The August 2011 Issue of TAS Trader

Interview with ATSI President Beth Cooper

In June, Beth Cooper became the new president of ATSI. In this engaging interview with TAS Trader publisher Peter DeHaan, here is what Beth has to share about her new role and the future of the TAS industry.

Peter: Beth, congratulations on becoming ATSI’s new president. What are some of your plans for this year?
Beth: Thank you, Peter. It certainly has been interesting so far. My plans? To continue to lead ATSI down a fiscally responsible path. Because of the ongoing economic challenges we are all facing, the ATSI board is taking a hard look at the products and services we offer to our members. We will be doing fewer things than we have in past years, but our focus will be on services and projects that impact the greatest number of our members, and we will be doing these things better. To use just one word: Focused.

Peter: What are some of the opportunities that you see for the TAS industry for the next year?
Beth: One is harnessing social media. People are communicating in more ways than ever before. We need to position ourselves to help with communication overload. Another is rapidly changing technological advances, which is becoming more affordable.

Peter: The opposite of opportunities is threats. What are some of the threats you see looming?
Beth: I worry about the smaller companies, the “mom-and-pop” shops that exist in isolation. They do not recognize the power of networking with industry peers. We must be aware of business trends, not just in our corner of the country but across the nation and around the world.

Peter: For the 2011 convention, an events company was involved. How did that work out? Are there any changes expected for next year’s convention?
Beth: It was a stroke of genius. ATSI members know the telephone answering service business; Designing Events knows how to put on a show. The feedback on the changes was very positive, and we want to continue to build on that success. For our upcoming conference in Orlando June 12-15, 2012, I have asked the Designing Events team to bring innovative ideas to our planning meeting this month. So stay tuned…

Peter: What other changes have occurred recently at ATSI that you would like to share with readers?
Beth: I am trying to resist change for change’s sake.

Peter: The TAS industry has seen many mergers in recent years. With the number of TASs decreasing, how do you foresee the future of the industry?
Beth: While the number of TASs is certainly decreasing, I wouldn’t say that the number of customers served by our industry is decreasing. I believe that the demand for quality agents who are able to do more than take a simple message continues to grow. Mergers allow companies to take advantage of economies-of-scale, and these companies will have the financial resources available to invest in the ever-changing technological infrastructure that will be necessary for continued success.

Peter: Thank you for your time. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Beth: I can’t give away all my secrets just yet!

ASTAA Invites You to Revisit Gettysburg

By Chris Bell and Heidi Black

This year the Atlantic States Telephone Answering Association (ASTAA) has chosen Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for the location of our annual conference. It is open to both members and nonmembers and will be held at the Wyndham Resort on October 10-12, 2011.

It has been said by historians over the years that Gettysburg was the site of the most consequential battle of the Civil War. In selecting Gettysburg, our goal has been to put together an event for TAS owners that will be remembered as the “most consequential” meeting of our time. We have a unique agenda that will appeal to owners, managers, and supervisors, with separate owners/managers and supervisors breakouts scheduled in addition to the general sessions. The governor of Pennsylvania has been invited as our keynote speaker and we are also working on having a three-star retired lieutenant general discuss the challenges of training entire forces. We will have actual case studies from industry leaders, which outline real-life experiences. (And don’t be surprised if you see Robert E. Lee or Abe Lincoln too!) You can view the preliminary agenda online at the ASTAA Web site (www.astaa.org).

These are difficult and challenging times for the TAS industry and TAS owners; our purpose is to help you find your way through this minefield called Telephone Answering Service. Also, while at the convention, find out why the “Devil’s Den” need not be your very own operations center.

If you have never been to Gettysburg, this is an opportunity to visit the new world-class visitor center and see the great battlefield firsthand. We hope you can join us – bring your “officer corps” and join the effort.

Chris Bell and Heidi Black are the ASTAA conference cochairs. For more information, contact Dan L’Heureux, executive director, at 763-473-0210 or dan@callconsult.net.

Selling a Price Increase: Is There a Good Time?

By Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter”

When is the best time to sell a price increase? I am asked this question a lot and my response is always, “Right now.” When I see the expression on the questioner’s face, I then back up my response with my rationale.

Making a price increase is not something to be taken lightly. It has to be done with confidence, and too often people put off increasing their rates due to a false belief that if they only wait a couple of weeks, somehow things will be better. Yes, waiting is an option, but usually the only thing you’ll experience is a stronger belief about why you can’t make the increase, as well loss of the added revenue during that time. My perspective is that you can make a price increase any time any of the following conditions occur:

  • A competitor has increased rates.
  • You’ve incurred increase costs.
  • Your clients have just raised their prices.
  • Other key players in the industry are increasing their rates.

These four reasons are considered “market factors,” and any one of them is certainly reason enough to advance. However, just because one of the above statements is true does not mean you should increase your rates; it merely means the marketplace is giving you permission to do so.

Listed below are what I call “value factors.” These are the real reasons why you would want to make a rate increase.

  • Has your client realized added value during the past year from using your services?
  • Is your client going to be realizing added value from what you provide them in the year to come?
  • Are there improvements in service or performance you can document that your client would value?
  • Will you be able to increase your strategic importance to your client in the year to come?
  • Can you show your client that your services will provide them with a competitive advantage or minimize their risk in the year to come?

The main reason to make an increase is that your client is seeing increased value in what you provide. When the client can see increased value, you have every right to increase your rates. However, there could very well be other strategic or even tactical reasons why you would still not want to make a price increase. Those questions can only be answered as you assess your overall business plan.

However, my perspective is that you should take advantage of increasing your rates whenever possible. Being proactive protects your bottom line and provides you with some protection against price increases that you will encounter from your suppliers.

The more confident and comfortable you become in your pricing – including your rate increases – the less likely you will be to devote precious effort and energy to worrying about your pricing. That effort and energy is better spent on showing your client how the value of your service meets their needs and the benefits they desire.

News

Peter DeHaan Keynote Speaker at SNUG

The Startel National Users Group (TeamSNUG) announced that Dr. Peter DeHaan will be a featured speaker at TeamSNUG’s 25th Annual Conference being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, March 11-14, 2012. The conference, which is open to both members and nonmembers, will include sessions on the industry as well as platform-specific educational and training sessions geared specifically for TAS owners, managers, and technical staff.

“We are honored to have Dr. DeHaan at our event, and we are excited to hear his thoughts about the future of the TAS industry and how we can prepare for it,” said TeamSNUG conference chair Cameron Reichert. “Having Dr. DeHaan as our keynote speaker rounds out an already value-packed conference schedule. His session will be enlightening to anyone in the TAS industry. We welcome our members and nonmembers, as well as anyone interested in utilizing the Startel platform.”

Peter DeHaan has a PhD in business administration and is the owner of Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc, whose periodicals include Connections Magazine, TAS Trader, and AnswerStat, as well as Web-based media and informational sites.

For more information, visit www.PeterDeHaan.com and www.TeamSNUG.com.

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[Posted by Peter DeHaan for TAS Trader, a telephone answering service e-publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]