Traveling south on a rural Wisconsin highway, we were looking for a picnic table. We were coming back from the North Shore of Lake Superior and had ordered pie to go after our meal. We stopped to pick up coffee at a small convenience store and asked the clerk if there were a park in her town. Her reply? “I dunno.”
We were taken aback: the question was hardly difficult or rude, and her job, after all, was to help customers.
What do you expect of people in customer service positions? For example, should waitstaff in a high-end restaurant greet you within a minute of taking your seat? Should they smile? Should they apologize for any mistakes the kitchen makes?
How about a clerk in a big box store? Should they know where each department is? Should they be able to check if something not on the shelves is really out of stock?
It all depends, doesn’t it, on who is hired by management and what training they are given. Every June, high school students flood the job market, often ending up with a name badge and no training before hitting the sales floor. Over the summer, when we need help at a big box store, we all know to look for an older person.
And the clerk where we bought coffee? Surely her manager could have rounded up the staff and told them they were representing not only their store but their small town.
I worked as a nurse’s aide when I was 16. We got 40 hours of training, after which I ended up not only giving bed baths and delivering meal trays but putting in a catheter. Talk about a time to look for an experienced person for help!
In our industry, good management includes choosing the people who work on your translations. Among the resumes Tembua receives each week, 20–30 come from supposed linguists who promise us top quality, but their qualifications don’t add up: we know how to check for scams—where someone puts their name in place of the actual linguist. Sometimes the dates don’t match. In other cases the person cannot possibly have accumulated that much experience in that little time. In fact, we’ve read columns about people who have used these scammers and gotten back almost incomprehensible documents. And that’s if the clients can read the language they ordered; if they can’t, they might never know what kind of junk has gone out with their company name attached.
Besides scammers, another hazard when choosing translators is evaluating people who are legitimate but just starting out. It’s understandable that they’re in a hurry to launch their careers, but if they lie about their experience, we will never use them.
We check references. We verify credentials. It’s time-consuming, but our reputation is at stake.
Because I was a translator myself, I recognize the work of both amateur linguists and scammers. I’m a better manager because of my hands-on experience.
I know you choose and train your people carefully. I want you to know that we do too!
President and CEO