Telephone Manners

The first, and sometimes only, contact that residents may have with city government is the voice that answers the telephone when they call. Courtesy and consideration go a long way in giving a good impression of the city and the quality of its employees. Download and print the telephone manner guidelines (PDF).

Answering the Phone

  • Answer the phone with an upbeat voice. State your division/office/area, and then give your name.
  • Speak clearly and slowly.
  • Never talk with food or gum in your mouth.
  • Speak at a comfortable volume. If you normally speak loudly, lower your voice when on the phone. On the other hand, if you have an unusually soft voice, you may need to speak up.
  • Be responsive to the caller's need. If the caller is seeking information that you know, answer their question and then ask,
  • If the caller wants or needs to be connected to another person, you will transfer the call.

Transferring Calls to Another Person in Your Department

  • If the person the caller asks for is available, transfer them to that person's phone number.
  • If it is necessary to transfer the caller to voice mail, tell the caller that the person is not available and offer to put them into voice mail or to take a message.
  • Only in rare circumstances should you ask the caller for their name. Always let a caller know whether the person is available before you ask for their name. Asking callers to identify themselves before telling them that someone is not available can give the impression that some calls will be accepted and others will not.
  • If possible, give the caller an idea of when the person will be back, but there is no need to use specifics. At no time should you say things such as, She is out to lunch, or He is at the doctor's.

Transferring Calls Outside Your Department

  • If practical, try to determine if the person the caller needs is available before transferring. This may require putting the caller on hold; always ask permission before putting them on hold. If the caller does not want to be put on hold, ask for their name and number for a return call. - May I put you on hold while I see if the person you need is available?
  • Then, when taking callers off hold, thank them for holding. - Thank you for holding; Mr. Smith is available, I'll transfer your call.

Using Voice Mail

  • Voice mail is a great way to improve efficiency, but we need to have consideration for the caller when we use it.
  • Callers should have the choice of leaving a message in voice mail or with the person who answered the phone.
  • It is not city policy to transfer callers to voice mail without their permission. We do not automatically transfer calls to an extension when we know that the person is unavailable and that the call will go directly into voice mail. If this is the case, tell the caller that they may go into voice mail and let them decide whether to be transferred or to leave a message with you. - Ms. Jones will be able to answer your question, and I will transfer you. If she isn't at her desk you can leave a voice mail message (... pause for the caller's response).
  • If your office has a telephone number that is commonly used by the public, a person must answer it. It is not city policy to let voice mail be the initial contact that citizens have when they call us.
  • We do not use voice mail to answer phones during lunch or breaks.

Completing the Call

  • Before hanging up, make sure that you have answered all the caller's questions. - Is there anything else I can help you with?
  • Let the caller hang up first; this shows that you were not in a hurry to get them off the line. Remember that service comes first!

Put Yourself in the Callers' Shoes

  • Citizens cannot be expected to know everything about city government. They do not always know which department or division they should be calling. In some cases, citizens will have been transferred to your department mistakenly and need to be transferred again - and will start to feel that they are getting the run-around. You can quickly defuse ill feelings by apologizing that they were mistakenly transferred to you and re-sending them to the right place. If you are not sure yourself where to transfer the call, offer to find out.
    • I believe that program is handled by Vegetation Management, but I'm not positive. I'll find out and call you back; may I have your number, please?
    • I apologize for the confusion about which department to talk to; that program is handled by Sanitation. I will transfer your call, but in case we lose the connection, their number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.