The art of building customer relationships: adapting to 35 years of change

Home » News » The art of building customer relationships: adapting to 35 years of change

The art of building customer relationships: adapting to 35 years of change

Posted on

How do you strengthen your approach to building customer relationships in this era of rapid technological change? How has the digital age affected how you work with people?

We’ve been mulling this over recently, and taking a trip down memory lane.

In 1989, when I started work as an office junior in a translation agency, one of the first things I noticed was the bank of seven fax machines. I noticed it particularly because one of my jobs was to make sure that every machine was constantly stocked, and that jams (there were many) were cleared quickly. When translation jobs involved 60-70 pages of that very thin fax paper, having to ask a client to resend them was to be avoided if at all possible.

This was vital. Work came in most often by fax, sometimes by telex, and, for lengthy legal jobs, by courier. Some jobs even came in the post! With everything coming as hard copy, the first job was to count the words. That’s right. Someone (me) had to manually count the words so that we could quote for the job.

Then I had to photocopy everything, and fax it (no more than 50 pages at a time, that’s all the machine could handle) to a translator, or send it out in the post. If you’re as old as me and can remember work in the 80s and 90s, you’ll have similar nostalgic (to say ‘fond’ might be going a step too far!) memories of the pre-digital age.

Positive customer relationships before digital communications

One thing I do remember quite fondly was how much more relaxed customer service expectations were – in terms of deadlines at least. Of course, we still sometimes had the ‘rush’ 24-hour turnaround job, but mostly, clients accepted that we were all reliant on ‘snail mail’ and deadlines were more relaxed.

Customer relationships, and customer interactions, involved speaking to people on the phone. The same applied with translators. You’d speak to some people several times a day, and get to know them on a personal level.
Those strong customer relationships between us, our customers, and our translators made it a lot easier to meet expectations when the rush jobs came along!

The 1990s, and changes in customer service expectations

Roll on the 1990s. Translators were just learning to transfer files, but technology at this point could be really hit or miss. Remember WordPerfect 4.5? Formatting was awkward, then you had to transfer it to a floppy or hard disk, take that to a machine linked to a (usually ‘the’) printer, print it and…yes, fax it.

Then the bane of our lives arrived, in the shape of the dial-up modem. No one who ever used one of those will forget the sound they made. Nor the heart-pounding anxiety of watching a large file transfer and hoping that the connection won’t drop in the last few seconds.

Time and IT gradually changed things. By 1995, modems had become faster and more reliable. WordPerfect was replaced by Word (formatting was still awkward). You still had to fax or post things out, but work came back more quickly.

We still usually had the luxury of time, allowing translators to ensure that every job was of the highest quality. Where speed was of the essence, or for high-volume jobs, we could put a team of translators on it. But there was still no alternative to manual ‘human’ translation, so it was considered an important service.

In those days, although email had arrived, we hardly ever used it to communicate with our customers. We still spoke on the phone, which helped with building customer relationships.

How did IT change customer relationships and service expectations?

From the mid-90s to 2000, technology changed everything. Once we started to get PDF documents, it became common to send and receive hundreds of pages by email. It also became possible to do word counts digitally – making quotes faster and more accurate.

Initially, we and our translators were still reliant on print. Although source texts were arriving by email, they still needed to be printed unless we had the rare luxury of a second screen!

But with the ability to transfer documents electronically, everything sped up, and we no longer relied on couriers.

Companies started to develop websites, and a new focus on speed emerged, which had an impact on service expectations.

These days, everything centres around technology. In some ways, it’s fantastic. Get it right and we can get translation done around the clock, and across the world. Everyone has a website, and, on the surface, it’s quick and easy to find a company – whether for translation or virtually anything else – that can do the job you need, in the required time and for the right price.

But I think that what businesses and their customers risk are the classic, strong relationships; where you know you can contact a business and be confident that you’re going to be looked after

When you forge a strong relationship, you have the confidence of knowing that if you’ve got something difficult, sensitive, or urgent – you can speak to someone you know and they’ll do you a favour, or negotiate a solution that works for everyone.

If you always rely on sending a job out to, say, three different companies, and just pick the cheapest, or the fastest, you lose the personal touch

Three key ways we approach building strong customer relationships

At Language Link UK, we make use of all the technology available to us. But we still believe that the personal touch is key, and are dedicated to providing the highest quality language services and exceptional customer service.

Over 31 years in business, we have developed a reputation for superb customer service, a quality product and competitive pricing.

  1. Customer feedback shows us how much our current customers value the one-to-one service we provide, with a dedicated account manager who gets to know them and their needs
  2. Our industry-specific translation expertise across a wide range of sectors means that we can deal accurately with complex technical information.
  3. Our pricing is transparent and competitive, so our customers are always confident that they are getting excellent value for money.

Our commitment to customer relationships isn’t the only thing our clients value. The quality of our services is assured by our European Quality Standard BSEN15038:2006 and ISO 9001:2015 (QMS) Quality Management System accreditations, and our recognition as a provider of top-quality language services.

Thanks to our high standard of professional language translation services, many embassies only require a translation to be certified by Language Link UK – meaning legalisation or notarisation is often unnecessary– saving our customers time and money.

Contact us to discuss your next project.