If you asked business executives what the most stressful thing they need to do in their job is, many of them would say it’s making phone calls. Particularly among younger generations, there are many people who find talking over the phone very disturbing. But what if you need to talk on the phone in a foreign language? Things may get even more complicated! We’re here to help with some strategies and practical phrases that will make business phone calls in English as easy as possible.
Some people are born to chat, but not everyone likes it. Especially when it’s Monday morning and you’re in the middle of an important task. Small talk is rather a cultural matter – very often people from Western Europe and the US are all about the small talk, and even if some of the interactions may feel robotic (i.e. they will reply to your “How are you?” with an automatic “Great, and how are you?”) it’s in good taste to ask.
Western Europe and the US are quite relaxed when it comes to tone. Central and Eastern Europeans may be more hesitant to talk about things like your weekend and your family, but for English speakers it’s completely normal.
GREETING & INTRODUCING YOURSELF
Particularly when you’re the one making the call, it is essential that you let the other person know WHO you are, to make things clear and easy from the start. A clear introduction at the beginning of the conversation will save both of you time and energy.
If you’ve already worked together, you could just say something like this:
Example: Hi Ella! It’s Elon from SpaceX. How are you doing today?
If, however, you’re calling someone who may not be expecting your call or know already who you are, you need to say more.
Example: Hi Ella! It’s Elon Musk from SpaceX. My colleague gave me your number because she said you were looking for some assistance in going to the moon. Is now a good time to chat?
When you are answering the phone, it’s best to introduce yourself immediately: state the name of your company and use the magic words: “How may I help you?”. A bit of friendliness will help set a positive tone for the conversation, particularly if the person is calling with a complaint about something.
Example: Hello, this is Ela from Xerox speaking, how may I help you?
This is Xerox, Ella speaking! How can I help?
WHY ARE YOU CALLING?
Now, it can be almost anything. We will focus on a couple of the most popular reasons to call.
1. Asking for someone
If you know who you want to speak to, simply ask.
Example: “May I speak with Maria Simpson / someone from the HR department, please?”
2. Asking for clarification
It’s completely normal that sometimes you might not understand what someone is saying. Don’t stress about it, and simply ask them to explain what they said.
Example: “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Can you please repeat?” Or even say, “Can you please repeat that more slowly?”
You can also be a little sneaky and blame it on the line
Example: “You are breaking up a little, could you repeat that, please?”
3. Taking a message
Some people who might want to leave a message with you, so you can pass it along to your boss or someone else in the company.
Example: “I’m sorry, I’m afraid she’s not available now. Can I take a message?” / “Would you like to leave a message?”
4. Leaving the message
Let’s turn the situation around. You might want to leave a message for someone you wanted to call but who’s currently unavailable.
Example: “Can I please leave a message for Anna Smith? Please let her that James called to discuss the planned changes to our website.”
5. Organizing a meeting
Organizing a meeting via phone can be difficult, especially if you need to meet with more than one person. When trying to organize a meeting, it’s important to be flexible. First, try to gather as much information about every party’s availability as possible, so the next step will be to reach a consensus.
Example: “What time would suit you best?” / “Would Monday work for you?” / “Are there any of the times within the following week unavailable to you?”
6. Requesting info by email
You might get tons of phone calls with different offers for your business. It is completely normal that you don’t have time to discuss the details over the phone. It’s okay to request a catalogue or written offer, so you can take a look at it when you have a moment. This also works when people are trying to give you complex and important information over the phone. Having the info by email will give you more time to process it.
Example: “Could you send me an e-mail with the offer? I’ll take a look at it when I get a chance.”
MAKE SURE TO RESOLVE THE ISSUE
Sometimes people can misunderstand each other when speaking over the phone (even if they’re both using their native language!), so before ending the phone call, make sure the issue you called about is taken care of. In other words, make sure you have understood each other by summarising what was decided and the actions that should follow.
Example: “Let me just make sure I’ve understood correctly. The manufacturing team is moving production to a new factory, and we need to update our sales materials. I’ll send you the draft by Thursday so you can review it before it goes to print. Does that sound about right?”
ENDING THE PHONE CALL
Most of the time we call someone because we have an issue to resolve. That is why it is so important to thank them for taking the time energy to talk. Expressing gratitude is a great way to leave a good impression, as well as to signal that the call is coming to an end.
You can say: “Thank you for your time” or “Thanks a lot for your help”.
If you’re the one answering the phone call, you can simply say: “Thank you for calling”.
We hope these tips will help you feel more comfortable when making phone calls at work! Let us know if we missed anything. If you still feel like you need to practice business English, check out our great Business English teachers here: https://heylangu.com/teacher-listing/1/language,12;motivation,2;speciality,2