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Telephone Protocols Guideline

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Section 1 - Purpose and Context

(1) Thousands of telephone calls are made and received each day by staff of Western Sydney University, making telephone contact with the University one of the most important touch points for our brand and critical for our business success.

(2) It is therefore necessary to establish protocols for telephone communications to ensure:

  1. The University's brand and reputation are professionally represented and maintained, particularly with the University community and general public;
  2. Minimum standards or expectations regarding levels of service are clear to staff, particularly those in frontline service areas; and
  3. The University's telephone resources and equipment are used efficiently and appropriately.

(3) This document aims to provide guidance to all University and Western Sydney University The College staff on using telephone communication at the University.

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Section 2 - Definitions

(4) Nil.

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Section 3 - Policy Statement

(5) Refer to the following relevant polices:

  1. Code of Conduct
  2. Mobile Telephony Devices Policy
  3. IT Acceptable Use of Resources Policy
  4. Privacy Policy

(6) All bulk call handling to the University will be managed via the call management technology platform currently supported by Information Technology and Digital Services.

(7) Default passwords for telephone voicemail systems and mobile phone devices must be changed after initial use to ensure compliance with the Privacy Policy.

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Section 4 - Procedures

(8) Nil.

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Section 5 - Guidelines

Part A - Telephone Answering Protocols

Initial Answering

(9) The University aims to ensure that telephones are answered in a welcoming, consistent and informative manner that gives a positive and professional impression of the University and conveys confidence to the caller that their enquiry is valued. Enquiries that are not able to be resolved upon initial contact should be acknowledged and responded to within a time frame stipulated by the staff member's department.

(10) The University aims to answer telephone calls within 16 seconds, which is the timeframe set within the telephone system for 'call forward no answer'. The exception to this is frontline service areas that deal with high volumes of calls. Supervisors of these Units should set an appropriate service level for the management of their calls and report and review performance against these standards.

(11) Ideally, each Unit should aim to answer the phone with a standard or consistent approach. Depending on the work arrangements and circumstances, the initial answer could be one of the following:

  1. The name of the Unit and the full name of the person answering or whose telephone is being answered; or
  2. The name of the Unit and the given name of the person answering; or
  3. The full name of the person answering or whose telephone is being answered.

(12) Telephones should not be left to ring out. Where a telephone is unattended, arrangements should be made to activate Voicemail or call forwarding.

Use of Voicemail

(13) Although Voicemail is an essential feature of modern telephone systems, callers can become frustrated where messages left on Voicemail systems go unanswered or where referral to another number ends in another Voicemail message. Voicemail should not be used for call screening.

(14) Voicemail messages should be retrieved regularly and at least daily. They should be responded to within one business day, even if it is only an acknowledgement call (or email in appropriate circumstances). Where a staff member will be away for a period of time beyond one working day, the Voicemail message should be changed to reflect those circumstances. Information about when the staff member will be next available should be given and, where possible, the message should also provide the option to refer to another staff member who will be available to assist. In these circumstances it is essential to ensure that those nominated as alternative contact points are aware of this and are available and willing to take the calls.

(15) Voicemail greetings should be changed regularly to reflect the different circumstances and be kept up to date. In particular, it is important that adequate information be provided so that the caller is able to establish the staff member and/or Unit they have reached. Different messages can also be recorded for 'call forward busy' to indicate to callers that the staff member is currently on the phone. Lengthy or complex Voicemail messages of any nature should be avoided.

(16) All staff are responsible for the safeguarding of information under the Privacy Policy, this includes private information left over Voicemail systems. Upon initial use of a new Voicemail service on either a landline or Mobile phone, default Voicemail passwords need to be reset.

(17) Refer to the ITDS Voicemail User Guide for further information.

Forwarding Calls

(18) All University telephones have the capacity to redirect an incoming call to another telephone (call forwarding), as an alternative to using Voicemail or where a call has been misdirected.

(19) Where calls are being manually transferred to another staff member, the name of the staff member and their number should be provided to the caller. Where the intended recipient of the call does not answer, the caller should be given the option of leaving a message on Voicemail (where activated) or alternatively the recipient of the call should undertake to convey a message to the intended recipient.

(20) Ideally a call should not be transferred more than once. If a call that has been transferred more than once and you are not the appropriate person, best practice is to take the caller's details and arrange for the appropriate staff member or department to return the call. If direct and immediate contact with the correct staff member is required attempts should be made to contact that staff member - the calls should not be redirected to the Switchboard.

(21) Where a staff member is away from their workplace and in appropriate circumstances needs to use call forwarding as opposed to Voicemail, it is essential that the person to receive the calls is aware of the arrangement and is available and willing to take the calls.

(22) Call forwarding to external numbers, including mobile telephones, may be appropriate in particular circumstances and decisions need to be taken having regard for the needs, balanced against the cost to the University.

(23) Where call forwarding to a mobile is required, an ITDS service request must be sent to ITDS with approval from the relevant delegated cost centre manager. Call forwarding to external numbers can only be programmed by ITDS staff via the telephone system. The caller will pay for the cost of the local call to the landline or extension and the Unit of the recipient will pay for the balance of the call cost to the mobile phone.

Part B - Role of the Switchboard

(24) The Switchboard provides an integral service for the University, responding to the University's listed directory number 02 9852 5222. The role of the Switchboard is to answer the bulk of incoming calls to the University in a positive and informative manner and refer these calls to the appropriate business Units within the University. The Switchboard assists both external callers and University staff and students with their general telephone enquiries.

(25) The Switchboard offers the following services:

  1. Provision of publicly listed numbers
  2. Transfers to internal numbers - no transfers to external numbers such as mobile phones unless in special circumstances (e.g. emergency situations)
  3. STD and International call connections for approved staff - costs charged back to the business Unit
  4. General enquiries about the University, directions, opening hours, campus addresses and information, etc.

(26) To undertake its role effectively, the Switchboard must be advised where there are significant changes or disruptions to Unit telephones. For example, where the entire staff of a Unit will be away from the University (e.g. development day) it is essential that the Switchboard be notified well in advance. Also where a special interest issue has arisen that is likely to prompt increased calls to the University, the Switchboard should be briefed on the appropriate forwarding of the calls.

Part C - High Volume Calls

(27) At various times each year the University receives high volumes of calls from prospective students and current students in particular. There are several frontline service areas that operate information lines at a high level of capacity and professional experience to process these calls to the best effect for the University.

(28) Frontline service areas will set appropriate service levels around speed of answer, first call resolution, service provision standards, etc, for the management of their calls and will report and review performance of staff against these standards.

(29) All bulk call handling to the University will be managed via the call management technology platform currently supported by Information Technology and Digital Services (ITDS).

(30) The University's telephone system does allow for team based routing of phone calls (Group Hunt lines), however this may not be appropriate for bulk call handling due to an inability to determine wait times and other key statistics. Refer to the ITDS Home Page or contact ITDS to discuss your options.

Part D - Responsibilities of Supervisors and Staff

(31) Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that all staff who have significant telephone answering duties receive an appropriate level of training that covers the range of relevant topics (e.g. customer service, complaints handling, and other content/knowledge based training sessions), and that staff attend or update their training regularly. Talent and Leadership Development provides a variety of training programs and courses which may be appropriate, alternatively, customised in-house training or externally sourced training may be provided to supplement the expectations and guidelines outlined in this document.

(32) Many areas of the University experience peak times where the volume of calls may exceed the capacity to answer them which can create a tension in terms of work priorities. Supervisors are responsible for managing these occurrences in a practical way so that staff can cope effectively with the situation and continue to provide a welcoming and professional service. Solutions may involve the implementation of call management systems, rotation of staff, or additional staffing support at peak times.

(33) Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that their Units have in place procedures to manage calls, particularly where staff are absent from the workplace.

(34) Supervisors and individual staff members have a responsibility to ensure that entries in the University's Telephone Directory are up to date, for example, where staff go on secondment, significant periods of leave, or resign from the University. The Switchboard should also be advised of any circumstances that may periodically impact on their Unit's capacity to answer calls.

(35) In terms of use of University telephones for personal purposes, staff should adhere to the principles outlined in the Code of Conduct, Mobile Telephony Devices Policy, and IT Acceptable Use of Resources Policy.

(36) An electronic record is kept for all incoming and outgoing telephone calls and is registered for billing and audit purposes. These records are accessible by managers and delegated cost centre supervisors and concerns may be reported to the Office of Audit and Risk Assessment.

Part E - Mobile Telephones

(37) Staff members are provided with mobile telephones by the University in situations where they are frequently away from their regular workplace. Criteria are provided in the Mobile Telephony Devices Policy.

(38) Refer to further information on mobile phones for University staff here: Mobile Telephony Devices Policy

Part F - Telephone Directories

(39) The University needs to present a clear and professional image with respect to its telephone listings in hard copy and internet based directories such as the Telstra White Pages. To this end, the Director, Corporate Communications has responsibility and authority for all entries proposed for such directories.

(40) Any Unit wishing to list in a telephone directory must obtain prior approval from the Director, Corporate Communications.

(41) The University's web-based telephone directory is managed by Information Technology and Digital Services Accounts Department. Some staff may elect not to be listed in this publicly available telephone directory for a number of reasons including privacy and safety. In circumstances where these staff need to be reached, including in an emergency, the Switchboard can access internal only directory listings.

Part G - Audit of Telephone Standards

(42) Periodically the Director, Corporate Communications will arrange for surveying and feedback on telephone services provided against the standards outlined in this policy and provide feedback to functional Units.