The secret of a successful professional is understanding the clients. This also applies to the trade of language service provision. This is how you can separate a professional from an amateur: an amateur translates as a hobby and can’t be expected to think about translation services from a customer-oriented point of view. On the one hand, being customer-oriented means that you understand the purpose or the goal of the service you provide to the client. On the other hand, it can also mean that you take the needs of the client into account (or perhaps, can even predict them), and aim to help the client to the best of your abilities.

A professional understands that translating and interpreting are services bought to fulfill a specific need. The client isn’t necessarily always certain what this particular need is. A customer-oriented professional can map the situation, see it from the client’s perspective, and think of an appropriate solution. A professional doesn’t get irritated by the client’s questions and doesn’t make derisive posts on public forums about clients who have requested unusual things. Sometimes an appropriate solution can’t be found, or the client decides on a different solution altogether. Many clients may be ordering translation or interpreting services for the first time in their lives and therefore don’t know the tricks of the trade, or don’t even know what they actually need. A customer-oriented language service professional can politely explain to a client in doubt what should be taken into account regarding the task at hand. Remember that the client has the right to define the quality of the service they want. If the client requests a raw translation, provide one and also make it clear to the client that the end product is going to be just that. However, a customer-oriented approach does not mean that you’ll do whatever the client asks of you. Instead, it means that you need to work together with the client. A customer-oriented translator aims to explain, elucidate, describe, and increase the client’s overall understanding of the topic at hand. Therefore, there are no such things as stupid questions, and everything can be answered in a friendly, professional manner. Often this process of negotiation leads to the client ordering more than they thought they needed at first and they also end up being pleased with the end result. A customer-oriented translator can also say no in a manner that still leaves the client in a satisfied, good mood.

Client case:

The CEO of a large company wants their speech to be subtitled live during a shareholder meeting. You answer that this is definitely doable, but in this case the speech needs to be written beforehand and read word-for-word, so that the translation that is prepared beforehand can be projected onto the background using, for example, a PowerPoint presentation. If the CEO wants to speak freely, the translation is not going to be completely simultaneous with the speech, or the audience will have to watch as the translation is being written on the screen. After a moment of consideration, the client answers that perhaps interpreting is the best choice for this. You refer the client to your interpreter colleague.