The Complaint Club

We recently hired a contractor for a professional service (not related to translation). This person happened to be an acquaintance of ours and we were familiar with his work -- let's just say he's a graphic designer (he's not). Last week, we received a phone call from him that made us decide that we wouldn't work with him again. Why? Ready for some tough love? Read on. 

He called during our workday to ask us to help him with some profession-specific problems that we cannot solve. Still, we took time out of our day to give him some pointers. They were difficult issues, but that's what we are paying him for. In addition, we think it's simply unprofessional to take the clients' time in situations like these. His main concerns were things that he should have foreseen before accepting the project. The conversation revealed that he simply wasn't ready to deal with some details related to the project, which didn't exactly make us feel warm and fuzzy. The bottom line: As the client, we don't want to hear about a contractor's business issues (unless his computer dies and our files are lost). That's what colleagues and friends are for. We've always strongly advocated having a "complaint club" and not complaining to your clients  -- unless it is a very specific question that only the client can answer, of course. Now that we were on the receiving end of the contractor's complaints, we feel even stronger about the need for a complaint club. Let us explain.

Choose two of three colleagues whom you like and feel very comfortable with. Friends are fine, too, but they should probably understand your business. Then, ask them if they'd like to be your complaint club. It's a small, exclusive club of people you can call when you need to vent, simply want to talk, or need solid advice on how to solve a business-related problem. We have a complaint club, too. In addition to the two of us, it has three honorary members, and those are the folks we call for advice and help. Naturally, we don't call our clients to vent or complain, but you'd be surprised how many people do (including this morning's contractor). Your clients don't care about whatever issues might arise during the translation process. They pay us to translate, interpret, copywrite and to solve their problems. Think about it: do you want your lawyer to call you to complain that she is unable to upload a large file to her system? Venting and asking for advice is important, healthy, and part of any business -- but choose your complaint club wisely. We think a big part of the professionalization of our profession is presenting ourselves as what we are: independent service providers who can tackle difficult issues. 

Who's in your complaint club? We'd love to hear about it!


Thierry D. on July 11, 2011 at 11:18 AM said...

And you could use google plus to easily sort your friends

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on July 11, 2011 at 12:40 PM said...

@Thierry D.: Hm, well, Google Plus is still invitation-only. We think a simple phone call, e-mail or text message to friends should do it for now. :) Of course, one can create "complaint club" groups to contact all of them at the same time!

Tatjana on July 11, 2011 at 11:44 PM said...

I had to smile while reading your post, because I realized that I already have a complaint club, too. Two colleagues who started their business about 18 months ago (just like me), so our issues are mostly the same. However, we decided that we would also distribute positive news like finding a new client or getting a big assignment etc. Shared happiness is also a great thing!
I can only support your recommendation to be a member of such a "club".

Carbone Traduzioni on July 12, 2011 at 2:06 AM said...

Do you think a complaint club can also be made of a single person? :) I mean... I usually complain with my partner.:) He has a different job but he understands exactly my professional issues because he supported me from the beginning, he he encouraged me to freelance and he helps me everytime I fight with my laptop or when I get nervous because clients sometimes are not very... polite...!!!Do you think it's enough to be a complaint club?

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on July 12, 2011 at 9:21 AM said...

@Tatjana: thanks for reading and commenting! Congrats on starting your businesses, and we agree: sharing happiness is also very important.

@Carbone Traduzione: of course, a one-member club is enough, too. Sounds like you've found yours -- excellent. Thanks for reading!

aledraka on July 12, 2011 at 12:09 PM said...

Hi Dagmar and Judy, I have been following you for a while but never commented! I feel like doing now because your complaint club reminds me of a sketch in a tv serial, which was about some sort of 'chain complaining'. The principle is simple: it is somehow healthy to have someone to blaster at, at the end of the day. It sounds weird but strangely true to me. If there are bosses shouting at employees, they will automatically shout at, let's say, their wives, who will do the same with whom? dogs and bean cans, perhaps? :-) The means is a little bit different, but the purpose is the same: feel lighter afterwards.. keep writing and thank you for 'die neue Rechtschreibung' as well!

Dolores on July 13, 2011 at 10:01 AM said...

Hi Judy,
It is soo difficult to outsource some services.... Last month I had a big project which I had to split among some colleagues. I thought they would be professional and stick to deadlines, but sometimes this is not the case... a real difficult time. Because, as you said, you are the image and the client hired you, so you have to respond if someone does not live up to your expectations.
Really, do not know how to handle this still.....
Thanks for always sharing your daily experiences.

Dolores on July 13, 2011 at 10:04 AM said...

Hi Judy,
THanks for sharing your daily experiences! I agree 100% with you as it is sooo difficut to outsource when you are the image and the client hired you....
Sometimes, people are very informal and they do not mind neither stick to deadlines.... it is hard to meet the expectations..
Last time I had to split a big job among some colleagues, it turned out that I had to work more and also shared the income=(
Really do not know how to tackle this issue so far.

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