Translator Training by The Language Shop

Translator’s Guide to Handling Client Complaints

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At some point in a translator’s career, no matter how illustrious, a client may become disgruntled for one reason or another. Let’s say the person reviewing your translation has found fault and your client becomes convinced that the work you have provided has significant flaws, what do you do? This experience can be very daunting because it will very likely call into question the efforts you have consistently put into providing the client with quality translations at just the right price. However, if handled properly, this may not be such a bad experience after all. In fact, it may be your moment to shine and earn your client’s trust in a deeper and more meaningful way.
The first thing you must do is ask your client to provide a thorough revision of the work or at the very least some detailed and specific examples of the supposed translation errors. Be patient while this information is being prepared and provided. This will be very valuable for your defense later. Accept the information and thank the client without showing any form of defensiveness. If you feel defensive, wait until the feeling has passed before you communicate with the client, especially if you have enjoyed a harmonious working relationship in the past. Try to be open minded and at least willing to see the client’s point of view.
First and foremost, make sure the version of the translation that has been revised is the one that you delivered. This means that you should have kept the e-mail with the translation that you delivered. You should run a blackline of the file the client has sent back to you against the version that you delivered to the client. It is not impossible for changes to have been made to your translation once it leaves you before the client starts the review process.
Next, carefully go over all the revisions made by the reviewer. It may very well be that the changes being suggested are industry specific or organization specific and/or preferential. Make sure your client’s revisions truly improve the translation rather than make it worse. Based on the suggested changes to the translation, you can check to see whether or not the person doing the revision is even a native speaker of the target language.
Once you have gathered all of your information, it is now time to prepare your defense. Again, stick to the facts. Carefully document each incidence where 1) your original translation was changed subsequent to your delivery; 2) changes suggested are either preferential, industry specific or organization specific; 3) changes suggested are clearly inaccurate and would detract from rather than enhance the quality of the translation. If your work reveals minor errors, offer to correct those. If your work reveals major errors, offer the client a discount and a promise to be more careful in the future.