Answering the phone properly in English in a business setting can be difficult for a lot of people. But good news, your neighborhood friendly teachers here at Awesome are here to help! Here are some great tips to help you because while it might seem simple and not important, it is the opposite. If you ask people what the worst company is and why, they will usually tell you it is because of poor customer service. Most of the time any interaction they have with the company is through the phone, which makes answering the phone very important for you and your business.
- Ask your company how they want you to answer the phone. If there is no format they give you, then you want to follow some general guidelines. Most companies will answer the phone using language similar to the following: “Good morning, thank you for calling (company name). This is (your name), how may I help you?” This is said slowly, clearly, and in a friendly manner. The first greeting, good morning, will of course change depending on the time of day. You may also say good afternoon or good evening, but never say good night as a greeting. In English this is a way to say goodbye to someone.
- Throughout the phone call, remember to be polite. This is why in the greeting we say thank you for calling. We are happy that they have called and saying this is a polite and formal way to express this to them. It is the same reason we tell them our name. In English this is polite to do when first speaking with someone or meeting them. We say “how may I help you” because we are here to help them. Remember, ‘can’ is talking about ability. So we would not say “Can I help you” because yes, physically you are able to help to them. “May” is talking about permission and options. We are telling the person we are speaking to that we will help them, but we just need them to tell us how we can help them.
- Whenever you are speaking with someone on any kind of business call, write down their name. You should try to refer to them by their name and not a pronoun, for the entire conversation. Once again, this is polite and respectful. In business calls, this should always be our goal no matter what business we are in. Saying “What is your name” can be polite but it is usually thought to be too casual. Once again we need to use that magic word of ‘may’. “May I ask who’s calling?” is the most polite and formal way to ask this question and should be used in a business call.
- If you are getting information during this business call, always write it down. This should be something I do not need to tell you. What might be a new idea for you however, is that you should repeat the information back to them before moving on. This is especially true if you are taking down a phone number from them. Most English speakers are used to having the number repeated back. It helps to make sure they feel that they are being listened to.
- If your call involves you just listening for a length of time while the other person is speaking, make sure to give them some kind of sign that you are listening. For most people, this just means a simple “right” or “uh-huh” while they are talking. Do not keep silent the entire time they are talking but also do not interrupt them or try to talk over them. Most English speakers understand and expect some kind of verbal sign that you are listening if they are talking for longer than a minute.
- Once the phone call is over, you want to have a great goodbye to make sure that their last memory of this call is that you are friendly, polite, respectful, and great to do business with. Once again, we should thank them for calling. It is okay to say something similar to “Thank you for calling (company name). It was a pleasure speaking to you today, please call again soon and have a great day.” The two greatest words in the English language are please and thank you. When they are used properly, they can say a lot. More importantly, when they are not used they say even more! If you do not thank someone for calling your business, there is a chance that their last memory of you will be a bad one. You do not need to say ‘please call again soon’ but if you are going to say something along those lines you must say please as well.