United States
                Environmental Protection
                                March 1999
                                Edition 2,0
Office of Administration and Resources Management

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                      WASHINGTON, D.C. 20460
                                                  OFFICE OF
                                               AND RESOURCES
Dear Col league:

       Much of the Agency's business takes place over the
telephone. The telephone is one of the best tools available to
respond to our customers' needs and fulfill our environmental
mission. Thus, every day, each of us has the opportunity to
strengthen public trust in the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency by responding promptly, respectfully and helpfully to
phone calls.

       The use of the voice mail is an excellent way to
strengthen interactions with our customers. When using voice
mail, I urge that you demonstrate professionalism, courtesy, and a
"can-do" attitude both to our internal and external customers.

       The following guidelines are designed to assist you in
practicing these principles and to promote consistent quality of
voice mail usage across the Agency. Thank you for your
cooperation in this important customer service initiative.
                               Romulo \£, Diaz, Jr.
                               Assistant Administrator
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             Page 2


 Voice mall is more effective when a few rules of common courtesy are
followed. Always answer the phone when you are free to do so, Don't "hide
 behind" voice mail by letting calls automatically roll to your voice
 mailbox. Return calls within a couple of hours.


 Encourage callers to leave a detailed message. Studies show that a
 greeting that includes the following components will help callers feel more
 Your voice mail greeting should include: your name, the name of your
 organization (acronyms can be confusing to an outside customer), your
 schedule or availability (e.g., whether you are in the office, in training, on
 sick leave, or on vacation), when you expect to return, an alternative
 source within the Agency for information during your absence, and an
 option to press zero only when there is an attendant to answer the phone. If
you are an EPA contractor, you must identify yourself as such in your
To maintain current information about your availability, you should update
your personal greeting at least weekly, and preferably daily. Callers who
reach a generic greeting (i.e., a greeting that does not indicate your
availability) may not know if you will receive their messages. As a result,
these callers must press zero to speak with an attendant to find out your

While updating your personal greeting every day may seem awkward and
time-consuming at first, you will soon discover that it can become a habit
as easy as turning on your PC when you first arrive at your desk.


You should record an extended-absence greeting if you plan to be
unavailable for a full day or an extended period of time. An informative
extended-absence greeting should include the duration of your absence, as
well as the name and telephone number of a co-worker who can handle
your business calls during your absence.

All EPA voice mailboxes are programmed to provide callers with the
option to press zero, so that they can reach someone when you are not
available. Callers become frustrated when no one comes on the line or are
bounced into another voice mailbox. This practice is commonly known as
"voice mail jail." Therefore, it is critical that the dial-zero attendant for
your office be staffed during the Agency's normal business hours. Dial-zero
targets should never forward to voice mail during normal business hours.


EPA offers voice mail training to the new user and the advanced user. The
new user is required to receive EPA training prior to obtaining a password
to access the voice mailbox. To find out more information on how to
register for voice mail training, contact the EPA telecommunications
support representative in your office.
   For additional information about voice mail, call 202-
   260-7200 and ask to speak to a member of the Voice
   Processing Staff.
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