The secret of a successful professional is understanding the clients. This also applies to the trade of language service provision. This is how you can separate a professional from an amateur: an amateur translates as a hobby and can’t be expected to think about translation services from a customer-oriented point of view. On the one hand, being customer-oriented means that you understand the purpose or the goal of the service you provide to the client. On the other hand, it can also mean that you take the needs of the client into account (or perhaps, can even predict them), and aim to help the client to the best of your abilities.

A professional understands that translating and interpreting are services bought to fulfill a specific need. The client isn’t necessarily always certain what this particular need is. A customer-oriented professional can map the situation, see it from the client’s perspective, and think of an appropriate solution. A professional doesn’t get irritated by the client’s questions and doesn’t make derisive posts on public forums about clients who have requested unusual things. Sometimes an appropriate solution can’t be found, or the client decides on a different solution altogether. Many clients may be ordering translation or interpreting services for the first time in their lives and therefore don’t know the tricks of the trade, or don’t even know what they actually need. A customer-oriented language service professional can politely explain to a client in doubt what should be taken into account regarding the task at hand. Remember that the client has the right to define the quality of the service they want. If the client requests a raw translation, provide one and also make it clear to the client that the end product is going to be just that. However, a customer-oriented approach does not mean that you’ll do whatever the client asks of you. Instead, it means that you need to work together with the client. A customer-oriented translator aims to explain, elucidate, describe, and increase the client’s overall understanding of the topic at hand. Therefore, there are no such things as stupid questions, and everything can be answered in a friendly, professional manner. Often this process of negotiation leads to the client ordering more than they thought they needed at first and they also end up being pleased with the end result. A customer-oriented translator can also say no in a manner that still leaves the client in a satisfied, good mood.


Client case:

The CEO of a large company wants their speech to be subtitled live during a shareholder meeting. You answer that this is definitely doable, but in this case the speech needs to be written beforehand and read word-for-word, so that the translation that is prepared beforehand can be projected onto the background using, for example, a PowerPoint presentation. If the CEO wants to speak freely, the translation is not going to be completely simultaneous with the speech, or the audience will have to watch as the translation is being written on the screen. After a moment of consideration, the client answers that perhaps interpreting is the best choice for this. You refer the client to your interpreter colleague.

A Translator’s Checklist for Client Care

Here are some things that clients definitely value:

·     Be available. Answer your clients’ messages and calls quickly and during office hours.

·     Inform the client about your rates and dates precisely. “Well, this won’t take long and it won’t be too expensive” is not a proper rate offer or delivery time proposal. Everyone has an opinion on what is too expensive or what constitutes a long time for a translation process. Always give your work an exact rate or a rate estimate that is as accurate as possible, and tell the client what the rate is based on. Give the delivery time using a date and a specific time.

·     Deliver on time. Always deliver your work within the agreed-upon deadlines. If your project gets finished and delivered much earlier than expected, you need to explain to the client why this is the case. For example: “I finished another project much faster than anticipated. That’s why this was completed earlier as well.” This way you can ensure that the client won’t feel like you’ve done your work hastily or sloppily, especially if you had earlier negotiated a delivery time that was longer than what your client originally proposed.

·     Your work looks as promised. If the client has provided you with a term base or other supporting material, use them according to the client’s instructions.

Advise the client when needed. The client doesn’t necessarily know the details and phases of the language service process. If they don’t possess a lot of experience on purchasing language services, guide them to choose the right service for their need. When you deliver the finished product, you should explain the essential details of the translation process, and if necessary, illustrate some of the translation solutions and strategies to the