Have you ever felt nervous about making a business phone call in English?
Well, you’re not alone!
It’s quite natural to feel this way when making a business call in a language that’s not your native language.
There are many things you can do to overcome your nervousness and become more confident in handling business calls in English.
Today I’ll be sharing some tips that will help you improve your business English telephone skills.
Then you’ll learn 25 useful phrases and expressions you can use in your very next business call.
How to Improve Your Business English Telephone Skills
1. Have a plan
Before you make your call, prepare a plan of what you’re going to say.
Write down the main points and the sequence (order) for addressing them. Think about the expressions and phrases you’ll use. Think about some possible responses you might get from the person you’re calling and how you’ll respond to them.
2. Focus on the call
A busy office where there’s a lot of activity going on may not be the best place for you to focus on your phone call. Look for a quieter place with fewer distractions where you’ll be able to focus on listening, process what you’re hearing and structure your responses.
3. Speak clearly
It’s okay if your sentences aren’t all grammatically correct, or if you can’t think of the best word to describe something. The important thing is to speak clearly so that the other person can take what you’re saying and make sense of it.
4. Learn from your mistakes
After the phone call, think about the things you could have done better. Maybe you could have used a better word here or the correct tense there? It’s okay to make mistakes. As long as you realize your mistakes, you’ll be able to fix them and continue improving!
A superb way to learn from your mistakes and make sure you don’t make them again is to use FluentU.
With these tips in mind, let’s move on to 25 phrases and expressions you can use to handle slightly more complex business situations. If you’re looking for more basic telephone phrases, start here—then come back!
25 Powerful English Phrases for Handling Everyday Business Telephone Conversations
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Answering the call
Answering the phone seems like a very easy task. However, it’s different from answering calls from your friends. You’ll want to say something that’s polite and that gives your caller some information.
1. Hello, you’ve reached [company name]. This is [your name] speaking. How may I help you?
This is the best standard introduction to a phone call, and it works in almost all situations.
If you receive a phone call from someone with a question or request that you’re unable to answer or help with, simply redirect (transfer) the call to the right person by saying the following.
2. Let me transfer you to [name]’s extension.
If you know the extension number of the person in your office who can help the caller, you may offer to transfer the call to that person’s telephone extension. Each person or department in the office usually has an internal phone line that’s referred to as an extension.
3. Would you like me to put you through to [name]?
You may use the phrasal verb put through instead of the word transfer. Put through is a separable phrasal verb that you can use with a pronoun, as in put you through.
Phrasing this expression as a question and using the modal verb would will give it a softer tone.
Following up with information
In situations where you may not have the information the caller is asking for, you may offer to check on the information and follow up with them (call them back) later.
4. I don’t have that information right now. Can I call you right back?
Calling someone right back means within a short period of time, usually within an hour. If you’re likely going to take a longer time to call them back, you could say:
Can I call you back + [expected time]?
For example: Can I call you back this afternoon/tomorrow?
5. I’ll need to find out if we can do that. Let me call you back.
The expression let me has a positive tone and shows you’ll take charge of looking up the information and calling back fairly quickly.
6. I’m not sure if we can do that, but let me check. Could you please hold?
The word hold means to hold the line and not hang up. You could also say:
Could you please hold on?
Using a question form with the modal verb could gives this a softer tone.
Thanking the caller
When you get back to the call after you’ve kept the caller on hold you could say:
7. Thank you for holding.
Just a simple “thank you” for keeping the caller waiting goes a long way in showing your politeness.
8. I’m sorry to keep you waiting.
If you’ve kept the caller on hold for a while, a simple apology adds a courteous touch.
Getting back to the caller
When following up with your caller about something you discussed earlier, you may say:
9. I’m calling to follow up on [topic].
If some time has passed, you could also add some background information to refresh the memory of the caller about their earlier call. You could say something like:
I’m calling to follow up on your question about shipping. I believe you wanted to know if you can place your order here and have the items shipped to Mongolia. I’ve checked, and the good news is yes, we can ship your order directly to Mongolia.
10. Hello, this is [your name] from [company name]. I’m returning your call about [topic].
In this situation, you missed the call while you were away, and you’re now returning that call. You may also include a simple apology and a brief background of the information the caller might have left for you earlier.
I’m returning your call about international shipping. I’m sorry I missed your call earlier. How can I help you?
Sending and receiving information about deliveries
In business, you often have to deal with deliveries of products, documents, etc. When there are delays in deliveries, people and companies are concerned and would usually call to find out what happened.
11. The [item] should be on its way to you now.
The modal verb should indicates that you’re not very sure, but you expect that the item has been shipped and is now on the way to the caller.
12. We shipped out the [item] last week. Let me check.
Here you’re saying that you’re sure the item has been shipped but you’ll track the shipment to see where it is now.
13. The [item] should have arrived already, unless there has been a delay.
The modal verb should indicates you expect the item should have arrived. The word unless is used in circumstances (cases) where something might have happened to cause the delay. You could say something like this:
The shipment should have arrived unless there has been a delay due to the flood.
Dealing with bad connections
Bad connections aren’t uncommon, especially on international phone calls. You can either ask the caller to repeat themselves or offer to call them back later. You could say:
14. I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. Could you repeat that please?
You can use this line if the caller is speaking quietly, if your office is too noisy, or if it’s just difficult to understand them. The reason isn’t always a bad connection, but it’s noted that you can’t hear them well.
15. The line is quite bad. Could you please say that again?
This phrase mentions the “line,” which is the phone line or connection.
16. Can I call you right back?
We mentioned this phrase before, but now you’ll know it’s useful in many different situations. This means you would like to end the call and try again. You’re going to hang up and call the person back in a few minutes.
Giving negative information
If you receive a call asking for a coworker who’s away for a period of time, you could say:
17. I’m afraid [name] is away from the office and won’t be back until next week.
You may include some additional information about when they’re expected back in the office.
18. I’m sorry, [name] is in a meeting/out of town right now.
You may offer some information about where your coworker might be.
19. I’m sorry, there’s nobody here by that name.
This is what you can say to a caller who asks for someone who doesn’t work in your office.
20. I’m sorry, you’ve got the wrong number.
This one is simple. You say this when the caller has called your office’s phone number by mistake.
21. Could you please clarify what you mean?
In situations where you’re not sure what the caller means, simply ask them to explain themselves. You may also expand on this by saying:
Could you please clarify what you mean when you say your headphones cannot be plugged in to your phone?
22. I’m not sure I understand. Did you mean…?
A good way to ask for clarification is to summarize (shorten) what you think the caller said. The caller can then either agree or clarify further, if necessary.
I’m not sure I understand. Did you mean that you’d like us to exchange the item you purchased with our latest design at no cost?
Ending the call
23. I will follow up with the requested information soon.
If the caller requested information from you, but you couldn’t get the information during the call, you can say this phrase at the end of the conversation. This lets the caller know that you’ll look for the information and call them back soon.
24. I will keep you updated on our progress.
If you’ll need to do something to assist the caller, you can say this to let them know you’re going to work on the issue. You’ll need to contact them again by phone or email to let them know about your progress.
25. Thank you, have a nice day!
If the phone call is ending and you have resolved everything with the caller, then you can use this simple ending.
And there you have it, 25 telephone expressions you can start using right away for different business situations.
Remember to practice using them every chance you get.
With these skills, you’ll soon gain confidence in any kind of telephone situation.
The phone’s ringing—go answer it!
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