I work at a restaurant and have to take orders over the phone all the time. My hearing isn't the best, and a lot of times I have trouble understanding what the customer is saying. I often have to ask people to repeat themselves 3 or 4 times before I can understand them. How do I ask someone to repeat what they said, especially more than once, without annoying them or coming across as rude?
I am 50% deaf in my left ear, I can only hear the telephone using my right ear, and if there is any external noise it can be a real challenge to carry a conversation on my smartphone. Over the years I've realised I rely quite heavily on facial clues and lip reading when there is a lot of external noise, so I do sympathise with your plight.
Check the volume on the phone and turn it up to maximum, it could be as simple as that.
First time you ask
- I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that. Could you repeat that please?
- I'm so sorry, it's quite noisy in the restaurant at the moment. Could you repeat that more slowly, please? I don't want to get your order wrong.
Third, and hopefully, last time
- So let me double check this. That's 3 large colas, 2 cheeseburgers, and 1 double burger. Is that right?
If you have half-guessed correctly, the customer should confirm. If you have got one or more orders wrong they will usually correct you and place greater stress on the requested item more carefully, and quite unconsciously.
I usually ask, "Sorry, can you repeat that?" if I'm talking to my superiors.
To my peers, or friends, I'd say, "Sorry?"
To avoid being seen as rude by repeatedly asking them to repeat, you may explain what the reason is: "I'm sorry I have trouble hearing. Can you speak a little louder for me?"
Another way is to repeat back to them what you think you heard.
John: I'd like to order two large pizzas and a medium fries.
You: I have a little troubling hearing. Two large twisters, did you say?
John: No, I mean pizzas.
(Assuming it's possible to mishear as Twisters. Pizzas and Twisters are two items on the KFC menu in the UAE.)
You can certainly prevent coming off as rude by owning the problem and apologizing appropriately. But you can't prevent them from getting annoyed unless you entertain them while asking or you can make them feel they're doing you a kindness in some way. Asking for 4 repetitions is a lot.
What you say should change for each repetition of the request. (Vary as you see fit.)
I'm sorry, could you repeat that, [optional: please]?
I'm sorry, it's very noisy here. Could you please repeat that for me again?
I'm so sorry, I still didn't get that. I must be going as deaf as a tree/doorknob/post/[whatever]!
I apologize for the inconvenience. You've been so kind. Do you want to try again, or should I get someone else for you?
If you think it's a bit over the top, I don't think there's any way around it. You're in the service industry. As such, your boss really ought to upgrade your receiver as well to accommodate your impairment.