The TSR’s Purpose

The Telephone Service Representative’s Purpose

Sam Carpenter
September 29, 2016

The reason most clients have employed a Telephone Answering Service (TAS) such as Centratel is because they expect their clients or patients are going to have critical situations and they want these critical situations to be handled properly. It is the Telephone Service Representative’s (TSR’s) task to determine if a message is urgent and, if it is, to relay it to the client exactly as directed. And this must be done with “friendly efficiency.”

For our purposes, there are two kinds of messages: urgent or non-urgent. It is the TSR’s job to recognize urgent situations and to make sure the proper people are informed accurately and immediately. Never should a TSR fail to properly pass on an urgent message. In other words, an urgent message should never be delivered as a non-urgent message.

Businesses that don’t have critical situations use voice mail to handle calls, not live human beings. However, the vast majority of our customers have the potential for problems – enough so that they employ a telephone answering service to immediately pass after-hours urgent information on to them. These urgent situations must be solved NOW! So, our business is to identify urgent situations, ferret out the pertinent information from the caller and then pass the information along to the client immediately and accurately.

Again, for telephone answering service accounts there are two kinds of messages:

  1. “urgent” messages, also known as “E” (emergency) messages
  2. “non-urgent” messages, also known as “Non-E’s”

Each has its own relay. One more time: it is the TSR’s job to determine which kind of message it is, E or non-E, and then to relay the information exactly as the account information instructs.

Of course, the majority of incoming calls are not urgent. These are routine messages and must be passed along with the proper non-E relay method, usually without disturbing an on-call person. It is critical to note the difference between “E” and “non-E.” A Telephone Service Representative should NEVER treat an urgent situation as routine, taking the message and delivering it according to “Non-E” instructions. All accounts should have sufficient information to help the TSR determine whether a call is urgent or not. If there is not enough information in the Startel, or there is confusion in the Startel information, the TSR should report this on the 1550 account. And/or immediately notify their supervisor: The account information must be fixed so making the determination in the future is easy!

Keep in mind that passing on non-E messages as E messages is not a good thing either. Although life and property won’t be at risk, you can be sure the client will not be amused if this happens often.

In any case, the Telephone Service Representative, if not sure of what to do, should ask the caller the simple question “is this an urgent situation?” or, “do you want me to reach the on-call person?” And, if the TSR is still unsure, they should pass the message on as if it is an urgent message. Each account is unique and the question should be appropriate to the account. Guidelines for grey area decisions: “Use common sense” and “if there is to be an error, make it on the side of caution.”

TSRs must understand the purpose of the account. Why has this client employed Centratel? What is it that they want from us? Then, the TSR should ask the following questions, as he or she processes a call for a particular account, “What is my role?” “Why am I here?”

So, the TSR must understand the account’s needs and why they use our telephone answering service. Here are some urgent situations for various types of accounts:

  • Funeral homes: there is a call from a distressed family member or someone has died.
  • Veterinarian: an animal is ill or injured.
  • Medical: someone is sick or injured.
  • Heating and Air Conditioning: a system is not working or not working properly.
  • Property Management: there is a fire or flooding or a tenant is locked out of their apartment, etc. Note that with property management accounts, a caller may consider their call urgent but according to the exact relay specifications of the client, their call is not urgent.
  • Some accounts: the caller says “This is urgent!”

Here is an illustration of how critical it is to pass on urgent messages: if a $200,000 race horse with colic dies because a message wasn’t delivered, that’s a very real problem for the caller and the client. And, that’s just for an animal! We handle people’s health problems too! Think about this and understand how important it is that you follow instructions and make good decisions. Never fail to immediately pass on an urgent message!