Category Archives: Telephone

360 – Telephone Tips for Communicating in English 2

Free Resources: PDF Transcript | Quiz & Vocab


Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m Tim Simmons, and today we’re going to have a closer look at telephone skills. In particular, we’re going to talk about controlling the call and the flow of information.

Communicating effectively on the phone is an essential skill. And whether you’re talking to a client, a colleague, a supplier, your boss, or a bicycle courier, you need to make sure your purpose and the information is clear. Last week, we focused on your telephone attitude. Today, we’ll look at ways you can make sure information is flowing smoothly and that you are guiding the conversation.

Good telephone communication can actually begin before you pick up the phone, with a bit of preparation. Grab a piece of paper and jot down your key questions or issues that you need to resolve. Put them in a logical order so that you’re not just jumping from topic to topic. The less you have to rely on your memory, the better. Nothing’s worse than hanging up and realizing that you didn’t get everything you need. People are busy, and it’s best to handle things with one call rather than two, or three. So, if you’ve got a clear purpose for your call, then you can start working down your list. And that paper and pen should be handy for taking notes as you’re talking.

Okay, you’ve managed to get ahold of the person you want to talk to, you’ve got the right attitude, and you’re dealing with information. Now you need to make sure everything is clear and that you’ve understood what the other person is saying. To do that, you need to confirm information. You can do this in a couple of ways. First off, you can repeat information back to the other person. So, if someone says “I can meet you at 4:30,” you can say “Right. 4:30.” You can also do this by asking for confirmation and restating the information in different words. So, if someone says “It’s pretty unlikely that the delivery is going to make it there on time,” you can say “Do you mean that our delivery is going to be late?” And when you do this, it’s best to restate things in the simplest and easiest language possible. Just to avoid any confusion.

Another thing you need to do with information is give feedback about it. In other words, tell the other person clearly what you think about what he or she has just said. “I can meet you at 4:30” could be followed by “4:30 is a great time for me.” Or “The delivery is going to be late” could be followed by “I understand and I’ll let everyone else here know.”

After you confirm the important points and give feedback, you can move on to another question. Remember, the person who is asking the questions is in control. By asking questions, you can direct the conversation to the topics you want.

Sometimes when you ask questions, it’s a good idea to limit options rather than leaving things open-ended. Think about the difference between these two questions: “What day is good for you?” and “How about Tuesday or Wednesday morning?” Which is easier to answer? Which will reduce the amount of discussion involved? That’s right, the second one. Tuesday or Wednesday. Whenever possible, limit the number of options to two. If neither option is acceptable, give another two.

In some cases, you won’t be able to reach the person you want to talk with and you’ll have to leave a message. Don’t forget to leave a complete message. That includes your name, your company, your purpose, and your number. Leaving out any of those pieces of information will reduce the likelihood that you’ll be called back. It will also reduce the amount of discussion needed at the beginning of the call back. One of our older podcasts, BEP 72, covers lots of language for leaving a message and is well worth a look.

Can you see what ties all these ideas together? It’s all about clarity. Information should be clear. Any time information is not clear, time and energy is wasted. And that brings us to the end of your phone call, when you want to guarantee that clarity. Before you bring the call to a close, confirm the basics of what you discussed. That means the what, the where, the when, and the how of any action that is required. It’s pretty embarrassing to have to call someone back because you didn’t understand everything.

Your telephone is one of your most important communication tools. Learning to use it is about more than just figuring out the speed dial options. Maintain a positive and professional attitude, and use the techniques we’ve covered today, and you won’t dread that next call.

If you’d like to test yourself on this lesson, have a look at the website. There you’ll find a quiz about today’s show as well as a complete transcript and vocabulary explanations.

So long, and see you again soon.

Discussion Questions

1. How much planning do you usually do before an important telephone call?
2. What do you usually do when you don’t understand what someone is trying to say on the telephone?
3. What information do you normally include when you leave a message for someone?

360 – Telephone Tips for Communicating in English 1

Free Resources: PDF Transcript | Quiz & Vocab


Hello and welcome back to the Skills 360 podcast. I’m Tim Simmons and I’m glad you could join me. Today we’re going to take a look at an activity you do every day: talking on the telephone.

Telephones don’t stay at the office anymore. We carry them around in our pockets. We use them when we’re commuting, when we’re out for lunch, when we’re working on the computer, and even when we’re supposed to be talking to someone else face-to-face. They’re always on. And that means we have to be ‘on’ too. Being ‘on’ means having the right attitude.

The right attitude starts with promptness. When you hear that ring, don’t delay. Grab it before the third ring so the caller knows he’s important. And when you answer, be sure to smile. You might be thinking that a smile is unnecessary because the other person can’t actually see you. But in this case, smiling is about more than just turning up the corners of your mouth. Smiling is an attitude. It means having a voice that is pleasant and enthusiastic. That voice helps create a connection with the other person and open the door to good communication. And keeping a smile on your voice is something you should do when you initiate the call as well. It’s not just the job of the person receiving the call.

Okay, you’re smiling, but what should you say? If you’re answering the phone, you can always fall back on the standard four-part greeting: you need to greet, to identify yourself – and your company – and to offer help. That goes something like this: “Good afternoon. This is Jim at Kepler Marketing. How can I help you?” Even if you know who’s calling, you should still keep this same format, even if you present it a bit more informally. For example, you might say “Hi, this is Jim. What can I do for you?” Want more information and practice on this kind of thing? Look up BEP 69A, which is all about answering the telephone.

Now, if you’re the caller, you will follow a similar blueprint. But instead of greeting, identification, and offer, you’ll have a greeting, identification, and request. That could go something like this: “Good morning. This is Fred Collins with WebStar. I’d like to speak with Mr. Tony Flair.” Again, if you’re calling someone you’re familiar with, you’ll still follow the same pattern. For example: “Hi Sue. Fred with Webstar here. Could you put me through to Tony?”

Great. You’ve started the call out with the right attitude. Now keep it up throughout the call. How you communicate is just as important as what you communicate. Remember to speak slowly and clearly. The less people have to ask you to repeat yourself, the better. Surely you’ve seen a person in the street with a mobile phone at one ear and a finger plugging the other, saying “pardon?” and straining to hear what the other person is saying. Let’s try and avoid that. That also means choosing clear words. Say “yes” instead of mumbling “uh-huh.” And “I understand” instead of “got it.”

Another important tip is to stay focused on the call and the other person. If you’re trying to do several things at once, the chances of miscommunication shoot up. And it’s usually pretty obvious to others when you’re trying to order a sandwich at the same time as talking to them. Give the other person all the courtesy you would if you were dealing with him face-to-face. That includes being patient. Let the other person take the time he needs to talk. In return, you should receive patience and the time to talk as well. The same goes for common manners. Unfortunately, manners often go out the window as soon as there’s a device or machine placed between two people. You can see this in email, text messages, and the attitude of people driving in their cars. And you hear it on the phone as well. But people with good telephone skills will use “pardon” over “what,” and all those other common courtesies that we accept as normal when we’re standing in front of another person.

Great. Now you’ve started the call off right, you’ve got a great attitude, you’re smiling, being polite, and speaking clearly. The communication pathway should be smooth, and what you are saying should come through clearly. And that’s what we’ll look at in our next episode. We’ll learn some tips and tricks for making sure that the content of the call gets through clearly.

If you’d like to test yourself on what we’ve just covered, have a look at the website. There you’ll find a quiz about today’s show as well as a complete transcript and vocabulary explanations.

Thanks for listening, and see you again soon.