Sarcastic client's feedbacks and translator-unfriendly behaviour (communication)
Thread poster: Darko Kolega

Darko Kolega  Identity Verified
Croatia
Local time: 11:52
Member (2009)
German to Croatian
+ ...
Jan 29, 2014

Hi there,

how do you react to the sarcastic feedbacks that are beyond professional, translator-friendly approach. I mean, let's say we do a mistake, or don't fully meet the client's wishes. Or, like in my case today, I got some strange feedback for the PDF-check that is unpayed but also in connection with DTP-mistakes produced by client's staff. I should have warned them of this, but due to inexperience in such matter, did not marked those spots for additional check. So let's say I did this mistake that was beyond my scope of work and that could be noticed by client for reference - to pay attention to this new error that appeared today for the first time.

The comment from the client was like: do you think we send you PDF just for fun?, your workit is nothing but the total slackness.

There were other cases with the SAME client where I also felt it is beyond professional communication, that I rather hear on the fish-market.

Result: I noted that that sounded sarcastic on my side, so they continued to warn/feedback me in the same manner....then I terminated our partnership so we can enjoy our work more in future on both sides.




P.S. I enjoy a great partnership with ca. 100 other clients and never experienced anything similar in communication with any of them, even in cases of mistakes, additional corrections, delays or else.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:52
Spanish to English
+ ...
Forget them Jan 29, 2014

There are plenty more fish in the sea. My own reaction in this kind of situation would probably be quite violent, although I must admit I don't recall it ever happening to me. I have little patience with any perceived disrespect towards my person or my work.

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Charlotte Farrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:52
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Experienced something similar Jan 29, 2014

I have one client that is frequently jaw-droppingly rude and sarcastic, so unfortunately your client isn't unique. My most recent correspondence with them involved me emailing their accounts department to ask them to confirm receipt of my invoice and receiving a reply from the head of the company saying 'No, she will not - we don't make a science out of the receipt of invoices'. That doesn't even break the top five of unprofessional things that company has said to me.

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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:52
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Needed to be done Jan 29, 2014

Darko Kolega wrote:
I terminated our partnership

Mutual respect is the only way of doing business. You'll have to sometimes accept lower rates than you'd like (if you need to put food on the table, or even if you really, really want to do this fascinating translation); clients will almost always want the work done sooner than you'd like; they may make last-minute changes to schedules, etc, etc: I can deal with all of that but only if it's done in polite language, preferably with a little informality and humour (though that doesn't come naturally to some cultures).

For the same reason, I can accept clients forgetting to pay once in a while, as long as they pay immediately after a polite reminder; and I've even been known to accept delays in payment due to short-term cash-flow problems when I've been convinced that they are both real and short-term. But clients who need to be reminded every time, whether I contact them at due date + 1 day or at due date + 15 days? They get terminated. That's disrespect.

I hope you'll leave a comment on their Blue Board record, Darko. Nothing disrespectful, of course, just factual.


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 11:52
English to Polish
+ ...
... Jan 29, 2014

Unfortunately, those things aren't usually actionable, but you can still probably use official channels to very professionally inform the relevant contact person's superiors about the conduct, not to mention any professional associations and trade chambers.

What is especially not tolerable is clients being sloppy and berating you for it.

I generally confront clients rather directly in such cases. At that point telling them that the reason for termination is their gross deficit of good manners is free game.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 12:52
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Shrug it off your back and take the money Jan 30, 2014

If the client pays ok, why bother. Keep the correspondence yourself businesslike and don't pay attention to rudeness. I have one client since 2003, the owner is very frank and says what's on her mind, even making humiliating comments about her staff. But the other workers there are very friendly, so I am glad I did not take offence back than at the beginning. They still provide some 10 per cent of my income each year.

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 11:52
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Cut the client some slack Jan 30, 2014

Darko Kolega wrote:
How do you react to the sarcastic feedbacks that are beyond professional, translator-friendly approach?


Assume that the client is having a bad day, and don't hold it against them. However, if you find their comments hurtful, stop working for them.

I got some strange feedback for the PDF-check that is unpayed but also in connection with DTP-mistakes produced by client's staff. I should have warned them of this, but due to inexperience in such matter, did not marked those spots for additional check.


I have learnt to be more specific with the wording in my reply when checking successive versions of PDF files, so that the client knows I've only re-checked the changes that were suggested in the previous version of the file, i.e. I did not carefully recheck the entire file to see if some error may have slipped in somewhere else in the mean time.

The comment from the client was like: "Do you think we send you PDF just for fun? Your work it is nothing but the total slackness."


Assume that the client voiced concern and dismay at what they perceive to be the quality of your work, and ignore the fact that their comment was rude and sarcastic. Respond to their comment politely and professionally. Do not respond to their rudeness and sarcasm.

I enjoy a great partnership with ca. 100 other clients and never experienced anything similar in communication with any of them, even in cases of mistakes, additional corrections, delays or else.


Most of my agency client PMs are extremely polite. I sometimes work on very tiresome projects where I'm sure if I was the PM I would have killed someone already, but the PMs I deal with keep their cool and stay polite and professional throughout the affair.


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Anna Spanoudaki-Thurm  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:52
Member (2009)
German to Greek
+ ...
So true! Jan 30, 2014

Samuel Murray wrote:

Most of my agency client PMs are extremely polite. I sometimes work on very tiresome projects where I'm sure if I was the PM I would have killed someone already, but the PMs I deal with keep their cool and stay polite and professional throughout the affair.


Yes, sometimes they are amazing!

OT:
I have never had a similar case but there is one PM who has a very unprofessional style. e.g. Once I sent an e-mail requesting feedback from the client on a technical matter, the PM answered "Whaaaaaat?????" followed by the huge "signature" of the agency in all colors of the rainbow plus pink, huge letters in different fonts and photos of the staff. She later sent another e-mail, stating that she had not understood the question was for the client, she thought she had to answer! It is also normal that the instructions are written using capital letters to stress things like: THIS CLIENT IS IMPORTANT! DO NOT MISS THE DEADLINE! (Huh?) Depending on the weather, she also chooses to use my full last name or a random half of it. (She is an Austrian and the normal thing to expect is "Sehr geehrte Dr. rer. nat. S-T".)

Depending on my mood, I either laugh or swear I will never work them again. They do pay well, but because of this PM and some other issues (quality orientation) they have made it really low in my priority list.


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Steven Segaert  Identity Verified
Estonia
Local time: 12:52
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Follow your guts Jan 30, 2014

If you can shrug it off and not be bothered by it, just ignore it.

If it keeps taking up space in your head, walk away. Life is too beautiful to be doing things that go against your grain.


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Khwansuree DEROLLEPOT  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:52
Member (2012)
English to Thai
+ ...
I would share my thoughts politely but firmly Mar 18, 2014

If a client ever starts being disrespecful or sarcastic, especially for the matter that I'm sure I'm not responsible for (like your case for example), I would reply with a couple of sentences, politely but firmly, telling him to admit "HIS" mistake.

I have experienced quite an opposite situation with a client a while ago, where it was me who pointed out the client's mistake. He replied angrily saying that was not nice (I was not rude and not even sarcastic), so I told him in a rather cold tone that I was not responsible for his bad mood or his lack of organisation. The result is: the client apologized and the communication got smooth and friendly.

I think it is important to make the clients realize that they have gone too far sometimes. Not only it frees your mind from frustation or anger, it even enhances mutual respect and understanding. I do think that their bad attitude sometimes comes from the fact that they have had a bad day, people can get angry but not many are impolite in nature. The client you found unbearable might turn out to be your best and closest one.


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José Henrique Lamensdorf  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 07:52
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Upper hand = Lower rates Mar 18, 2014

I don't recall any client ever being unfriendly or sarcastic at any time other than when I tried to collect my past overdue payments. Sarcasm is mostly a defense strategy to gain the upper hand. Assertveness is the way to do sustainable business transactions.

This entire situation, as well as others described in ensuing posts here, make me wonder what a client could gain from a sarcastic/unfriendly behavior. The only reason that comes to my mind is using it as a stratagem to gain/keep the upper hand that will entitle them to impose lower rates, longer payment terms, faster turnaround, fuzzy match and other discounts, etc.

Too many translators everywhere lack assertiveness, period. Do you feel insulted by this statement? If you do, face it: It's true! Otherwise rates wouldn't be the #1 most recurrent discussion theme among translators. Have you seen this happen so pervasively among other personal services providers, such as physicians, lawyers, dentists, mechanics, plumbers?

An important element of my marketing as a translator is to convince prospects that I will always deliver their money's worth, as long as they pay my prices, and that I'll make this happen consistently. This will thwart any attempt of theirs to gain the upper hand. If they want to pay less than my price, they have two options: either they must cut down the quantity of services they are requesting from me, or they should get someone else to do it (at their risk, since the cheaper option may deliver less value than what they charge).

If a translator sounds less than assertive to a prospect, perhaps fearful of losing the assignment, they'll feel that by acting aloof and above, their contemptuous stance will entitle them to force a more advantageous deal. If the translator stands by his or her guns, and assertively demonstrates a solid business proposal, the prospect will feel reassurance that this is really what it takes.

The truth is that, in most cases, the assertive professional translator needs that job as much as the unsure, desperate-sounding one for each one's survival. The difference is that while the second one will crack under some unfriendly/sarcastic pressure, the first one will have made it clear at the outset that there is no point in using stratagems.


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Texte Style
Local time: 11:52
French to English
commanding respect Mar 18, 2014

I note that you weren't being paid for the work.

A great way to command respect is to apply stiff rates, never do anything for free. Adopt the "I don't get out of bed for less than (whatever a stiff rate would be in your pair).

I don't mind being extra thorough and checking what I'm not really supposed to check, every last comma, when I'm being paid handsomely, when I'm sure of not being out of pocket once I've finished.

So I suggest next time you bill extra for your proofreading (warn the client ahead of time, of course!)


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