Customer service translated into any language is still customer service.
Conventional understanding of business says that the way you treat your customers will effect your bottom line.
You might be able to get away with treating your customers like garbage for a while if either what you’re selling is super awesome, or if you’re the only one selling it, but eventually that is going to change.
Once people have a choice, they’ll much prefer going with a provider who makes them feel good about their choice.
But there are two competing ideas when it comes to customer service.
The Customer is King…
The idea that the “customer is king” has been drilled into the brains of most entrepreneurs for decades. This idea maintains that the owner of the business or seller of the goods in question should bend over backwards and do everything in his power to ensure that the customer is completely taken care of.
This means not only providing the best pricing and service, but has also led to catchphrases such as “the customer is always right” and “the customer is king.”
These sayings put the responsibility of the transaction and buying experience completely on the person selling the service or product and completely absolves the customer of any and all responsibilities.
But as anyone who has ever sold anything knows, the customer is not always right.
…but Customers Suck
At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who care nothing for the consumers of their products, except maybe the depths of their pocketbooks.
These types of proprietors are only concerned with lining their bottom line and will do anything and everything to ensure their needs are met before those of anyone else.
You might not think these types of businesses exist, and while most brick and mortar companies don’t fall into this category, the online marketplace is completely different.
Basically, the supposed anonymity factor of the web turns people into idiots.
If you get bad service at a restaurant because of bad food or a terrible server, you can most likely complain to the manager and receive some sort of remedy, from an apology to a free meal.
But complaining online to businesses and individuals that are not well established that have treated you badly likely won’t get you anything.
The Online Advantage
However, before you think that offline businesses have the advantage when it comes to increasing their profits due to exceptional customer service, think again.
Especially if you’re a translator wanting to make money.
Businesses that are only online actually have way more tools at their disposal to interact with customers and potential customers. Email, a website, and social media provide tremendous opportunities for interaction, and the more interaction you can have with your customer, the more engaged they will feel.
This engagement can easily turn to a feeling of connectedness between the customer and the business.
This happens all the time on social media, especially with Twitter and Instagram. People follow companies on these social media platforms because they feel connected to them in some way. The mere act of following a company is a strong form of engagement and connection.
How many translators have this type of connection with their clients or potential clients?
Not many, I’d guess.
My Auto Parts Store Experience
About a month ago, the headlight on my Jeep went out. In order to get the vehicle to pass inspection, I had to get the light fixed.
It turned out that not only was the bulb bad, but the bulb connector was severely rusted as well.
I went to the local auto parts store and figured it would be relatively painless to hunt the parts down. I found the replacement bulb right away, but had trouble locating the connector.
I asked the customer service guy at the counter if he could help me out. He looked in his online inventory and determined that not only did the store not have the part in stock, the store didn’t even carry the part.
He wished me luck and said I might have some luck at a junkyard.
Well, I didn’t want to go to the junkyard. I wanted to get the part fixed so that I could pass inspection. I’ve been to junkyards before and never had much luck.
So where could I turn?
The ultimate guide: Google.
I got home, started doing some searches, and found the part number. I did a couple more searches and then found it: the auto parts website I needed out of Wisconsin (rockauto.com). They had the exact part I needed, shipped it in a couple of days, and I still got the part a day earlier than I expected.
It was the perfect customer experience for me.
The company had what I wanted at a good price and it got the part to me earlier than I expected.
Now where do you think I’m going to go the next time I need to replace something on my Jeep? Straight to the rockauto.com website.
Customer Service and Translation
Here’s a question:
Was the customer service at the local auto parts store bad? No. In fact, I was grateful for the time the clerk spent trying to find the part in store.
But in the end, the store couldn’t give me what I wanted. My problem wasn’t solved. I wasn’t satisfied until a company I knew nothing about located clear in Madison filled my need completely.
Which is why I’ll go back to it.
As a translator, are you giving your clients exactly what they want?
Do you even know what they want?
Does the client want a rough translation of document in question or does the client want you to turn the translation into a more readable version?
Does the client need any formatting done? Have you even asked?
One of the best skills you can develop as a translator is the ability to discover what exactly it is your client wants. That’s where the real power of customer service comes into play.
How to Know What Your Customer Wants
The other day I was looking at an online translation forum (remember, avoid these unless you want a laugh) where two guys were arguing about what it meant to provide a valid translation for a client.
One of the guys argued that if he received a bad original such as a document that was written poorly in the source language, he would translate it exactly the same way and produce a properly translated (but also poorly written) target language translation.
Likewise, if this guy received an original that was not formatted nicely at all, he would do nothing to fix it up and return his translation equally poorly formatted.
The other guy thought this was complete rubbish and a terrible way to run a translation business. Instead, he claimed that if he received a poorly written translation, he would go the extra mile and “clean up” the original as reflected in his completed translation.
Same with formatting issues.
The first guy thought this was a waste as it was not his job to “fix” anything he received, just put it in another language and send it back. The second guy claimed it was the job of a translator to help his clients, even if that meant cleaning up their messes.
The arguing went on for pages.
Never once did either of them acknowledge the most fundamental aspect of customer service: finding out what the client wanted in the first place.
There are situations where both of them could have been right.
All they needed to do was ask.
Translators shouldn’t try to read the minds of their customers. Most clients (and especially first time clients) don’t always tell the translator the kind of translation needed.
And most don’t say anything because they don’t know that there are differences. All they know is that they need a translation. But translators should know better. And that’s where the communication should come in.
Before starting a job, or even accepting a job, a translator should find out what the client has in mind for the translation. If there are mistakes in the original, should the translator fix them in the translation? If there are formatting errors, should the translator clean those up in the finished version?
These are simple guidelines that can be established with the client before the translation work even begins.
And taking the time up front to truly understand what your clients need is the most powerful form of customer service you can do.