Following Instructions

Today's brief post is about something very simple that can make you very popular with clients: following their instructions. This should be easy enough, but the reality is that some client instructions are relatively complex (some can be several pages long), and can be hard to follow. However, you can really set yourself apart from your colleagues by doing a very thorough job at following these instructions. 

We are oftentimes clients ourselves, as we frequently outsource work to our superstar colleagues, and naturally, we tend to work with linguists (always the same people; not accepting applications!) who are not only extraordinary translators and communicators, but are also great at following the instructions we pass along from the client. Some of these instructions can be quite cumbersome (don't translate the text in red; all headlines need to be font 13 and not 12, etc.), but we pay our contractors well, and hence expect them to follow instructions carefully. We've oftentimes heard from our clients that they like working with us because we make 100% sure all client wishes and requirements are always met, the first time.

Doing so has absolutely nothing to do with translation itself, but it's all about customer service. Even though some customer requirements might be quite elaborate (we do charge an extra fee if additional work is needed), we are here to make our clients happy. Without clients, we've got nothing. While it's completely fine to occasionally feel frustrated by client instructions/requirements, we also need to keep in mind that our businesses exist because we have clients.

What about you, dear colleagues? Have you run into unreasonable customer requirements? How do you handle them? We would love to hear from you!


Alexander on November 19, 2014 at 3:05 PM said...

I agree and disagree. Sometimes clients that are new to professional translation provide instructions that are beside the point. In these cases I councel them and explain why these are instructions are not in their best interest :)

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 19, 2014 at 3:34 PM said...

@Alexander: Thanks for your very interesting perspective -- point well taken. If a client provides too many instructions that don't apply to us, we usually just skip those instructions. We try to stay away from wagging our finger at the client, unless it's really constructive. We see your point, though. We would counsel them if there's a downside to anything they've provided, and with instructions, we cannot really think of a situation in which that would be the case. However, surely your clients appreciate your gentle counsel. We try to put ourselves in our clients' shoes.Thanks for reading and for commenting!

Claire Cox on November 21, 2014 at 2:15 AM said...

Agree entirely! In the spirit of "The customer is always right" of course. I obviously point out if there's a problem, but they're paying for your services - why shouldn't they have what they want? On a brief aside, whilst I love your blog posts and have subscribed twice (on separate e-mail accounts), I never receive updates by e-mail, only by seeing tweets from other people. I can't understand why this should be!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on November 21, 2014 at 12:25 PM said...

@Claire: Many thanks for reading and for commenting. You are absolutely right -- customers should get what they want because they are paying for it. :) So sorry to hear about the RSS issue -- so strange. It had not been working at all a few months ago, but we fixed it and tested it. We will be sure to look into it again. Thanks for letting us know and sorry about the inconvenience -- annoying when some of the tech stuff fails indeed.

Conni said...

I think following a client's instructions is almost as important as the translation itself! Especially when they ask for seemingly 'small' details, such as font size etc. If you cannot do basic things like this, it shows that you aren't listening or don't care. It's all about attitude. However I have, on occasion, queried instructions if following them would lead me to do something inconsistent or incorrect. Usually this is down to mistakes in the source text. I think clients would want to know about this, and telling them instead of blindly following instructions shows that you care, too!

Dokumentu Vertimas on December 4, 2014 at 2:56 AM said...

That is true, wer cannot ignore our customers instructions, even it seems unlogical or unnecessary. Translation is always questionable topic and always subjective, even translating documents. For this reason we need to talk with the customers and try to explain why some instructions don't seem to be useful. Maybe there are specific reasons for that.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on December 5, 2014 at 11:02 AM said...

@Dokumentu Vertimas: Thanks for reading and for commenting. And yes, talking to the customer to clear up any potential misunderstanding is always the best way to go!

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