How to respond to client's complaint about your translation, an ego deflating experience to be addressed in a professional manner.
So you’ve delivered that translation project on time, thought you did a good job on it, and a few days later here comes the shocking email or call from the client, relayed by the agency if you got the project through an agency: The client has some complaints about your translation. Yes, no matter how good you are, this is bound to happen some day. What an ego deflating experience. You thought you had done your best, and here it comes.
* First take a good deep breath, and read the email thoroughly. Never answer hastily. Before to send an angry email of denial, reopen the file and carefully compare the client’s complaints to the passages incriminated. Now often times, the complaints will be vague “the tone doesn’t sound right” “the terminology is not consistent with our internal guidelines” “it doesn’t sound like it’s been written originally in the target language”, and what not. In that case you need to ask for specifications, precise examples, possibly comments on the file with track changes. Make sure to let the client know it’s a necessary step to help you serve them better.
* Rule number one is not to take it personally, always keep in mind that the complaint might be justified – yes, you aren’t perfect and you may have bad days when you don’t do as good a job as usual – and it’s not the end of the world, but take it seriously, always assume the claim might be legitimate.
* So send a short polite mail saying you’re going to look into it and come back shortly. The client needs to know you’re taking care of his claim. That is part of your after sales service, quality assurance process, whatever you call it, so gracefully accepting to examine the client’s claim is paramount to your reputation. No, you haven’t lost that client yet. Actually it happened to me once with a new client and it was a matter of getting adjusted and used to their preferred internal terminology, so after I corrected the terms according to their preferences and acknowledged that I had taken note so as to serve them better in the future, guess what, I kept the client who regularly sends me projects.
* Whether the client’s claim is based on real translation errors, stylistic preferences or internal jargon preferences, however, you need to address that and correct them if it’s not too late. Otherwise swallow your pride, admit your errors, apologize, and propose some compensation, and what compensation is up to you, depending on the gravity of the claim. You can propose a discounted rate for the payment, no payment at all, a free translation job in the future. Yes. You heard me right. Remember, what do YOU ask when you buy a product and you find out it’s deficient? Yes, you return it, exchange it, or ask for a refund. And you appreciate when the service provider or store gracefully proposes to compensate you and does so promptly.
So here you go, you claim to be a professional, act like one. Remember that the client who is not satisfied with your after sales service will not return.
Annabelle C. Vergne