How we use Root Cause Analysis to ensure the best translation quality 

How many times have you worked with an external partner or a vendor and asked for revisions because you weren’t quite satisfied with what was delivered? And how many times did the vendor actually act on the feedback you provided?

When it comes to translations not meeting quality standards, there are many possible reasons why this happens. For example, maybe client expectations or the project scope weren’t properly communicated. Or maybe a certain translator didn’t flag a problem in the source text in time, which resulted in delays or translation errors.   

In any case, mistakes do happen and we’re only human. But what separates great language service providers from average ones is 1) taking accountability and 2) investing time into figuring out what happened. Only then can you say you truly own the mistake you and your team made, and you learn from it. 

LinguaeMundi takes client complaints seriously. As a matter of fact, we have an entire process for reconstructing what happened: it’s the Root Cause Analysis.

Using the Problem Solving sheet

We take it seriously and show accountability whenever we deal with an internal or external complaint. Problem Solving sheet helps us efficiently carry out the root cause analysis. At the core of our company identity, we strongly advocate for full transparency and we don’t try to cover up mistakes. Rather we focus on improving.

We actively listen to client feedback. In 99% of the cases, when we address the issue through root cause analysis, the clients appreciate it and decide to extend our collaboration.

The Problem Solving sheet is typically a 5-page document that helps us take a step back and understand the nature of the problem.

The benefits of doing this? Errors are rarely the blame of individuals, but processes. By engaging all stakeholders in the analysis, we avoid the blaming game and finger-pointing and focus on bettering the quality of our output.

Here’s what the process looks like for us.

Root Cause Analysis: Step-by-step process at LinguaeMundi

STEP #1: Go to the source collect and expose all the facts

We always make sure these we’re indeed dealing with facts and not opinions or assumptions. This is why the first step is all about collecting information from all relevant stakeholders by engaging with them firsthand.

STEP #2: Show the facts in as much of a visual way as possible

Using words is fine, but if you can provide screenshots or use a format that requires minimum cognitive strain, that would be better. Think about it like this: facing a problem is a challenge by default, so getting to the root of it should be as simple as possible.

STEP #3: Define the problem by analyzing its root cause

We always encourage asking “why” five times to do this properly. It’s because a problem well stated is a problem half-solved. By following the five “why” rule, you are able to break down the problem into smaller elements which makes it less scary and more manageable. So here’s an example of how this might look in practice:

STEP #4: After identifying the root cause, create countermeasures to solve it

Corrective actions are actions taken to prevent the issue from reappearing. Here, we don’t just address the surface causes. Instead, we take a deeper look into the cause of the problem to find the root cause so it can be eliminated. This is where the PDCA (plan-do-check-act/adjust) cycle comes into play.

STEP #5: See through countermeasures by using the PDCA (plan-do-check-act/adjust) method

Here’s what the PDCA cycle looks like when broken down:
  • We create a plan for solving the root cause, but we keep in mind that this plan is a hypothesis and should be tested to see if it works
  • Do = applying the hypothesis and testing it
  • We then do the checking part, i.e. we study the results of the test to see if it works
  • Finally, we act to implement countermeasures and see if they function at a larger scale, and adjust accordingly

Questions that guide our Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

Here are some questions that we have internally documented that are useful for Root Cause Analysis:
  • What is the problem?
  • How might you state the problem in its broadest view? For example, what customer need(s) will the solution to this problem solve?
  • Are the current situation and background described?

When answering these questions, whoever is doing the analysis should demonstrate insights into why the present situation is a problem. The basic scope of the problem should be described and the way this problem ties to company goals should also be considered.

Given the fact we rely on quality standards, the proper standard for the given situation needs to be identified, and then the gap between the standard and the present situation should be clarified.

We have a so-called “3G” process in place for better understanding the situation:
  • Go and see (go see in detail every element and process of the problem)
  • Get the facts (make sure to involve all people related to the problem)
  • Grasp the full situation and details

Example of handling a client complaint

Here’s a real example of how we handled one client complaint and we’ll also explain our reasoning both for taking accountability and for sharing all this information with you.

Our Quality Manage Inês Lucas sent an email to the client to inform them that we finalized the Root Cause analysis. Moreover, we explained what are the exact steps we will undertake to ensure that:
  • The client complaint is recognized
  • The expectations for quality are met
  • This type of situation doesn’t happen again in the future

This is very important from the standpoint of our work ethics and how we treat our clients. Secondarily, it is important for our reputation as a language solutions company. Given the fact that recommendation and word of mouth are precious channels we have for getting new clients, we hold ourselves to a high standard.

Below you can see the screenshot of the email:

You can see that we treat all our customers with the utmost respect and act on feedback immediately. We also periodically do an internal analysis of the most common root causes so that we can be more proactive and prevent further issues.

Here’s one of the breakdowns:

The smallest percentage (so small it’s barely visible on the chart) refers to issues caused by working in large batches. The biggest root cause according to this review was the absence of a clear standard. 

At LinguaeMundi, we believe it’s important not to try to hide behind the facade of being the perfect vendor that doesn’t make any errors while delivering translations. For us and the clients that have proven to be a cultural fit, it’s a direct reflection of great work ethics and a growth mindset to have a system in place that will help you react to bottlenecks and problems the minute they appear.

Looking for translation services? LinguaeMundi is your LSP

If you have a translation project in mind, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’ve been in the business for more than 26 years and have evolved throughout the years to use the best processes and available technology. We cover a wide range of industries: contact us today and we’ll get back to you ASAP.