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At PS, to coincide with our first year of trading, we have recently undertaken a customer service survey.  Although we have had a customer service programme in place since our inception, we wanted to ensure that our objectives in this area were being met and that our customers have an opportunity to comment on our levels of customer service, as well as help shape the future of our business. The results of the research were very pleasing. We received some very positive responses, and useful suggestions which we will integrate into our business operations.

Like all industries, by focusing on improving levels of customer service, translation service providers can find that customers are more likely to use them for repeat business as well as recommend them to colleagues and co-workers. Arguably, most companies would be happy to receive a customer service feedback score of around 5 or 6 out of 7. However research undertaken by Xerox has found that these customers are 5 times more likely to go elsewhere compared to those who scored 7 out of 7 (completely satisfied). So just how do you get customers to move from being ‘satisfied’ to ‘completely satisfied’? This article looks at some of the key areas in providing good customer service, and uses specific examples relating to the language and business services industry to illustrate how you can turn a ‘satisfied’ customer into a ‘completely satisfied’ customer.

One of the most important areas (if not the most important) is to make sure you communicate with your customers. It’s an unfashionable old saying, but communication really is the key.  From experience I have found that most people working within a service provision role are happy to communicate with their customers when the going is relatively easy (confirming their order or delivering their completed job), however many are not so keen when there is an issue and they are unsure of what their client’s response will be. It is these occasions (when projects get delayed or there is an issue with an aspect of the translated text) where the ability to communicate will ensure that your customers remain completely satisfied with your service. It is vital to let your client know the second there are any uncertainties with their project. Many translation projects have a very limited time frame, and often are produced to a specific deadline (text needs to be printed by a time or site needs to be launched on a fixed date) if these deadlines appear to be in jeopardy customers need to be made aware of the situation as well as the efforts you are making to rectify the issue. It is keeping this high level of communication at all times (good times and bad) that has ensured 98% of our customers are completely satisfied with our levels of communication.

During the communication process it is important that your customers are aware of what they are going to receive in terms of your service provision, and this brings me on to my next key area, which is honesty. One of the main reasons a customer will shift their opinion of your service from being ‘very satisfied’ to ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ is when they feel they have not been provided with the service they had asked for or they had been told they would receive. Again another old fashioned saying, but honesty really is the best policy. Two of the worst mistakes a translation service provider can make are to make promises they are unable to keep and to lie about their mistakes in the hope that their customers will never find out. If you’ve made a mistake or are unable to provide a specific service it is far better to act responsibly and be truthfully. Operating a business where you go from one assignment to the next in a constant state of dishonesty or a feeling of ‘winging it’ is not good for your business and is definitely not good for your clients and will only lead to dissatisfied customers.

Often, the very nature of the translation assignment will call for high levels of detail from the translator or translators undertaking the assignment. These high levels of detail need to be matched by the agency or company that is providing the service. Low attention to detail and poor accuracy in the provision of the service can make all the difference to a customer being ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’. Paying attention to the client involves listening and understanding to what they require. It involves making sure that all personnel (translators, typesetters, etc.) who are working on the project are also aware of what is required. By paying attention to what your clients wants and making sure that these details are provided, will help to ensure your customers become or remain completely satisfied.

Customer service professionals see the process of providing a service as building a relationship rather than a simple transaction. Like any relationship, where the objective is longevity, it is important to make sure both parties of the relationship understand the boundaries of the relationship. Too many times business service providers feel that once they have provided a service they have a client for good and then set about bombarding them with information (e-shots, newsletters, etc.) that may not be relevant to them, treating them as if they are their sole customer and not undertaking the correct steps to help develop their relationship. It is important at the outset to understand what type of relationship your customers are looking for. Do they, for example, want to be notified about the latest developments in your business or would they simply like to be left alone? Do they want one single point of contact within the company or would they be happier speaking with various members of the team? Understanding what your customers are looking for and then adapting your business to fit their requirements will help ensure your customers remain or become ‘completely satisfied’.

Building on from this for my last point I want to focus on the importance of treating customers as you wish to be treated yourself. Relationships are built around trust and commitment. Your customers need to trust you and feel you are committed to them. Commitment is all about making sure that you always have the client’s interests at heart. Simply providing them with a type of service because you can (for example charging them a certain price because you can get away with it) is not the way to ensure your customers will be completely satisfied. It’s about going the extra mile, working the best process to achieve their objectives and making sure they receive the best deal. If providers of a service keep in mind that everything they do is with their customer’s best interest in mind, then soon relationships will build and there will be greater commitment from both sides.

Although some of the points raised above may seem obvious, it can be quite common for an organisation to overlook some of these aspects and then wonder why they are losing customers. In my experience of the language industry many companies are good at what they do but don’t really consider how they will deliver their service and what they want from their customers. In these situations it can be useful for companies providing a service to get back to basics and work out how to improve on the areas discussed above.

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Published - September 2010

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