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Hi all!

One of our goals for our blog this year is to publish more posts to help translators be better in what they do :)

We're currently planning a post on how to communicate effectively with customers, and we would like to hear your tips!

Please share with us your wisdom and the advice that you'd give to newer translators so that they can improve their customer relationships and overall Gengo experience.

Thanks in advance!

Lara

9 comments

  • 8
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    kvstegemann

    Okay, here goes ... The first and more or less obvious advice would be to communicate with the customer at all. I use the slightest excuse to write a comment to the customer in nearly any translation. Talking to the customer shows them that a living, breathing and thinking individual is present at the other end. The Gengo process is rather anonymous by nature and this can give customers the impression that they are dealing with some sort of machine or algorithm even if they know they ordered human translation. Any more or less intelligent remark can remind customers that there's a human being catering to their translation.

    For example, I always point out typos or other peculiarities in the source text. This does not only provide a little extra service to the customer. I also had cases where in fact the source did not contain a typo but I totally had misunderstood the content! Anything odd in the source text can be an error on the customer side as well as a misunderstanding on the side of the translator, so it is always a good idea to check it with the client.

    I also never shy away from asking questions, even on things that might be rather obvious. Even though I know my second language well enough, I'm always on a strange turf, not only language-wise, but also in many fields and specializations.

    Next, communication with the customer is helpful and sometimes necessary to "educate" customers. Again, by the "anonymous" and streamlined way jobs are dropped on us by the system, customers can develop a "fire-and-forget" mindset regarding translation jobs. That is to say, many customers post a job and expect a result with, literally, no questions asked. We as translators know that it doesn't work this way, that often we need context and other additional information to provide the best result. And we have to convey this message. For example, I try to tell my customers that the shorter the content, the more context is needed, simply put.

    When communicating with customers, always make it clear that your intent is to provide the best translation for the customers' needs and that this is the reason you need extra information or other extra effort from the customer. Most customers appreciate it if you try to understand their needs and intentions and they will rest assured that you have understood the content at hand and will deliver a fine result. Establishing good relations with a client this way works here at Gengo in the same way it works everywhere in the service world, even though we often do not know our customers by name.

    Of course there are customers where it seems that communication is not desired. When jobs are posted via some external API and the instructions expressly say that comments will (probably) be ignored, there is not much we can do. I think that there always should be some form of communication channel to the customer. If you have no chance to ask, to clear up misunderstandings and ambiguities, translation quality will suffer, and in the end the translator will get the blame.

    And another final remark. What I described above is the professional way to do it. Obviously, it applies first to Pro-level jobs. A small Standard-level job will probably not justify extended communication. Providing the full professional service for standard rates will not work in the long run.

  • 2
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    hwsuzuki

    It seems we have already very good advice from kvstegemann. So, I just want to add my experience on how I dealt with some customers in the past.

    1. I accepted a rush order for PPT that the previous translators declined very close to the deadline and the customer was very worried how soon I could finish it. First, I gave a rough estimate and, once finish the initial translation, asked the customer if I should submit it after the first revision in 2 hours or full 2 revisions in 5 hours. The customer could afford to wait for 5 hours and preferred to have perfect job. Therefore, I did my through revisions as usual and received very good feedback.

    2. After submission, the customer asked why one of the term has been translated from one word in original test to 5 words in translation. I explained the reason (it is clearer to the readers in this case), but also suggested another shorter translation for the same term even though the original translation is preferable in case the customer has any space limit.I did not hear from the customer on which version has been adopted, but still received 5/5 feedback.

    With above examples, I would like to suggest that our communications with customers should be helpful for their goals. Of course, as a translator, accurate translation is most important. However, as a business communicator, we could try to understand their needs and provide the solutions by suggesting some options sometimes.

    I hope this is useful. 

  • 4
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    KevanSF

    Interesting topic, and I believe this sort of post will be quite useful!

     

    Here are a few very basic, common-sense tips that come to mind for those of us translating into English:

     

    1) Be courteous and professional. Thank the client. I usually begin a question with: "Thank you for choosing Gengo."  If the client has initiated the dialog, I might begin with: "Thank you for your comment (or feedback, or question, as the case may be).

     

    2) Try to use clear, unambiguous language, and short, direct sentences. Unless you're certain otherwise, it's safest to assume the client is not a native speaker of English, but rather someone using "business" English. I would avoid slang, colloquialisms, and regional varieties of English when communicating with unknown clients. Humor and sarcasm are also prone to misinterpretation, even among native speakers, and are best avoided.

    In other words, clear, professional language is safest. If the client has initiated the communication, you may be able to determine something about their level of comfort and proficiency in English from their message. I will invite the client to write in their native language (the source language) if they feel more comfortable doing so, although I let them know I may need to respond in my native English.

    (Frankly, I'm not certain of Gengo's policies on the use of other languages to communicate with clients—this may be a good thing for Lara to clarify in the final blog post.)

     

    3) Keep your communication concise, positive, and client-focused. "Thank you for your feedback. I'm sorry you're not satisfied with parts of the translation, but I'm confident I can improve it based on your comments."   Or: "Thank you for your question. I understand that the final sentence doesn't feel right to you. Here are two other options I could suggest." Or: "Thank you for your order. My goal is to provide the best possible translation for you, and in order to do that, I have a question about the text. Would you be able to take a moment to tell me..."

     

    4) Don't take any negative comments or feedback from the client personally, and don't argue with the client. Even if they accuse you of being a lousy translator and/or using a machine translation, ignore it, and focus on helping the client. Even if your first translation was acceptable, it's best not to debate with the client, but simply try to understand what they're looking for, and provide it, if possible.

    "Thank you for your feedback. I'm sorry you're dissatisfied with the translation. It sounds like you're looking for something a bit freer or more creative. Here's a another version for you. Please let me know if this better meets your needs."

    If you're unable (or unwilling) to continue the assignment, conclude with a courteous, professional communication: "Thank you for your feedback. I'm so sorry my translation did not meet your needs. Perhaps another translator could better assist you. All the best."

     

    4) Proofread your comments! A client won't have much faith in your ability to translate into English if your message is riddled with misspellings or poor grammar.

     

    In short, be professional, courteous, respectful, positive, helpful, and clear.

     

    I hope I said something that might help a new translator down the road!

     

    Good luck with the new posts, Lara!

     

    All the best, Kevan

     

     

     

     

  • 1
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    avicus0919

    I thinkv kvstegemann has made some excellent points! I am personally guilty of shying away from asking the customer questions for clarification when it becomes necessary to do so, although for my language pair it does not happen most of the time. Also many customers do provide context in the job description, so that is very helpful, especially for short translations of web page fragments/articles which seem to pop up so often here!

    I will definitely make it a point to actively initiate communication with the customer.

    One piece of advice I would give is to be courteous when explaining translation choices to the customer. In some cases the customer is wrong, in some cases the translation is wrong; however in all cases it always helps to be courteous. Even in the latter case, a polite response from the translator which acknowledges the mistakes, if any, and explains possible corrections, goes a long way to satisfying a customer. And they do express their thanks in comments!

     

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    barrywolfenden

    I'm very much with Avicus when it comes to (of course, always courteously) explain the reasoning behind a given translation. A lot of the time, clients will have a modicum of target language skills, and if they see something that's strange or unfamiliar in a translation they may flag it as something to be revised. In the half-dozen or so times this has happened to me, I've always taken the time to explain kindly and in detail the reasoning behind my particular choice, and I feel quite strongly that this has invariably turned a situation of dissatisfaction into one of gratitude.

    Also, Kevan (and Stegemann) made a very telling point: keep it customer-focused. Even if a customer points out an "error" you know very well is a correct translation, I think it's important to cast the situation in your mind, and in your communications, not as "I need to defend myself" (you-focused) but "Providing the incorrect translation for this client will detriment them, even if they're not aware of it right now" (customer-focused).

    On a final note, I'd also like some clarification regarding language-of-communication policy. Personally, I've always communicated in the language that the client left their comments in (more often than not the source language), or defaulted to the source language if no comments are given. However, perhaps this couldn't be so cut-and-dried? Some language groups tend to be more monolingual than others; I feel that a DE>EN translator would be pretty safe communicating with their German client in English, but a ZH>EN translator would probably not, and a EN>JA translator guaranteedly not.

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    Sara Nogueira

    Some of the most relevant tips have already been covered and very well represented by Kvstegemann, Hwsuzuki, Barrywolfenden, Kevan and Avicus.

    I can think of two more tips that could help improve the communication with clients:

    1- Even when we are led to think that our questions won't be answered on time (ex. API's), it is always advisable to leave a comment if we have doubts regarding the source text. Communicating with clients, at Gengo, can sometimes go beyond real-time conversations. If our comments,

    If our comments, questions and doubts are not answered in due time, they can still, among others, help justify translation options, educate customers and point out typos or ambiguities in the source text, "a posteriori", should the customer raise any issues.

    2- While communicating professionally with the customer or "communicating at all" is definitely advantageous, it is also important to keep communications relevant and act with autonomy as much as possible, i.e use all your research resources and try to "solve the problem" before you raise the issue to the client. 

    TIP: When there is little or no context try to research the expression, sentence or paragraph between brackets on Google; this will often lead you to the original Document or Website.

    Cheers,

    Sara

  • 1
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    kvstegemann

    Sara Nogueira has brought up an interesting point: the timing of the communication. We have to live with some restrictions here: first, our deadlines for completing most jobs are tight, so that there might not be enough time for a full-fledged dialog between customer and translator, and second, there might be big differences in the time zones between all parties involved so that at the time when the translator seeks answers, the customer might not be available right away.

    As Sara says, we have to act autonomously anyway. Often the communication can only be a list of remaining open questions after we tried to solve as much as possible on our own. Also, it will be often necessary to mark the job as done before all questions are answered. When I have done my part as a translator and made the translation to my best knowledge, it makes no sense to keep on waiting for answers from the customer - answers that might never come. Therefore I mark the job as finished and make it clear in the comment that if certain questions are answered, changes might be necessary. It's no big deal when the customer returns the job for some amendments if they find that some of my educated guesses have been wrong. And it is really impossible to predict if a customer will communicate or not. So do what you can, and then move on.

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    mirko

    Good advice indeed. However, reading some of it, I got the definite impression that we should be acting as if we were Gengo's employees, or/and as if the clients we're dealing with are our clients, and that's not the case. I'm all for helping a client out and doing my best to solve possible issues in my work, of course, but I don't feel we should be acting as Gengo's PR officers, or treat Gengo's clients as if they were our own. Gengo is our client, actually (on paper at least).

    The point here is that, compared to a "traditional agency", where a PM acts as the middleman in each and every interaction between translators and end-clients, here we're usually left to deal with (their) clients ourselves (which actually is an additional burden placed on us), but on the other hand, as it happens with "traditional agencies", the end-clients' identities are kept from us, so that we cannot "steal" those clients from Gengo.

    Obviously, being proactive, helpful, courteous, etc. with Gengo's clients might have some benefits for us as well, as being chosen as PTs, but, in my experience, that is a very marginal benefit (also considering that often PTs are actually chosen by Gengo's projects team), and Gengo does not really incentivize our being "client oriented" in any tangible way (as far as I can tell), starting from the "2 PTs minimum" rule, which actually prevents a client from choosing you as a PT off the bat, if they had a good experience using your services.

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    Lara Fernandez

    Hi all!

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and advice :) I'm sure they'll make for a great blog post!

    With regards to the question about Gengo's policy on the language used to communicate with customers, brought up by @KevanSF and @barrywolfenden, please note that we do not have a specific rule and it is often best to use your judgment depending on the case.

    We do have general guidelines, such as the instructions that you see on the workbench in the field where you write your comments, which reads "Write a comment in (language)." This corresponds to the language of the customer's UI, so you should be able to communicate in that language. However, there are certain cases in which the customer's UI may not match exactly the language they're most fluent in. If the customer left any instructions when ordering the job, you can also use that language, as well as the source language of the job, for reference - it is often the case that customers are native in the source language. Ultimately, what I'd like to communicate to you all with this is that generally it is okay to use a combination of the references provided and your best judgment to determine what language to use when writing to the customer :)

    Also, if you find that when trying to communicate with the customer there are language issues, such as the customer not speaking either source or target language, you can always write to support@gengo.com to request help.

    Hope this answers your question! :)

    Lara

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