Telephone Conversations

Business Telephone Role Plays

woman on a business call
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Telephoning in English is an important part of doing business in English. Telephone conversations, especially business telephone conversations, follow certain patterns:

  • Someone answers the phone and asks if he / she can help.
  • The caller makes a request - either to be connected to someone or for information.
  • The caller is connected, given information or told that he /she is not in the office at the moment.
  • If the person who is requested is not in the office, the caller is asked to leave a message.
  • The caller leaves a message or asks other questions.
  • The phone call finishes.

Of course, all business telephone conversations do not follow this rigid scheme. However, this is the basic outline for most business telephone conversations, especially those made to businesses to request information or ask for clarification.

Example Business Telephone Conversation - Role Play

The following example business telephone conversation can be used as a role play in class to introduce a number of standard phrases to practice telephoning in English.

Ms Anderson (sales representative Jewels and Things): ring ring ... ring ring ... ring ring ...
Secretary (Mr. Smith): Hello, Diamonds Galore, this is Peter speaking. How may I be of help to you today?

Ms Anderson: Yes, this is Ms Janice Anderson calling. May I speak to Mr. Franks, please?


Mr. Smith: I'm afraid Mr. Franks is out of the office at the moment. Would you like me to take a message?

Ms Anderson: Uhm... actually, this call is rather urgent. We spoke yesterday about a delivery problem that Mr. Franks mentioned. Did he leave any information with you?
Henry Smith: As a matter of fact, he did.

He said that a representative from your company might be calling. He also asked me to ask you a few questions..

Ms Anderson: Great, I'd love to see this problem resolved as quickly as possible.
Henry Smith: Well, we still haven't received the shipment of earrings that was supposed to arrive last Tuesday.

Ms Anderson: Yes, I'm terribly sorry about that. In the meantime, I've spoken with our delivery department and they assured me that the earrings will be delivered by tomorrow morning.
Mr. Smith Excellent, I'm sure Mr. Franks will be pleased to hear that.

Ms Anderson: Yes, the shipment was delayed from France. We weren't able to send along your shipment until this morning.
Mr. Smith I see. Mr. Franks also wanted to schedule a meeting with you later this week.

Ms Anderson: Certainly, what is he doing on Thursday afternoon?
Mr. Smith I'm afraid he's meeting with some clients out of town. How about Thursday morning?

Ms Anderson: Unfortunately, I'm seeing someone else on Thursday morning. Is he doing anything on Friday morning?
Mr. Smith No, it looks like he's free then.

Ms Anderson: Great, should I come by at 9?
Mr. SmithWell, he usually holds a staff meeting at nine. It only lasts a half an hour or so.

How about 10?

Ms Anderson: Yes, 10 would be great.
Mr. Smith OK, I'll schedule that. Ms Anderson at 10, Friday Morning... Is there anything else I can help you with?

Ms Anderson: No, I think that's everything. Thank you for your help... Goodbye.
Mr. Smith Goodbye.

Key Phrases and Vocabulary

How may I be of help - This is a formal phrase used to show politeness. It means 'Can I help you?'
calling - telephoning
out of the office - not in the office
take a message - to write down a message from the caller
urgent - very important
delivery - the bringing of goods to a client
mentioned - said
resolved - taken care of
as quickly as possible - in the fastest manner, ASAP
shipment - delivery, the bringing of goods to a client
assured - certainty that something is true or will happen
pleased - happy
delayed -not be able to do something on time
looks like - seems
staff meeting - a meeting of employees
lasts - to take time
schedule - future appointments
How may I be of help - This is a formal phrase used to show politeness. It means 'Can I help you?'.


take a message - to write down a message from the caller
rather - very, quite
urgent - very important
delivery - the bringing of goods to a client
mentioned - said
resolved - taken care of
still - a form of emphasis to show that something has not been done up to the moment in time
shipment - delivery, the bringing of goods to a client
assured - certainty that something is true or will happen
pleased - happy
delayed -not be able to do something on time
send along - deliver
How about - phrase for making suggestions
else - another added person or thing
looks like - seems
schedule - future appointments

Short Summary of the Telephone Conversation

Fill in the gaps with the words and phrases below to complete the summary of the conversation.

Ms Anderson telephones Diamonds Galore to _____ with Mr. Franks. Mr. Franks is not in the office, but Henry Smith, the secretary, speaks to Ms Anderson about a _____ problem with some earrings. The earrings have not yet _____ at Diamonds Galore. Ms Anderson tells Peter that there was a problem with the _____ from France, but that the earrings should arrive tomorrow morning.

Next, they _____ a meeting between Ms Anderson and Mr. Franks. Mr. Franks is not able to _____ with Ms Anderson on Thursday because he is _____. They finally decide on Friday morning at 10 o'clock after a _____ that Mr Owen usually holds on Friday mornings.

Answers

speak, delivery / shipment, arrived, shipment / delivery, schedule, meet, busy, staff meeting

Practice Cues for Role Plays

Use these cues to create practice role plays on your own to further your telephoning skills to help with workplace communication.

Role Play Cue 1

John

You'd like to speak to Kevin at FunStuff Brothers, a toy making company. You're returning his sales call because you're interested in the company's products.

Kate

You're the receptionist at FunStuff Brothers, try to transfer the call to Kevin, but take a message when you find out Kevin can't take the call.

Role Play Cue 2

Estelle

You're calling to schedule a meeting with the head of the personnel department.

You'd like to meet on Tuesday morning, but can come in on Thursday and Friday as well.

Bob

You're able to schedule a meeting at the end of next week, but you will be out of the office until Thursday morning.