Inquiries to the Client: It’s a Team Effort

The interaction that takes place between the client and the Language Services Provider (LSP) is very extensive: The client requests a quote, the LSP carries out the corresponding analysis of the client’s needs (does he need a translation, editing or proofreading? is it an “inherited” translation to be corrected? does it need DTP?), the work method (partial deliveries or a single final delivery) and deadlines are set, an estimate is sent, and once the project has been delivered, we go on to the (rather administrative) billing aspect.

However, aside from all this interaction and beyond the obvious steps for any provision of services, there are other times when communication from one of the parties is necessary.

If we start off from the conceptual base that the ideal situation –which is not always possible, of course– is to work closely with our client since he is the author of the content he produces and he knows his area of expertise or business niche, it is true that he has come to us because he needs assistance from the linguistic point of view. He knows what to say, we know how to say it, and how to say in two languages.

Communication Flow LSP – Client

During the initial phase of a project, the LSP may need to contact the client in the following situations:
* When the LSP needs to establish terminology guidelines, especially if dealing with a new client;
* When there are words, sentences or paragraphs that are not clear or have an ambiguous structure;
* When there’s a need for the client to make a certain decision (does he prefer the text to be translated using the informal “tu” or the formal “usted”?).

How to communicate with the client in an organized fashion

Something that you must always keep in mind is that although the work the client requested from you is your priority, for the client the project is now behind and has been relegated to a second place. That is to say, he will continue to focus on his business, working, traveling, doing whatever it is he does, and he will be waiting for you to send him your delivery.

Unless the client has a dedicated team member, at least in part, to answer questions concerning the work he requested (i.e. someone who has the time and knowledge to do so), you could run the risk of taking too much time from his work if you do not properly address your inquiries.

Therefore, I suggest the following tips when making inquiries to your client:

1. Create a worksheet to gather all your questions in one place. The worksheet must have the source term to be consulted, the context, a proposed translation, a column for comments and a column for the client to answer;

2. If the project is small, include all your questions in a single e-mail so as to not constantly disturb the client. If the project is very large and it will take a long time, you can agree that the inquiries be made on a weekly basis. For example: every Monday you send the worksheet to the client and every Friday, you get it back;

3. Ensuring that all translators working in the team have the same worksheet and that they use it. Also ensuring that all questions are centralized in one worksheet in order to avoid repeating them and to have a single final version of what has been asked to the client;

4. Determine how you will work with that information. In this sense, it is important to establish beforehand, the naming convention to be given to the file and decide whether you will change the name each time you send and receive it from the client. Also determine if you’re going to add the date after the name, or how you will identify the contents as to not to lose or misuse the information;

5. Incorporate the information on your work as the responses are received;

6. Keep track of what questions the client has already answered, so as to not ask the same question twice.

The most important thing is to be organized and to keep a record of everything. Of course, every client is different. The truth is that if there are any questions, the more teamwork there is, the better the quality of the work will be.

(Versión en español: