Standard Operating Procedure

Policy #301


Date Originated: 01/10/2005

Date Revised: 09/2008




To provide employees with a philosophical and practical understanding of telephone conversation dynamics.




It shall be the policy of the WestCom Emergency Communications Center to use the telephone in the most professional and courteous manner possible.




3.1 Introduction:


Today, most citizen contacts are made by the use of the telephone.   In view of the common usage of the telephone, it is reasonable to expect that we make an extra effort to be friendly, interested, and courteous in telephone conversations.  Unlike a face-to-face conversation, the caller has only the sound of voice to help evaluate and form an opinion of the person at the other end of the line.  Consequently, our voice intonations, the words we use and the manner in which we speak, provide the only means for the caller to evaluation us and our ideas.  This procedure discusses and reviews accepted telephone techniques.  It stresses the need and importance to express ourselves clearly and courteously while conducting a telephone conversation.


3.2 Answer the Telephone Promptly:


Make a proper start to a telephone conversation by answering promptly.  Do not let it ring repeatedly.  If at all possible, answer on the first ring.  Failure to answer promptly may cause the conversation to start on the wrong foot.  If the caller is reporting a crime and the employee delays, fear and anxiety may needlessly increase because they cannot obtain a quick response to their call.  If other employees are conversing with citizens the repeated ringing of the telephone is distracting.  If an employee is engaged in a conversation when the phone rings, if possible, he/she should immediately excuse themselves and answer the ringing telephone.  Depending upon the situation, the employee should either handle the call themselves or request  the caller to hold.  Whatever the case, the phone should not be allowed to keep ringing; answer the phone and respond accordingly.  Tensions and frustrations that develop in the caller are not conducive to good communications or promoting courtesy and rapport.


3.3 Identify Yourself:


The conversation cannot begin smoothly unless the caller knows they have reached the right number, the appropriate extension, and the right person.  By beginning the conversation with the ineffective "Hello", or the indifferent "Yes?" the caller must spend their time and the employees, by asking questions that could be avoided.  If you are answering an emergency line answer by stating “9-1-1, Where is your emergency?".  If you are answering a business line, answer by stating “Police and Fire” and your first OR last name”.


3.4 Your Voice Creates the Image:


3.4.1 When speaking directly to someone, keep in mind that a smile, your mannerisms and the sound of your voice combine to make up a personality.  The qualities are observed and evaluated to form an opinion.  When speaking over the telephone, your voice is you.  Any impression made depends solely on the sound of your voice.


3.4.2 The ability to verbally project the desire to deal with people and the willingness to be of assistance portrays one's total self to the person that is being addressed.


3.4.3 Some basic telephone techniques that lead to favorable communications are set out for review. Speak Distinctly:


A well modulated voice carries best over the telephone.  Carefully pronounce words. Give proper care in the formation of each sound in every word - enunciate clearly. Speak at a Moderate Rate of Speed and Vary the Tone of Voice:


Speech should be natural, well-paced, and articulate.  Remember, the listener does not have the benefit of watching and seeing gestures and changing expressions.  Speak slowly and distinctly so as to be understood the first time.  Telephone speech should be neither too fast nor too slow.  If speech is too fast, the words are jumbled and facts are lost to the ear.  If speech is too slow the words become disconnected and meaning is lost.  The long pause between words, phrases, or sentences is irritating and the listener soon loses interest. Speak into the Mouthpiece:

The telephone, microphone or headset is designed to carry the voice more clearly if spoken directly into the mouthpiece; keep the mouth about one inch away.  Tucking the mouthpiece of your headset or telephone under the chin or holding it at forehead level distorts the clarity of your voice and annoys the listener.  It is not necessary to shout or even talk too loudly when using the telephone properly. In fact, talking too loudly may actually distort or blur words making it difficult to be understood. Remember, words convey your thoughts while tone conveys mood. Sound Alert and Interested:

Consider the difference between a cheerful voice that reflects personal interest in the caller and one that lacks expression.  Drab, bored, mechanical sounding voices appear expressionless, indifferent, impatient, and inattentive.  The voice reflecting a personal interest tone affects the listener as being pleasant, cordial, interested and helpful.


3.5 The Conversation:


Give the caller undivided attention.  Complete information is necessary if one is to make a correct judgement.  Questions are usually necessary if the call is to be handled in the most expeditious manner.  If appropriate ask that names and numbers be repeated or spelled for the sake of accuracy while making notes.


3.6 The Unattended Telephone:


3.6.1 It is often necessary to interrupt a conversation to handle another matter.  The employee may have to call another person, make a few inquiries, answer the radio, or answer another telephone.  Whenever these situations arise, avoid such abrupt phrases as "hold on," or "wait a minute," when leaving the telephone.



3.6.2 Remember the caller cannot see what is being done, but if deftly handled, they will understand.  The employee should excuse an absence from the telephone and state that the caller will have to be placed on hold.  An excellent practice is to pause for an instant before placing the call on hold; the caller may wish to give further urgent information not previously mentioned.


3.6.3 Whenever there is the need to interrupt the conversation, be brief.  An extended period not only removes the telephone from service, but more importantly may irritate the caller, motivating them to hang up.  If the caller should desire to wait, remember that time passes slowly while waiting on the telephone.  If you are away from the line longer than expected, give the caller progress reports.  This also provides the caller with the opportunity to offer additional information to assist you.  


3.6.4 The employee should be careful as to what may be said by self and others when the line is left open; it may cause an embarrassing situation. Placing a hand or finger over the mouthpiece or resting the phone face down are not effective methods of preventing speech from being overheard.


3.7 Conclusion:


Each person should make an attempt to practice telephone courtesy in all telephone contacts. Remember, the listener does not have the benefit of watching, seeing gestures, and changing facial or physical expressions.  In view of the common usage of the telephone, it is essential that each person make an extra effort to be interested and courteous in their telephone conversations and treat the caller as one would like to be treated when seeking the same.