March 2005 Vol. 10 Issue 1
Handle rambling callers by enforcing the three-minute rule

Rambling: to talk or write in a desultory or long-winded wandering fashion.

Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

All operators have had to listen to people who feel they must express every detail about their requests. As operators, we hear how callers first experienced their problem, how it affected their daily schedules and how it is such a nuisance that they had to call.

Although such information is connected to the main subject, this "off-the-beaten path" conversation can take up much of an operator's time.

The main goal for an operator is to connect callers with the right sources, not listen to unnecessary particulars. This is why you should follow a "three-minute rule" for calls. The three-minute rule usually gives operators enough time to

  1. listen carefully to the caller's main point,
  2. verify that they understand the caller's specific needs,
  3. inform callers that they will be transferred to the appropriate person.

As operators, we have been taught it is rude to interrupt. But by sticking to the three-minute rule, operators can help everyone by keeping the call short and focused. Keeping these calls short doesn't mean good customer service etiquette must be sacrificed — for tips on etiquette, see "B.I.T.E. Your Tongue with Unhappy Customers (or Clients)."

It is certainly not easy at times to balance between being polite and helpful and keeping a caller from being long-winded; however, using the three-minute rule can keep lengthy calls to a minimum.


Jessi Mellady,; Vanessa Puckett,; Christine Roper,; Cindy Verhey,

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