, simply because for that trouble, the rates were appalling, well below the industry norm and payment terms inacceptable (for me, at least), at 60 days, end of the month in which the work was invoiced. The agent was however an entirely reliable payer, to within an hour of the announced deadline and the team pleasant to work with. But the combination of low rates and long deadlines does not make business sense.

Note that contesting quality does not entitle a client to delay or refuse payment.

2) Warning signs
Erratic payment procedures, late payment, changing contact information without prior warning. Whilst any of these things can happen within the course of normal business, when they come together and are repeated, it suggests poor organisation/management or financial difficulties. They might be temporary or recurring, but they are signs that something is probably not right.

If you have invoices outstanding, particularly ones that have overrun the agreed deadline, it is probably time to formalise the demand for payment within X days (short deadline if seriously overdue) and indicate that if payment not forthcoming within that period, action for recovery of sums due will be taken. There are means to recover sums due that are fast and not expensive. You do not necessarily have to seek the advice or assistance of a recovery professional. However, for big sums it can be necessary. If the company is about to go belly up, formalising demands for overdue invoices consolidates your situation with regard to the company in question. If you do go ahead and pursue for payment via a small claims procedure, if a client can pay, then they usually will at that point. If they cannot, you will become aware of that and have a judgment debt registered against them. That shifts you further still up the "urgent" list from their point of view. However, if they cannot pay, you will need to follow this up with enforcement proceedings. Unless it is already too late and then you need to make decisions about whether or not to put good money after bad.

Sorry if you know all this, but I thought it might be helpful to roll it out.


[Edited at 2018-01-20 13:32 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Agneta Pallinder  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:57
Member (2014)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Not really about procedures Jan 20

Catherine, this isn't really about procedures, is it? It is about one company which has been messing you around for quite a while and where they have now found another way of doing it.

Depending on the amount involved you could either dump them at once, never accept work from them again and put a bad mark on the Blue Board; or write a strongly worded letter demanding payment and threatening legal action - and if/when that yields no result dump them etc. etc.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Catherine Skala  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:57
Member (2014)
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you ever so much for your exhaustive answer, Nikki Jan 20

I have the exact same view of how it should 'ideally work' and I appreciate your post immensely. I will definitely take all measures possible to get to the bottom of this, and I think it is safe to say that I will not be working with this agency anymore (just yesterday I had a new request from them, in fact). This was the last drop!

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Catherine Skala  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:57
Member (2014)
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you, Agneta! Jan 20

You are right, of course. I will definitely be more firm going forward with this issue and I will no longer work with them.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:57
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
What Nikki said Jan 20

At the agency where I worked, everything was proofread in-house. If a client complained, first of all we asked for their detailed analysis. Mere vague insults or "it didn't sound natural" or "it was full of mistakes" or "my boss threw it away" were not enough.
We then had to comb through the detailed analysis (if it came) and decide whether it was worth bothering the translator. We only contacted the translator if we saw that mistakes had made it past the proofreader. The boss would occasionally bully a translator into giving a discount that he would then pass on to the client.
I became something of an expert in educating clients about the fact that you can't translate word for word and you have to trust the native speaker. It always irked me though that all the complaints were over the English translations, simply because the client didn't know enough of any of the other languages to be able to quibble.

We had a log in which we were to record all complaints and explain whatever corrective actions had been implemented. Mostly, if the translator had proved to be rubbish, we simply stopped working with them. We didn't wait for a client to complain though: any translator whose work needed more than one hour per 1000 words to proofread properly was dropped, we couldn't afford to spend any more time than that if we were to make a profit.

We would usually wait a reasonable time after the translation before billing. A day or two for small translations, a week or two for longer projects. We considered that the client would have had ample time to check the translation. Clients who only complained once they saw the colour of the bill were mostly trying to get out of paying and never sent in the detailed analysis of the mistakes.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 02:57
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Why do agencies think they can pull this kind of... Jan 20

er, “stuff”?

What strikes me most forcibly when I read such accounts is that something has led the agency in question to believe that it could get away with such crassly unethical behavior. Is it that translators give the impression of being complete pushovers who can be easily intimidated into discounting their rates (or perhaps even renouncing the entire fee of a project)? Is the market so saturated in certain language pairs that agencies no longer have any great concern about keeping their “vendors” happy? Is it a lack of “people skills” on the part of those who run such agencies, and of their project managers? Or is it maybe some combination of the above?

[Edited at 2018-01-20 17:29 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:57
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Nikki has already given the answer I'd have given Jan 20

I thought from your first post that you might be compiling statistics or writing a paper. That would call for a totally different answer, although the short answer would still be that there's no general, common procedure.

I know it's too late now, and you'll be making sure you don't have a repeat of this problem. But for the sake of others, let me say that we all need to think about how much credit we allow each and every client. We ought to be able to come up with an absolute maximum risk figure - one that would cripple us to lose more. That's because even the very best and regular client can go under the proverbial bus without a moment's notice. Maybe in that case the bill would eventually be paid, but it might take a very long time. And bankruptcy can sometimes be very sudden and unexpected (for suppliers, anyway). I might have €1,000 as my absolute maximum - yours might be different. But I would never allow a client with the history of this one you describe to have anything like that amount of credit. They've been giving clear signs of financial unhealthiness for a long time now, after all. Once a client has given you problems getting your money on time a couple of times then there really are only two courses of action open that make any sense: either refuse to work with them again, or only accept jobs against advance payment.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Srini Venkataraman
United States
Local time: 01:57
Member (2012)
Tamil to English
+ ...
My way Jan 21

I had similar late payments from 2 agencies....paying after lot of follow ups and in 3 months or so. Told them will not do anymore. Able to get better payers in the meanwhile.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:57
French to English
@Texte Style Jan 21

Thank you for this account. It is interesting to see the point of view of the intermediary. Your answer describes a way of doing things which seems full of common sense.

Direct link Reply with quote
 

Catherine Skala  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:57
Member (2014)
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks everyone! Jan 21

Thank you all for your input! You are right, Sheila, of course, that you have to be organised and take precautions. I suppose I have been a little naive, as everything has always worked so well (there have been a few glitches with strange agencies, of course, but nothing on this magnitude. I think Robert has a point, that certain agencies do not really respect translators, for various reasons). And, Texte Style, thank you, for you for account! I think a thorough QA process is imperative for any translation agency and all those I've worked with do have that. I don't know about the agency in question, however. Srini, I certainly will not work with this agency again, right now, I just want to get paid and forget about all this.

I have been reading other Proz forum threads and one mentioned that the translator owns the copyright of his/her translation. I have tried to get this verified online, and this seems to be the case. Does anyone know anything about this? It is pertinent to my current situation, as the translation was of a book. A short book, but still. So if they use ANY part of my translation without paying me, it would be copyright infringement. Or?


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 08:57
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
thank you Nikki! Jan 21

Nikki Scott-Despaigne wrote:

Thank you for this account. It is interesting to see the point of view of the intermediary. Your answer describes a way of doing things which seems full of common sense.


Yes indeed. The boss was a nasty bully, but procedures were all very sensible, with the aim of achieving quality translation and customer satisfaction. They were all set up by his translator wife.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Translation agencies' complaints procedures

Advanced search







TM-Town
Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

More info »
SDL MultiTerm 2017
Guarantee a unified, consistent and high-quality translation with terminology software by the industry leaders.

SDL MultiTerm 2017 allows translators to create one central location to store and manage multilingual terminology, and with SDL MultiTerm Extract 2017 you can automatically create term lists from your existing documentation to save time.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search