As an assistant, one of your jobs is likely to be screening calls for your manager. This will entail not only determining who gets through, but also courteously deflecting callers who will not be speaking to your manager at the time of their call. You will need to be able to take clear messages that enable your employer to understand exactly what the caller wanted later when you give them the information.
1. Make a list of "Every Time" Callers
There are some people that will always need to be let through. You need a firm list from your manager that gives you the full names and titles of people who should always be put through. Generally these people will be family members and school officials if there are school-age children in the family.
2. Establish a firm line for callers who will be screened
You need a clear, polite, firm way to tell people who will not be getting through that they need to leave a message. One of the best options is to tell them that your manager is in a meeting or out on a job, but that they will return the call later. Then you can simply take the message.
3. Set a time for when callers can expect a return call
Work with your manager to determine what type of timeline you can give callers who are screened. For example, will they receive a call back within the business day? 24 hours? A week? Many callers will become belligerent if you cannot give them an idea of when they will receive a call back, and you will get more return and repeat calls if you cannot tell them roughly when to expect a call back.
Screening calls is not difficult, but you do have to be firm with callers. Having an established set of rules for yourself will help you do your job effectively. Does anyone have other suggestions to add?