Phone Etiquette

Regardless of the time of day or night, we give every phone call and e-mail the time, attention and professionalism it deserves. Even though we don't work with agencies, we frequently get calls from them. Some callers are more professional than others. It is frustrating not to know who exactly you are speaking with, and if the caller seems very hurried and does not give enough details for us to make a decision on the project, that's usually not a good basis for collaboration. Here's a recap of a phone call that we received from a New York City number on 1 p.m. PST, 4 p.m. EST.

Caller (speaking very quickly, hurriedly): "Hi, this is XYZ (first name only, could not understand it). I called you earlier and you couldn't hear me. Can you hear me now?"

Judy: "Well, yes, I can certainly hear you now. Thanks for calling. What can I do for you?"

Caller: "I wanted to see if you could take on a rush translation from English into German, 2,000 words, until tomorrow morning."

Judy: "Traditionally, we don't accept rush jobs unless they are from repeat customers and we are very familiar with the subject matter. Who are you with again (note: she had never said)?"

Caller: "I am with XYZ (didn't catch it again, caller appeared to be out of breath)."

Judy: "I am not familiar with your agency. What's the subject matter of the translation?"

Caller: "It's legal."

Judy: "Well, our thorough quality assurance process (four drafts, as a team) usually doesn't lend itself well to extreme rush jobs like the one you are describing. However, as you seem to be in a bind, you can go ahead and e-mail me the document and I will have a look at it, discuss it with my businesss partner, and get back to you."

Caller: "OK. What are your rates again? I don't know your company."

Judy: "Well, the non-rush rate is twenty-something cents a word."

Caller (very surprised, harsh): "What? That's way too expensive! Forget it!" (hangs up)

Judy: "Well, it was my pleasure speaking with you." (Ah, no one on the line anymore)

I briefly considered recommending a colleague whose rates might be more in line with the agency's budget, but 1) the caller hung up and 2) I don't think any of my colleagues want to work with someone who cannot have an educated conversation about services and rates. First impressions do matter, for buyers and for sellers, and establishing solid work relationships with clients and vendors is paramount to anyone's success in our business.


Alejandro Moreno on April 30, 2009 at 4:37 AM said...

E-mail etiquette. A real mail I received some weeks ago:

Dear Sir/Madam

I found your contact details on

I have a potential project for you. The total word count is x and the deadline for completion is the x.

Our budget for this job is 0.05 Euros per word.

Your urgent response / quotation would be much appreciated.

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