We really enjoy learning from other businesses -- or learning what not to do . We think it's important to occasionally look outside our own profession for customer service inspiration or marketing ideas, and once in a while, we get treated the way we wouldn't want to get treated, and we make a mental note. Here's a recent conversation (slightly changed to protect the innocent) that Judy had with a pest control company. It reminded us how important it is to explain one's product or service to the potential customer without sounding condescending.
Pest control place: (mumbling) Pest control.
Judy: Um, hello, is this XYZ pest control on Bugkiller Avenue?
Pest control place: Yes.
Judy (thinking: "I don't feel very welcome here"): Well, um, I have ants everywhere, can you come out and give me an estimate? How much would it cost to get rid of them? I feel bad for killing them, but I don't want them in my cereal....
Pest control place (cutting Judy off): We don't need to come out to give you an estimate. We can just tell you over the phone.
Judy (annoyed): Well, OK, do tell me, then.
Pest control place: I need more information.
Judy (annoyed): OK, what do you need to know?
Pest control place (annoyed): Well, you know, the basics.
Judy (annoyed): Basics? I don't know anything about your business, so I don't know what the basics are. You haven't told me how you charge, so I don't know which information you need from me. Just ask and I will tell you.
Pest control place (annoyed): Well, my dear, it's by square footage, so I need the square footage of your house.
Judy: OK, why didn't you tell me that sooner? It's 1,800 square foot with a big yard. I also have a 100-pound Labranard, her name is Luna, and she doesn't like the ants, either, but I am not sure that matters.
Pest control place: That would be $150.
Judy: $150 for what?
Pest control place: To spray for ants. Or did you say you had cockroaches?
Judy: I get that, but how many times? How long will it take? What kind of products do you use? Is it safe for my dog? Do I have to leave the house? You seem very reluctant to give me information here, and I don't understand that. I am trying to give you business here. Where do you spray the chemicals? On the wall?
Pest control place: Why would we spray the chemical on the wall?
Judy (exasperated): I have no idea where you spray it -- I am not in the pest control business. I am merely asking questions, but you are not answering them.
Pest control place: I am sorry, I am just not feeling very good today. I apologize if I've been grouchy.
Judy: I hope you feel better, but I really don't think this is going to work out. I feel like I've inconvenienced you terribly with this phone call, so I don't want to inconvenience you any further by giving you my business.
Pest control place: I am so sorry! Look, we use an all-natural spray that's safe for pets and children. You don't have to leave the house at all. It will take about 20 minutes and we spray the baseboards in the house and also in the backyard.
Judy: I appreciate that, but I don't think your company is a good fit for me.
Pest control place: Please give us another chance!
Judy: I will think about it. Have a lovely day!
We think it's a powerful lesson to remind ourselves that our customers -- the direct clients purchasing translation and interpreting services -- most likely don't know anything about translation and interpretation. That's where we come in. It's our job to explain to them what a source word is, why we bill by the word, etc. It doesn't make them uneducated not to know these details; rather, it's simply not their area of expertise, and as providers, we need to clearly explain the process to them. This is something linguists oftentimes forget, but instead of complaining about clients who are unfamiliar with our processes, we should see the situation as an opportunity for client education.
We would love to hear your thoughts on this!