Working in Japan: The basics of Japanese business phone calls - Adventures of Anette

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Working in Japan: The basics of Japanese business phone calls

When I started working in Japan I had little no experience with making business phone calls in Japanese. As the extroverted introvert I am just making phone calls in itself, even in my native language, used to be a nerve-wracking experience for me. As you can imagine I went through a rather difficult month when, after having entered a Japanese company as a new grad, we were going to start making phone calls as a part of our 研修 (new grad training).

I was the only foreigner taking part in this training, and all of a sudden I had to sit down and make 40 daily phone calls to an never-ending list of clients all in Japanese. We got no prior training about what sort of phrases to use or anything, and were expected to learn through 数をこなす- through repeating. And believe me, in Japan this mentality seems to be extremely popular. If there's something you can't do you just need to 頑張る (work harder!!). In the beginning I was horrified, and was staring blankly on the telephone numbers of the clients for like five minutes before gathering enough courage to actually make the phone call. Not to mention eavesdropping on my Japanese 同期s (colleagues) to figure out what kind of phrases they would use. Now, two years later, I can proudly say that I've reached a certain level for making business phone calls in Japanese much thanks to the strict environment of the company. It is true that practice makes perfect, but if you're considering working in a Japanese company where you'll have to be able to make phone calls you might want to memorise some phrases in advance in order to make the learning process smoother. I hope the following phrases can be of help:

Basics of making a phone call:
Introduction (To receptionist):
お忙しいところ、恐れ入ります。わたくし、(会社名)の(名前)と申します。
Excuse me, my name is XX from company XX.

いつもお世話になっております。
Thank you for your ongoing support (standard opening/closing phrase for business)

●●様はいらっしゃいますでしょうか.
Is Mr/Ms XX available?

Introduction 2 (To the client):
●●様、いつも大変お世話になっております。
Mr/Ms XX, thank you for your ongoing support

or
(Mr/Ms)様、初めてお電話させて頂きます。わたくし(会社名)の(名前)と申します。
お世話になっております。
Mr/Ms XX, I'm calling you for the first time. My name is XX from XX company. Thank you for your ongoing support.

今、お話してよろしいでしょうか?  /  今、お時間よろしいでしょうか?
Do you have time now?

Other phrases:
たびたび恐れ入ります
Sorry for bothering you again (if you've called the same place earlier the same day etc)

いつも電話ばかりで失礼しております
Sorry for always calling instead of visiting you directly

お電話が遠いようで...
or お電話が遠いようなのですが。
I'm sorry I can't hear you clearly.. (literarily means "the phone sounds far", because saying "I can't hear you" would indicate that the client isn't talking clearly enough, which would sound slightly impolite to a Japanese client)

Final phrases:
お時間有難うございました
Thank you for your time!

引き続きよろしくお願いいたします
Looking forward to continuing our cooperation

それでは、失礼いたします。
Good bye! (used when hanging up)


Basics of receiving a phone call:
Note: Always have a note-block available to write down the contact details for the person calling you

お待たせいたしました。
Sorry for keeping you waiting (used if the phone rings more than 3 times)

お電話ありがとうございます。株式会社●●の●●でございます
Thanks for calling. This is XX from XX company.

失礼ですが、お名前をお伺いしても宜しいでしょうか or
恐れ入りますが、お名前を頂戴できますでしょうか
Excuse my rudeness but may I have your name?

申し訳ございませんが、もう一度御社名をお願いいたします。
I'm really sorry but could you state your company name again?

少々お待ちください
Please wait a second

申し訳ございませんが、●●は現在席を外しております
申し訳ございませんが、●●は現在外出しております
I'm sorry but (person's name, without using -san after the name) is not present / is out.

現在外出しておりまして、○時頃戻る予定となっております
XX is out of the office but will be back around XX o'clock

戻り次第ご連絡させていただ きましょうか?
Shall I ask him/her to call you back when he/she returns?

念のため、お電話番号を伺いしてもよろしいでしょうか。
Just to be on the safe side, may I ask your phone number?

頂いたお電話で恐縮ですが・・
Sorry for changing topics, but.. (used when you want to change topics during a received phone call)

よろしくお願いいたします。
Thank you for your ongoing support

それでは、失礼いたします
Good bye! (used when hanging up)


Business manners to keep in mind:
・Remember that your voice is the representative of the company. Since the person you're calling can't see your face you should smile while talking and raise your voice to a higher pitch than you normally would to sound happier on the phone.
・Note that apparently some foreigners mistakenly use san after their own name. Make sure you avoid using san for yourself and your coworkers when you talk to clients. This is even the case when talking about your superiors! If you use san when you talk about your manager in front of a client your manager will most likely tell you to drop it - "呼び捨てていいよ!".
・In the business world you use negative language to describe your own company while talking to clients. While the word for "Your company" - 御社 / おんしゃ means something like "your honorable company" the kanji 弊 used in the word "My company" - 弊社 / へいしゃ has meanings such as abuse, evil, breakage and harmful. In relation to my previous point you could refer to your superior - let's say Tanaka-san - as 弊社の田中. For instance, 打合せには弊社の田中も同席いたします - Tanaka will also join the meeting.
・After the call is over it is preferable to hang up the phone in a way that makes as little sound as possible to avoid making a bad impression. You should also count to three after having said 失礼いたします before actually hanging up the phone to make sure the client doesn't have anything more to say.

A lot to keep in mind right?! Of course not all of it is a must, but remembering some of these rules and phrases will definitely get you a long way and leave a good impression on your clients.

Thanks for reading! Please let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or comments. Good luck!

-Anette

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who'd gladly trade a trip to the shoppingmall for a hike in the forest any day.

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Adventures ofAnette


The classical story about a girl who went for a one-year exchange program to Japan, fell in love and got stuck there. Starting out as a student in Kyoto in 2010 I now work full-time in Tokyo as a hotel consultant, and write mostly about my travels, working life in Japan as well as a bunch of random stuff.
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