Friday, December 16, 2011

Customer service for translation agencies

  1. The basics – Delivering the translation on time and to a standard that is fit for its intended purpose is obviously job number one. No amount of service can compensate for a job poorly done in the first place.
  2. Communicate – Do not drop off the face of the earth (it happens more regularly than you might think); reply to emails fairly promptly, with all the information required.
  3. Email organisation – Keep all the emails for a particular project in a single ‘conversation’; don’t start a new thread for each phase of the project from quote, to query, to delivery, to invoicing. Keep the customer’s reference number or wording in the email header so they can search back through their emails and have the whole project’s correspondence in one place.
  4. File naming – When you send back the files, label them clearly and using the original file name plus your language code (and the file type if need be). For example, if the source file is “99835 – Commercial Lease’, the bilingual target file should be something like “99835 – Commercial Lease_EN_unclean”. Do not under any circumstances send back a file labelled “Translation” or it could easily get lost or mixed up with other files.
  5. Queries – PMs generally welcome queries from translators, as long as they are done in a timely and well organised way. Sending through queries one-by-one in emails just before the deadline is a big no-no. A simple Excel table detailing the troublesome source text and the relevant problem, sent well in advance, will have your PMs singing your praises. After all, you’re saving them a job and making their life easier.
  6. Service with a smile – It’s a pain to do business with ungrateful or unfriendly suppliers, even if their translations are top-notch. Address your customers by name in most emails, say thank you, please and be generally polite. A bit of personality never goes amiss either: a PM may deal with 50 different linguists on a given day, so being interesting and interested will go a long way to keeping your name fresh in their mind.
  7. Deal with amendments with good grace – If your translation comes back with changes and queries, do not immediately go on the defensive. Deal with them calmly and professionally and be prepared to admit your mistake and apologise if you get something wrong.
  8. Formatting – Make an effort to keep the formatting coherent with the source, and generally neat and tidy. No PM wants to spend their afternoon re-formatting your translation.
  9. Invoicing – Send your bills promptly, either after each project or at the end of the month, with all of the relevant project details (PO number, project name, rate, words, fee) and all your payment details, tax codes, etc.
  10. Choose your clients carefully – That’s all well and good, but what if your clients don’t do their bit? What if they are rude, unbelievably demanding on your time and pay you late? I reckon you’re better off without them; move on and get clients that you’re actually happy to work with and serve every day.