【Business Japanese】Answering phone calls

Answering phone calls are the skills required in any business situation. Since you cannot see the face of the person on the other end of the line, many foreigners who have native language other than Japanese may feel awkward on the phone. However, if you can remember and speak certain Japanese phrases, there should be no problem.

In this article, we introduce you to the basics of answering the phone calls, etiquette of Japanese phone calls and tips.

Basics of answering phone calls

Speak in cheerful voice

It is not easy to make or answer phone calls in foreign languages. Many people try not to make mistakes in Japanese language which makes them get nervous and turn their voice and tone of voice low.

It is not important to speak with proper Japanese or honorifics, but to speak in a cheerful voice as a representative of the company. If you make mistakes in Japanese, you can apologize and restart your conversation without a problem, so speak with confidence.

Try to speak slowly

Being nervous tends to make people speak too fast. Depending on the speaker’s intonation, it may be difficult to understand and hear what the speaker is saying. To speak calmly, it is recommended that you take notes on what you are going to say and what you hear, and speak along with that organized information.

Always have notepads and pens at hand

Finding notes and pens after phone rings will take you a long time to answer the phone calls. If you are in a position to take phone calls, you should always keep notepads and pens nearby. In case that the calls are for someone else, make sure to take notes so that you can provide correct information to the person who will be transferred.

Answer the phone within three rings whenever you can

When you answer phone calls, it is common in Japan to answer within three rings as not to keep the customer waiting. If it takes more than three rings, it is regarded as a good manner to say “Thank you for waiting” at the beginning of the conversation.

Answering phone calls

When picking up the phone

  • 「はい、株式会社〇〇でございます。」
  • 「お電話ありがとうございます。株式会社〇〇でございます。」
  • 「お電話ありがとうございます。株式会社〇〇の□□(名前)でございます。

Moshi moshi” (hello) is not appropriate in business phone calls. Instead, use “Odenwa arigatou gozaimasu” (Thank you for calling) or “Hai” (Yes). When you receive a call, say your company name first. In some companies you may be required to say your name and company name, so you may want to check with your senior colleague first.

When you hear the caller’s name and company name

  • 「株式会社〇〇の□□(名前)様ですね。いつもお世話になっております。」

When you hear the caller’s name and company name, repeat them aloud for confirmation. If you missed the names, be sure to ask the caller to repeat them because it is rude to mispronounce a person’s name or a company name.

In addition, it sounds natural to add “Itsumo osewa ni natte orimasu” (thank you for your patronage) even if the caller is not your own customer because you are answering the phone as a representative of the company.

When you couldn’t catch the caller’s name and company name and need to confirm them

  • 「恐れ入りますが、もう一度お名前をお願いできますでしょうか。」
  • 「申し訳ございません、お電話が少々遠いようです。」

Even among Japanese people, it is common to ask for the caller’s name and company name again. If you could not catch the word, make sure to ask the caller to repeat the information, as it is not considered rude. When you miss the names because of the line condition or the environment, use “Odenwa ga shoushou tooi youdesu” (your voice sounds a little distant).

When transferring your call

  • 「かしこまりました。少々お待ちください。」(保留にする)
  • 「□□(名前)でございますね。ただいまおつなぎ致します。少々お待ちくださいませ。」(保留にする)

If there is more than one person with the same surname, it is best to recite the name of the person to transfer the call just in case to avoid any mistakes.

When the person you are trying to transfer the call is not available or unable to answer the phone

  • 他の電話に出ているとき
  • 一時的に席を外していとき
  • 外出しているとき
  • 休みや終日外出のとき

When the person you are trying to transfer the call cannot answer the phone, explain to the customer why you are unable to answer the phone. Since you are unable to transfer the call, it would be more natural to add, “Moushiwake gozaimasen” (I’m sorry).

When a caller needs to leave a message or a return call.

  • 「かしこまりました。恐れ入りますが、念のためにお電話番号を伺ってよろしいでしょうか。」
  • 「かしこまりました。私でよろしければ代わりにご用件をおうかがいいたしますが、いかがいたしましょうか?」

If the person you are trying to transfer the call is not available and the return call is needed, make sure to ask for the caller’s phone number. The number may be shown on the display of your phone, but you still need to confirm and recite the number the caller wants to be called back because the caller may want to be called back to a different number such as company mobile phone.

If the call can be handled within your team without the absent person, you can ask the caller to inform you what the call is about.

How to handle a call(Japanese)

自分 「お電話ありがとうございます。株式会社Jopusです。」

自分 「株式会社エージェンシーの鈴木様ですね、いつもお世話になっております。」

自分 保留にする

自分 取り次ぐのが分かったら、受話器を置く


When the person in charge is not available(Japanese)

自分 「お電話ありがとうございます。株式会社Jopusです。」

自分 「株式会社エージェンシーの鈴木様ですね、いつもお世話になっております。」

自分 保留にする






In this article, we introduced the basics of answering phone calls in a Japanese company. Not only foreigners, but also Japanese new employees learn phone etiquette when they are hired. No one can do it perfectly from the beginning. If you can listen consciously to what your senior colleagues who answer phone calls regularly are saying, then maybe you will be able to learn the phrases they often use. Let’s practice so that you will be able to do the same as your senior colleagues.

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