Translators and language service providers are operating in a highly competitive environment. This underlines the need for high-quality work. Any complaints should be carefully examined and viewed as an opportunity to further optimize operations. This white paper describes how systematic processing of complaints can improve the quality of the work in the medium term to reduce the risks, which must not be underestimated.
The way how complaints are handled will affect customer satisfaction and loyalty. Unfortunately, enterprises and freelance translators are often reluctant to properly take care of complaints. Actually, complaints indicate that the external customer or an internal department is not satisfied with the product delivered or the service performed. Complaints may be justified if deficiencies are actually present, or they may be the result of misunderstandings in connection with the details of the order placement. Regardless of the causes, the translation partner should take complaints seriously, process them systematically, take any required optimization measures, and cooperate with the customer in order to find a satisfactory solution. The complaints management comprises the planning, performance, and monitoring of all measures that an enterprise takes in connection with customer complaints concerning products and services.
Effective complaints management can increase the degree of customer satisfaction. As a matter of principle, a provider should derive something positive from complaints, no matter how unpleasant such may seem to be. In this way, the provider can revise the delivered translation, examine his workflow and processes for weak spots, and avoid the same errors from occurring again (or at least reduce them). If the customer withholds feedback about a supposedly poor result, there is a greater risk that he will engage a different translator or language service provider for the next project. Moreover, a provider's reputation could be harmed if the customer rates him poorly or shares negative impressions with others via social networks. It has been said that a satisfied customer will share his experience with three others, while a dissatisfied customer will share it with 10. Meticulous complaints management can also help avoid future costs from being incurred due to errors, consequential problems, and complaints. Depending on the applicable contractual clause, such costs may reach a significant magnitude especially if a faulty translation leads to damage, e.g. if a machine is handled incorrectly or regulatory requirements are not in compliance.
Once a complaint is received, the first thing to do should be to analyze whether it is actually justified and substantiated. For example, if the customer had submitted the wrong file for translation or not clearly defined the target language (e.g. US or UK English?), it might be possible to reject the complaint. A complaint is justified and substantiated if it is specific and can be verified e.g. the customer furnishes evidence of faulty or missing translations. Complaints may also concern personal failure, e.g. if inquiries are answered too late, incompetently, or not at all. Additionally, complaints should be classified by severity. Minor comments or corrections are no big issue and usually do not require any significant changes to the existing workflow or process. The situation is different with serious complaints. In this case, an intensive, self-critical search for errors is a must. In the case of initial complaints, it should be checked how the issue can be avoided in the future. In the case of recurring complaints, the provider should analyze why previously initiated countermeasures have not been successful.
Translation projects often give rise to complaints in the following areas:
- Data pre-processing/post-processing: Complaints in this area can arise if the language service provider receives files with a layout (e.g. InDesign files) and does not read them out correctly or inserts the translation in the wrong way in the layout.
- Translation: Complaints in this field concern faulty, incomplete, or inconsistent translations.
- Project management: Non-compliance with delivery deadlines or processes, inability of the customer to reach the provider, and faulty invoices are the main reasons for complaints.
- Infrastructure/tools/translation memory: Complaints can occur in this area if the language service provider uses poor solutions that e.g. endanger the data security or that do not have sufficient interfaces for the data exchange. Another risk concerns the lack of competence with regard to the deployed systems. Non-consistent use of the translation memory may also be a reason for complaints.
To learn from past mistakes, it is advisable to thoroughly process incoming complaints. These should be recorded in a structured manner along with the derived reaction and be documented seamlessly and transparently. The analysis and classification can take place according to special quality requirements, contractual agreements, and/or the quality standards ISO 9001 and ISO 17100. This should be followed by a self-critical error analysis and the introduction and consistent implementation of measures to prevent such complaints.
Why complaints are actually a good thing
- Every customer who submits a complaint acts as your advisor and quality manager.
- The customer gives you the opportunity to set things straight.
- Complaints enable you to forestall negative multiplication effects.
- The sooner an error is discovered and eliminated, the fewer other customers will have the same bad experience.
- Complaints handled in a professional, customerfriendly way will be remembered positively