Freitag, 8. Februar 2013

Agencies



Agencies – for many translators and interpreters, it almost seems to be a dirty word, probably because of the bad experiences they had with them.
I know there are many different types of agencies out there, and so far I’ve had the great fortune to work with mostly those that are worth the name, not what I call “re-bagers” (“Umtüter” in German), meaning someone who simply passes a job on to the translator or interpreter without adding any value, yet pocketing money for it anyway.
True, I’ve encountered some I only worked for once, mostly because of their payment practices, but I put that down as a learning experience and moved on. All of the agencies I work with now are “true” agencies, doing what you would expect from an agency: supplying glossaries, translation memories and reference material, answering questions, and acting as mediators between the end customer and the translator, in addition to acquiring the customers, and of course, paying acceptable prices.
Naturally, I have to do my part, too: I’d rather ask too many questions than do something wrong, inform the project managers of any and all problems, especially when they might affect the deadline, and of course answer e-mails in a timely and courteous manner.
Because the most important component in a successful business relationship (and not only in those) is without a doubt communication. Which has to go both ways, obviously!

I am always happy to find new agencies to work with – if the relationship is a mutually agreeable one! Last week, I was approached by two different ones that both asked me to do some interpreting work for them.

The first one called me, followed by an e-mail exchange containing the pertinent information on them and the proposed job and the request to prepare a quote, the receipt of which was acknowledged. A few days later, I received the confirmation that the agency’s quote to the customer (it involved a total of eight interpreters) was accepted and the job would take place, as well as an e-mail with the first batch of reference material. That is what it should be like, especially when dealing with a new agency: Both ends did their part, supplied the necessary information in writing, so that really not much could go wrong anymore. (Except the usual, but that is just a chance you have to take with any new partner, business or otherwise.)

The other agency contacted me via e-mail on Thursday. The requirement was for an interpreter the following Monday at a place about 130km away. They asked for a quote, which I sent them within the hour, after having asked a few more questions and received answers from them, all via e-mail. I received the confirmation of receipt, which my e-mail program requests automatically, and waited. And waited. And waited.
After I had not heard anything by noon on Friday, I wrote another e-mail asking whether my quote had met their approval or not, and whether they required my services on Monday – after all, I have to be able to plan my week, too.
I received the confirmation that my e-mail had been received (and presumably read) –AND NOTHING MORE! Not a word from the agency at all! If I was too expensive for them (which is altogether possible, especially considering the distance I would have had to drive and charge for), the least they could have done was to tell me so, especially after I wrote them again, asking for that information?! Is that too much to ask? I did them the courtesy to answer their request quickly, particularly since it was such short notice, why could they not do the same for me? Besides being very discourteous, it is also extremely unprofessional.
Even if they had not gotten back to me until several days later – who knows what may have happened: a power outage at the office, a computer failure, sudden illness -, at least they could have let me know. True, there really is no excuse nowadays to be so completely incommunicado, but I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. But they have not written or called, yet.
Needless to say, should they ever approach me again, I will require quite a bit of assurance before I consider working for them!

What about your experiences with agencies? How do you handle the communication issue? I’d be curious to read about it in the comments below.

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