BOLT – Telephone Etiquette

Your employing department may have a specific manner of answering office phones. If so, please follow their guidelines. If, however, no office-specific way is presented, adopt the following methods for effective and efficient service.

→ All incoming calls should be answered with the department/office name and your name. It is important that you identify yourself. For example:
“University Registrar’s Office, this is Jane Smith speaking, how may I help you?”

→ All incoming calls should be answered:

  • promptly
  • personally, when possible (use voice mail only when necessary)
  • professionally
  • courteously

→ Make an effort to give each caller your full attention.

  • Answer calls promptly
  • Excuse yourself from the first caller and;
  • Place him/her on hold to answer the second call
  • Return to the first caller as soon as possible. When returning, say, “Thank you for your patience.”
  • If a visitor is talking with you in person and the telephone rings, excuse yourself to the visitor and answer the telephone. Ask the caller to wait a moment or offer to return the call.
  • If a visitor approaches while you are on the telephone, excuse yourself briefly from the caller and acknowledge the visitor. Ask if the visitor can wait a moment while you finish the call.

→ Effective call-screening techniques allow you to better serve customers and co-workers. In such cases when call-screening is required or requested by your office personnel, follow these examples:

  • “May I tell her who’s calling?”
  • “May I tell her what your call is in reference to?”

→ If the individual whom the caller requests is busy, offer to take a message or connect the caller to the individual’s voice mail, as appropriate to your office’s preference.
“Mr. Smith is away from his office. Would you like me to connect you to his voice mail?”

→ Transferring calls should be done only when necessary and in a positive, efficient manner.

  • Listen carefully and attempt to fully understand the caller’s needs.
  • Complete the transfer quickly and correctly.

→ To transfer a call, follow these procedures:

  • Let the caller know you are transferring the call.
  • Give the caller the department/supervisor name that s/he is being transferred to.
  • Announce the caller to the person to whom you are transferring the call and provide any information the caller has given.

→ Taking telephone messages is a skill that saves time and is beneficial to both caller and recipient. If you need to take a message for someone, get as much information as possible. Include:

  • Date/time of call
  • Full name of the person calling
  • Phone number
  • Nature of the call
  • Your name at the bottom of the message

While most callers will opt for voice mail over a written message, if you do need to take a message, take enough information to make the return call productive. If the individual the caller is trying to reach is out of the office for a length of time, let the caller know their message will not receive an immediate response.
“I’ll make sure John gets your message as soon as he returns.”

→ Angry confrontations can be handled successfully using the following tips:

  • Be polite.
  • Don’t interrupt. Take notes and wait for a pause.
  • Echo the content of the complaint and the caller’s feeling about the problem.
  • Acknowledge that there is a problem and apologize for the caller’s inconvenience.
  • Try to find a solution, or refer the caller to an appropriate representative.
  • If the call cannot immediately be resolved, take the caller’s name and number and explain that someone will get back to him/her. If you have to forward the information to someone else, explain that the caller was upset.
    “I’m sorry you experienced a problem. Let me try to help you find a solution.”