The students I've been testing by phone the past 3 evenings (and will continue to test one more night) are all doing freshman employee training at their company. As part of their training at this early stage of the game, they are studying "manners".
The Japanese have very formal ways of handling social situations and are more rigid in business situations than a lot of other cultures. For example, the handling of business cards is something that people have to learn in Japan. When someone gives you a card, you have to take a good look at it, read it, and generally show great regard for the card. In western countries, we tend to cram them in our pockets or write extra information on them. Neither of these things is appropriate in Japan.
It seems ironic to me that my students are spending days studying manners but none of those manners seem to make a transition into their dealing with me on the phone. I've literally spoken to thousands of students (likely about 10,000) on the phone and it's very rare for them to deal with me in anything resembling an appropriate fashion. Attempts to teach students proper phone manners are made in the orientation material they are sent prior to doing telephone lessons and this is reinforced when the teachers speak to them but it's all pretty fruitless.
Among the more troublesome of problems is the fact that a not insubstantial number of people fail to give their names at all when the call begins despite never having been introduced to the teacher nor having spoken to the teacher before. They also fail to say, "may I speak to (name of teacher)." I've overheard plenty of Japanese business calls and people always identify themselves and their company when placing calls so this isn't a cross-cultural difference. It's merely the students failing to apply the same level of manners to a call in English as they might a call in Japanese.
Additionally, it isn't uncommon for students to find it nearly impossible to say "goodbye" in response to the teacher saying, "goodbye." Ending a call can be extremely frustrating when you say, "thank you for speaking with me Mr. (name). Goodbye," and you're greeted with silence or the odd grunting sounds of someone struggling to figure out what to say.
I'm sure the largest part of the problem is the students are fairly terrified at the prospect of speaking English on the phone because they can't use body language to help them understand what is going on. However, it is baffling that so much of what should be common sense while speaking on the phone flies right out the window the minute the language changes.