Anyone who’s experienced an unhappy client first-hand knows just how unpleasant it can be.
It doesn’t matter how meticulous you might be about your business practices or your translation work, the fact is that no-one who is self-employed escapes having to deal with unhappy clients from time to time.
Anyone who’s experienced an unhappy client first-hand knows just how unpleasant it can be. Most people don’t enjoy interpersonal conflict; however, in every self-employed translator’s life, there will come a time when your integrity or competence is brought into question by a client. When you run your own business it means that you have put a lot of time, effort, thought, and money into growing your business, and of course you stake your reputation on every translation project you complete. Unfortunately, these situations do occur because, after all, we’re all human and, as humans, we have different expectations.
What’s the Best Way of Handling That First Initial Contact from Your Unhappy Client?
In this instance, we’ll assume that there’s at least some basis in fact behind your client’s complaint. We’ll also assume that, in your opinion, the problem is not as serious as the client is maintaining; however, you do agree that there is an issue that needs to be dealt with. In another post, we may take a look at baseless client complaints, but for the purpose of this post let’s say that your translation customer does have grounds for complaint.
There Are Three Basic Steps to Resolving Legitimate Disputes, and these are –
- Admitting that there has been a mistake on your part;
- Apologizing for the mistake; and
- Doing whatever it takes to rectify the problem.
The first step after receiving your telephone call or email of complaint is to admit to both yourself and your client that they are justified in feeling dissatisfied. It’s important to point out here that it’s not only your reputation that’s at stake – it’s the reputation of the entire translation industry. We’re only human and of course, we make mistakes from time to time. So the first step is to admit your mistake; the second step is to apologize for the inconvenience that this error may have caused your client, and the final step is doing whatever it takes to correct the mistake. In our opinion, it’s not the mistakes people make in business that adversely affects clients - it’s the way the business deals with the complaints. Acknowledging, apologizing, then rectifying a problem is all that’s humanly possible to do; so when this is done in good faith and with sincerity, the client can only respect the professionalism and honesty of the business and the people concerned.
An Offer of Compensation
If you have legitimately made a translation mistake it’s generally a good idea to offer some type of compensation. The offer you make may depend on the degree of error made. If it’s a serious error, you may offer to complete the translation at no cost to the client: if it’s a minor error with very little consequence to the client then perhaps you may reduce your costs as a show of good faith. Alternatively, you may offer to complete the client’s next translation at a lower fee, or even no fee at all.
Any of these gestures indicates to the client that you’re committed to client satisfaction and that you value their business. It’s also important for translators to note that freelancing can be a one strike and you’re gone kind of business, so it’s really important to the success of your freelance translation business that you’re always ready to take that extra step when it comes to customer service.