Outgoing calls
  • Think: Is the telephone the best way to communicate? Would it be better to do so in person or in writing / by email?
  • Think again: before you make a telephone call, think through what you plan to say and how you plan to say it, especially if the conversation might be difficult or awkward. The way you approach the first few words may determine the outcome!
  • Who's calling? When you call, say at the start who you are (and perhaps where you are from), and what you are calling about.
  • Consider the timing and the possibility that your call may be inconvenient for the recipient. A good early question might be to ask 'Is now a good time for me to ring you about...?'
  • Pause! Remember to give the other person a chance to respond! Avoid long, detailed explanations and monologues.
  • Listen to responses. Try to pick up any verbal signs of agreement, impatience, irritation or misunderstanding (this can be more difficult in the absence of facial expressions).
  • Endings: Remember to end the conversation having reached a mutual understanding or agreement of what will happen next (if appropriate).
  • Remember to say 'please' and 'thank you'.
Incoming calls
  • Answering: Try to answer calls within five rings.
  • Who's that? When you answer the call, say who you are!
  • Consistency: Have a consistent way of responding to calls. Within a particular service, it can help if there is an agreed, consistent way of responding for everyone (but avoid responses which simply sound mechanistic).
  • When you're not there: Avoid the use of answerphones whenever possible. Try to have 'cover' for telephones during office hours. Any necessary answerphone messages should be carefully planned and clearly enunciated! Respond to any essential answerphone messages as soon as possible. Consider the use of voicemail.
  • Multiple referrals: As far as possible, try to avoid referring callers to lots of different people. This can be assisted by clarifying contact details in relevant publicity materials / on the website etc.