Phonetic Alphabet – how to avoid confusion and sound more professional

A Phonetic Alphabet is a great way to improve professionalism, avoid confusion, improve data accuracy and even make your call centre more efficient whether you are in Australia or on the other side of the world.

Sure, there is some amazing technology, training methodologies and processes that will help you develop an award-winning customer experience but sometimes it’s the things that don’t cost a cent that are the most important!

What is a Phonetic Alphabet?

Technically known as the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, it’s the universally recognised “A for Alpha, B for Bravo, C for Charlie” alphabet also known as the military alphabet, spelling alphabet, police phonetic alphabet or “that thing where you use the names to spell the words”.

It’s used across the world so the Phonetic Alphabet used in Australia is also the same one used in any other English speaking country.

Of course, there is also lots of other jargon, acronyms and abbreviations used in call centres like GOS, AHT, ATT and more – make sure you check out our Call Centre & CX Glossary where we explain the meaning behind over 160 common terms used in a call centre or customer experience environment.

What does a Phonetic Alphabet do?

In short, the phonetic alphabet makes conversing with a customer a whole lot more professional when trying to spell out words using an internationally recognised list of words for the purpose of avoiding any confusion.

When you are trying to confirm the spelling of a name, place or word – rather than just saying the sound of the letters which can often be confusing, using a Phonetic Alphabet you also provide an internationally recognised word for EACH single letter you are trying to communicate.

For example, if you are talking to a customer and need to provide the reference number BCEG all those letters can sound quite similar.

Using the phonetic alphabet you would say:

OK, your reference number is BCEG that’s B for Bravo, C for Charlie, E for Echo and G for Golf.

It also saves your staff improvising with the classics like “D” for Dog, ‘C’ for Cat or some more concerning ones like ‘N’ for knife, or ‘S’ for champagne…


What are the benefits?

Aside from sounding a lot more professional, using a phonetic alphabet will increase the accuracy of your information as it eliminates the risk of being misunderstood, it can reduce decrease Talk Time (as you don’t have to continually repeat information or risk the customer calling back as they got the wrong details) and it can reduce customer frustrations which in the call centre world, are all pretty important outcomes.

The Phonetic Alphabet:

If you’d just like to know what a Phonetic Alphabet it is, here it is:

A – Alpha

B – Bravo

C – Charlie

D – Delta

E – Echo

F – Foxtrot

G – Golf

H – Hotel

I – Indiana

J – Juliet

K – Kilo

L – Lima

M – Mike

N – November

O – Oscar

P – Papa

Q – Quebec

R – Romeo

S – Sierra

T – Tango

U – Uniform

V – Victor

W – Whiskey

X – X-Ray

Y – Yankee

Z – Zulu

How to Supersize your Phonetic Alphabet

There are lots of ways you can get creative to ensure everyone learns the Phonetic Alphabet in your call centre.

For example, you can print off big pages to represent each letter, paint it on the walls, use it as your desktop screen, print it in on a mouse mat and so on.

The phonetic alphabet painted on a wall
Get Creative! An example of a phonetic alphabet with the letters and images stuck on a wall. 

Download a free printable version 

Click the orange button below to download a free NATO phonetic alphabet that you can place on or next to your computer or phone. It prints in one A4 piece of paper and there are three different sizes you can just cut out.

We’ve also got lots of other great tips, free resources and more when you join our free monthly newsletter >

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Date added November 18, 2019
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A Phonetic Alphabet is a great way to improve professionalism, improve data accuracy and even make your call centre more efficient.

And what’s best is it’s completely free!

You can print our handy download on one A4 size paper (portrait) – it comes in three sizes that you can easily cut out and use on your call centre desk.


 Other useful call centre tools and resources: 

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