Application of the Principles of Quality Management to the Translation Industry: Client Focus

This article discusses how we apply Client Focus, one of the principles of quality management, to BURG Translations. BURG Translations has been certified in the ISO 9001 process since 2009. This article is the first in a series documenting our application of the ISO 9001 to our translation company.

The focus of this article is on client focus, which entails:

  • Knowing what the client needs
  • Considering the risks and opportunities related to meeting the client’s needs
  • Ensuring high client satisfaction is the standard

Meeting each one of these criteria is not as straightforward as one might think. Below, we address how BURG Translations meets each one.

Knowing what the client needs

While the client may say they want translations, they technically may need something else. We are happy to do what the client wants, but through the application of our consultative process, we might discover how to meet the client’s needs in a way that is cheaper or faster than giving them what they ask for. We work closely with clients to make sure we really understand their requirements underlying their initial request so we can deliver exactly what they want.

Consultative Approach

Transactional relationships can be very convenient, especially for clients that have more important things to do than to talk with LSPs (Language Service Provider) about getting translations done. Unfortunately, treating your relationship with your LSP as a transactional relationship prevents you from taking control over the quality, value, and service of your translation.

You can have a transactional relationship with an LSP where everything turns out OK. One example might be immigration lawyers who need immigration documents translated for the explicit purpose of helping their clients apply for a visa. This is a great example of a client that can have a transactional relationship without too much risk of being dissatisfied because the client’s need and the files themselves are not complex. Here is what defines a project’s complexity:

  • Document type
  • File type
  • Number of files
  • Number of target languages

In our case of an immigration lawyer needing translations for visa purposes, the complexities are as follows:

  • Document type: Birth certificate, passport, other standardized government documents
  • File type: PDF
  • Number of files: few
  • Number of target languages: One

As you can see, this project is not complicated. For immigration lawyers, most of their translation projects are largely identical, so having a transactional relationship is unavoidable and also the best for both parties. This allows for high volume capacity and low prices.

Let’s take a closer look at the different criteria for project complexity:

Document type

Documents can vary greatly in how easy they are to translate. Translating a birth certificate is far easier than translating a patent or scientific journal article, for example. In the case of a patent, certain requirements might need to be met in terms of sentence structure. In the case of scientific journal articles, terminology will be extremely particular and require expertise.

File type

The translation process often depends on file type simply because some file types, like PDF, are harder to manipulate than others, like Microsoft Word. As a result, different translation processes need to be used, with different technologies (like translation memory), resulting in more or less complicated translation processes. The simplest translation process uses standard text files, such as txt, doc or docx.

Number of files

The number of files complicates a project, but only to a small degree. If all the files are the same file type, then this factor doesn’t matter much. If the diversity of file types is high, then files have to be grouped by file type, with each file type potentially having its own translation process.

Number of target languages

This is probably the most obvious reason why translation projects can be complicated. For each new language in a translation project, the following factors need to be addressed:

  • Vendor availability
  • Time zones and scheduling
  • Vendor management

These factors are further complicated by the previously described factors (document type, file type, and number of files) as not all translators have software to handle all file types and no one single translator can translate any document type.

Considering the risks and opportunities related to meeting the client’s needs

BURG Translations handles a broad variety of clients, each with their own particular needs. As a result, the projects vary significantly.

In general, all clients want good quality, good service, and a good price, but these specifications look very different in different projects. This is due to variation in:

  • Document type
  • File type
  • Project size
  • Language needs
  • Business goals

As you can see, the sources of risk in a project are similar to the factors that make a project complex:

Source of Risks and OpportunitiesRisksOpportunities
Document type
  • Target audience
  • Terminology
  • Word usage
  • Personalize translation
  • Meeting corporate branding requirements
File type
  • Technology compatibility
  • Translation project complexity
  • Reduce administrative overhead
  • Maximize quality
Project size
  • Vendor coordination
  • Deadlines
  • Maximize project value to the client
  • Manage time and costs more efficiently
Language needs
  • Vendor availability
  • Maximize project impact on the audience
  • Scale the translation team
Business goals
  • Quality needs
  • Budgetary limits
  • Service level assurances
  • Better define and meet the client’s needs
  • Maximize project cost-effectiveness
  • Ensure high client satisfaction

Ensuring high client satisfaction is the standard

The ISO 9001 is all about standardizing processes. In the context of client focus, standardizing client satisfaction is what the ISO 9001 does. The better your ISO 9001 processes and the better the organization adheres to them, the better and more consistent the client satisfaction will be. There are three levels of standardizing client satisfaction:

  1. Project
  2. Organizational Resources
  3. Organization

At the lowest level, the client is satisfied with one project. To ensure all projects deliver high quality, the quality of the organization’s resources (translators, project managers, technology, processes) need to be high. Finally, to ensure that all organizational resources are high as a standard, the organization as a whole, through the adherence to a quality management system, must have high standards.

Project-level satisfaction

Technically, a project can go well by luck. The simpler the project, the less can go wrong. Understanding what elements make up a project and how client satisfaction is defined is a good starting point to ensuring a project goes well and that the client is satisfied.

Organizational Resources – level satisfaction

If you want all projects to go to well, you need to make sure all the inputs to all projects meet the needs of the client and the project. The responsibility for the success of a project falls largely on the project manager and partly on the organization, as the project manager carries much more influence over a particular project than anyone else in the organization.

Organization-level satisfaction

A project manager can only perform as well as the resources they are provided with. Limited access and availability to resources will certainly affect consistency in quality. As a result, the organization as a whole must ensure all resources needed for all projects are accessible, available, and meet the parameters of all projects.

In summary, implementation of Client Focus, one of the principles of quality management, can depend on more than looking at the files a client needs translated, but also taking a consultative approach to understand the motivation behind the needs and the business goals of the client. Beyond this, the systematic success on the client’s behalf requires consistently high quality of inputs at the organizational level.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *