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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.

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