Telephone interaction

Telephone Communication

The University of Ottawa hopes to make every service encounter a positive one. The first few seconds of a call make a powerful first impression, and show how important service excellence and the overall university experience are to the University of Ottawa. Here are some guidelines for telephone interaction.

Initial greeting
  • Respond promptly and pleasantly. Smile — a smile can be picked up even over the phone. Project a friendly, enthusiastic and professional attitude.
  • Answer every telephone call by the third or fourth ring.
  • Identify yourself and your department. Say “Bonjour. Ici Michèle à InfoAdmission. This is Michèle at InfoAdmission. How may I help you?”
  • After that, speak to the person in the official language he or she speaks.
  • In French, use the formal “vous” to show respect, unless the person invites you to use the familiar “tu.”
Establish rapport
  • Find out the caller’s name and use it often during the call.
  • If you’re uncertain of the pronunciation, ask for clarification.
  • Focus your attention on the conversation and avoid letting yourself be distracted by other conversations around you.
  • Speak to the caller as you would like to be spoken to yourself. Keep your voice cheerful and avoid using a mechanical, bored, impatient or annoyed tone, even if you’ve answered the same question many times before. Remember that this is the first time you’ve answered it for this person.
Ensure confidentiality (when necessary)
  • Ask student callers for their name and student number and confirm their mailing address.
  • If the student number is not available, ask for the student’s name and date of birth to verify through the University system.
Confirm your understanding
  • Listen carefully to the question or concern without interrupting.
  • Repeat the question or concern back to the person in your own words.
Be the solution
  • Respond to the question clearly and make sure the caller understands the answer.
  • If you’re not sure of the correct answer, arrange to get back to the person with the necessary information, and make sure to follow up.
  • Ensure you refer the caller to the right individual or department. When in doubt, call first.
  • Give your contact information (name and phone number) to callers and invite them to call back if they don’t find an answer or resolve their problem.
“Hold” protocol
  • Summarize the conversation and (when required) identify the next steps.
  • Ask callers if you can put them on hold and explain why. Thank them for holding. Give them “progress reports” every 45-60 seconds.
  • Apologize for excessively long holds. Thank callers for remaining on hold while you find the information on their behalf.
  • If you expect the hold to be long (or realize it is becoming so), offer callers the choice of continuing to hold or to be called back once you have the information.
  • Keep in mind that callers may be paying long-distance fees. Always provide the option for them to call back later when you put them on hold (University toll-free number: 1-877-868-8292).
Call-transfer protocol
  • Only transfer calls if you’re certain the transfer is the correct one. Call ahead to confirm.
  • Explain to callers the reason for the transfer.
  • Always provide callers with the name, department and extension number of the person you’re transferring the call to in case the call is accidentally dropped.
  • When possible, talk to the person you are transferring the call to prior to the transfer (“warm transfer”) and indicate the caller’s language of preference and the reason for the transfer.
  • Always provide the option for callers to either call back later or to be transferred.
Responding to voicemail messages
  • Respond to voicemail messages within one business day and indicate that you do so in your outgoing message.
  • If you’ll be away from your office for more than a day, change your voicemail message to indicate when you’re returning and provide an alternate contact name and phone number to use in your absence.
Close the conversation
  • Summarize the conversation and (when required) identify the next steps.
  • Check that you have addressed the caller’s questions or concerns.
  • Ask if the caller has any other questions or requests.
  • Thank the person for calling and wish him or her a good day.
Voicemail messages

Provide your first and last name, faculty, department or service in French and English (Vous avez joint ABC au XYZ. | You have reached ABC at XYZ), then say:

 A message in English follows. Je ne serai pas disponible du 28 avril au 2 mai inclusivement. Je pourrai vous répondre à mon retour le 5 mai. (Indiquez s’il y a un poste de suppléance durant cette période :) Pendant mon absence, vous pouvez communiquer avec (prénom/nom) au613-562-5800 poste xxxx.

 I will be away from the office from April 10 to April 20. I will get back to you when I return on April 23. (If there’s a temporary replacement for the period:) While I’m away, you may contact John Smith at 613-562-5800 extension 1234.

Quick tips
  • Slow down and lower your voice.
  • End strong.Thank the person on the line 
    for taking the time to speak with you, and end the call by recapping the action items, if necessary.
  • Write down any important information or details during the call, including name and contact information. Repeat information back to the caller if necessary.
  • Avoid multi-tasking while on the phone.
  • Let the caller hang up first.

Download the Guidelines

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