What do we do with a client’s feedback?

Many times, after delivering a job, the client makes comments. On some occasions, it is to thank and congratulate us for our work; but in others, it is to ask us to modify our translation. If they are real mistakes, we must apologize and apply the changes; after all, “to err is human.” The problem arises when the client asks us to correct something that, in reality, is not an error, but a preference of his. That’s where doubts arise: What do we do with the feedback? Are we to apply the changes or not? Are we to charge an extra fee? Each situation is different, and the resolution is determined case-by-case.

While it is true that all humans make mistakes, if they multiply throughout the text, it is a serious problem. The first thing we must do, is always to strive to deliver jobs that do not contain errors (of any kind, but above all) spelling, grammar or inconsistencies, as these are the easiest to detect even if the client does not know the language in depth. For example, it is enough to have a basic level of Spanish to realize that there are two errors in the sentence, “Presione la boton rojo para salir.” In some cases, such as when we have charts or tables, it is also easy to see that two exactly identical sentences in the original language have two different translations. We can avoid this type of error by always using the spell checker and quality control tools. Although it may sound like a lapalissade, many times, the lack of time makes us skip this step.

If we make sure we deliver a consistent and correct text from the linguistic point of view, all the modifications requested by the client will be preferential, and we will have more possibilities to “negotiate”. One possibility is that the client ask for preferential changes, and that these be valid options in the target language, for example, using the term “liver transplant” instead of “hepatic transplantation”. In cases like this, maybe a simple “search and replace” is enough to solve the problem. However, there are changes that are not so easy to apply, since we must also change what surrounds a particular term for the sake of syntax and grammar, as there may be changes in declension and/or agreement. This would happen, for example, if we used the term “nurses”, and the client preferred “nursing staff.”

Other times, it happens that the client’s preferences are incorrect structures or terms in the target language; for example, if he asks us to use sentences such as, “Los ladrones entraron a la casa, robándose todo” (gerundio de posterioridad) or, “Enviaremos una carta explicando los motivos” (gerundio adjetivado). In these cases, we must explain to him that these structures are not correct in Spanish and why it is so. Most likely, after our professional explanation, the client will be better satisfied with our work and accept our original version. However, it can also happen that they insist on our using their version. If the changes are applied, it is very important to make it clear to the client that their preferences are not the best option, and that they make this choice at their own risk.

Most of the time, the modifications requested by the client are a mixture of correct and incorrect options. Before applying the changes or sending a comment about their feedback, we must carefully analyze each case and explain why it is appropriate or inappropriate to implement them. We have to let the client know that this work takes time and that, depending on the case, it is possible that we have to reread the entire text to make sure that those changes do not generate new errors. All this will allow us to consider how long the task will take us and know if we should charge an extra fee for doing it.