For any administrative or executive assistant, you have one basic goal, making your boss more efficient and productive. That’s it. Everything you do during your workday should have this one basic goal behind it. One primary way to save your boss time and help her be more efficient is to properly screen calls.
Now, when we talk about screening calls, we usually think about sales calls. And, yes, it is important to screen out unwanted sales calls. But screening calls is about much more than just blocking people selling things you don’t want. It’s also about redirecting calls that your boss doesn’t really need to handle.
Let’s face it, the higher up in the organization your boss is, the more of a generalist he’s going to be. Here’s an example. I worked for the Director of Human Resources at a local university. While he was very knowledgeable about HR in general and the policies of the university in particular, he probably only knew general information regarding the health benefits provided. If you had a specific question about health benefits, you probably needed to speak with someone in the Benefits Department rather than the Director of all HR.
And yet, people regularly called the Director of HR with these types of questions. Why? Because they knew his name and were high enough up in the university hierarchy to demand the attention of the Director. Their impression is that they would get faster service by calling his office than by calling the front desk of HR. The truth is, they would get faster service from the front desk, because they are used to taking those calls and transferring them to the appropriate person. But you know how higher-ups tend to be.
So now we come to your role in all of this. When you answer a call for your boss, your immediate response should not be to ring it through. Instead, your response should be, once you know who the caller is, to ask what the call is concerning. Because if they only want to ask about a specific health benefit, you can then divert them to the benefits manager, who can likely answer their question. Which, of course, is the same thing your boss would do once she takes the call. My usual line is, “May I ask what your call is concerning?”
Voila! You have now saved your boss the several minutes it would have taken him to do the same thing. And you’ve provided the caller with good customer service, since odds are your boss wasn’t available at that moment and the caller would have to have just waited for a return call. Add up all those minutes over the course of days and weeks, and you can see how properly screening and redirecting calls gives your boss much needed time to work on her real duties.
What are your strategies for screening and redirecting calls? Leave a comment and let us know.