Do's And Don'ts of International Phone Etiquette

They say first impressions are last impressions. This definitely stands true for long-distance connections that you won’t be meeting very often (or at all) but only converse with via calls. 

How you communicate during the first call with a client or an important stakeholder will set the tone for the rest of your conversation.   

So, before you get dialling via your hosted phone system to build these relationships, there are some important phone etiquettes that you should bear in mind while communicating with clients overseas. 

This blog will run you through some pointers that can help you have an engaging conversation, not just the first time but every single time. These tips aren’t limited to just one region or country but cover several geographical areas your clients are most likely to be in. 

And by the time you’re done reading this… awkward conversation what?

The USA

When dealing with a client in the USA, business calls are direct and to the point––decisions are made quickly often without a face-to-face meeting. You needn’t make too much small talk and must get to the point fast. Time is money, after all. This means you have a good chance of getting a sale if you have the best price and service. 

Punctuality is extremely important as Americans are often in a hurry, so do not be late for your call. If you are running late, you must send a note explaining why and reschedule the call for another time, if need be.

Do keep in mind that the USA covers four time zones, so schedule calls accordingly. Do not reach out to someone too late in the night or too early in the morning. Should a client miss your call, it’s normal to leave a voicemail. Speak slowly and clearly, and do not include too much information. Simply leave your name, number, and reason for calling.

At the end of every call, it is standard to ask if there is anything else that you can do for them. So, make sure to include a “Is there anything else that I can help you with today?” or “Would you like to know anything else?”

Australia

Australian business culture is accepting of new perspectives, so when calling Australia, the key is to be relaxed. Business calls are more casual and being too formal can be off-putting. Ensure that your tone is light and easygoing, and get your point across without using too much business jargon.

A big no-no for business calls in Australia is scheduling a call during off-hours. Australians value work-life balance and will not be pleased with receiving a call post work. So, make sure to check the time difference and call before their work ends.

Italy

Italians are all about speed and getting to the point quickly––they might even answer the call with “pronto” which essentially means quickly. If you’re prone to rambling, make sure you write down a clear agenda you want to cover in the call and give them the information they need in a quick and concise manner.

If you’re leaving a voicemail, do not leave one longer than 30 seconds. A simple note to say you will call back soon is perfectly acceptable, but rambling on is not. Don’t be surprised if someone on the other end politely reminds you to hurry up.

Spain

If you are calling up a Spanish client, be prepared to be on the phone for a while. Spanish business calls are often filled with talking––both about business and personal matters, so be prepared to chat. Agendas don’t necessarily work when doing business with a company in Spain either.

You must also be prepared for arguments––this is common and should not be taken as a sign that the person receiving the call is angry with you. In Spain, it is considered completely normal to debate and is not a cause for concern. 

When it comes to the don’ts, remember to not start the phone call with “hola” as it is considered disrespectful. Instead, start your conversation with “Buenos Dias” or good morning, “Buenas Tardes” which means good afternoon, or “Buenas Noches” which means good evening. 

Japan

If your client is a Japanese business, cut the small talk. People from the Land of the Rising Sun like their conversations as clear and concise as possible. They may, however, say “yes” even when they mean maybe or even no, out of politeness. So, gain clarity on what is it that they mean––whether they’re interested in your services or not.

When it comes to don’ts, Japanese clients do not accept calls outside of office hours. So, when you schedule that call, time as per their work hours. Once you’ve set a suitable time, do keep the conversation concise. And if you’re expecting a call from them, make sure to receive it as soon as you can.

If it rings more than thrice before you’re able to answer, you should apologise for making them wait.  

Another big no while doing business with Japanese clients is to call them when you’re in a noisy public place (such as a restaurant or a market). They aren’t huge fans of commotion, so make it a point to be in a quiet place when you call them up. 

China

In China, it is acceptable to answer your phone wherever you are, be it in business meetings or any other time. This means that Chinese clients will expect you to do the same and so you must always answer the call. 

It is better to be available and not have all the answers than to be unavailable and miss out on business. Ultimately, this will help you build longer relationships with your Chinese clients.

An important part of doing business with China is patience. Business relationships are formed over time and must be nurtured––so don’t rush through calls or push people for decisions. Invest time in your conversations, and subsequently relationships, and you will see results.

What you must keep in mind––do not answer the phone with “nǐ hǎo”. The standard Chinese greeting is wèi.

Russia

Many Russians still treat the phone system as suspicious, and quite often, calls might go unanswered. Many don’t trust the spoken word either, hence if you do call a Russian client, be prepared to follow up with a written email to confirm what you discussed.

Russian business is often slow and making a deal requires patience. Don’t be too pushy with your sales and take time to nurture relationships, ensuring that you communicate in a way that they’re comfortable with. 

You may also be met with silence or a curt “who is it”. This is not to be considered rude at all. If you don’t let this phase you at the beginning of your call, you will be able to do great business with your Russian clients.

UAE

When dealing with Emirians, it is a must to allow silences. This may feel strange but deals are done after much consideration and it is vital to allow the decision-maker time to think. Again, a “yes” may mean maybe so getting clarification is important.

Listen closely when your client is speaking to you, and make it a point to speak slowly and clearly so that you’re understood. And while asking after your client and making small talk is considered polite, make sure to remain professional throughout the conversation. 

Other Middle Eastern countries

In Arabic speaking countries, it is customary to make small talk and exchange greetings and pleasantries for at least five minutes at the start of a call. This means, when you connect with a client in one of these countries, you must ensure you have extra time at hand to have a talk.

While you may want to stick to only talk shops, you will be considered rude if you don’t indulge in the requisite confab. This may, as a consequence, discourage the Middle Eastern business from working with you. 

Wondering which topics work? You can start by asking them how they are, how their business is faring, ask after their family, and so forth.  

It doesn’t end there––how you end the call is equally important. A simple goodbye won’t suffice––ask your client if they need anything else. And expect them to do the same for you as it is deemed as polite to end the conversation on this note.

International calls with your hosted phone system

With hosted phone systems, international calls are cost-effective and simple to make, opening up your business to new audiences worldwide. You can easily build relationships with overseas clients, and ensure that your outbound agents know all they need to communicate pleasantly yet professionally.

The online portal is a great place to store these communication guidelines so that etiquette is always followed and you avoid any unwarranted offence. 

For countries where small talk is considered polite, you can save details or preferred topics to follow up on later. This way, there’s no need to commit all of these topics to memory. The possibilities are endless with a hosted phone system.

To combat any suspicion from international calls, you can set up local numbers on your hosted phone system. The call will appear as a local number even to your international clients. 

In taking these simple steps to improve your phone etiquette and please your clients abroad, you can significantly increase your profits and raise your brand’s image globally

To find out more about hosted phone systems and international calling, call us today on 0800-084-3663 for a consultation.

Olivia Trott

Content Writer at Acefone
Olivia is an outgoing person who enjoys writing, is an SEO enthusiast, and often interacts with others in intellectual conversations. She enjoys listening to music in her free time. Connect with her on Linkedin and Twitter.
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