Ringing in the millions


Companies lose millions of dollars of business through bad telephone handling. A survey found that company switchboards failed to answer one out of five calls within ten rings, or reply to 10% of calls within 20 rings. Ninety percent of all sales enquiries begin on the telephone, so this is the opportunity to project a healthy company image – one of friendliness, efficiency and professionalism. Staff should be aware that bad telephone behaviour can result in millions of dollars in lost revenue. In the insurance business, for example, failure to answer promptly could see a policy of a quarter of a million dollars go straight to the competition!
A single telephone receptionist can answer as many as 300,000 calls a year. Companies should train personnel in the skills of transferring a call, placing calls on hold, dealing with angry callers, answering correspondence by phone, using a caller’s name, and taking messages correctly. Callers should not hear expressions like “she’s just gone out” or “he’s not with us anymore”. Surveys show that customers want a prompt response by a real person (not a machine) who can make a decision.
For a great many of a firm’s customers, the first – and often the only – impression they carry in their minds is the one generated by the people they talk to on the phone. The quality of a firm’s response to a call is one of the key factors in creating a perception of good or bad service. And remember, more business is lost through poor service than by poor product performance.


Exercise 1

Match the words from the two columns to form collocations:


1. to deal                 a decision
2. to lose                a healthy image
3. to make             calls
4. to place              calls on hold
5. to project           messages
6. to take                millions
7. to transfer         with angry callers


Exercise 2

Decipher these words from the text:


1. _wi_ch_oa_d
2. _pp_r_un_t_
3. _ffi_i_n_y
4. _eh_vi_u_
5. _om_e_iti_n
6. _m_ _ess_o_
7. _ _rc_ _ti_n


Phrasals, phrasals…


This lesson’s reading text was about telephoning. This area of business language is very reach in phrasal verbs. Here are some of the most common ones. Try and guess their meaning by matching with Polish equivalents:


1. be cut off              dodzwonić się
2. call back              mówić głośniej
3. get through        oddzwonić
4. hang up              odebrać (telefon)
5. hold on               połączyć
6. look up               sprawdzić
7. pick up               zaczekać
8. put through      zakończyć połączenie
9. speak up           zostać rozłączonym


Exercise 3

Complete the sentences with the ”telephoning verbs”:


1. She’s not in her office but if you’d like to ______________ a minute, I’ll find her.
2. His line is free now, I can _________you__________.
3. I can hardly hear you, Maggie. Can you ____________?
4. Hello… I think the line’s gone dead – we’ve been _____________.
5. If you don’t know the number try to ______it ________ in the Internet.
6. Sorry, my taxi is waiting outside. I’ve got to ____________.
7. Could you tell her I’ll _____________ later.
8. If the phone rings, please don’t _______it______. It might be this crazy customer!
9. I’ve been trying to ______________ all day but his line seems to be engaged all the time.


Grammar corner…

In this lesson’s reading text we can observe such grammar forms: callers name / firms customers / firms response. They are called Saxon Genitive and are used to express belonging to sb or being part of sth and in most cases can also be expressed by “the … of …” structure (the name of the caller / the customers of the firm etc.). What we need to remember is where to put the apostrophe (‘). Look at these examples:

worker’s desk is biurko pracownika and workers’ desk is biurko pracowników!


Exercise 4


Use the Saxon genitive structure correctly in these examples:


1. I have to check my customers/applications this week.
2. I hate taking broker/advice.
3. The Smiths/house is going to be sold soon.
4. I’m a bit nervous before today/meeting with my boss.
5. It’s my colleague/birthday next Monday.
6. We’d like to invite our clients/children to the party.
7. The company/name reminds me of last summer.




handling – obchodzenie się z czymś, tu: odbieranie (telefonów)
survey – badanie
switchboard – centrala telefoniczna
to fail to do sth – nie zrobić czegoś
to reply to – odpowiedzieć na
sales enquiry – zapytanie sprzedażowe
opportunity – sposobność
friendliness – życzliwość
efficiency – wydajność
to be aware – być świadomym
behaviour – zachowanie
to result in – skutkować
revenue – przychód
insurance business – ubezpieczenia
failure to do sth – niezrobienie czegoś
promptly – szybko
a policy – polisa
competition – konkurencja
to train – szkolić
skill – umiejętność
to transfer a call – przekazywać połączenie
to place calls on hold – …. połączenia oczekujące
to take messages – przyjmować wiadomości
response – odpowiedź
impression – wrażenie
to generate – wytworzyć
key factor – kluczowy czynnik
perception – postrzeganie
product performance – działanie produktu


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1. to deal with angry callers
2. to lose millions
3. to make a decision
4. to place calls on hold
5. to project a healthy image
6. to take messages
7. to transfer calls

Ex. 2
1. switchboard
2. opportunity
3. efficiency
4. behaviour
5. competition
6. impression
7. perception

1. be cut off zostać rozłączonym
2. call back oddzwonić
3. get through dodzwonić się
4. hang up zakończyć połączenie
5. hold on zaczekać
6. look up sprawdzić
7. pick up odebrać (telefon)
8. put through polączyć
9. speak up mówić glośniej

Ex. 3
1. hold on
2. put through
3. speak up
4. cut off
5. look up
6. hang up
7. call back
8. pick up
9. get through

1. I have to check my customers’ applications this week.
2. I hate taking broker’s advice.
3. The Smiths’ house is going to be sold soon.
4. I’m a bit nervous before today’s meeting with my boss.
5. It’s my colleague’s birthday next Monday.
6. We’d like to invite our clients’ children to the party.
7. The company’s name reminds me of last summer.