Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Being A Phone Gatekeeper

Before I get into today's question, just wanted to say hello to my new readers and those asking questions.  I do have a couple of questions I have yet to answer, but I am thinking about my answer and will get to it!  I've been working 12+ hour days... 
  
"I have been asked to be a better gatekeeper over the phone. When I ask cilents on the phone to identify the reason of their calling, either they don't want to give specifics (I would rather speak to him directly or leave a voicemail if you don't mind) or when they do and it is vague, is it ok to ask more specifics? How do you push back their boundaries without hurting the clients?"



Dear Anonymous,



This is a great question! If it is true, you can say you ARE your boss' voice mail. (which is true a majority of the time. High profile execs do not have any privacy - assistants check emails, voice mails, AND listen in on calls while they are happening to take notes, jump in with extra info, and roll calls). So you can offer for them to leave a voice mail which you will check and transcribe 2 seconds after they leave it so they may as just well give you the message directly so you can transcribe it exactly how they please. Reasons why they may not want to divulge is - it's private/personal, highly confidential, or they don't want to give the gist of the message because the exec won't call back, or they are a cold caller. If it is personal, just write "personal." You can't expect your client to tell you a confidential matter when they are more than acquaintances, but less than BFF with your boss, "I'd like a personal referral to the medical specialist/damage control PR guy/career coach for my wife/me/our VP." If they are a true legitimate client that your boss has an existing relationship with, if this is routine/accepted behavior, you can tell the caller to call/text your boss on their cell at a specific time when you know your boss is free or email your boss and you will remind your boss to check specifically for an email from them. To push back politely - you can say, "We'll be able to call you back more quickly if we know the nature of your call and how much time the call would take. I'm more than happy to leave the subject of the message blank if that's what you prefer, however." You can always tell your boss you tried/asked politely and the caller refused. Realize your boss always has VIP people calling for him and random, total strangers, or cold callers who want access to him, but shouldn't. It's your job to weed it out correctly without offending anyone and being really nice about it while allowing them their semi-privacy. For some VIP callers, like your boss' boss, their spouse, kids, or colleagues, uber important clients, it's probably rude and really weird to question why they are calling.  It's assumed they have access to your boss whenever they need.  For anyone else, since they want your boss and need something from them, they technically should play by your boss' rules. Also realize, your boss will not call everyone back, he can only have so many priorities and hours in a day to spend on the phone. So do the best you can. I hope my answer was helpful!

***New “rule” - when you ask me a question for anonymous advice and I answer it, could you write an anonymous comment so I know you read the post?  You can just write “Thx!” or something!  :) 

As always, I usually tweet any new posts I have. And anyone can email me questions and I respond only via this blog, not to your personal address. It usually takes me 5-6 days to answer.

I also write over at Jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.

http://jobstr.com/threads/show/4303-hollywood-executive-assistant

14 comments:

  1. Greetings! Sorry for the awkward comment but I'm a little unclear about how to submit a question. Please advise, thanks very much! ~ Jess

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantSeptember 25, 2013 at 6:01 PM

      Jess - Under the About Me section there's a link which leads to being able to email me

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    2. Many thanks! I'm drafting my question now, have a lovely evening.

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    3. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Executive AssistantSeptember 25, 2013 at 6:07 PM

      Jess - Awesome! I'll try not to take forever in answering it!

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  2. I'm the EA to a CMO at a hospital. One phrase I like to use is "are you calling to introduce a product or service?" Its a nice way of asking if this is a cold call. I agree that being polite is #1, while also being firm.

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  3. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstSeptember 26, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    Annie - Yes, what a great suggestion! Thank you for the comment!

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  4. Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again



    Aide Jobs

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstDecember 10, 2013 at 11:24 AM

      Arumugam - Glad you liked my post and my blog! I also write a column at jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.

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  5. Also, as you get to know your boss and the different projects going on, you begin to recognize names and numbers.
    If I get a blocked call, 9 times out of 10 it's a sales call, no matter what they say or how many names they drop.
    Another thing my boss does that is extremely helpful for those highly confidential situations is she'll email someone and cc me on the email, basically bringing me over the wall and telling that person it's ok to speak with me.
    If someone calls and gives their name but is being vague, I always go into my bosses email and search for that name so I can see what their conversations are about. If I bring it up to them, they will most likely open up and tell me why they called.
    It's hard to assist people when others don't recognize exactly what an EA does or how I am the best tool for getting something from the boss.

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstJanuary 17, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      Amber - These are all great suggestions! Thank you for the comment! Happy New Year!

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  6. This is a great post. I can use the information.

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec Asst.February 26, 2014 at 3:48 PM

      Annamarie - So glad this is helpful to you. Thank yo for being a reader and I also write at jobstr.com under Hollywood Executive Assistant.

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    1. The Muser at Musings of a High Level Exec AsstJanuary 28, 2015 at 2:36 PM

      Glad you liked this post! Thank you for the comment!

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