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How best to deal with phone inquiries?
Thread poster: Nesrin

Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:49
English to Arabic
+ ...
Nov 1, 2007

Why can't everyone just make their inquiries by email?

When I receive an inquiry over the phone, the inquirer usually begins by saying "we have a ...-word document - are you free to translate it?" I do ask them to describe the nature of the text, when they need it for, and if they could send it over so I can check if it's something I can do (in my fields of specialisation). Unlike email inquiries, I only get to check the BlueBoard after the call (obviously).
Just now I had a similar inquiry, and after hanging up, I checked the BlueBoard, only to find that they have a score of 2 point something. So I had to make up a stupid excuse (the document was clearly something within my fields of specialisation, so that couldn't be my excuse).
But what's the best way to reply to phone inquiries, without committing yourself, and how do you best get back to them when you realise it's not a company you want to work with?

[Edited at 2007-11-01 16:45]


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 21:49
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Just relax Nov 1, 2007

I understand that the outsourcer wants to make sure that I am available, because his customer is probably waiting impatiently. But I wonder why it takes often so long before the file they promise to send finally arrives. Last time I agreed to have a look at the file and respond promptly, but after one hour I decided I better go to the movies. Then of course they phoned and asked if I have seen the file already.
But I like that method still better than those guys who send inquiries by email and let you wait for their acceptance a day or two before they finally respond: job already assigned to another translator. That after you have converted their pdf and counted the text etc.


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Margreet Logmans  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 20:49
English to Dutch
+ ...
Ask for email or paper mail Nov 1, 2007

I ask them to send me the text and specifications of the job by electronic or regular mail, and tell them I won't commit to anything until I've seen the text.

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Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 20:49
Member (2004)
English to Polish
+ ...
Why making excuses? Nov 1, 2007

Hi Nesrin,
Personally I don't see much difference between phone and email inquiry, except maybe that it's faster by phone to establish the availability, rates, etc. With new customers I never commit without actually seeing the text and after exchange of initial information by phone I always ask to send me the files, then I reply confirming the rate and time and always request confirmation by the client (in writing). Sometimes it is all done during the phone conversation

There is one thing in your post, though, that I find strange:
Nesrin wrote:

Just now I had a similar inquiry, and after hanging up, I checked the BlueBoard, only to find that they have a score of 2 point something. So I had to make up a stupid excuse (the document was clearly something within my fields of specialisation, so that couldn't be my excuse).


Why looking for stupid excuse? Isn't the low BB score a good reason to refuse cooperation? I don't find it at all difficult to say: " I've checked that you have a very poor reputation as an agency, I'm sorry but I cannot take such risk." Period. Also, I've learned not to hesitate to ask for information to verify the caller - I've found out that honest people give you all necessary contact info without any problem and they fully understand why you ask. Only those who have reasons to hide make fuss about it.

HTH,
Magda

[Zmieniono 2007-11-01 17:21]


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 20:49
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
+ ...
"we have a ...-word document - are you free to translate it?" Nov 1, 2007

I use Doktor Freud's approach: "Tell me more about it". While they're telling me more about it, I do the rest of my morning mail and then say "That was great, now the only thing I would need from you is a written request for quote"

[Urejeno ob 2007-11-01 19:05]


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:49
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Phone calls Nov 1, 2007

I generally do not give out my phone number at all since clients can send me an e-mail to check availability and a phone call is a waste of time because I cannot agree to accept a job without seeing it first, so they need to send an e-mail anyway.

Back in the olden days before the internet, we used to get a few sample pages faxed to us to review (if we were lucky) and then the document would have to be mailed to us. Sometimes after receiving the whole document in the mail one to two days later (via FedEx, etc.), you would discover that it was something you were not qualified to translate anyway and the agency would have to find someone else.

If they have (multiple) bad BlueBoard ratings (all circumstances considered), I will tell them that I require payment in full up front because of this rating.

[Edited at 2007-11-01 21:25]


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Dina Abdo  Identity Verified
Palestine
Local time: 21:49
Member (2005)
Arabic
+ ...
Poor Clients! Nov 1, 2007

Vito Smolej wrote:

I use Doktor Freud's approach: "Tell me more about it". While they're telling me more about it, I do the rest of my morning mail and then say "That was great, now the only thing I would need from you is a written request for quote"

[Urejeno ob 2007-11-01 19:05]


but I still like the approach though


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:49
French to English
Exactly Nov 1, 2007

Magda Dziadosz wrote:

Why looking for stupid excuse? Isn't the low BB score a good reason to refuse cooperation? I don't find it at all difficult to say: " I've checked that you have a very poor reputation as an agency, I'm sorry but I cannot take such risk." Period.


Especially since this information has come to light after the phone call, and after the prospective client has emailed you the document (presumably?).
Hence, there is no 'confrontation' by saying so to the person down the phone and risking some kind of argument - you can email a reply

However, I must say that with new contacts over the phone, I always avoid saying that I am available (I'm usually not, anyway!) or giving off any positive vibe at all UNTIL I've seen the document.

Otherwise, you can also adopt the standard tactics for letting people down gently:
a) suggest deadline a month away
b) propose an extortionate price
c) just say that the particular document is not QUITE in your field and you are afraid the work would not be up to your usual standard


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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:49
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
I like receiving phone inquiries Nov 1, 2007

Most of my clients - and all of my direct clients - have initially contacted me by phone. For them it's a great way to test my fluency in Dutch, French, German or English, for me it's a perfect opportunity to sell my services, point out my fortes and interests and talk about tariffs and (future, average) availability. Talking on the phone is far more straightforward and efficient as corresponding.

Of course I end our conversation by asking for an e-mail with all information, I need everything in writing. Once I've received the e-mail I go straight to the Blue Board and all other resources to find out more about this prospective client. If I find out something I don't like, I'll just explain that in a short e-mail reply. I don't feel embarrassed, they should.

Regards,
Gerard


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Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:49
German to English
+ ...
Dingaling! Nov 1, 2007

Charlie Bavington wrote:
Otherwise, you can also adopt the standard tactics for letting people down gently:
a) suggest deadline a month away
b) propose an extortionate price
c) just say that the particular document is not QUITE in your field and you are afraid the work would not be up to your usual standard


Sound recommendations!

I get bombarded with "agency spam" (please fill out the form, do the test and tell us why we should ever consider working with you?)

However, I don't get bombarded with business telephone calls. If it's interesting, it usually comes by mail.

I have always propounded the theory of a small and fruitful customer base. Using the telephone with them is sound marketing policy. It means that you are talking to real people, who get to know you, become good pals, and I can assure you that it works. Then it moves on to Skype: "Free today for 1,000 W?" "Sorry old chap, no way." Maybe 4 secs.

Depending upon your need for new business, you might care to consider "unpublishing" your telephone number from your website. Remember: it's your choice how you wish to be contacted.

HTH
Chris


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Radica Schenck  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 20:49
English to Macedonian
+ ...
phone calls can be very valuable Nov 1, 2007

TampaTranslator wrote:
I generally do not give out my phone number at all since clients can send me an e-mail to check availability and a phone call is a waste of time because I cannot agree to accept a job without seeing it first, so they need to send an e-mail anyway.


How strange, are you saying that in the US you as a freelance translator offering transl. services don't have to provide basic contact data on your website including phone no. and address (no PO BOX!) and VAT No?!?!

For all the assignments I really wanted (and got), I found the most helpful moment had been the nice phone conversation with the client. It is so much more than a blunt equiry... not only you're "putting on public display" what you can&have, as Gerard puts it, but you can also use the opportunity to find out about the person on the other end, it is not just an anonymous voice there. Not to mention if you have to negotiate the price or a deadline, or whatever...

Of course, without a confirmation of the discussed in writing, there is no deal, there is no legally binding deal. So, until that email comes, you have plenty of time to make up your mind


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 14:49
German to English
Give phone number only to established clients Nov 2, 2007

Years ago I found that most telephone conversations with non-clients (including some colleagues) were a waste of time. Most inquiries were for services/languages I don't offer, or had requirements that I couldn't fulfill (overnight translation, etc.).

I took the step of removing my telephone number from my web page. The number listed in the local translators' directory is for a line I keep only in order to have DSL, and which I use only for outgoing faxes. Contrary to what you might expect, my business grew and my productivity increased, since I wasn't spending hours each week explaining why I couldn't take a job, referring a job, or holding the hand of helpless colleague who couldn't do an online Internet search.

At this juncture, apart from some relatives and all of my friends, only established clients have my telephone number. The effect of this is that I have all the high-quality work I can handle. If someone manages to reach me, he/she really wants a translation!


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Mark Cole  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:49
Polish to English
+ ...
Ask for an advance Nov 2, 2007

Something similar happened to me; an agency phoned about a job, I agreed to do it, and then found out that they were poor payers (not the Blue Board, but the paymentpractices website). So I told them I would require an advance payment before I started any work (if builders can do it, why can't we? Especially if it's a new client).
That shut them up fairly quickly (and they haven't tried contacting me since).


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