Business English Telephoning Lesson

Making Appointments & Taking Messages in English

Communicating on the telephone is a very difficult task for English language learners.  Part of the issue is the clarity of the phone call – often it is difficult to hear and even English native speakers can have trouble with a poor connection. 

Another problem is the lack of visual confirmation.  We can’t see the lips or face of the person we are talking to, so we have lost some important information for helping us understand what is being said.  We don’t even know if the person we are talking to is nodding their head in understanding or not – or looking confused and frustrated.

The structure of a typical telephone call is noted first in the GRAY row and the dialog is in the ORANGE row and may look like this:

Initial Telephone Contact:

A: 1. Greeting     2. Name of Company    3. Offer of Assistance

A: Good morning, Alpha Data Company.  May I help you?

B: 1. Response to question [if asked]   2. Request person or department   3. Please

B: Yes.  May I speak to Mr. Hsu in Accounts, please?**

A: 1. Request name

A: May I ask who is calling, please?

B: Winifred Young from Dyno Masters Company.

A: 1. Thank you  2. Confirmation of Request    3. Ask to Hold

A:  Thank you Ms. Young.  Mr. Hsu in Accounts?  One moment please.

B:  Thank you.

** Another option and quite common is:
This is Winifred Young from Dyna Masters, may I speak to Mr. Hsu in Accounts, please?
This option is a bit faster as it removes one step from the exchange.

Contact with your target person:

A:  1. Greeting  2. Name   3. Offer assistance

A: Hello, Kevin Hsu here.  May I help you?

B:  1. Greeting  2. Name and company  3. State reason for calling

B:  Hello Mr. Hsu, this is Winifred Young from Dyna Masters.  I don’t quite understand the last invoice you sent us for maintenance of our Internet servers.

A: 1. Greeting  2. Address the question

A: Hello Ms. Young.  Let me check that invoice and see what the issue was.  Can you give me the invoice number, please? 

Example Dialog:  Practice this dialog with a partner

A: Hello.  Phuket Gazette, may I help you?

B: Yes, please.  I’d like to talk to Chris Husted in advertising.

A: May I ask who is calling please?

B: Suda Forbes from Thailand Travel Magazine.

A. One moment please, Ms. Forbes.

A: Hello, this is Chris Hust. May I help you?

B: Hi Chris, this is Suda from Thailand Travel.  There was a problem with our display advertisement last week.  The telephone number was missing!

A: Oh no!  Let me check on an that.  Can I give you a call back this afternoon?

B: Yes, please do – we’d like a credit or for the ad to run again, please.

A: I am sure we can arrange something, Suda.

B: Thank you, Chris.  I’ll talk to you later.

A: Thank you for letting me know about the problem, Suda.  Bye, bye

B: Bye, Chris.

Now go to the Telephoning Activities Page to practice what you have learned.

** Note: The Taking and Leaving Telephone Messages Activity – uses the dialog above for the first part of the conversation.

Business English Telephoning Lesson