Radio Scotland news recently featured a hotel booking mix-up. A group of French tourists turned up at the Jura Hotel, on the Isle of Jura (off the west coast of Scotland), saying that they’d booked rooms there. The hotel owner had no record of a booking, and the hotel was full. When he checked their reservation form it turned out that they had indeed booked in to a Jura Hotel — in the Jura mountains in France.
This is pretty mystifying: how could you mix up the Jura mountains on the continent of Europe and a Scottish island on its western fringes? Maybe they were using a hotel aggregator website and didn’t check the hotels’ own sites.
Leaving this mystery aside, what struck me about this story was the Scottish hotel owner’s reaction.
He solved the immediate accommodation problem: some of the rooms were being renovated so he quickly cleaned up a couple of these for his unexpected guests, who had a great welcome and thoroughly enjoyed their stay. So that was good.
But speaking afterwards on Radio Scotland, the owner said he couldn’t understand how the Frenchmen had made the mistake. The reservation form they showed him was in French, and the room charges in euros. But all of the forms he sent out were in English, and charges in sterling. So the tourists should have realised the booking form hadn’t come from his hotel.
Whoa! Hold on a minute. How could the French tourists possibly know about the practices and procedures of the Jura Hotel (Scotland)?
This in turn got me thinking about my own — and other language businesses’ — communications with clients and potential clients. Every transaction with our clients should be part of our marketing strategy. Each email, quote, newsletter or invoice should be “on brand” and designed to establish and/or strengthen a good relationship with our clients.
How much knowledge do we take for granted on their part? How transparent are we? Do we think of our clients’ needs and assumptions, or our own?
For example, for clients in Italy I issue quotes and invoices in euros, on a “per page” basis, because that’s what my clients expect. For clients in the UK, I quote/invoice in sterling, on a “per word” basis. I offer them a standard rate and an “urgency surcharge” rate, with a delivery date for each. Pretty transparent, I thought, until I realised that I don’t specify to my Italian clients how a page is calculated (I use 1500 characters including spaces, source text).
As translators and editors, we sometimes feel that quantifying our work in “words” or “pages” diminishes it. I used to work with colleagues who felt that we should present our work on a “per project” basis. In other words, our clients shouldn’t really know what they were paying for. I no longer take this approach. If a job is particularly complex and requires not just linguistic expertise but days and possibly weeks of research (as is often the case), then my per-page fee will reflect that. Alternatively, I can itemise the quote: research, translation, proof-reading… But my clients should know what they’re paying for.
When I’m making a purchase, I like to have as much information as possible so that I can make a fully informed choice. Why should my clients be any different? Why shouldn’t they have the right to know what they’re paying for?
What do you think about this (pretty thorny) issue?
By Marian Dougan