Tuesday 23 October 2007

Business Principles: Working with Serial Numbers on the Phone

Ever need to give someone a serial number over the phone?

What to do with: LXTHT0733O37AB

This is especially true when someone can interpret "oh" as a zero or the letter "O", an F as an S, etc.

So, we have taken to using the International Radio Operator's Alphabet:

International Radio Operator's Alphabet

So, the above serial number would be:
  • Lima
  • X-Ray
  • Tango
  • Hotel
  • Tango
  • Zero, seven, three, three
  • Oscar
  • Three, seven
  • Alpha
  • Bravo
Since adopting a phonetic standard within our company, our ability to communicate everything from serial numbers, product part numbers or SKUs, to Canadian postal codes are now easily understood.

The big bonus comes with those we communicate with on a regular basis by phone. From suppliers to warranty depots, we have noticed that we are no longer spending extra time trying to clarify what we just said.

Better communication makes for smoother business practises and less frustration.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.


Anonymous said...

The NATO phonetic alphabet, as shown on your chart, should not be confused with the International Phonetic Alphabet, as they are different.

The essential reason for using code words (not really phonetic) in lieu of single letters is due to intelligibility of speech over radio links.

The chart you presented is second nature to all servicemen/women. That's how I learned it 32 years ago and how I still use it.

I've noticed (and practice) that (despite military experience), for two or more sequential numbers, the most intelligible method is to say them normally:

66 = Sixty Six, not Six Six
12 = Twelve, not One Two
03 = Zero Three (Zero is the exception)
353 = Three hundred fifty three, not three five three.

There's a whole lot less confusion in "numbering" when using this method to transmit serial numbers.

Sidenote: US police/sheriff use a different phonetic chart for their operations.

Beta tester of "0"s and "1"s

Philip Elder Cluster MVP said...

I can remember when I was looking for a phonetic alphabet and found that there were so many variations.

So, the first page we came upon was: The International Radio Operators Phonetic Alphabet.

Thus the name - that is what the screenshot chart was named after.

The other link that came up was this one: Phonetic alphabets (Alpha Bravo Charlie Delta).

The proper one was near the top, but kinda buried. So the first name, that is the International Radio Operators, stuck.

And yes, the suggestion for the numbers is excellent.



stryqx said...

As ZT3000 said, this is second nature to those of us with a military background.

Fourmilab have a good synopsis here.

And you're quite right - it does make for clearer communication. I've had people thank me for using it and asking me for further information. At one point one of my co-workers created a flash card with it and stuck it on everyone's monitor and handed it out to clients.