Malaysian Telephone Etiquette

For most of us, an important aspect of our daily lives is the making and answering of telephone calls. We make and receive calls for a variety of reasons – to make appointments, to enquire about something or simply to connect with our friends and loved ones. Telephone calls are also an essential part of most businesses, and contribute to the perception or impression of the company.

Have you ever had someone comment on the way Malaysians speak on the phone, whether favourably or not? Someone who is not familiar with the language, speech and culture of Malaysians may find our telephone etiquette (or lack thereof) quite disconcerting. Here are some common opinions about the way Malaysians communicate and conduct business via telephone:

Not picking up the phone within three rings. There is no immediate urgency to answer a call within the first three rings, even more so if the phone call is meant for someone else not currently at the desk or if it rings during break/lunch/prayer times. My ex-manager, who is Japanese, felt very strongly about this because picking up a telephone call is considered as basic customer service manners in Japan. Not picking up the phone equates to having no willingness to do business, and would hinder any further business relationship. In Malaysia though, this has become an accepted and expected norm.

Not introducing one’s name or organization. While working for a multinational company, I noticed that those from Anglo cultures often answered their phone calls with a greeting and their full name such as, ‘Good morning, John Smith speaking.’ On the other hand, when making a call to someone else, they have a tendency to greet, introduce their name and the organization they are representing before delving into a conversation. Malaysians though, have a habit of using as few words as possible to convey a message so we often get right to the point at the beginning of the call and will likely only identify ourselves later on in the call if prompted to do so (or not at all, if the person we’re looking for is not around).

Preferring to send a text message or email instead of making a call. While conveying a message is much faster when done over the telephone, Malaysians generally prefer to communicate in written form instead of speaking directly to their counterpart. Due to our education system, some may be more proficient in written rather than oral English and the added advantage of serving as proof of conversation makes communication in written form a preferred option.phone_2

While the above relate to some Malaysian habits, what are some basicglobal communication guidelines to follow if we’re working for multinational companies or doing business with other countries? Firstly, we should use a professional greeting when answering the phone. A great example would be, “Thank you for calling XYZ company. This is Amanda speaking. How may I help you?” This ensures the caller has called the right number and shows eagerness on our part to assist the caller with his/her request. Secondly, we should convey a friendly and inviting tone. By smiling before and during the call, it will reflect in our tone of voice that we are appreciative of their business. Thirdly, should the intended recipient be absent, we should ask if the caller would like to leave a message or call back later. This shows we’re interested in helping the caller achieve their intended communication.

Good telephone etiquette is important because we become the face/voice of the company when we answer telephone calls. The ability to handle calls effectively and professionally will increase the likelihood of forming lasting business relationships. Essential to achieving this is having the awareness and understanding of communicating globally and our various training programs can help you and your organization acquire these skills.

By: Boleh Blogger