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The Golden Rules of Phone and E-mail

We at Whitworth want to provide the best possible service to our students, the public and our fellow employees. Good service begins with positive communication. Below are some recommended guidelines for using the phone system and e-mail.

E-Mail Tips:

  • Activate your "out-of-the-office" function if you're going to be gone for an extended period of time. Include information regarding an alternate contact person.
  • Whenever possible, please use the Outlook "plan-a-meeting" function when scheduling meetings.
  • Try to make only one main point in an e-mail message. If you need to communicate three things to someone, you're probably better off sending three separate e-mails.
  • Never send an e-mail in anger; because of its unique nature, people can easily misread what you're intending to convey in an e-mail. Don't assume you've received one in anger either.
  • Never send abusive, harassing, threatening, or unethical messages, even in jest.
  • Don't assume anything you send will remain confidential.
  • Don't send junk mail. We all complain about getting too much e-mail; don't add to the problem by sending on that recipe for squirrel-flavored baked Alaska, the photos of your great niece in Oklahoma or that funny list of "52 ways to annoy your boss" to colleagues unless you are certain they will welcome the item.
  • Don't copy your e-mails to people who truly don't need them. Be especially careful to resist the temptation to play the game of "I'm letting your supervisor know I've sent this to you, so you'd better respond." Unless the supervisor would be irritated if he or she didn't get a copy, don't bother sending one.
  • Be sure to put the real subject matter in the e-mail's subject line. Maybe that's all you need to do. For example: "Meeting at your office tomorrow at 3 confirmed; no message follows."
  • Try to respond to all e-mail and phone message within 24 hours. If you need more time to answer someone's question, respond and tell him/her that, but at least indicate that you received the initial message and are addressing it.
  • Keep e-mails and voice messages short. Think through what you want to say in print and on the phone before you begin, and mention the heart of the message up front. Then give the background and context -- briefly!

Phone Tips:

  • Update your phone greetings, especially if you are going to be unavailable for any length of time. If you've made a change in your greeting, leave a sticky note next to your phone to remind you to switch back to your standard greeting.
  • Make sure you know how to transfer calls. Losing off-campus callers is embarrassing for us and annoying for them. Make an effort to stay on the line to introduce the caller and subject matter to the recipient of a transferred call.
  • When you leave a phone message, be sure to leave your name and extension, stating the information slowly and clearly. Giving your number at the speed of an auctioneer may save you a few nanoseconds, but is frustrating for the rest of us.
  • If you promise "live" phone coverage in your area, make sure someone is always available to pick up the phone. Alternatively, ensure that voicemail is activated if no one is available to answer and that the voicemail greeting doesn't promise someone will be there when nobody is (during lunch, for example).
  • Remember to try to find the specific person within the department who can assist the caller. (i.e. registrar, student accounting services, financial aid).
  • Offer to call back with answers rather than put people on hold. Also, don't forward calls to someone unless you're sure s/he can answer the caller's question.

For further information on using Whitworth University voicemail, see the following site: www.whitworth.edu/Telephone/Documentation/7960IPPhone/Index.htm

For further information or guidelines on e-mail etiquette, check out these sites: