Parks, Recreation Community Services

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1 Department of and Parks, Recreation Community Services Telephone Procedures Manual

2 A MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR.. The first contact many residents have with city government is the voice that answers the telephone when they call us. Courtesy and consideration go a long way toward giving our citizens a good impression of the city and the quality of its employees. While the duties and responsibilities of each division are different, the material presented in this manual affirms our commitment to excellence in communication when responding to incoming telephone calls from the public and other City departments. The Administrative Services Unit created this manual using long-standing written policy and procedures that have been consistently followed by the department over the years. The information has been updated to incorporate policy and procedures on the proper use of voice mail and good telephone etiquette. Although it's impossible to cover every conceivable situation you may encounter when responding to calls from the public, adherence to the policy and procedures contained in this manual will ensure that you are doing your part as an "Ambassador" of the department to create a lasting first impression while promoting our commitment to excellence in communication with others. Kevin L. Hawkins, Director

3 GOOD TELEPHONE USAGE The telephone is an important tool for business communication and customer service. Telephone courtesy and judgment are important in promoting good public relations and goodwill. The proper handling of incoming telephone calls will also enable staff to make effective use of their time during the course of a workday. Even though the phrase "let your conscience be your guide" is an old cliché that's been around for years, the phrase can serve as a personal guide for handling incoming telephone calls. The simple act of putting yourself in the place of the caller and asking if you would be satisfied with the manner in which your call has been received can serve as a powerful reminder in upholding our commitment to excellence in communication with others. Here are some pointers for successfully handling every call: Answer the telephone promptly when it rings. The telephone should not be allowed to ring more than 3 times. Speak distinctly and directly into the transmitter using a friendly and natural tone of voice. Don t be unclear when you answer the phone by speaking too fast or too faintly. Answer the phone with an upbeat voice. State your division, office or area, and then give your name. Example: " Good Morning, Parks, Recreation and Community Services; this is Pat Gentry." "May I help you?" Example: "Good Morning, Code Enforcement, this is Sylvia Jones." "May I help you?" Keep a pencil and paper next to the telephone to note important information. If the caller is upset, remain calm and use interpersonal skills to calm the caller. If a call must be transferred, relate all pertinent information to the person to whom the call is being transferred so that the caller does not have to repeat the information. Transfer calls only when necessary. Be sure you transfer to the right person or department. Tell the caller why he or she is being transferred. 2

4 Do not keep the caller waiting while you look for information. If you must leave the line for any reason, tell the caller why. Return to the line within 60 seconds to give an update. If more time is needed to get the information, offer to call back. Take messages accurately and record complete information if a call back is required or if the task of returning the call will be referred to another staff member. Indicate you will return the call quickly if more than a few seconds is needed to locate the information. Return the call within the promised length of time. If it is impossible to do that, call back and explain that you are working on the question but need additional time. Telling a caller that someone is not available: Always let a caller know that the person is not available before you ask for his or her name. 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's out to lunch", or "He's at the doctor's office". Terminate all telephone calls courteously. Place the receiver on the holder gently. Never yell for anyone to pick up the phone. If necessary, go and see where they are and let them know they have a call and who is calling. Using Voice Mail: Voice mail is a great way to improve efficiency, but some consideration should be given to the caller when it is being used: If the department has a telephone number that is commonly used by the public, a person needs to answer it. It is not City or departmental policy to let voice mail be the initial contact citizens have when they call us. It is not City or departmental policy to let voice mail handle incoming calls during lunch or breaks. Phone coverage is to be provided at all times during business hours. 3

5 Callers are to be given the choice of leaving a message in voice mail or with the person answering the phone. It is not City or departmental policy to transfer callers to voice mail without their permission or knowledge. It is not City or departmental policy to transfer a call to an extension when we know the person is unavailable and the call will automatically go to voice mail without following the guidelines for transferring calls to voice mail as mentioned above. Remember your commitment is to provide callers with what they need and not just get them off the line, even if this means taking their number and calling them back. In the previous section basic information, general guidelines and helpful hints were provided on how to handle incoming phone calls. That information should serve as a guide to anyone staff member who interacts with the public irrespective of his or her particular work assignment. Personnel whose primary function is clerical and who routinely answer incoming phone calls to the department should become thoroughly familiar with the procedures described in this section. Personnel designated to serve as the "back-up" or "alternate" during peak telephone hours, lunch hour, or during breaks are also expected to become throughly familiar with this information. As a general rule, all department personnel should become familiar with the citywide preferences for handling phone calls during normal business hours. As a matter of policy, when a staff member has been assigned and given primary responsibility for answering incoming phone calls, if you must leave your workstation for any length of time, arrange to have back-up or alternates assume responsibility for answering the phone. Advise when you will return. ANSWERING PRIVATE LINES When answering private lines, answer with the person's name. Example: Kevin Hawkins Office. May I help you? ANSWERING INCOMING CALLS FOR DEPARTMENT/DIVISON PERSONNEL When answering incoming calls for department staff that are out of the office or in a meeting, the response should be, "he or she is not available, may I take a message or transfer you to his or her voice mail? 4

6 TAKING WRITTEN PHONE MESSAGES All messages are to be recorded accurately and completely. Date and initial all messages. CITY HALL EMERGENCIES Police, Fire or Medical Emergency To report from a telephone in the city system, dial Provide the dispatcher the location and nature of the emergency. This is necessary because the 911 operators cannot determine the number or location you are calling from. INCOMING CALLS Outside callers can reach you directly by dialing 412 and the four-digit extension number. Example: 412-XXXX. Give your telephone number to your callers and ask the to jot it down. Remember, callers will be dialing you directly. INTERDEPARTMENTAL CALLS Dial the number as listed in the City of Inglewood Telephone Directory. Begin dialing immediately. CALL TRANSFER To activate: While the caller is on the line press Call Transfer key (first call is placed on automatic hold) dial number, announce caller in privacy press Call Transfer key again, hang up. CONFERENCE CALL To activate: While the first caller is on the line press the Conference key (first call is placed on automatic hold), dial number, announce conference, press Conference key again, repeat procedure for additional conferees (up to six parties, including yourself). CALL PICKUP To respond, lift handset, hear dial tone Press Call Pickup key. CALL FORWARDING Press the call forward button (it will flash) dial the extension you wish to forward calls to, and press call forward again (a solid light will appear). To deactivate call forwarding, press the call forward button once. 5

7 TO REPORT TROUBLE Report all cases of trouble to the Help line ext Give your station private line number, location, and nature of trouble. PERSONAL CALLS Personal calls shall be kept to an absolute minimum at all times. Do not make, under any circumstances, personal calls involving a toll charge. Pay telephones are available in all City buildings for this purpose. Because of changes in Pacific Bell s rate schedule, local calls now incur message units based on the length of the call. Local call message units have been increasing throughout the departments. The cumulative effect of these increases is significant. In addition, since the WATS lines have been removed, all calls outside of the 310 area code are long distance calls. These calls should be kept as brief as possible. To place a call using a credit card, dial 9-0 area code (except 310), the number. After the tone, dial your credit card number. MAKING CALLS Plan your call. List items to be discussed to avoid repeat calls. Determine the correct number before placing your call including the area code on long distance calls. Listen for dial tone and dial accurately. Identify yourself. Summarize the facts of your conversation before terminating the call. When leaving a message, give your name, telephone and station number. If required, include your area code. Terminate your call in a polite business-like manner. If long distance is required, Dial 9, then 1, then the area code for the location and the number (long distance information). Note the number in your personal directory for future reference. ADDITIONAL TELEPHONE RULES When you enter the office check to see who is in. Take clear messages always get the person s name and a phone number if they would like to give one. Avoid in-house terminology or slang. 6

8 Offer whatever help is necessary even when a customer doesn t know enough. Personnel whose primary function is clerical and who routinely answer incoming phone calls should take the time to confer with directors, supervisors and department managers regarding personal preferences for handling incoming telephone calls. TRANSFERRING CALLS TO SUPERVISORS In the absence of personal preferences or directives from this group of persons, incoming phone calls should be handled in the following manner: Ask questions and gain information about the nature of the call, Use the intercom to see if the recipient of the call is in, Advise then of the nature of the call, Inquire of their availability to take the call and Seek directions about taking a written message or referring the matter to voice mail, or another. Staff should also become familiar with protocol and procedure pertaining to incoming calls for a director, superintendent or manager from the Office of the City Administrator, director of another city department, the City Attorney, City Council members, staff assigned to Administration or the Mayor's Office, and representatives of the media. Personnel whose primary function is clerical and who routinely answer incoming phone calls should obtain a list of personnel assigned to the department or division and keep it handy for use in screening and transferring calls. TAKING PHONE MESSAGES When the recipient of a call is unavailable, always offer the caller an opportunity to leave a message. When taking phone messages, follow the guidelines included in this section and always include the following information: All messages are to be taken on message pads. Sticky tabs and scrap paper are not acceptable. Obtain the caller's first and last name, and company information if applicable. Be sure to record the time and date of the call. 7

9 Inquire as to what the call is regarding. If the caller would like the person they are attempting to contact to return their call, obtain a telephone number where that person may be reached. Before ending a telephone call, make sure you have answered all of the caller's questions. After ending a telephone call, phone messages are to be placed in the inbox, message box, or other designated place for storing the same, immediately, without unnecessary delay. There are times when you will be dealing with customers who are experiencing a wide variety of emotions (anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, etc). It is with these special customers that you need to apply your best listening and problem-solving skills so that the outcome is a win-win situation for all involved. Remember, what matters is that you are committed to providing your customer with the best possible service and while the customer is not always right, the customer is always important. Guidelines for dealing with tough times and tough customers: (1) Listen to understand (if customer is angry, let them vent). (2) Acknowledge issue and person. (3) Ask questions to clarify the situation. (4) Summarize your understanding of the problem and ask the person if your understanding is correct. (5) Propose a solution or suggest actions. (6) Close with a positive statement. (7) If the customer continues to be difficult, forward the call to your immediate supervisor advising them of the situation 8

10 DO S Be patient Ask questions Interrupt when you re getting lost Let the speaker know you re listening Put yourself in the other s place DONT S Talk when others are Criticize Rush the speaker Complete sentences for the caller Be distracted Keep your mind open Plan your response while other is speaking Concentrate Pretend to understand or be interested Make assumptions Judge the speaker 9

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