Episode 11 - Can I Help You?
We look at how to make business calls. You can watch the video or just listen to the audio.
TAMMY: Wilson & Wilson, can I help you?
LIN: Yes, this is Lin Chan from Acme Appliances. I'd like to speak to Mr Wilson if he's available please?
TAMMY: Would that be Mr Wilson Senior or Mr Wilson Junior?
LIN: Mr Wilson senior.
TAMMY: I'll just see if he's available - hold the line please.
It's a Lin Chan from Acme.
I'm sorry, Mr Wilson's in a meeting at the moment. May I take a message?
LIN: Yes, could you ask him to phone me please. My number's 23115654.
TAMMY: I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name.
LIN: Lin Chan, Acme Appliances.
TAMMY: Let me check the number, 23115654.
LIN: That's right.
TAMMY: I'll pass that message on. Thankyou.
LIN: Thanks. Bye.
LIN: Acme Appliances, Lin Chan speaking.
WILSON: This is Tom Wilson returning your call.
LIN: Ah yes, Mr Wilson. Thanks for calling back. I wanted to set up a meeting with you to discuss your requirements for next year.
WILSON: Yes certainly. How about Thursday about two-thirty.
LIN: That would be fine.
WILSON: Okay, I look forward to seeing you then.
LIN: Thursday, 2.30. See you then.
When we use the phone we can't see the other person, so we have to listen carefully and speak clearly. Often we deal with a switchboard operator or personal assistant, but the language we use on the phone follows conventions.
Wilson & Wilson, can I help you?
Yes, this is Lin Chan from Acme Appliances. I'd like to speak to Mr Wilson if he's available please?
When answering the phone, a switchboard operator will usually say the name of the company, then 'can I help you?' or 'How can I help you?'
Or they may not say anything after the name of the company. In any case, the caller normally says their name, by saying 'this is' and their name, then the name of their company after the words 'from' or 'of', and then who they would like to speak to.
Don't wait to be asked, but offer the information. On the phone, unless you know the other party personally, always use polite, formal language.
Wilson & Wilson. What do you want?
Lin Chan here. Put me through to Wilson.
He doesn't want to speak to you.
Mr Wilson might not want to speak to Lin - but it's not polite to say this. Notice that Lin says she wants to speak to Mr Wilson 'if he's available'.
Often it's not convenient to speak to someone straight away. 'If he's available' really means, 'If he wants to speak to me at the moment.' Here's some useful phrases for asking for someone on the phone:
Is Mr Wilson available please?
Could I speak to Mr Wilson if he's available?
Could you put me through to Mr Wilson?'
I'd like to speak to Mr Wilson if possible please.
So we can say:
'I'd like to speak to Mr Wilson'
Or 'Could I speak to Mr Wilson?'
'If he's available', or
And you always add 'please'.
And another phrase is:
'Could you put me through please?'
The receptionist says:
'I'll just see if he's available', then 'hold the line please'.
But Mr Wilson isn't available, so this is what she says:
I'm sorry, Mr Wilson's in a meeting at the moment.
'In a meeting' is code for it's not convenient for him to talk at the moment'. He may be in a meeting, but he could also be out, or doing something else. Here's some phrases to practise, that can be used for this situation.
I'm sorry, he's in a meeting at the moment.
I'm sorry, he's not available at present.
I'm sorry, he's out of the office at the moment.
And here's one not to use.
I'm sorry, he's busy.
Too busy to talk to me obviously.
To say someone can't talk because they're busy, suggests that your call is not important. But the receptionist knows what to say, and to ask if there's a message.
May I take a message?
Yes, could you ask him to phone me please. My number's 23115654.
It's best to keep messages simple and to the point.
Here are a few simple phrases to use when leaving a message. Practise them with Lin.
Could you ask him to phone me please.
Could you get him to return my call please.
If he could call me back, that would be great.
Of course the important detail here is the actual phone number. It's important to pronounce each number carefully.
Two three, double one, five six five four.
In America they would probably say:
Two three one one, five six five four. Try saying these numbers:
oh four one four, six eight three one
nine double eight two, six double seven six
nine eight eight two, six seven seven six.
And the receptionist must also make sure she has all the details correct.
Here are some phrases you can use to check details.
I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name.
Could you just repeat the number please?
Could I have your number again please?
Would you mind repeating that?
When Tom Wilson returns her call, Lin answers like this...
Ah yes, Mr Wilson. Thanks for calling back. I wanted to set up a meeting with you to discuss your requirements for next year.
Yes certainly. How about Thursday at two-thirty.
That would be fine.
Okay, I look forward to seeing you then.
Thursday, 2.30. See you then.
First Lin thanks him for calling back. She says 'Thanks for calling back'. She could also say, 'Thankyou for returning my call.' Then she states the purpose of her call, and they make the arrangements for the meeting. Because she wants the meeting, Lin lets Wilson suggest a time. This is polite, because he is the customer in this situation. Then he says 'I look forward to seeing you then.'
Again, this is a polite way of ending a conversation - as well as being a signal that there is no more to say.
Notice too, that Lin repeats the day and time of the meeting so that both people are sure about it.
Let's now just review the key phrases for phone calls when calling someone, and making an arrangement.
Repeat them with the receptionist and Lin.
Wilson & Wilson, can I help you?
I'll just see if he's available.
Would you mind holding the line?
Would you like to leave a message?
Sorry, I didn't quite catch your name.
I'd like to speak to Mr Wilson
Could you put me through to Mr Wilson?
This is Lin Chan returning your call.
Thanks for returning my call.
I look forward to seeing you then.
The key points when using the phone are to speak clearly and give essential information. Don't speak too fast, and check that the other person has understood. If not, you may need to rephrase. Use polite, formal language - these conventional phrases are signals for the other person. We need to respond in the right way, or the conversation could be quite short.
Acme Applicances, Lin Chan speaking.
This is Tom Wilson returning your call.
Ah yes, Mr Wilson. Thankyou for calling me back.
That's alright. Goodbye.
And it's goodbye from The Business of English for today. See you next time.