September 6, 2016

Essential Phrases for Formal Phone Calls

3 minute read

Have you ever made a dialled a number and then, when the other person picks up the phone, completely forgotten what you were going to say? In English we say that our mind ‘goes blank’ at moments like that. It’s common enough to do this in your own language, but when you have the added stress of making a phone call in another language, it’s really important to figure out what you are going to say before you call.

Luckily, most phone calls that you make to a business, for example a hotel or restaurant, will follow the same pattern. This makes it much easier to think through what you need to say first.

Firstly, when you call a business, they are likely to answer with “Hello” or “Good afternoon”, followed by their name, the name of the business or the department. Many people will also say “How can I help you?” For example:

“Hello, Emma speaking”

“Good afternoon, Richmond Hotel. How can I help you?”

“Good morning, you’re through to account services. This is Chris speaking. How can I help you today?”

A lot of the time, you can simply say hello/hi and then politely say what you need. For example:

“Hello. I’d like to make a reservation, please.”

“Hi. Could you tell me my bank balance, please?”

If your request is a little more complicated or you need to explain it, it helps to start the sentence with something like:

“Hello. The reason I’m calling is…”

“Hi. I’m calling about…”

Or, to sound even more polite, start with a phrase like “I wonder if you can help me” “I hope you can help me with something” or “I’m here in/at [name of place] and I could really use your help.”

For example:

“Hello. I wonder if you can help me. I’m looking for a new lens for my camera…”

“Hi, I hope you can help me with something. My card doesn’t seem to be working…”

“Hello. I’m here in London for a few days and I could really use your help. I’m trying to find tickets to see a show…”

If you need to speak to a particular person, you will need to say something like:

“Hello. Could you put me through to Sarah Townsend please?”

“Hello. Could I speak to Andrew Pryce, please?”

“Hello. I’m trying to get hold of Kristine. Is she available?”

“Hi, I need to speak to someone from the marketing team, please.”

In these cases, you’re likely to hear a response like this:

“Please hold the line.”

“Please wait a moment.”

“Okay, I’ll put you through now.”

“I’ll just see if I can get hold of her.”

“Can you hold for a second? I’ll check if he’s available.”

In these cases, just say thank you and wait for them to put you on hold. However, they might also say:

“Can I ask what it’s regarding?”

This means “what do you want to talk to this person about?” You should explain in a sentence or two why you’re calling, or simply say something brief, like:

“it’s about our meeting on Friday.”

“I’m returning her call.”

“It’s about my account.”

“He’s helping me with a project.”

“It’s about my bill this month. We spoke before.”

It also helps to introduce yourself at the start of the call. For example:

“Hello, this is Phil from Teeford Services. Could you put me through to Lucy Walsh, please?”

“Hi, this is Beth Jones, I’m staying in Room 112. Please could I speak to Kathy?”

If they are unavailable, you can say something like:

“Could I leave a message please?”

“Could you ask him to call me back, please?”

“Please could you tell her that Robert called?”

“Do you know what time she will be back?”

“Okay, that’s fine. I’ll call back later.”

If you’re nervous about making the phone call, write down what you are going to say before you call, and visualise yourself having a conversation using/hearing these phrases first. And finally, always say thank you and goodbye at the end of the call. Don’t just hang up the phone!

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