Let’s run through the typical scenario and what phrases will help push the conversation along in an organized manner.
- Explain That the Call Recipient Isn’t Available
Let the caller know that the person they’re looking for isn’t able to take the call.
Normally, you’d start with some apologies:
Sorry, I’m afraid…
My apologies, but…
Then explain the specific situation. If you can’t or don’t want to explain why the person is unavailable, use a general phrase such as:
…Ms. Smith is not available.
…Ms. Smith can’t come to the phone right now.
If you’re comfortable giving more details, you can say something like:
…Ms. Smith is currently in a meeting.
…Ms. Smith is currently on the other line/on another call. (In other words, they’re already having a phone conversation with someone else.)
…Ms. Smith is out of the office/away on vacation/away on a business trip.
…Ms. Smith has just popped out of her office for a minute.
- Get the Caller’s Name and Number
Use these phrases to find out who you’re talking to.
The modal verbs “may” or “could” are usually used as a very polite form of asking for permission, in place of the verb “can.”
May I know who’s calling?
May I know who I’m speaking to?
May I have your name please?
Could I take down your name and number please?
- Offer to Take a Message
Good thing you’re there to help! Use the modal verbs “could,” “would,” or “may” to begin the process of taking a message.
Here are some examples:
Would you like to leave Ms. Smith a message?
May I take a message?
You can also suggest alternates, such as:
Would you like to try back later?
Could you call back at [time]?
Is there someone else you would like to speak to?
- Clarify Confusing Parts of the Message
Once the caller begins leaving their message, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if there’s something you didn’t understand or simply didn’t hear. It’s better to get it right than to pass on information that isn’t correct.
Below are some phrases that can help you ask for information you may have missed the first time.
I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.
Sorry, could you repeat that please?
Sorry, the connection isn’t very good, do you mind speaking a little louder please?
Sorry, I missed that last bit. Did you say…?
- Verify the Message
You’re almost there now. All you have to do is go over the message again to verify that you got it all down.
Let me check that I got this right. You said…
To confirm, you said…
I’ll repeat your message… Is that correct?
Is there anything else I can help you with?
- Say Goodbye
Good job! Now say goodbye and set the caller at ease that the message will be passed on.
Thank you for call, I’ll pass your message to Ms. Smith.
I’ll make sure Ms. Smith gets your message. Thank you, have a nice day.
As you can see, once you get the hang of it, taking messages politely in business English isn’t really that difficult. You can use the same phrases in any situation. Combine that with enhanced listening capabilities, and message-taking will become a breeze. You’ll never feel hesitant about picking up the telephone again.