Complaints management for translators

How you can help to efficiently resolve complaints


A complaint means that the service provided to a customer did not meet their expectations. Complaints management is about finding out what the customer was looking for, understanding what it would take to provide it and embarking on the process that will get us there.

In this article, we go through Semantix’ complaints management process: How we communicate, investigate and, lastly, evaluate validity.

What is not a complaint

A customer asking a question about a term or phrase is not a complaint.

If a project manager forwards a query about a term or phrase from a customer to you, you can respond by simply confirming that the term or phrase is correct, or you can provide a reference, such as an online dictionary or, if that is what the customer asks for, an alternative formulation.


When we have specific examples of words or phrases that the customer feels need attention, we begin our investigation. Our investigation aims to establish the complaint’s root cause on the one hand, and its validity on the other.

Looking for a root cause, we may determine that an incomplete term list is what got us into this situation. In such cases, resolution is straightforward – we add a certain term to their term list, update the TM, and check whether the customer also needs an updated delivery. If the complaint is about style, we may find the root cause in an insufficient style guide. So, we offer to amend it.

We may also find solutions in adapting the customer’s workflows or the types of service that we offer them. For example, one customer may benefit from creative text adaptation, while another may prefer to add a Term Validation workflow step.

What is translation quality?

Translation quality is a fluid concept – each customer has their own definition. Determining whether a complaint is warranted or not is therefore sometimes difficult.

Here is an excerpt from a 2014 article called “Defining Translation Quality”:

A quality translation demonstrates accuracy and fluency required for the audience and purpose and complies with all other specifications negotiated between the requester and provider, taking into account end-user needs.[1]

When we understand the challenges and possibilities of the customer’s trade, and they understand ours, we can create the quality processes that are right for them. Dialogue is, of course, essential to complaints management.

Translation quality boosters

Term lists and style guides help ensure translation quality. Website articles or manuals that the customer is proud of and happy with are useful reference points. Customer-specific workflows can also help enhance customer smoothness and satisfaction. As customer contact persons, circumstances, wishes, and demands change, Semantix’ sales representatives know to check in with them from time to time.

Your linguistic expertise

The customer must provide examples of words of phrases that they feel need attention. Then, we need your linguistic expertise to help decipher what kinds of changes they are looking for.

Sometimes, the customer sends a Word file with tracked changes, a PDF with sticky notes, or a PPT with edits in a different colour. If so, we ask you to pick 5-10 changed terms or phrases that you find interesting and telling, and to add your comments in a simple table. Here are two examples:

Source text

Target text

Customer’s change/comment

Semantix commentary

Spara genom att trycka på OK-knappen

Save by pressing OK

Pressing the OK button will save your settings

Stylistic change +
“your settings” added





Categorising specific examples into style or terminology is a good start. Pointing out where information has been added or removed from the source text helps the customer understand how we work as translators. Providing online dictionary references to back up your word choice is often much appreciated. Write mistranslation if you have made a mistake. Make your comments in English, so that everyone can understand them.

If you notice anything else that is useful to know, please add that too. For example, the customer could benefit from knowing the connotations carried locally by a particular phrase or term.

While you pick and comment on examples among the customer’s changes, the project manager and sales representative examine the customer profile and the project’s order specifications. Soon, we will have a better understanding of the complaint’s root cause, and good ideas for ways going forward.

Updating the translation memory

Updating a translation with the customer’s preferred terms and phrases is part of a normal project workflow – as long as the customer gets back to us in time, and as long as their edits do not change the meaning of the source text.

Closing a complaint

When we have found out what the customer was looking for, made the necessary changes, updated the TM, assessed validity and proposed risk-mitigative solutions for the future, it is time to close the complaint and to move on. Luckily, research shows that customers whose problems are handled satisfactorily are the most loyal – even more loyal than customers who do not complain.


If there is cause for price reductions, they must be based on a second review and be fairly calculated, as stated in our Supplier Agreement, section 8. See Semantix Supplier Agreement on our Translators’ Forum.

[1] From the article “Defining Translation Quality” (2014) by Geoffrey S. Koby; Paul Fields; Daryl Hague; Arle Lommel; Alan Melby. See