German Technical Translations, Customer Service

Is the customer really always right?

German Technical Translations, Customer Service

It’s extremely important to us to offer great customer service. Delivering on that can be a bit of a minefield. Doing business in the modern world means focussing on customers, not just in each transaction but as a means of developing new products or refining services.

However, is it the best way forward? It’s possible to spend an enormous amount of time looking at positive and negative feedback without making any progress. Each customer has their own priorities. This can mean that each element of a service may be highly rated by one customer and criticised by another. This process can leave businesses in a state of complete indecision or with services that have been refined to the extent that no one likes them.

A customer-focussed process also risks ignoring valuable input from colleagues and associates. We have a small and close-knit team here but this isn’t always true in other work environments. People with customer-facing roles in retail can quickly become frustrated when the needs of an unreasonable or aggressive customer are prioritised above their own.

What does the customer want?

Every business has encountered customers who are narcissistic and entitled. In fact, research suggests that these traits are on the rise. It would be easy to assume that such customers will have a clear idea of their own needs. In reality, they can often be more difficult to satisfy, as each concession boosts their ego and pushes them to seek even more attention.

By contrast, businesses, where customers’ expectations are managed, are beginning to see the benefits. Giving realistic feedback to negative comments promotes good customer relations and a sense of community. Employees come to work knowing that they will be supported when necessary and consequently morale improves.

The rise of social media

Social media has transformed the way in which customers provide feedback. Even a small local business has an online presence which can bring them to a global audience. This can, of course, be of enormous benefit when it comes to attracting work. It also means that feedback can be given easily and broadcast quickly. An issue, which would once have been small and easily contained, could turn into a PR disaster.

This does, however, have the advantage of creating a genuine two-way conversation. Businesses are able to respond to queries or comments in a personal way that is also visible to potential customers. Your business can also find itself reaching people far outside your geographical location, whenever  a post is shared widely.

Social media has also widened customer access to peer review sites such as TripAdvisor which can have a direct bearing on customer decisions. In the past, a dissatisfied customer may have told their friends and family to avoid a business where they had received poor service. Now they are able and willing to tell a new and expanded audience.

Moving forward

How can businesses respond to the new landscape? There is a general view that the availability of social media platforms encourages consumers to vent their frustrations more readily. Obviously, that may arise from genuine dissatisfaction, but complaints are increasingly motivated by customers having an overinflated sense of their own importance. A public response to negative comments is unlikely to satisfy them and may push them to complain further. However, it can have the advantage of bringing an affected business a new and supportive community.

We have always believed that treating our customers with respect will, in turn, mean they respect our service and values. To us, that means balancing the needs of our customers with those of the Team.  We will continue to strive to listen to both sides and come up with a solution that considers everyone’s views.  It’s certainly a challenge, but one which we think is worthwhile and leads to many gratifying comments from our satisfied clients.

Blog post based on text provided by Kirsty France

Give the lady what she wants

Our golden rules for great customer service

Over the past 23 years we have worked with dozens of clients and met many more. Good customer service is a priority for us and it starts from the first contact.

Give the lady what she wants

Initial contact

When we first make contact with a potential customer we believe it’s important to find out what they really want. This might seem old-fashioned – after all ‘give the lady what she wants’ originated back in 1887! Discovering a customer’s expectations isn’t always straightforward but it avoids problems later. A bit of research on both sides can reveal whether our services are a good fit for the client’s project. We usually start by agreeing a mutually suitable rate. Then we can move on to the details.

Test translations

Test translations are the subject of ongoing debate. Some clients ask translators to translate a test piece before commissioning an actual translation assignment. We are, of course, happy to oblige, although enlightened clients will realise that expecting experienced, professional translators to complete such a test translation free of charge would be unreasonable.


The beauty of freelancing is that you can work irregular hours if you need to. There will be times when urgent deadlines require working outside office hours. However, no one wants to work that way all the time. We think it’s fairer to customers to provide a realistic deadline, based on normal office hours.

Auxiliary tasks

As the job title suggests, a translator’s main task is translation. These are usually straightforward but sometimes the task will require PDF extraction or formatting support. We ask about these issues straight away, as more complex projects will usually be charged at a higher rate. Our customers wouldn’t be happy if we didn’t have the technical skill to deliver the final product.


The great discount debate shows no signs of stopping. Some clients ask for discounts on larger jobs. These usually prevent us from taking any other client work so we usually tend not to agree on a discount. A translator on a big project will often manage the work too. We find that those skills give customers a better end result so should be rewarded.

Translation memory (TM) databases can speed things up by providing access to phrases that have been translated before. We will sometimes agree a discount where there are a high number of matches. However, a match may have been based on a poor translation which can mean extra work. If a client requests a discount we review it on a case-by-case basis.

Look for an inquisitive translator

A good translator will read your text more carefully than anyone else and ask questions to make sure that the meaning and context are clear. Sometimes that helps clients to improve the original text by making their meaning clearer.


Translators will often assume that no news is good news when it comes to feedback, but we disagree. Constructive feedback helps us to improve services and positive comments are a welcome boost.


Sadly, we can’t take credit for inventing this term, which was originally devised as a business productivity tool. We use it to assess how a project is progressing. Do we have all the information we need? Are there are any communication issues? Clients who are slow to provide information or introduce new elements part way through are high on our ‘Faffometer’, but this approach also helps us to monitor clients’ expectations.

Ideal scenario

Our ideal clients are the ones who provide clear information at the outset. That’s not just for selfish reasons. A clearly defined project enables us to gauge every client’s expectations, so we then only need to get in touch if genuine requests for clarification arise. This results in the work being delivered in the correct format and on time.

Blog post based on text provided by Kirsty France

Are you getting your message across? Why cultural awareness is more important than you think

How are your language skills? Do you have a team of bilingual or multilingual employees to represent you when it comes to communicating with clients and new contacts overseas?

It’s easy to believe that in a modern economy everyone will speak English, but that isn’t necessarily the case. New and emerging markets across the globe may take the view that they should be able to communicate in their own language.

In any case, the survival of your business may depend on more than simple translation in the long term. The UK’s post-Brexit future, integrating with significant markets in China and beyond, will bring new challenges to the export potential of any business.

Lost in translation

Have you ever used an internet translation site? If you have, you’ll know that they’re pretty blunt instruments on the whole. You might be able to get a sense of what the words mean but it will be without linguistic enhancements, such as accurate grammar, which are essential for comprehension.

A person with a working knowledge of the language will be able to give you a version that is more pleasing to the ear. They’ll also be able to work with the subtleties associated with accurate pronunciation. There are many languages, German included, where proper pronunciation and meaning go hand in hand.

More than that, there are cultural sensitivities which are more difficult to pick up.

Making the most of multiculturalism

One of the benefits of living in a multicultural society is the opportunity to increase our awareness of other cultures. Learning another language in a classroom is all well and good, but we need to go further. Without spending time with people from other backgrounds we may not acquire the knowledge which will help us to forge trade links with other countries.

We are curious to see what a post-Brexit education system will look like in terms of foreign exchange. I imagine that the twinning committees who arrange week-long exchange trips with schools on the continent will carry on as before. But how will things pan out at university level? The Erasmus programme provides students from EU member states with the opportunity to live and study in another country. It is treated not just as an opportunity to study and develop language skills but also to immerse oneself in another country’s culture.

These opportunities enable students to develop their awareness of cultural norms which are likely to be very useful when it comes to building business relationships in the future.

Can we be subtle?

Good translation isn’t just about language. It’s also about understanding what’s really being said. Have you ever used what you’d consider to be a standard phrase when speaking to someone from another country and been met with a confused expression? Imagine that over a negotiating table. Even some Americans struggle to understand why the British call everyone ‘mate’. They refer to universities as colleges and would find it positively rude if you asked for the toilet, restrooms being their standard term.

Understanding cultural differences can also be crucial when negotiating over a long period of time. There is a hierarchy in place within some business cultures which can slow down their response times. If you’re looking to trade with anyone in the Far East your new deal could depend on respect for those boundaries.

If your business is going to thrive in a post-Brexit economy, start looking for the right language experts now. Having the resources to engage with other cultures could be vital for your future.

Blog post based on text provided by Kirsty France

New challenges: translation services in a post-Brexit economy

New challenges: translation services in a post-Brexit economy

New challenges: translation services in a post-Brexit economy

When we first started thinking about this article, the UK’s exit from the EU was certain. Article 50 had been triggered and there would be an incumbent Conservative government to steer the negotiations until 2020. Now of course we have a general election to think about. There are also rumblings that, should a new government seek to withdraw our notice, we may be accepted back into the EU fold.

However, let us return to thinking about the course we’re currently on. Britain’s notice to leave remains in place and, come 2019, we will have left the EU whether there’s a deal in place or not. We will need to form a new economic relationship with the EU, and our trading partners further afield will take on additional significance.

Against that backdrop, our ability to communicate effectively with dealmakers overseas will be crucial in ensuring our economic survival. How will Britain’s approach to language influence its future?

Language skills

We’ve always needed to speak to people in other countries, whether for business or diplomatic reasons. Historically, multilingual traders have been able to extend their reach and broker the most favourable deals.

As a nation, our language skills are now falling behind the rest of the world’s. Speak to a cross-section of business owners and you will find starkly opposing views: some view language and translation skills as a key resource for continued growth, others simply take the view that ‘everyone speaks English’.

There’s a government statistic, which estimates a loss of around 3.5% of the UK’s GDP every year due to a lack of language skills. Whether you accept that figure or not, the simple fact is that the UK needs people with professional language skills to achieve sales in new markets. This doesn’t just mean speaking another person’s language. Understanding and respecting their culture is also a key consideration – but that’s a discussion for another time. We’re promised funding to close the technical skills gap but investment is also needed to ensure we have the language skills to match. We can’t merely rely on English speaking markets any longer.

What about the Commonwealth?

There seems to be a prevailing view that we can simply trade with the Commonwealth once we’re outside the EU. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Where we might once have relied on strong markets within the Commonwealth, the growth areas are now to be found elsewhere. China is the most prominent example but there are strong emerging markets across South East Asia and South America.

Realistically, our trading partners in Europe will still have a role to play. Their geographical closeness aside, we have existing relationships to build on.

Building new relationships

Our multicultural society is likely to be a big plus in a post-Brexit economy. We have people settled here who speak a wide variety of languages but who also have an awareness of other cultures. Investment will be needed to build on those skills for the future. However, we have the ability to begin negotiations using a combination of shared language and cultural sensitivity.

One can only hope that the politicians assembling a team to sit around the Brexit negotiating table are also mindful of this.

Blog post based on text provided by Kirsty France

The English Pedantry


Can one be a translator without being a pedant?“, a colleague exclaimed rhetorically in an e-group for translators. The answer is clearly a resounding: “No!

The English Pedantry

On the other hand, in a Guardian article from November 2015 under the heading “Taking on the pedants” (see below) Steven Pinker suggested: “Linguists have long known that many of the alleged rules of usage are actually superstitions“. Discuss…


Previous HE Translations logo

Appropriateness of flags to represent languages and the history of the HE Translations logo

In the past, a flag-based logo was used on the HE Translations website and on HE Translations business cards. For old times’ sake, here is an image of the original business card:

HE Translations, original business card

HE Translations, original business card

An illuminating blog post by James Offer under the heading “Why flags do not represent languages” prompted the abandonment of the flags. In essence, the blog states:

Flags are unique to a country or nation: but languages are often spoken across national borders. By using a flag for a language, you may confuse or even offend users.

In addition, there are plenty of related Google hits.

The next HE Translations logo “subtly” contained the colours of the British and German flags. In case you are wondering, the green T stood for “green” translations, reflecting our focus on renewable energy, environment and sustainable development.

Previous HE Translations logo

Previous HE Translations logo

The latest HE Translations logo – this time not “home-made” but professionally designed by Duncan Shea Simonds – is shown below. Note the continuation of the green T theme from the previous logo, as a symbol for “green” translations.

Current HE Translations logo

Current HE Translations logo

HE Translations banner

The impressive new HE Translations pull-up banner recently had its first outing at a railway industry event.

HE German Technical Translations roll-up banner; quality, service, satisfaction

HE Translations pull-up banner

Graph of Spellings by Language Region

Internet or internet?

The trend towards lower case i is clear – see article under the heading:
Should you capitalize the word Internet?
So be it.
 Graph of Spellings by Language Region
Source: Should you capitalize the word Internet?
Chez Herbert Cafe

Chez Herbert

An old school friend, who is a Francophile and usually spends the summer in southern France, had a summer holiday in Reunion Island this year and sent this photo with the caption “Die Folgen des Brexit” (Brexit consequences).

Chez Herbert Cafe

Positive Psychology

Anyone suffering from symptoms of post-Brexit depression would probably be well advised to avoid reading the horror scenario described in an article by Tobias Stone with the title History tells us what may happen next with Brexit & Trump.

La Peste di Firenze, Marcello 1348

On a related note see Spiegel article under the heading The Horrifically Contemporary World of Hieronymus Bosch.

Hieronymus Bosch, “The Garden of the Earthly Delights”
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid /
Depósito de Patrimonio Nacional

You have been warned, but if you can’t resist the temptation to read the article, it would no doubt be a good idea to put it into perspective by reading the article on positive psychology by Tim Lomas.

Interestingly, a few weeks ago the same author wrote an article on ‘lexical limitations to happiness’ under the heading How other languages can reveal the secrets to happiness, featuring the German terms Schadenfreude and Waldeinsamkeit, for example.

Learning the language of happiness. Kzenon/Shutterstock