Clients Don’t Need to Be Translation Experts
Is there such a thing as a stupid question?
I often read complaints about clueless clients on social media. I get it: It can be exasperating that they might not have a clear grasp of the finer points of translation or don’t really understand why something might be a vital detail in our eyes. If a client is confused why you would want to know something or – yet again – didn’t think to provide information you need to assess a project, then why not count to ten and think about how you interact with people who provide services to you.
I’m not always the expert
The world is full of things that I know nothing about. I couldn’t fix my car, build a house or write code to save my life. When I turn to the experts in those fields, I try to listen carefully and take note of everything that could be important. Yet, I’m sure that I have asked these people many a silly question. And I’ve probably asked something blindingly obvious twice because I didn’t remember the answer or because I didn’t even remember asking. So what? That doesn’t mean that I lack respect for them and their skills. On the contrary, they are wizards who wield secret knowledge that my brain is incapable of retaining!
A repair man recently came by to fix our front door. We were talking and I asked him about the right word for a certain kind of lock. He looked at me and – for a split second – rolled his eyes before answering. Obviously, he thought it was a ridiculous question. He had probably learned that on his first day on the job, but that still doesn’t make it commonsense, everyday knowledge to me. He could have smiled at me and said, “You know, I’m always surprised that no one knows that because knowing these things is such an essential part of my work. By the way, it’s called XXX.” Instead, his reaction pretty much shut down the conversation.
If I don’t know something, then it makes sense for me to ask. And it makes sense to answer my question. First of all, because it’s always good to help your clients. And, also, why miss a chance to let someone else get a glimpse of how intriguing your work can be?
Questions are only useless to those who already know the answer
So, yes, sometimes clients ask the most obvious things and they might keep asking us the same questions over and over. And maybe we spend a lot of time explaining the same basic things to every new client. Just because we spend our days thinking about languages, communication and our specializations doesn’t mean other people do. Our obvious is not their obvious. I try to keep that in mind and cut clients some slack. And I hope that people will bear with me when I inadvertently ask inane questions about skills they have spent years perfecting.
The day people stop asking me obvious questions about my work will be the day my services really have become something that anyone with a dictionary can handle.
How do you handle these kinds of questions? Do you prefer to work only with clients who already know a lot about translation? Do you love telling people about how you work? Or do you provide written FAQs? After all, the best way to solve a lack of client education may be to provide it.