In our everyday work as Project Managers, we often tend to direct most of our attention to our end-product, i.e. a delivered translation. However, we should sometimes hit pause and consider how different clients influence our workflow and how we can adapt our processes accordingly.
Regardless of the types of clients we deal with, the ultimate goal is always the same: client satisfaction. However, defining the concept of client satisfaction and what constitutes meeting all the client’s requirements is where the differences between certain clients usually arise. Moreover, the mechanisms and processes we employ when dealing with various clients and trying to achieve our shared goals also demonstrate the significance of defining and separating our clients. This distinction helps raise our awareness of our clients’ needs and draws our attention to fine-tuning and adapting both our skills and internal processes, which we use when providing our services. Thus, it seems interesting to dig a little bit deeper and explore the differences in dealing with clients from the private and public sectors, respectively.
Attracting and retaining clients
Complex public procurement processes, tenders, contracts and other bureaucratic nightmares are the cornerstone of every collaboration with a public institution, particularly a larger one. The beginning may be tough, but buckle up and be patient, for the end result is rewarding – a stable workload, a pre-defined system and rules and uniformity regarding text types and language combinations mean less stress for you throughout your contract period. However, unlike public organisations, which are governed by rules and legislative norms, private organisations are defined by a faster pace and more organisational changes – so after your sales representative has fought tooth and nail to attract a certain client from the private sector, it is essential for you to brush up on your soft skills and do your best to maintain and nurture a good relationship with the client in order to achieve some stability and, hopefully, do some cross-selling and upselling.
This gives you a serious opportunity to make a difference and to show that, ultimately, all organisation members work in the sales department, regardless of their position, since every little thing you do or don’t do when working with a private sector client affects the overall company performance.
Thinking and working inside and outside the box
After we attract a certain client, we have the job of actually providing the advertised service. For me, the greatest difference in dealing with clients from the public and private sectors lies in the workflow and process, i.e. the imposed system of the public sector vs. the one we develop ourselves for our clients from the private sector.
When working with clients from the public sector, we deal with a large, pre-determined system with defined rules and obligations. Thus, we have to work our way through a closed system within an obligatory framework. The CAT tool we use is usually pre-defined, the workflow is mostly standardized, and there are also no surprises regarding the language combinations, text types and formats, which are always uniform. This does not mean that working with public institutions is boring; on the contrary, bending the rules without breaking them and both adopting and adapting the imposed system is where the magic lies and what makes us rack our brains a bit. You can devote your time to forming a perfect, close-knit team of linguists, educating them and organising workshops; you can develop tailor made QA procedures based on the client’s feedback or create templates for the CAT tool you are using in order to speed up the process.
On the other hand, once you receive the first order from a new private sector client, you are the creator of the system, which means the sky is the limit (apart from the budget and deadline, of course). The Project Managers themselves define and develop the workflow, CAT tool and QA tool to be used, and the sole responsibility for the entire process lies with them. Moreover, there is a greater variety of texts and materials: you can expect to receive anything, from marketing materials, brochures and video subtitles to contracts and user manuals. Various text types also mean various formats, which gives you an opportunity to learn and grow together with your client – you can educate your client about various possibilities with certain formats and their compatibility with your CAT tools; you can explore various options in the tools you use every day but never knew existed, or develop a new interest and broaden your own knowledge.
Just a little of that human touch
A pretty simple but significant difference in working with clients from the private and public sector is the very contact with the client and the target audience. When you are dealing with a private sector client, you are usually in direct contact with the person placing the order.
This allows you to recognise somebody’s needs and priorities, to think together with the client and instead of them – to identify possible pitfalls and also come up with brilliant solutions. This means greater responsibility, but it also gives rise to innovation and provides you with a chance to impress the client and develop a deeper relationship. There is also a considerable emphasis on the end-consumers. They are the ones providing the feedback and the input, while you and your client share the goal of providing the best service possible.
On the other hand, when working with a client from the public sector, you mostly collaborate through a closed and rigid system, usually via a portal. There is a strict procedure to comply with and the target audience which you aim to please is usually an in-house validation team or a reviewer. And once you realise you are running late with a delivery, you cannot really soften the blow for the client through a portal. However, the airtight system gives you less room to make errors, since the systems used in public institutions usually have their own checks and balances which prevent you from, for example, delivering the wrong file.
To sum up, there are numerous differences between clients from the private and the public sectors, and it would be futile to discuss which of them bring more advantages or disadvantages. Some Project Managers will naturally prefer the flexibility and creativity of the private sector, while others would rather opt for the order and stability of public institutions. What is important is to define your approach, learn to appreciate the advantages and optimise the disadvantages of all types of clients, and find your place in the sun, regardless of the framework within which you are working.