How to Ask a Caller to Speak Up on the Phone

Peyton Duplechien • 19 Aug 2019 • 3 min read

When your sales or customer service representatives are having a hard time hearing someone on the phone, it’s vital to maintain telephone etiquette and courtesy at all times. Here’s a look at scenarios when it can be hard to hear someone on the phone — and what to do when those scenarios emerge.

Times When It’s Tough to Hear Someone on the Phone

We’ve all been in situations when it’s hard to hear the person on the other end of the line. The leading causes of those situations include:

  • Soft tones: Some people speak softer than others. When you’re on the phone with someone who naturally speaks a little more quietly, it can be tough to have a conversation.
  • Language barriers: Language barriers can also make it difficult to understand someone. When you’re speaking to someone who is struggling to find the right words, the quality of conversation can suffer.
  • Poor connections: Bad cellular reception is one of the leading causes of poor phone conversations. If someone is cutting in and out, or if their voice sounds like it’s on a delay, it can be hard to chat.
  • Phone issues: A caller may have the volume turned too far down on their phone. Similarly, some people may think they are on speaker when they are not. Others may accidentally hit the mute button.

Everyone has experienced a challenging phone conversation, whether it was due to one of the reasons listed above or another issue. Read on to learn more about effectively dealing with these situations while maintaining business telephone etiquette.

The Art of Asking Politely

Having a difficult phone conversation? There are ways to fix the problem while also maintaining phone etiquette and courtesy. Follow this three-step process when you’re on the phone with someone who is difficult to understand:

  • Apologize: Start by apologizing. By simply saying “I’m sorry,” you put the caller at ease. If you fail to apologize first, offering solutions may sound like an accusation.
  • Take responsibility: Focus on using the word “I” rather than “you.” For example, use terms like “I’m having trouble hearing you” and “I missed that.” Avoid saying things like “You need to speak louder.”
  • Provide solutions rather than problems: It’s not enough to say “Something’s wrong with your phone.” — that’s a problem rather than a solution, so focus on providing answers instead. For example, start by saying, “Would you repeat that?”

What to Do When Asking the Other Person to Speak Up Doesn’t Work

Even the best business telephone etiquette doesn’t guarantee you’ll find a solution to the problem. If asking the other person to speak up or repeat themselves doesn’t work, it’s time to try something else.

First, get as much information as possible despite the connection issues. Second, try moving the caller onto a different channel, such as email or live chat. Finally, make the caller feel as though moving to a different channel is part of the regular process. If done correctly, the caller won’t even know phone issues affected the conversation.

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