Prioritization Strategies: Who Goes First?

In a constant effort to improve and streamline our operations, we've recently started thinking about how to best handle work flow in terms of customer priority when things are extremely hectic. In the world of freelance translation, many time it's feast or famine, making it challenging to plan a schedule a few weeks out. So what do you do when your phone rings incessantly, the e-mails are pouring in, and you are getting more price quote requests than you have time to make? We've informally come up with the following prioritization strategy. Our goals with this strategy are:
  1. To ensure that we are able to stick to our extensive quality assurance methods, even under time pressure.
  2. To make our existing clients happy.
  3. To make our new clients happy.
  4. To keep ourselves sane and happy.
Here are the ways we are trying to accomplish this. It's an art, not a science, so there's always room for improvement.
  1. Long-term repeat customers who have worked with us for years always get first priority.
  2. Recently acquired repeat customers with an urgent project get first priority.
  3. Our surcharge for 24-hour turnaround is applied to all projects that are needed the next day. We typically accept these projects only from repeat customers.
  4. New client referrals from friends and colleagues have secondary priority.
  5. New customers with urgent projects are next.
  6. Once we have booked the following seven days, we will still provide quotes for future projects. In order to save time and effort for all parties, we respond quickly to inquiries, advising of the timeline. If the client is flexible with the time frame and still wants to work with us, we will send a formal price quote. If not, we will happily try to refer a trusted colleague.
  7. There is always some room to accomodate special requests, and we work with customers to help them achieve their goals, even if it means less leisure time for a weekend or two.
  8. We do not accept deadlines that we deem to be unrealistic and that wouldn't allow for our thourough QA process. There can be a higher margin of errors for last-minute projects, and that's not in anyone's interest.
We have been thinking about new ways to approach project management, scheduling, and prioritization. We've been thinking about working on retainer for some of our repeat customers. We'd love to hear if you have any other prioritization strategies. Please leave a comment below.


6 comments:

thierry on October 20, 2009 at 11:41 PM said...

You're definitely right, work rarely comes steadily. For me, it's either drops or huge showers!

I will most certainly take profit from those pieces of advice.

Thank you

Hayley on October 21, 2009 at 1:37 PM said...

I first came across your blog through Corinne McKay's blog and have since become a regular reader.
I wanted to thank you for this post. I'm going to save it for future reference as it will come in handy. :)

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on October 21, 2009 at 9:37 PM said...

@Thierry: Yes, our work is really difficult to predict, isn't it? We are glad that our advice might be helpful to you. Thanks for your comment.

@Hayley: Thanks for reading, we appreciate it. Corinne's blog is great, too, isn't it? We are very glad you enjoyed the post; thanks for the comment.

Nuria^^ on November 2, 2009 at 11:42 AM said...

This post is very interesting, I'll keep it in mind! Thank you for sharing this information.^^

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 2, 2009 at 5:52 PM said...

@Nuria: Our pleasure. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Holly on November 12, 2009 at 10:21 AM said...

A good client recently approached me about working for them on retainer. I've been doing research but haven't settled on the best way to approach an agreement of this type. I'd love to hear what you come up with!

Best regards.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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