How To Ask A Caller To Speak Up On The Phone

November 28, 2018

We’ve all had experiences where we find it difficult to understand what the other person on the phone call is saying. Receptionists are no exceptions to this.

Whether the line isn't clear on a mobile call, the caller speaks softly, or the caller is in a loud environment, there are many reasons for having to ask someone to speak up on the phone. Telling them directly that you aren't able to understand what they are saying can offend some people. On the other hand, unless you understand what the caller is saying clearly, you will not be able to help them. This is why it is important to encourage the caller to speak clearly and in an audible manner, without seeming rude. 

Even when you are paying full attention to what the customer is saying, there are chances that factors out of your control can make it hard for you to hear them. Here are a few ways you can urge the caller to speak slightly louder. 

1) when you are not able to hear the caller

Before you judge the caller and start urging them to increase their volume indirectly, make sure that your telephone and equipment is in working order. There are chances that your Bluetooth or headset is not working correctly, or the audio jack isn't working. Before you begin to work, make a test call every morning (or night, depending on your shift), and make sure that all your equipment is working properly. 

If everything is working just fine, urge the caller to speak louder in an indirect manner. Never ask them to speak loudly. Instead, make it all about you. Tell them that you are not able to hear them properly, and apologize to them. Here are a few phrases you can use instead of what can be perceived as rude or crass. 

Do not say: Can you speak loudly? 

Say: I apologize, I am having a slight difficulties hearing you OR I’m sorry, our connection is a bit muffled.  

Do not say: Maybe there is something wrong with your telephone. 

Say: Would you mind saying that one more time please? 

2) when the caller's english is rough 

There are times when people will call you who are speaking in their non-primary language.  If you sense that there are some language barriers, speak deliberately and directly in a tone that sounds helpful. Take your time and listen carefully, and repeat back what you've heard for confirmation.

3) When the caller's accent is foreign

English is spoken in a number of countries, and it might be hard to understand accents such as British, Kiwi, Indian, South African, etc. If you encounter a caller who is speaking in an accents you're not used to, do not make them feel conscious about their accent. Instead, go enjoy a movies and or listen to music from these countries in English, and try to understand the distinction between their accents. This will help you to gradually overcome the ability of not being able to understand certain accents, and you may even pick up on some interesting linguistic differences.

4) when the caller naturally speaks soft

Many people have a naturally soft voice, and even when they are asked to try and be more audible, they may still sound delicate or not able to be louder without yelling. Some people naturally speak softly not just because of their voice, but also because of being shy or reserved. In such a situation, pressurizing them or making them feel conscious about their soft voice can make things worse. Instead, be patient, and ask them to repeat what they said. Usually, they will increase their volume the more comfortable they feel on the phone with you. You can blame your connection quality to get them to speak louder. 

If you need them to speak up, say something like this: “I’m having trouble hearing you.. Would you mind saying that one more time?” OR “My ears aren’t working today. Would you mind saying that one more time?” 

5) When the caller is lost in thoughts

Sometimes, you may not hear the caller’s voice because they are actually not speaking. This happens when they are lost in thoughts and or are distracted by something. If they sound incoherent, distracted, or lost in thoughts, urge them gently to respond to you. Do not ever ask “are you there?” Instead, keep repeating that you are unable to hear them and that you would like them to repeat what they said. 

Try to pay attention to your own tone and pitch because you should not sound upset or irritated. Even if there is a long period of silence, try to be polite when they begin speaking again. 

6) When nothing works

Sometimes, no matter how much you urge the caller to speak loudly or clearly, you may still not be able to hear their voice. Never suggest their lines are not working or that they may not be using their telephone or earphones correctly, even though that may be one of the reasons why you are not able to hear their voice. Instead, suggest that they try to call back in a few minutes - hopefully the reception or noise improves. If they can hear you but you can't hear them, you can suggest they reach out to your company via the website or email.

Partner with a Phone Answering Service

As you can see, there could be a number of situations and reasons when you are not able to understand the caller very well. Most often, they speak softly or there is a problem with the line. There could be other situations such as being sick (losing their voice) or accents you're simply not used to. In each of these situations, you need to be polite and courteous, and take some amount of responsibility for the lack of understanding on their behalf. This will help you to project an image of being courteous and polite, without seeming rude. 

If you are a business owner, you will probably not have enough time to make sure that every caller is attended to with such attention. If your business does not have a dedicated 24/7 customer service team, you can easily subscribe to a virtual receptionist service and utilize their answering service available round-the-clock. Live answering services such as Abby Connect make sure that all the equipment is in top order so that there is no reason for receptionists to not hear a caller’s voice. Further, they are trained to patiently speak to callers even when the voice is feeble or low. 

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