This is the second part of our step-by-step guide to answering a business phone call in Japanese. In Part 1 we looked at appropriate greetings, how to ask the caller’s name, and how to confirm the caller’s details. In Part 2 we will introduce the language you need to put a caller on hold, how to pass the call on to a colleague, and what you should say if your colleague is unavailable.
4. Putting the caller on hold
Most probably the caller will want to speak to someone else in your company. After you have confirmed the caller’s details, they will say something like the following:
kochirakoso osewa ni natteimasu. Suzuki kachou wo onegaishimasu.
“We are also much obliged. May I speak to Section Chief Suzuki?”
Again, you should confirm the person they want to speak to:
Suzuki de gozaimasu ne. Kashikomarimashita.
“That’s Suzuki, isn’t it? Certainly.”
You should then ask them to wait before putting them on hold:
Shoushou omachi kudasaimase.
“One moment please.”
You should always put the caller on hold before passing the phone to a colleague, as it is considered rude to let them hear your conversation.
5. Working Titles
The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that in the exchange above, the caller asked for鈴木課長 (Section Chief Suzuki) but in the response you should only use the name 鈴木 and not the title. This is an example of 謙遜語 (kensongo) or humble language. When speaking to someone from outside your company, even when referring to a senior colleague, you should drop their official title. Of course there may be more than one Suzuki in your company, in which case you can say something like this:
Kacho no Suzuki de gozaimasu ne.
“That’s Suzuki the Section Chief, isn’t it?”
6. Telling your colleague they have a call
Be sure to let your colleague know precisely who is calling:
Suzuki-kachou kabushikigaisha Y no Tanaka kara 3-ban ni odenwa ga haiteorimasu.
“Section Chief Suzuki, Ms. Tanaka from Y Company is calling for you on line 3.”
7. When the person requested is not there
If your colleague is out of the office, let the caller know and tell him you can have your colleague call them back.
午後4 時30 分頃、帰社予定でございます。戻りましたら、ご連絡いたしましょうか。
Moushiwake gozaimasen. Ainiku Suzuki wa gaishutsu shiteorimasu.
Gogo yo-ji-han goro, kisha yotei de gozaimasu. Modorimashitara, gorenraku itashimashou ka.
“I am terribly sorry. Unfortunately, Suzuki is out of the office.
He should be back around 4.30. When he gets back, shall I have him contact you?”
8. Taking a number
At this point the caller will probably say something like this:
Soredewa, omodori go, odenwa kudasaru you otsutae kudasai.
“I see, when he gets back, could you ask him to call me please?”
And then you should take the caller’s number:
Kashikomarimashita. Osoreirimasu ga, nen no tame odenwa bango wo onegaishimasu.
“Certainly. Excuse me, but just to be sure, could I have your telephone number please?”
After receiving the caller’s information, you should confirm that you have their correct details.
Arigatou gozaimasu. Soredewa fukushou shimasu. 06-XXXX-XXXX kabushikigaisha Y no Tanaka-sama de irasshaimasu ne.
“Thank you. Let me repeat that back to you. That’s Ms. Tanaka from Y Company at 06-XXXX-XXXX isn’t it?”
Continue by confirming that you will have your colleague call them back, tell them who you are, and thank them for their call.
Suzuki ga modorimashitara tashika ni moushitsutaemasu. Watakushi, Sumisu ga uketamawarimashita. odenwa arigatou gozaimashita.
“As soon as Suzuki gets back I will let him know. My name is Smith. Thank you for calling.”
10. Two final points of telephone etiquette
When taking a business call you should speak clearly and sound enthusiastic. Smile when you speak on the phone and the caller will be able to hear the positivity in your voice.
Many companies will have their own script for dealing with phone calls, so be sure to learn the company rules and follow them. If in doubt about a particular situation, ask your supervisor for advice.