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by Fern Shen2:31 pmApr 19, 20210

Edict from on high to Baltimore City employees: Be polite

Proper phone etiquette, preferred voicemail message script and more are spelled out in an e-blast from the new city administrator, Chris Shorter

Above: Municipal employees are being told to display a “customer-centric” attitude. (baltimorecity.gov)

Ever call the Department of Public Works or another agency and been kept on indefinite hold? Or been bounced from place to place? Or treated rudely?

Or ever send an email to a city bureaucrat that seemed to have been simply ignored?

All that’s supposed to end next month by order of the new city administrator, Christopher J. Shorter.

Shorter has issued a memo directing municipal employees to be more responsive, courteous, civil, respectful and customer-friendly – and said this good behavior must begin by May 3.

“Our interactions via email, in-person, written correspondence, and over the phone should clearly communicate the highest standards of professionalism and embody a customer-centric ethic,” Shorter wrote in an April 14 e-blast obtained by The Brew.

“We are public servants and should convey that we are eager and enthusiastic about delivering information and services,” Shorter wrote, addressing his order to “all agency heads and directors of boards and commissions.”

Goal: Professionalism

Shorter’s directive is highly specific in some cases.

Telephone etiquette includes such goals as “all calls should be answered,” callers on hold should be apprised of the status of their requests, employees should speak clearly, and transfers should be limited to one per constituent.

Voicemail greetings should include useful information about options available to the caller and when the call will be returned.

The new etiquette includes such goals as “all calls should be answered.”

Email correspondence should be “acknowledged and responded to within 24 hours or the next business day” – and “signature quotes” should be avoided unless authorized by the agency’s communications team.

Other directives are more along the lines of what Mom taught you about being polite and kind to others, namely:

“Employees should treat each call in the manner that they would expect for themselves.”
_______________________

TO: ALL AGENCY HEADS & DIRECTORS OF BOARDS AND COMMISSIONERS
FROM: Christopher J. Shorter, City Administrator
SUBJECT: Citywide Customer Service Guidance & Future Agency Audits

On behalf of Mayor Brandon Scott, this memorandum is being transmitted to all City of Baltimore agencies, boards, and commissions as part of an initiative led by the City Administrator, to develop a clear set of customer service standards and guidelines for all City of Baltimore agencies, boards, and commissions.

As employees of city government, we are privileged with the opportunity to serve the residents of Baltimore. Our interactions via email, in-person, written correspondence, and over the phone should clearly communicate the highest standards of professionalism and embody a customer-centric ethic. We are public servants and should convey that we are eager and enthusiastic about delivering information and services to all city residents, visitors, and those doing business with the City of Baltimore.

I have attached some basic guidelines for customer contact that will go into effect for all agencies starting Friday, April 9, 2021. These requirements must be met by all city employees by Monday, May 3, 2021. Each agency, board, and commission will be audited and scored on their adherence to this guidance. All Directors and Commissioners are responsible for implementation throughout their agency.

Telephone Calls

Receiving and Returning Telephone Calls

• Calls made to all numbers at every level of government should be returned within 24 hours or the next business day.
• The employee’s name and agency should be clearly stated. And, at the end of the each conversation, thank the person for calling.
• All employees are expected to take transferred calls from telephone call distribution points (i.e., 311).
• The employee should minimize the number of times a caller is transferred by understanding agency operations and personnel. The goal is one transfer per constituent, and the transfer should be to another person, not voicemail. If the call is inappropriately transferred to you, take down the caller’s information and have the appropriate individual return the telephone call.

Telephone Etiquette

• All calls should be answered if the employee is on duty.
• Customers should be given options (i.e., hold, call back, leave a message or try another number such as 311).
• If the employee must find an answer or consult with a supervisor, they should ask to put the caller on hold and wait for the response.
• When on hold the employee should check back with the customer frequently when the customer is on hold.
• Employees should treat each call in the manner that they would expect for themselves.

Voicemails

Department’s main number recorded greeting

Recorded messages on all departments main line should include the following information:

• Agency/department unit
• Hours of operation/best time to reach (if possible)
• Number to dial for immediate assistance
• Options for caller (e.g., call 311, voicemail, website address, fax)
• If voicemail is an option, statement that the call will be returned by the next business day

Employee’s individual voicemail greeting

Voicemail message includes the following information:

• Name of employee
• Title of employee
• Organizational unit of employee, if applicable
• Number to dial for immediate assistance
• Statement indicating when the call will be returned (If employee is unavailable for more than a day, they should indicate the date they will be available and the options to reach assistance in the employee’s absence.)

Example:
“Hello, you have reached (Employee First Name) (Employee Last Name) at the (Employee Division/Agency) in the City of Baltimore government. I am unavailable to answer your call at this time. The best time to reach me is between (insert tour of duty hours, Ex: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday). Please leave a detailed message and I will return your call within 24 hours or the next business day.”

Emails

All email correspondence is acknowledged and responded to within 24 hours or the next business day.

All correspondence should include:
• Name of employee
• Title of employee
• Organizational unit of employee, if applicable
• Employee’s phone number
• Employee’s email address

Note: If employee is unavailable for more than a day, they should indicate the date they will be available and the options to reach assistance in his/her absence. Email signatures should be present on all emails and replies. Additional signature quotes are generally inappropriate, but may be used if authorized by the agency’s communications team.

Contact Information
• Employee contact information should be updated and accurate in both WorkDay and Office365 systems.

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