Management of Telephone
Personal Calls
Effective Use of the Answering or Voice Mail Machines
Computer and Equipment Skills Expected of Secretaries
Management of Daily Mail
County Packet Distribution
Maintaining Mailing Lists


Management of Telephone

  1. Speak clearly, slowly and distinctly.
  2. How to answer and what to say - This applies to all secretaries and agents. "Cooperative Extension, Cook County Office, Jane speaking."
  3. Leaving the line - When you must leave the line to obtain information, it is courteous to give the caller the option of waiting or of being called back. You might say "Will you hold or shall I call you back?" If the caller waits, use the hold button. Give progress reports every 30 seconds and say "I'm still looking for _____." When you return to the line, thank the caller for waiting.
  4. May I take a message? - Take accurate messages to avoid misunderstandings later. Include all the information you have knowledge of: what may seem insignificant to you may be extremely important to the person receiving the message. Include date, time, your initials, the caller's name, telephone number, the business or service represented and/or the information desired. Tell the caller when the person they want is expected or whether he/she can be reached at another location IF APPROPRIATE. Offer whatever information you can. Inquire whether anyone else can help them. Do not make promises to the caller regarding when the call will be returned. Do advise the caller when the person is expected to return or call in for messages. Say "I'll give the message" or "I'll tell ______ you called."
  5. Transferring calls - Tact, courtesy, and efficiency are essential when calls are being transferred. Before transferring a call, explain to the caller that he/she is being transferred and ask him/her if he/she is are willing to be transferred. You might say, "_______ is responsible for touring information. May I transfer you to his/her extension?" Transferring tips: Provide the caller with number of the called party in case you are disconnected during the transfer process. If you are not sure about how to transfer a call, check instructions before taking action. Do not guess when transferring calls. If you are not certain to whom the call should be transferred, ask the calling party to wait a moment while you check. Consult with co-workers and find out all you can to avoid run around!
  6. Placing calls - Check the phone directory, number finder, or other lists before calling. Identify yourself and your organization immediately and state the purpose of your call.
    Remember time zones and avoid calling during lunch hours. Allow time for the party to answer. Leave clear, concise messages on answering machines or with answering services. At the minimum, leave your name, your organization, the date, the time, a phone number, and a brief message regarding the purpose of the call.

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Personal Calls

  1. Avoid lengthy personal calls in the office. While personal calls are at times unavoidable, long chatty conversations are not only out of place but also wasteful of time that belongs to the office, not to the employee. Telephone chatter annoys other people in the office who cannot help over-hearing and interrupts the routine of office procedure and ties up the lines.

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Effective Use of the Answering or Voice Mail Machines

  1. Answering machines and voice mail machines are most effective when the office is closed or for leaving a message for personnel who are away from their work stations. Clients may request bulletins, sign up for classes, and state questions by leaving a message.
  2. The recorded message should list hours and days of the week that the office is open.

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Computer and Equipment Skills Expected of Secretaries

  1. Knowledgeable and a user of basic computer programs used by the Cooperative Extension Service.
  2. Familiar with word processing techniques, internet, web site entry.
  3. Ability to install computer programs.
  4. Ability to "trouble shoot" computer-related questions.
  5. Ability to use all other office equipment, i.e.: copier, fax, postage machine, etc.

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Management of Daily Mail

The County Extension Secretary can help see that general correspondence is taken care of promptly by performing the following:

  1. In-Coming Mail
    1. Open, date (of receipt), and sort by: (a) requires immediate attention, or (b) review when possible. Any mail marked personal or appearing of a personal nature should be distributed unopened.
    2. Distribute to the appropriate person.
    3. After consultation with the appropriate Extension Agent, the Secretary can often make replies to requests for bulletins, leaflets, etc., therefore, disposing of these matters efficiently and promptly. Always notify the Extension Agent of action taken.
  2. Out-Going Mail
    1. Personal letters should be completed and mailed daily.
    2. Circular letters, newsletters, etc., should be labeled for date of mail out and mailed on that date. Often a portion or all of a mailing such as this can be done in advance. Example: Envelopes could be addressed during a slack time.
    3. Large mailings should be sorted and labeled by route or post office when possible.
    4. Refer to Penalty Mail and other postal procedures for information on using Penalty Mail, postal meters and reducing mail costs.

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County Packet Distribution

  1. Sort for appropriate agents.
  2. Duplicate or circulate information that pertains to multi-agents.
  3. File information used as reference material as directed by agent.

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Maintaining Mailing Lists

  1. Purge all mailing lists at least once a year.
  2. Correct lists during the year when changes occur or mail is returned.
  3. Have lists designated by gender and race for affirmative action records.

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