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Telephoning - Telephoning across cultures

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Telephoning - Telephoning across cultures
Telephoning

·         Reading



2. Telephoning across cultures

Many people are not very confident about using the telephone in English. However, good preparation can make telephoning much easier and more effective. Then, once the call begins, speak slowly and clearly and use simple language.

Check that you understand what has been said. Repeat the most important information, look for confirmation. Ask for repetition if you think it is necessary.

Remember too that different cultures have different ways of using language. Some speak in a very literal way so it is always quite clear what they mean. Others are more indirect, using hints, suggestions and understatement (for example ‘not very good results’ = ‘absolutely disastrous’) to put over their message. North America, Scandinavia, Germany and France are ‘explicit’ countries, while the British have a reputation for not making clear exactly what they mean. One reason for this seems to be that the British use language in a more abstract way than most Americans and continental Europeans. In Britain there are also conventions of politeness and a tendency to avoid showing one’s true feelings. For example if a Dutchman says an idea is ‘interesting’ he means that it is interesting. If an Englishman says that an idea is ‘interesting’ you have to deduce from the way he says it whether he means it is a good idea or a bad idea.

Meanwhile, for a similar reason Japanese, Russian and Arabs – ‘subtle’ countries – sometimes seem vague and devious to the British. If they say an idea is interesting it may be out of politeness.

The opposite of this is that plain speakers can seem rude and dominating to subtle speakers, as Americans can sound to the British – or the British to the Japanese.

The British have the tendency to engage in small talk at the beginning and end of a telephone conversation. Questions about the weather, health, business in general and what one has been doing recently are all part of telephoning, laying a foundation for the true purpose of the call. At the end of the call there may well be various pleasantries, Nice talking to you, Say hello to the family (if you have met them) and Looking forward to seeing you again soon. A sharp, brief style of talking on the phone may appear unfriendly to a British partner. Not all nationalities are as keen on small talk as the British!

Being aware of these differences can help in understanding people with different cultural traditions. The difficulty on the telephone is that you cannot see the body language to help you.

Choose the closest definition of the following words from the text.

1.      literal

a. direct and clear  b. full of literary style  c. abstract and

complicated

2.      understatement

a. kind words         b. less strong way of talking    c. clever

speech

3.      deduce

a. reduce    b. work out      c. disagree

4.      vague

a. unclear   b. unfriendly    c. insincere

5.      devious

a. rude       b. dishonest     c. clever

6.      pleasantries

a. question b. request         c. polite remarks

Language Checklist

Telephoning (1)

Introducing yourself

Good morning, Aristo.

Hello, this is … from …

Hello, my name’s … calling from …

Saying who you want

I’d like to speak to … please.

Could I have the … Department, please?

Is… there, please?

Saying someone is not available

I’m sorry he/she’s not available …

Sorry, he/she’s away / not in / in a meeting / in Milan.

Leaving and taking messages

Could you give him/her a message?

Can I leave him/her a message?

Please tell him/her …

Please ask him/her to ring me on…

Can I take a message?

If you give me your number I’ll ask him/her to call you later.

Offering to help in other ways

Can anyone else help you?

Can I help you perhaps?

Would you like to speak to his assistant?

Shall I ask him to call you back?

Asking for repetition

Sorry, I didn’t catch (your name / your number / your company name )

Sorry, could you repeat your (name, number, etc.).

Sorry, I didn’t hear that.

Sorry, I didn’t understand that.

Could you spell (that / your name), please.

Acknowledging repetition

Okay, I’ve got that now.

(Mr. Kyoto) I understand.

I see, thank you.

Skill Checklist

Telephoning: Preparation for a call

Reading – background information

Desk preparation

Have the following available:

·         Relevant documentation / notes

·         Correspondence received

·         Computer files on screen

·         Pen and paper

·         Diary

Check time available

·         How much time do you need?

·         How much time do you have?

Objectives

·         Who do you want to speak to?

·         In case of non/availability, have an alternative strategy:

·         Call back / be called back – when?

·         Leave a message

·         Speak to someone else

·         Write or fax information

Do you want to:

·         Find out information?

·         Give information?

Introduction

Do you need to refer to:

·         A previous call?

·         A letter, order, invoice or fax?

·         Someone else (who?)

·         An event (what? When?)

Prediction

What do you expect the other person to say / ask you? how will you respond?

Exercise 1 Making a call

A few common expressions are enough for most telephone conversations. Practice these telephone expressions by completing the following dialogue using the words listed below.

Switchboard    Conglomerate Group; can I help you?

You                 Could I ------  ------- Mr. Pardee, please?



Switchboard    Putting you ------ .

Secretary        Hello, Mr. Pardee’s ------ . -------- I help you?

You                 ------, can you hear me? It’s a ------ line. Could you ---     ---- up, please?

Secretary        IS THAT BETTER? Who’s --------, please?

You                 (your name) from (your company).

Secretary        Oh, hello. How nice to hear from you again. We haven’t seen you for ages. How are you?

You                 Fine thanks. Could you ------- me -------- to Mr. Pardee, please?

Secretary        -------- the line a moment. I’ll see if he’s in. I’m sorry, I’m afraid he’s not in the ------- at the ------ . Could you give me your ----------, and I’ll ask him to ------- you ---------- ?

You                 I’m ----- 347 8621. That’s London.

Secretary        Would you like to leave any -------- for him?

You                 No thanks. Just tell him I --------- .

Secretary        Certainly. Nice to hear from you again.

You                 I’ll expect him to ------- me this afternoon, then. Thanks.

Secretary        You’re welcome. Goodbye.

On                   speak to           back     message           bad      put       number                        call                  ring

Secretary         through                        office                speak   speaking          can                  hello

Rang                            hold                 moment                        through

Note: If you do not hear or understand the other person, say: I’m sorry? or I’m sorry, I don’t understand. It is not polite to say: Please repeat!

·         DATAFILE: The Telephone

This datafile gives you many of the terms and phrases commonly used in making telephone calls.

The directory                                     

Look up their number in the directory. (UK).                         

I’ll look up the number            in the telephone book. (US).               

The number is ex-directory. (UK).      

The number is unlisted. (US).             

I’ll ring Directory Enquiries. (UK).     

I’ll ring information. (US).                                          

The receiver

Can I help you?

Putting you through.

I’m afraid he’s not available at the moment. (UK).

I’m afraid he’s tided up at the moment.

You’re welcome. Goodbye.

The line                                     

He’s on the other line.            

Would you like to hold the line?         

The line is engaged. (UK).      

The line is busy. (US).            

The operator (in the public telephone system)

Dial 100 for the operator. (UK).

Dial 0 (zero) for the operator. (US).

I’d like to make a reverse charge call. (UK).

I’d like to make a collect call. (US).

I’d like to make a transfer charge call. (UK).                          

The dial

Dial 123 for the correct time. (UK).

Listen for the dialling tone.

All lines to the country you have dialled are engaged.

Please try later. (UK).

The codebook                                                

I’m on a long distance (or international) call.  

The STD code is … (UK).                  

The area code is … (US).                    

A message pad

Can I tell him who called?

Can I give her a message?

Let me take down your number.

·         Remember

If you do not understand, say… “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that.”

Practice 1

Use the following flow chart to make a complete telephone conversation. If you need to, refer to the Language Checklist.

Caller                                                  Receptionist

‘Good morning, Gorliz and Zimmerman.’

Introduce yourself.

Ask to speak to Mr. Conrad Bird.

                                                            Mr. Bird is not in.

Ask when you can contact him.          

Explain that he is away – offer to take a message.

You want Mr. Bird to call you.

Repeat your name.

Give your number.

                                                            Confirm the information.

End call.

                                                            End call.

Practice 2

In the following conversation, a Singaporean exporter plans to send goods from Singapore to Greece. He wants to have a meeting with a Greek shipping company, Intership.

Suggest suitable phrases for each step in the conversation, then practice the dialogue with a colleague.

Caller (Computech)                            Called Person (Intership)

                                                                       

                                                            ‘Intership, good morning.’

Greeting.

Introduce yourself.

                                                            Check name.

Confirm / correct.

                                                            Offer to help.

Ask for appointment

with Mr. Dionis.

                                                            Ask what it’s about.

Explain that you want

to discuss transport of goods

from Singapore to Athens.      

Acknowledge – ask when would be a good time.

Suggest next week.

                                                            Reject – Mr. Dionis is away.

                                                            Suggest beginning of next

month.

Agree.

Suggest Monday 3rd.

Reject – On Monday Mr. Dionis is busy all day.

                                                            Suggest Tuesday.

Agree. Suggest 10.00 a.m.

Agree – ask for fax to confirm.

                                                            Offer to book hotel.

Agree to fax – hotel booking

is not necessary.

Signal end of call.

End call / thanks / refer to fax, etc.




End call.

Language Checklist

Telephoning (2)

Stating reason for a call

I’m ringing to …

I’d like to …

I need some information about …

Making arrangements

Could we meet some time next month?

When would be a good time?

Would Thursday at 5 o’clock suit you?

What about July 21st?

That would be fine.

No, sorry, I can’t make it then.

Sorry I’m too busy next week.

Changing arrangements

We’ve an appointment for next month, but …

I’m afraid I can’t come on that day.

Could we fix an alternative?

Confirming information

So…

Can I check that? You said …

To confirm that …

Can you / can I confirm that by fax?

Ending a call

Right. I think that’ all.

Thanks very much for your help.

Do call if you need anything else.

I look forward to …  seeing you / your call / your letter / your fax / our meeting.

Goodbye and thanks.

Bye for now.

Skills Checklist

Telephoning (2)

Voice

·         Speed

·         Clarity

·         Volume

Structure

·         Background information

·         Key information

·         Repetition, emphasis and confirmation

·         Possible confirmation by fax

Style

·         Formal / informal

·         Cold call / new contact / established contact

·         In-company vs. Customer / Supplier / Outside agent

·         Colleague / friend / business associate / public

·         Company image

Structure of a call

Beginning

Introduce yourself

Get who you want

Small talk

State problem / reason for call

Middle

Ask questions

Get / give information

Confirm information

End

Signal end

Thank other person

Small talk

Refer to next contact

Close call

Check that there’s nothing else to say

Exercise 2  Changing arrangements

It is not always possible to follow your original plans. You, or your contact, may want to change an appointment.

Language input           To apologize, say: I’m afraid that ….

                                                                I’m sorry but …

To suggest another time, say: Could I suggest …?

                                             What about …?

                                             Perhaps …?

Below is the schedule for your week in Sydney, Australia. Just before you leave for Sydney you receive various telephone calls from the people you are going to visit. They want to change their appointments. But you do not want to change the order in which you visit them. First apologize for not managing the day they suggest, then suggest a different time on the original day. Here you have their calls:

Hello? Mr. Rossi? This is the Australian Chemical Bank. I’m Mr. Whitle’s secretary. I understand you have an appointment for 10 a.m. on Tuesday 13th. I’m afraid that Mr. Whitley is rather tied up them. Could I suggest Monday instead?

Yes, I’m sure that will be OK.

Hello, Mr. Rossi? Tim Brown, your agent. Small problem. Our meeting for Friday is all right, but Monday afternoon is likely to be difficult; someone is coming to see us who might be a useful outlet for some of your range. perhaps we could change our meeting to Tuesday afternoon?

Yes, OK. Right, that’s fine.

Mr. Rossi? It’s Jenny Kinsella here. From B.I.G. I’m sorry but my colleagues can’t all make it on Thursday afternoon. Could I suggest we meet on Tuesday instead?

Er… yes… why not? OK … Well, thank you very much.

Hello again, Tim Brown here again. I forgot; I have some other customers visiting on Friday morning. How about a meeting on Thursday sometime, if that’s all right with you?

Right. Sorry to be difficult. Thanks a lot, Mr. Rossi. Bye now.

Mr. Rossi? Good morning. I’m ringing for Mr. Lund of Lund and Lund Associates. He’s very sorry, but he won’t be able to manage Wednesday afternoon. Could I suggest Friday afternoon instead?

Well, I think that should be all right. I’ll give you a cal this afternoon to confirm. Thank you. Goodbye.

Monday, 12 November

Morning           Arrive Sydney airport 8.30 a.m.

Afternoon        3 p.m. Tim Brown (agent) at hotel

Tuesday, 13 November

Morning           10 a.m. Mr. Whitley, Australian Chemical Bank

Afternoon

Wednesday, 14 November

Morning

Afternoon        2 p.m. Lund & Lund Associates (Mr. William Lund)

Thursday, 15 November

Morning

Afternoon        3 p.m. Jenny Kinsella + colleagues (B.I.G. Distribution)

Friday, 16 November

Morning           11 a.m. Tim Brown

Afternoon        flight 390, Depart Sydney 6 p.m.

Practice 3

Use the flow chart below as the basis for a telephone conversation involving a complaint. Refer to the Language Checklist if you need to.

Berraondo S.A.                                   Tao Loon Company

(Sales Office)



                                                            Answer.

Greeting.

Introduce yourself.

                                                            Offer to help.

Explain problem.

Order HF5618 for 20 printers.

Only 17 have arrived.

                                                            Express surprise.

This is second time you have

received an incomplete delivery.

Suggest possible error in order administration.

Agree – say you need the

other three printers urgently.

Delays are costing you goodwill –

unhappy customers.

                                                            Explain stock problems.

Ask for a promise of delivery

date – ASAP.

                                                            Promise next Monday.

Complain – you want despatch now.

                                                            Express regret – not possible.

Ask for fax to confirm despatch.

                                                            Agree – apologize.

                                                            End call.

Language Checklist

Telephoning (3)

Stating reason for the call

I’m calling about …

Unfortunately, there’s a problem with …

I’m ringing to complain about …

Explaining the problem

There seems to be …

We haven’t received…

The … doesn’t work.

The quality of the work is below standard.

The specifications are not in accordance with our order.

Referring to previous problems

It’s not the first time we’ve had this problem.

This is the (third) time this has happened.

Three months ago…

We had a meeting about this and you assured us that…

Threatening

If the problem is not resolved…

    We’ll have to reconsider our position.

    We’ll have to renegotiate the contract.

    We’ll contact other suppliers.

    The consequences could be very serious.

Handling complaints and other problems

Asking for details

Could you tell me exactly what …?

Can you tell me …?

What’s the …?

Apologizing

I’m sorry to hear that.

I’m sorry about the problem / delay / mistake…

Denying an accusation

No, I don’t think that can be right.

I’m sorry but I think you’re mistaken.

I’m afraid that’s not quite right.

I’m afraid that can’t be true.

Skills Checklist

Telephoning (3)

If you receive a complaint:

·         Consider your company’s reputation

·         Express surprise

·         Ask for details

·         Suggest action

·         Promise to investigate

·         Make reasonable suggestions, offers to help.

Consider your customer and:

·         Show polite understanding

·         Use active listening

·         Reassure customer.

If you make a complaint:

·         Prepare for the call

·         Be sure of the facts

·         Have documentation available

·         Decide what you require to resolve the problem – at least partially – or completely.

Who is to blame?

Who is responsible?

Are you talking to the right person?

Was your order or your specifications correct?

Were you partly responsible for arrangements which went wrong, e.g. transport?

Does responsibility actually lie elsewhere, i.e. with a third party?

If you do not get what you want:

·         Keep control – state what you need calmly

·         Do you need to continue to do business with the other side?

·         If you do, keep a good relationship

·         Express disappointment – not anger

·         Don’t use threats – unless you have to!

·         Read the text, then mark the sentences that follow as True (T) or False (F).

In some countries, like Italy and Britain, conversation is a form of entertainment. There is an endless flow and if you break the flow for a second someone else will pick it up. In other countries there is a higher value placed on listening – it is not only impolite to break in but listeners will consider what has been said in silence before responding. Finland and Japan are examples.

If you are talking to people who are also speaking English as a foreign language, they are likely to leave gaps and silences while they search for words or try to make sense of what you have just said. So be patient and try not to interrupt, as you would hope they would be patient with you.

Every country has its own codes of etiquette. For example it is common for Anglo-Saxons to use first names very quickly, even in a letter of fax or telephone call. Such instant familiarity is much less acceptable in the rest of Europe and Asia where even business partners and colleagues of many years’ acquaintance address each other by the equivalent of Mr. or Mrs. And the last name or job title.

So stick to last names unless you specifically agree to do otherwise. Don’t interpret the other person’s formality as stiffness or unfriendliness. On the other hand, if business partners with an Anglo-Saxon background get on to first name terms straightaway, don’t be surprised.

Above all, one should remember that people do not usually mind if their own codes are broken by foreigners as long as they sense consideration and goodwill. This is much more important than a set of rules of etiquette.

a. For the British and the Italians it is normal to interrupt the other speaker during the conversation.

b. A special importance is attached to listening in Japanese and Finnish cultures.

c. One should interrupt and try to help speakers who may have difficulty in saying what they want to say.

d. It is unusual for Americans and British to use first names early in a business relationship.

e. It doesn’t matter if you break certain social rules if it is clear that you are sensitive to other people.

f. Etiquette is the critical point in telephoning between different cultures.








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