We are all about communicating here at Atlas Translations; it is one of our best assets! When we are in the office we are here for clients and suppliers by phone, email, fax (there are a few people still using faxes), Twitter… and in person too.
With good communication everyone is happier – queries are quickly resolved and potential problems can be avoided, relationships become stronger and there is a greater understanding of what each party needs, and the pressures and constraints upon them.
When we work with translators and interpreters, we like to get to know them beyond a “here is your Purchase Order” level. We want you to become a member of our team who just happens to be working somewhere else.
Most clients are the same. They may not know exactly what they need, or what you actually do. They may be up against time constraints and technical issues. Possibly they have never worked with languages before. So firstly we recommend asking your clients some questions – communicating clearly with them. Who is the audience, what are they doing with the translation, is someone else checking it, have they had materials translated before? Interpreters will be asking similar questions, is there reference material, will they be working with other interpreters, along with the usual where/how long and when?
This may raise some questions the client can’t answer – not a bad thing as they can find out the answer at the start of the project rather than at the last minute when you thought you’d finished! It shows you as professional, interested and thoughtful. One point is that nobody likes to be lectured – yes, they do need it by 9am tomorrow, this person has probably just had the task dumped on their desk and it may not be their fault – so don’t launch into a tirade about how this is impossible… If you can’t help, explain why and offer solutions – can they extend the deadline? Wish them luck and maintain a professional front!
It does sound obvious, but always be polite, whatever you may be thinking about a client. If for any reason you don’t want or can’t do the work, refuse gracefully. This includes when replying in writing, as short and possibly curt emails can be misunderstood as rudeness.
Don’t be afraid to raise queries and ask questions along the way. A client will usually welcome these. Perhaps save them up and wait until you have been through the entire document – your answer may become clear. Politely point out any spelling errors and/or factually incorrect text you may spot.
Once the job is complete, your communication skills are not over! Firstly you may need to contact the client regarding payment of your invoice, and secondly you may want to ask if they have more work for you later down the line. And you should communicate in both cases! Don’t just wonder why you never heard from them again – maybe your contact has left… keep communication open.
Let’s not forget those clients you want to work with, but haven’t yet. Keep in touch with them – we receive lovely postcards and Christmas cards, for instance, from translators who would like to work with us.
We’d love to hear your views and tips, and stories about how communicating with clients has worked for you let us know via our Facebook page!