As a non English speaker with a non English name, I find myself opening quite a long question before I even get a confirmation about the fact that, the person in the other side can even help me in this particular case. All I need is a single interaction before I fire away the main question such as:

Service Provider: Hello, this is Dan speaking, how can I help you?

Me: Hi there, this is Mehrad here. How are you doing Dan?

Service Provider: I am good, yourself?

Me: Good, thank you. I have my internet connection with you guys and the technicians installed the box today, however, I still cannot
get a connection despite the fact that ...

Except, I find asking how the provider is, a little bit strange sometimes. Is there a replacement for such an opener without being too obvious and asking questions like

I have a problem with my internet connection. Could you help me on this matter? (when I am calling an ISP support service which it's sole job to help me with internet connection problems)

  • 2
    No need to say "How are you doing, Dan?" and in fact it's a bit impolite. When Dan asks "how can I help you?" you should begin telling him. Be sure to explain yourself clearly and provide necessary context for what you say. Dan sits there all day listening to people fumble with words, rarely able to clearly explain what's not working right with their internet connections. He will appreciate your clear explanation far more than he will appreciate any "niceties" in your greeting.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 2, 2015 at 3:01
  • 2
    Service Provider: Hello, this is Dan speaking, how can I help you? You: Hi. I'm calling about . . . Sep 2, 2015 at 3:04
  • Dear Abby. We should create a "dear abby" tag, if we continue to allow dear abby questions. Sep 2, 2015 at 11:14

4 Answers 4


I agree with deadrat that there is neither need nor desire for the pleasantries. The person on the other end most likely has a script that they will follow for this interaction.

It may seem a bit abrupt to begin immediately- what I like to do is to briefly and (I hope) clearly state a couple of generalities about the situation before launching into the full "song and dance".

For example, you might say "Hi there Dan, I've been having some intermittent connectivity issues with your FlashBang 2500+ router". That serves two functions- it allows the person on the other end some idea of where the interaction will be going, and it allows me an initial assessment of how good the communication is likely to be. If the line is bad, there is too much background noise, or the person at the other end has a heavy and unfamiliar accent then it's best to find out early. I may change my vocabulary, speak more slowly and distinctly or perhaps faster and using more slang and jargon, depending on what I hear.

The presumption (not expectation) is that they will be able to help you- no need to go over that. Of course if you have a problem that exceeds the bounds of their script or their abilities you'll eventually have to deal with someone else, but that generally won't happen without going through the process.

  • 1
    Like the example Spehro. Cheers
    – Mehrad
    Sep 2, 2015 at 3:48

There are certain social situations in which Anglophones adopt a formulaic language, and introductions are one of those. Typically, there's a greeting (e.g., "Hello"), an exchange of names, a pleasantry (like "How are you?"), and a response ("I'm fine, and you?") This has been adopted by companies that do business over the phone or in live chat on the theory that a strictly commercial exchange will be more tolerable if it follows a social script.

But you're not in a social exchange. "Hello" is not a greeting here; it's an announcement that someone is on the line. "This is Dan speaking" is not a request for your name in return. And "How may I help you?" is not a question of concern. If your ISP is like any of the ISPs in the US, Dan doesn't care about your problem and is unlikely to help in any case. Dan is really saying "State your complaint."

If you persist with the social formula ("I'm Mehrad. How are you, Dan?"), the Dan will likely continue with the script ("I'm fine, ...."). But this is a business call. You know it; Dan knows it, and both of you know that the other knows it. So you may skip the script and go straight to the topic at hand. Don't worry about Dan. His employer is likely keeping track of how many customers he helps in a shift, and he's just as eager as you are to get on with business.


I dare say that pleasantries do have their place on a business call, even a service call. Remember, these are humans; you always get better results when you allow them to care about you.

Service Provider: Hello, this is Dan speaking, how can I help you?

Me: Hi Dan, I can't ping google.com. I power cycled the modem 5 minutes ago and still no internet. You guys having an outage?

Dan: Not that I'm aware of sir. Just a moment while I run a test.

Me: OK, oh and please, just call me Mehrad.

Furious typing is heard.

Typing slows and then stops.

A moment passes.

Then another.

Mehrad: How's it going Dan?

Dan: Sorry, computer is being a bit slow sir. This may take a few minutes.

Mehrad: I understand. So how're things with you?

I've working phones like this myself before. And while back then I prided myself on helping even the most difficult customers it was so much easier to help when they were nice.

Notice the pleasantries are saved until it's clear that we have time on our hands. If you're calling about connectivity problems it's rare that you're the only one having them. Get your issues out quickly and give a sense of what you've done before calling. If the call center is getting slammed with calls it's vital to get to the point quickly.

Briefly show how technical you are (thus the ping reference) because if you don't the responses you get will be the simplified default ones they'd use to explain things to your mother. Also, you could try your luck and see what response you get if you use the word, "shibboleet"


Yes, of course you can skip the pleasantries in a customer support call. But I have a feeling you are a person who would like to have a minimal pleasantry there at the beginning before stating your business. I understand this, because I lived in a country for some years where it would be very rude to jump right into the intermittent internet connection problem. So I am going to give you a few possibilities that will be less awkward than what you have tried so far.

Hello, this is Dan speaking. How may I help you?

Hi Dan, this is Mehrad. Thank you for taking my call.

(For this next one, we must suppose you waited on hold about half an hour before Dan answered.)

A human being! Hi Dan etc.

(For this one, we may assume you got connected very quickly.)

Wow, that was quick! Hi Dan, etc.

Here's another possibility:

Ah, good evening (afternoon, morning). My name is Mehrad, and I'm calling about a connection problem.

I used to be a telephone interpreter. I believe that phone conversations go much better when one takes a few seconds to set the tone in the beginning.

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