First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Diego D. Rodriguez: We are doing just fine. We are a family of five, and this situation is affecting each of us differently. In my case, I am used to being locked up, reading or working on any given project. I do not suffer the pain of current social restrictions. In fact, there are some aspects to it that I like and enjoy. The extra time available is a perfect opportunity for developing new ideas, starting new projects or improving current processes in the business. However, this whole situation is much more challenging for the kids, who are desperate to recover their social life.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Tranlanguage
Diego D. Rodriguez: I graduated as a Public Sworn Translator from the School of Law and Social Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires in 1997. I worked as a freelance and in-house translator for several companies in Buenos Aires. In 2002, I moved to Miami, where I worked as a freelance English/Spanish Certified Translator until 2010, when I decided to apply my working method to all languages and founded Tranlanguage – Certified Translations. Since then, I have focused on improving the service and helping people to satisfy their certified translation needs.
How does Tranlanguage innovate?
Diego D. Rodriguez: The goal from day one has been to achieve perfect customer satisfaction by designing, implementing and continuously improving processes that allow us to provide a standardized, high quality, convenient, fast and affordable service.
Translation services have always been quite informal and heterogeneous in terms of processes, rates, turnaround, responsiveness and overall customer satisfaction. Each translator and translation company had its own different set of rules and procedures, which made it impossible for customers to have a clear idea of what to expect when they hire this type of service. Besides, there are many unqualified non-professional providers out there, especially here in South Florida.
Therefore, I wanted to create a standard process by which all customers could have a better understanding of the different aspects of the service and clearer expectations of the outcome. The process includes full disclosure and education at the beginning, which improves trust and gives an invaluable piece of mind during and after the service. This is crucial to building stronger and healthier business relationships.
I observed that when a person needs a certified translation, that person is always in the middle of a problem. He or she is either applying for an emergency passport in order to be able to assist a sick relative abroad, applying for immigration benefits to remain in the country, importing a vehicle, applying for admission to a college or university, is in a lawsuit and needs to submit documents to Court, needs to buy life insurance, is preparing for surgery, needs to buy or sell a property, etc. We decided to focus all our energies on solving those problems. I realized that if we manage to achieve that, if we manage to WOW our customers, they will be grateful and will refer our business to other people for the rest of their life.
So, in short, our innovation consists of concentrating all our efforts in achieving perfect customer satisfaction by solving their problem, instead of growing sales. This philosophy gave the company a solid position and reputation both online and in the community, and consequently, we could enjoy a consistent and exponential growth in our sales.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Diego D. Rodriguez: It affected us a lot. At the beginning of March, the number of customers visiting our office dramatically declined. By mid-March, that number went down to zero. This situation, together with the growing paranoia that made all of us feel unsafe at the office, which also affected our productivity, made me take the decision of moving all operations to remote locations (home). What started as a temporary move, ended up as a permanent relocation and the closure of your office space for good.
We already had a very convenient online ordering and email delivery system, and we also mail our certified translations by USPS and FedEx, so we did not have to redesign our processes completely. However, we implemented a no contact pick-up procedure for those locals who need or prefer to receive the hard copy of their certified translations.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Diego D. Rodriguez: Yes, as mentioned above, I permanently closed our office space and transformed the master bedroom in my house into our new headquarters. I realized that “normal business” would never be the same again. Before Covid, customers always wanted to see a physical place of business or at least, know we had one. “Online only” companies or home offices were considered less serious and less professional, and thus, less trustworthy. COVID changed that. Now customers do not care; they do not even ask for the physical address.
On the other hand, they prefer and appreciate a contactless option. They love it when we tell them that they can complete the whole process online, thus avoiding every chance of exposure. Physical business space where to meet with customers is not needed anymore, at least for our service.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Tranlanguage in the future?
Diego D. Rodriguez: Having my office space in my house helps me feel more protected, with no common areas to share with other tenants or other business customers. It helps me feel less stressed and keeps me more focused on the business and less distracted from external concerns.
The elimination of commute, together with many other benefits, gave me extra flexibility to schedule activities that help me cope with stress and anxiety. For example, when the business allows, I can take a 30-minute break and go for a walk in the neighborhood, share some fun time with my kids, go on a bike ride, swim in the pool, etc. Being in a home environment allows practicing these activities while staying safe by maintaining the recommended social distance.
I strongly believe that this new reality is here to stay. I plan to keep this type of remote operation and continue to grow the business by having more professionals join the company remotely. We have always worked with freelance translators from all over the world, so this is not new. However, the implementation of some minor adjustments in the operation and additional investment in technology will be needed.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Diego D. Rodriguez: Our competitors are freelance translators and small and medium-sized translation companies. Many of them focus on sales, and their strategy is to charge very low prices in order to attract more customers and eliminate the competition. Unfortunately, this strategy causes poor quality translations and very low customer satisfaction, which is immediately reflected in online reviews. Company reputation is severely damaged, and these wounds take a very long time to heal, if ever.
We plan to stay in the game by applying the same philosophy that helped us stay alive and healthy from the beginning, especially during the past difficult months. It involves three measures.
- Keeping focused on high quality and perfect customer satisfaction.
- Staying alert to be able to detect any change in business reality and take the necessary measures to adapt the processes and prepare the business for it.
- Staying flexible to be able to implement those measures easily and smoothly.
Your final thoughts
Diego D. Rodriguez: COVID has definitely changed all business rules. It has forced us to mutate, adapt and innovate very much faster than before. We should not let ourselves be paralyzed by pessimism, uncertainty and anxiety. Those who keep a positive attitude and stay alert and flexible enough to understand the new rules and prepare their business accordingly will have fewer difficulties in going through, overcome and survive these challenging times.
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