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Using the telephone

Telephone lines

Organisation deal with the installation of communications equipment in conjunction with IT Unit.

All offices have at least one main phone line and one fax line.

Procedure 2.1 - Answering the phone:

  1. The phone should be answered slowly and clearly  <<Name of Office>>, <<Your Name>, “speaking, how can I help you?”
  2. Listen to the caller’s query, and through the use of appropriate questions, enquire as to the nature of the query.
  3. If the caller is seeking information about the Board, provide the information as appropriate or direct the client to the appropriate office to answer the query.
  4. If the caller wishes to apply for legal services, Chapter x
  5. If the caller wishes to Register for family mediation services Chapter x
  6. Be courteous to the caller at all times and thank the caller.

If you are unsure, refer to a more experienced member of staff or direct the caller to the appropriate person.

Transferring calls and taking messages

Most office phone systems will feature a button that allows a call to be transferred to another extension on the same system. How this button is labelled depends on the system installed in your office.

When transferring a call, the person to whom the call is to be transferred should be asked whether they are available to take the call. Under no circumstances should a call be transferred without warning to another extension, or without telling the caller that you are going to transfer the call.

In the event that the required person is unable to take the call, they should be informed of the details of the call via the phone message facility in Lotus Notes. This can be found in Create > Special > Phone Message.

Applicable to law centres only:

In law centres, all applicant / client related messages should be sent via EOS  and not via manual methods.  Non client related queries can be sent via email.

Holding calls

The “Hold” button on the phone will place a call on hold. A call should be placed on hold only if necessary to obtain information from other staff members. The caller should be advised that you will place the call on hold for a few moments to obtain information and be assured that you will return to them once you have obtained the information required. You must seek the caller’s agreement before you place them on hold.

Procedure 2.2 – Transfer and message taking procedure

  1. Obtain the name (and office/section/other organisation, if appropriate) of the person calling and the staff member they are trying to reach.
  2. Advise the caller that you are going to transfer the call to another staff member and the name of that staff member.
  3. Press the transfer button and wait for a dial tone, then dial the extension of the staff member concerned.
  4. Advise the staff member of the caller’s details and ask if they are willing to accept the call.
  5. If they are willing to accept the call, hang up.

  6. Press the line number that the call was received on (eg “Line 1”).
  7. Advise the caller that the staff member they were seeking is unavailable and that you are willing to pass a message to them.
  8. If the caller does not wish you to pass a message to the other party, thank the caller and wait for them to end the call, then hang up.

  9. If the caller wishes you to pass a message to the other party, enquire as to whether the message is in relation to an existing client.
  10. If it is in relation to a client, obtain the client’s name, and send an Internal Memo using the IT system.
  11. If it is not in relation to a client, open the Email application in Lotus Notes. Click Create > Special > Phone Message. Enter the details of the message and click Send.

Using the answering machine

Depending on the system installed in the office, the main phone will either have a voicemail facility (activated by pressing the “Divert to Voicemail” button) or will be connected to a standalone answering machine. The answering machine/voicemail facility should have a facility to take messages and an appropriate message should be placed on the answering machine as follows:

“You have called [Name of office] . We are open [opening hours]. You should call back during opening hours. Alternatively, if you would like to leave a message, please do so after the tone and a member of staff will return your call. Please remember to leave a name and contact number. Thank you.”

The answering machine/voicemail facility should be switched on daily at the beginning of lunchtime / close of business. In family mediation centres that do not have full time administrative staff it should be switched on during the periods administrative cover in not provided. It should be switched off daily at opening time and end of lunchtime at which point the person on Reception duty should check the messages and return calls and/or inform relevant staff members of messages received, as necessary.

In the unlikely event that it is necessary to operate the answering machine during office hours a message should be left inviting the person to leave their contact details and the person should be contacted as soon as possible. 

Permission for an office to deviate from these opening times must be sought and obtained from the relevant Director.

Some offices  may have phone systems where each phone has an individual voicemail facility. If this is the case, staff members should ensure their voicemail is set up and switched on each time they are away from their desk for an extended period. They should also ensure that their voice message is updated appropriately, particularly if they are likely to be away from their desk for a significant period of time e.g, on holidays.

Outbound telephone calls

It is normally necessary to dial “0” or “9” before making an outbound telephone call. This varies from office to office. In some offices you must choose an outgoing telephone line by pressing the appropriate line button (eg “Line 1”).

Outbound telephone calls should normally be made for business purposes only. A certain amount of personal usage is allowed, but this must be kept to a minimum.