Speaking on the phone photo
Smile when you speak on the phone

Business Japanese: Answering the Phone – Part 2

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.

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:

  • こちらこそお世話になっています。鈴木課長をお願いします。
    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:

  • 鈴木でございますね。かしこまりました。
    Suzuki de gozaimasu ne. Kashikomarimashita.
    “That’s Suzuki, isn’t it? Certainly.”

You should then ask them to wait before putting them on hold:

  • 少々お待ちくださいませ。
    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:

  • 課長の鈴木でございますね。
    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:

  • 鈴木課長、株式会社Yの田中様から3 番にお電話が入っております。
    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.

  • 申し訳ございません。あいにく鈴木は外出しております。
    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:

  • それでは、お戻り後、お電話くださるようお伝えください。
    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:

  • かしこまりました。恐れ入りますが、念のためお電話番号をお願いします。
    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.

  • ありがとうございます。それでは復唱します。06-XXXX-XXXX株式会社Yの田中様でいらっしゃいますね。
    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.

    • 鈴木が戻りましたら確かに申し伝えます。わたくし、スミスが承りました。お電話ありがとうございました。
      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.

    Part 1

    Michael Lambe

    PREVIOUS ARTICLE