Getting a client to send you text for translation is a huge deal but that’s not the end of it. In this article you’ll learn how to meet the client’s expectations through management skills, outstanding customer service and following-through even in a crisis.
Managing accounts like a real salesperson
Big words right? This is the easiest part, because it won’t take as much interaction with clients as you’d expect. Books and blogs all around you speak of nurturing leads, giving clients free benefits, interacting with them through social media and so on. In reality, this is a desperate way to revive the lost art of direct salesmanship, which in its hay day was all about golf, whisky long flights and lasting business friendships.
Look at it this way – your client is bombarded with media buzz non-stop. Apple put a physical switch on iPhones to turn off notifications, so its users can have a moment to breathe. You’re already the candidate for the deal, so don’t blow it by showing you care too much – that’s something not many of us can actually pull off. Being in touch is important, but make sure interactions with clients are actually meaningful. Don’t write an e-mail if you have nothing to add to the conversation.
What does anything of this have to do with translations? Like it or not, but as a freelancer you are also a salesperson. You need to think like one, use tools like one, act like one. Always be closing! Here’s the scope.
Customer relationship management system. Software that’s glorified nowadays and blown out of proportion with huge, analytics-driven systems like SalesForce.com, that’s used for keeping track of sales progress. You can build an Excel sheet with three columns for the client’s contact data, translation value and due date, and you should be fine. Google around for „CRM” and pick up a cloud-based version if you want. Just have one in place so you know who’s who!
A phone. Nothing beats a good ol’ checkup call. Use your smartphone, add clients and mark their numbers to never be silenced by your do-not-disturb mode. Client’s don’t call unless they’re under pressure, so if you meet your deadlines, they won’t ever call.
Fancy modern communication channels. Think about Skype, e-mail, Twitter, LinkedIN. There’s a lot of people, including myself, who avoid business calls on the phone because it’s so much easier to just write an e-mail. If you do get messages though, be sure to answer them fast, especially during business hours. Fast means under 30 minutes. One of our own prospects recently came back reconsidering Text United based on the speed and confidence at which we provided answers.
Integration with your CAT tool. If you don’t know what a CAT tool is and are still working split-screen on Word files you are in for a treat. These things are the bread and butter of great freelance translators and they help in both editing, formatting, keeping consistency, and delivering translations. It’s a smart thing to have source material linked directly with clients. Loose files, well, you lose them sometimes, and no client wants to resend their text. It’s an avoidable crisis, but I’ll cover that later. Work in an integrated environment like Text United, and you’ll be fine.
A schedule. Pick up a $5 calendar at a convenient store and mark due dates, then put it on your desk next to the computer. You could play around with apps like Sunrise or default calendars on your mobile devices, but I noticed that the act of writing down a deadline actually helps me meet mine. It can also get you out of those scary dinners with the in-laws if you just snap a photo of your jam-packed week and send it their way. Use colours – a real one for tasks and a fake one for those alibi days. Tell no one about this life-hack!
This should keep you going until the client actually calls. What do you then?
Outstanding customer service goes a long way
Why do smaller translation agencies grow in spite of being competitors of established brands? It’s obvious that not all of them are innovative, with unusually talented people aboard. What’s the secret sauce that helps them steal clients from others despite higher prices? Customer F…antastic service!
Wait, what? Aren’t I supposed to just translate the thing? Well, yes, but you will speak with the client. Fear not – they don’t have time to call and chit-chat. They’re busy, minding their own business and just waiting to get the translations sent over. When they do, or better yet when you do (I’ll explain why to call them in a second), make sure to add magic to the conversation!
Picture a 60s salesman going on a call in his Cadillac. He’ll get to know the client, the family, their hopes and dreams too. You won’t. It’s the digital age and you shouldn’t be driving around because you have work to do. Your secret weapon is giving the client a chance to speak their mind. Just listen, then if an opportunity arises, ask questions like these.
How will this translation help your business?
Are your clients satisfied over there? How do you know?
I feel like part of the company, knowing that my translation is what your clients are reading. How did you feel when you first delivered your goods abroad?
This shows your client that you do care about their best interest. It allows them to open up to you which makes perfectly good business sense – as a translator you really need to understand what audience are you dealing with. They will like you more. And psychology studies show that being liked helps us get away with many things such as missed deadlines, typos, even a bad review. Want to be liked even more? On a good day, slip in a harmless but cool typo that you’re sure will be noticed before final drafting. If you’re working for an Indian car company, use something like great karma. It’s proven that people who make mistakes are liked more than those who are perfect all the time. Want proof? Picture your favorite comedy protagonist. Case closed.
Why bother with all of this? Sometimes it’s not worth the effort. Some clients just want a back and forth exchange of translations. Those will be price sensitive and not reliable as a long-term relationship. For everyone else you work with, be assured that building an emotional, albeit superficial connection, will help you retain clients longer and get recommendations as you go. Client’s are cool, just get to know them.
Creating a client crisis evasion masterplan
The secret is honesty and immediate action. You can’t plan to avoid a crisis. It’s a crisis, right?
So you forgot when’s the project due because the dog ate your calendar. You didn’t really ask which dialect is supposed to be used for the project. Your bachelor party went out of hand and you will definitely not be back in the office by Monday. You’re getting nervous, distracted, time passes by and you have no idea how your client will react to your call. The bigger the project, the higher the tension.
Clients are people. Often big-shots whose decisions make the world spin but in the end – just people. They made their obligations to others that they’ll have the translation by Monday. Still, the others are also people. They make mistakes too. They forget things. Usually, though they are also smart and capable to figure out ways to resolve problems. That’s what we, humans, do.
The first rule – call them immediately. If you’re missing details on a project just pick up your phone, log on to the IM, send an e-mail. They’ll thank you. Make sure you let them know that this is because you want to make sure both sides are on the same page. Think about it – if you hesitate, you’re losing precious time. Time your client won’t have to work with his superiors to move due dates around. Don’t ever put your client in a difficult position like that.
If you know you’ll miss a deadline, you guessed it, call immediately. Explain the situation (Vegas Night isn’t really going to work as an excuse…) and mention at least 2 alternative endings to the problem. Maybe deliver as much of the project as you can. Maybe ask what to focus – oftentimes just a small portion of the project will be required by the deadline, and the rest is just nice-to-have. Don’t offer rebates or free services as compensation for a loss. That’s just desperate. Fix the problem instead.
Gross misconduct can happen. You could be having a really tough week and performance may be affected. Inform the client about the situation. Go even as far as to recommend a colleague to complete the project. If you’re working with a CAT tool (which by this point you should at least be considering), the hand-off will be easy. If you do send back an awful translation without your knowledge, it’s back to basics.
To avoid these fatal mistakes make sure you use Translation Memory and Terminology software embedded in your CAT tool. Oftentimes your client will have these components available upon request. They will help you stay consistent with the style and terminology of your client’s content, and will also speed up the work as you can match phrases and just use old stuff that fits. Don’t hesitate to contact your client about this, and if they don’t know about it, use a CAT tool and tell them you’ll make it for them. Added value on the spot, plus you work no more than usually – it happens automatically.
Now forget everything you just read
That’s right. You won’t need it. Freelance translators working with Text United get all that relationship stuff out of the way. It’s true, we provide a CAT tool with the mentioned technologies, we assign clients to translators and they can get in touch with each other. The difference here is that Text Untied actually works with clients directly, representing you, caring for the client day and night, keeping a schedule and using a salesperson’s toolbox to get more clients on board.
You can translate things on any computer, by just logging in to our website. You can add clients to the system and we’ll make sure they’re settled in nice and comfy. We don’t take commissions or a chunk of your remuneration like translation agencies do. We just like to have everything translated, that’s all.
Now you decide – do you want to take the high road and learn to play golf, or will you join us in this translation revolution and deliver chaos-free translation to the world?
This was part 4 of a 5 part series for Be a Text United Translator
Part one: https://www.textunited.com/blog/be-a-text-united-translator-software-pt-1
Part two: https://www.textunited.com/blog/be-a-text-united-translator-marketing-pt-2
Part three: https://www.textunited.com/blog/be-a-text-united-translator-yourself-pt-3
Part four: https://www.textunited.com/blog/be-a-text-united-translator-managing-client-relationships-pt-4