How to Answer the Telephone in the UK Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How to Answer the Telephone in the UK

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A lady answering the telephone.

It's difficult to escape from telephones now. Landline or mobile, almost every house and office will have one, and at some point, you will have to answer it. So the question is, how?

At Home

It's your house, so how do you set the scene? With a mobile or with some swanky landline handsets you can see the caller number. But what if you don't have such a thing or you don't recognise the number?

  • Hello?
  • [your number here]
  • [your name here]
  • Or just wait in silence for the caller to make the first move?

'Hello?' shows the caller that someone is listening, but doesn't give away anything and forces the caller to initiate the conversation. It tends to be preferred by those who aren't sure who is on the other end.

[your number here] is probably the most formal of all. It makes sure the caller knows they've got the right number without actually giving away who is speaking.

[your name here] lets the caller know that they've got through to the right (or wrong!) person, but has the downside of giving away your name right off the bat.

Waiting in silence is probably the least useful way to answer; the caller has no indication that a human is on the other end.

At Work

It's your first day in a new office. The phone rings and you are the only person there to answer it. What do you do?

  • Hello.
  • [your company's name]
  • [your name]
  • [your department]
  • How can I help?
  • Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening.

In reality, it's likely to be a combination of these, and in larger companies especially, there is likely to be a set text to answering the phone. If your company hasn't given you any guidelines, however, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Firstly, what would you like to hear if you were calling this company? Would you expect a cool, formal 'Good Afternoon' or would you like to know that 'Hi, you're through to Sarah'. The tone you set on the outset is the tone that you should stick to throughout the call.

Don't go on too long. You don't need to squeeze in every point above or it will end up garbled and lose the interest of the person calling. Pick a few that you know you'll remember and stick to them.

Be clear. There is no point in giving your name if all the caller can hear is 'HellomynameisSarahHowcanIhelp?'.

Keep calm. It's your first day; nobody will expect you to know what to do, so don't worry about it! If you sound calm, the caller will assume that you are in control, even if all you can do is take a message or forward on the call.

Finally, answer confidently and brightly. Try to smile, even if you don't feel like it, and your voice will naturally make you sound happier. Try not to speak in a monotone, keep a natural rhythm and intonation.

Mobile Telephones

Mobiles are usually a work phone or a personal phone, and you can answer them accordingly. Remember that if you don't recognise the number it could be anyone on the other end.

Non-UK answering techiniques

Different countries have different methods.

  • Spanish: digame (speak to me) or just plain si (yes)
  • Russian: slooshio (listening/ready)
  • German: Answer with your surname. Anything else is considered impolite.
  • France: A quick 'allo usually suffices.
  • Italy: Pronto? or Si.
  • Japan: Use moshi moshi, which is a contraction of moshimasu, moshimasu (I am going to speak), or a simple hai (affirmative).
  • Answering the telephone can be very important- remember it's those first impressions that really count. Make sure that you choose a formality that suits the occasion, and that your voice sounds bright, cheerful and efficient.

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