The February 2010 Issue of TAS Trader

Answer First Communication Marks Fifty Years in Business

When Jim Kilgore’s Smyrna-based answering service, Answer First Communication, started operations in 1960, there were no personal computers, email, faxes, cell phones, voicemail, texting devices, PDAs, or pagers. There were “just good old-fashioned telephones and operators answering live twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week,” said Kilgore. “Some things that work for businesses just don’t need to change,” he added. “If you have a business telephone in any industry, we answer anytime 24/7 with trained and skilled folks, so our clients never miss a call from a ready-to-buy customer. Your business telephone is still your most important business tool. A lot of businesses run an advertisement, but have no one to answer their phone. That doesn’t happen here.”

However, there is current technology that does make sense for Kilgore’s answering service. “Of course we deliver messages to our clients by any of the most up-to-date electronic devices and means businesses use today, and we have state-of-the-art computer equipment, but having a real live, friendly, and professional person on the front end makes a great impression on customers,” Kilgore proudly stated. “Our system has proven to increase sales for our clients. Most people just hate answering machines and the ‘voicemail jail’ they encounter in a business environment and will just hang up and try somebody else.”

The Smyrna Business Association recently recognized the answering service at their monthly meeting on January 9. In addition, the city of Smyrna issued a proclamation from Mayor Max Bacon’s office stating their appreciation for the longevity demonstrated by Answer First Communication. “I extend congratulations to Answer First Communication on their fiftieth anniversary, with best wishes for many more years to come,” said Mayor Bacon.

Jim Kilgore, a former baseball catcher who had played pro ball for two years for the former Brooklyn Dodgers’ minor league affiliate in Thomasville, Georgia, is active in the local community. He is a member and past president of the Smyrna Business Association and a member of the Smyrna Kiwanis Club, the Vinings Business Association, the Atlanta Apartment Association, and the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. He also plays softball for the Smyrna Senior Gold League.

Kilgore says another benefit he offers his clients is that many of his employees have been with him for over ten years and are well-versed in providing exceptional service. “We have some great people on the phone lines and in the call center. We take care of them so they can take care of our clients. Our director of operations, Donna Ellis, has been on the job since 1978, and we have many clients that have also been with us for well over ten years.”

The company has also just added a new vice president of sales and marketing, Glenn Christian. Mr. Christian, a Smyrna-area native, has eleven years’ experience in business development in the call center industry and is helping to broaden and enhance the services offered by the company. “We like to make it easy for people to do business with us. The benefit of a live answer 24/7 and the peace of mind it brings are immeasurable,” says Christian.

In addition to their core service, Answer First also provides 1-800 numbers, order taking, crisis and emergency lines, and help desk services. As for new services, Kilgore says, “For our clients and other businesses, we offer an ‘Employee Workplace Awareness Hotline’ program for loss-prevention and risk-reduction so their employees can call in anonymously twenty-four-hours-a-day to report any complaints or potential illegal activities they observe in their workplace. We also provide a 24-Hour Job Line for employers so they can prescreen and prequalify job seekers on the phone before they decide to set up an interview. We also have an expanded Web site, www.answer1stinc.com to make it easy for our clients to find us, gather information on our services, and provide feedback to us. The company can also be reached at 770-333-1000.”

How much longer does Kilgore plan to work in the business? “Just as long as I feel good and that probably will be for a long time, because we provide a service that helps businesses increase sales and improve their bottom line, especially today,” he said. “Some things never change.”

News

Answer Midwest Named “Best Customer Service”
Answer Midwest, Inc. answering service has been selected by St. Louis Small Business Monthly (SBM) readers with providing the “Best Customer Service” in St. Louis. Each month SBM polls its readers for its annual “Best in Business” contest, asking them to nominate and select the best businesses in St. Louis. Answer Midwest will be honored in the magazine’s February 2010 edition. According to Gary Tedrick, president and CEO, Answer Midwest has been in business for sixty-four years and is based in Alton, Illinois.

Amtelco Increases Infinity Conferencing Seats to Sixty-Four
Expanded voice conferencing of up to sixty-four parties is now available with the Infinity Conference Bridge. Conferences are created with or without operator assistance; operators or the conference moderator can initiate audio recording, with the resulting WAV file emailed to them. Moderators can manage and view their conference via a Web interface. Conferences can be secured with a moderator password. Multiple conference bridge IDs can be predefined, allowing each staff member to have his or her own conference bridge. This is available in Infinity v5.51. For more information, call 800-356-9148 or 608-838-4194.

Candy Myura Partners with TAS Source
Chuck Boyce and TAS Source, providing support to the TAS industry, has partnered with business and executive coach Candy Myura. Her company, A Better You Coaching, focuses on leadership development while helping individuals and businesses grow. Candy worked as the COO of Appletree Answers and also for MBNA, a fortune 500 financial institution. Her experience, tools, and resources will help TAS Source and the TAS community stay active and vibrant. Additionally, Candy spoke at the recent TAS Source Marketing Summit. Contact her at 302-383-4344 or cmyura@ ABetterYouCoaching.com; you can reach Chuck at 302-352-9488 or chuck@tassource.com.

OnviSource Announces Redundancy, Backup, and Disaster Recovery Solutions
OnviSource announced the availability of OnviNet Ensura Backup and Disaster Recovery Solution packages for its customers using their OnviCall and AccuCall platforms to protect their business and assist in restoring operations in the event of unforeseen disasters or problematic circumstances. Ensura offers three levels of critical backup, standby, and redundancy packages designed to facilitate the fastest possible recovery: Ensura Basic, Ensura Standard, and Ensura PRO. To assist customers in choosing a backup and recovery package, OnviSource offers a free System Requirements Assessment service to consider the unique requirements of each customer.

Amtelco Adds Auto-Connect Option to Soft Agent
Amtelco added a configurable auto- connect option to its Intelligent Soft Agent. This allows incoming calls to be answered immediately as they ring on an operator workstation, eliminating the need to manually connect. Auto-connect calls are preceded by a discreet audible tone, alerting operators of a new call. The feature saves time and eliminates missed or delayed calls when operators are not looking at their workstations. The Soft Agent application is specifically designed for use with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)-based telephone switching systems. For more information, call 800-356-9148 or 608-838-4194.

Mail-N-More to Print and Mail Invoices
Chris Twigg of Mail-N-More announced that their new invoice printing and mailing services can cut costs up to 50 percent and speed up receivables. Additionally, Mail-N-More can track bills (via the USPS Web site link), split a billing file into mailed, faxed, and emailed invoices, provide optional online payment capability, track faxes and emails to delivery, and bar code all information required by a bank if the remittance address is the sender’s bank lockbox. Mail-N-More is proud to send out invoices for AnswerNet. Call Chris Twigg at 321-729-9972 or info@ bizmailservice.com for further information.

GLTSA Announces Spring Sales and Supervisors Seminar
GLTSA (the Great Lakes Telemessaging Services Association) announced that their Spring Sales and Supervisors Seminar will be held April 13-15, 2010, at the Wyndham Lisle-Chicago Hotel in Naperville, Illinois. For more information, contact Dan L’Heureux at 763-473-0210 or Dan@CallConsult.net; GLSTA’s Web site is www.GLTSA.org. Also, mark your calendars for the GLTSA Fall Annual Meeting, October 25-27, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois (more information to follow).

Telescan Joins with CenturiSoft to Introduce Two-Way Voice Messaging
Telescan announces integrated auto- matic message delivery notification between Centuri Messenger and Telescan’s Spectrum. This jointly developed software integration allows Centuri to notify Spectrum of the delivery of a message with a date and time stamp, eliminating the need for answering service agents to periodically check for message delivery – thus saving time and improving accuracy. A Better Connection was the test site for the new Telescan/ CenturiSoft integration. For more information call 800-770-7662, email patty@telescan.net, or visit www.telescan.net.

Amtelco Intelligent Soft Agent System with Asterisk and ACD Connectivity
Amtelco has released the Intelligent Soft Agent, specifically designed for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)-based telephone switching systems. The Intelligent Soft Agent application integrates with Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)-enabled PBX equipment from Asterisk, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, Nortel, Siemens, and Amtelco’s Infinity ACD system. It provides the ability to establish low-cost, efficient, direct connections to clients’ PBXs and ACDs. The Internet-based communication makes it possible to easily and efficiently offer remote receptionist and messaging services. For more information, call 800-356-9148 or 608-838-4194.

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