The November 2010 Issue of TAS Trader

Responding to the Down Economy

By Dan L’Heureux

Much of the perspective on the current economic climate is based on perception. It’s been reported that corporations are reporting record amounts of cash (two trillion dollars as of mid-July), and yet our economy is in the midst of a recovering recession – on a good day. The basic problem is uncertainty about the future, and that causes businesses to hold back in purchases, hiring, expansion, and investment. These holdbacks trickle down to all in the economic food chain, leading to more retention, more holdbacks, more pensive positions, and less spending. Need I say more? It’s a vicious cycle, and perception is reality.

The regional groups with which I work have experienced lower attendance in 2009-2010 – and unfortunately, I doubt we’ve seen the end of it. The user groups tend to be less affected because of the technical connection to a common vendor, so the “hit” has not been as bad with non-platform-specific groups, both regionally and nationally. Even so, we had a record-setting turnout for the recent WSTA/CAM-X joint venture, which delivered an outstanding program, a choice venue, and, dare I say, Canadians that like to party (that is, have a good time while learning, networking, and donating a record amount of nearly $50,000 to breast cancer research).

Back to the perception-is-reality theme. I’m certainly not suggesting we can “will” our way back to prosperity; however, as I’ve said in the past, “Holdback is very effective and/or detrimental, depending on your position.” On October 2, 2010, there was a published AP story with the headline that a $4.1 billion trade triggered a “flash crash.” The article went on to say that one firm’s computer program set off a panic, sending the Dow down by nearly 1000 points on May 6. The trade happened to be automated by a computer algorithm that was trying to hedge its risk from price declines. This prompted 75,000 contracts to be sold within twenty minutes and caused the DOW to plunge by 1000 points in less than thirty minutes.

I do not pretend to be an economist, or even an educated observer in that arena, but I look at the overall doom-and-gloom perspective and wonder if anything can be done. I’ve been blessed with many things in my life, as I’m sure many of you are also able to acknowledge. I don’t take a position that I deserve what I have received, but I am indeed thankful for it. Why look on the negative side? I’m a firm believer in optimism, not for the sake of ignoring markers, but as an acknowledgement that we have it really good in the USA.

My goal as executive director of the TAS associations is to do what I can to elevate the entire industry while serving my local board’s direction. Steve Diels, past president of ATSI, summed it up very well with his ATSI promotional tour in 2003/2004 that carried the theme “A Rising Tide Raises All Boats,” and I sense that Mike Fultz, current ATSI president, has a similar perspective.

We all can be the “rising tide.” Some of the big challenges in TAS are providing frontline quality and consistency, as well as participating in (or having appropriate staff participate in) the various educational offerings. By doing so, you too can be part of that tide.

Our recent (CAM-X/WSTA) futures panel was optimistic and upbeat in its assessment of the TAS industry, while certainly communicating a dose of reality. Among the questions and answers discussed by John Ratliff, Chris Bell, James Millman, Terri Paffile, Tom Gelbach, and Brian Gilmore, there was one theme that stood out to me as expressing the ultimate optimism: Quality + Adaptability = Longevity.

Don’t get me wrong – there is no question that there are business challenges. Although traditional dealings might be down, you can strategize, organize, execute, and show ’em you are better! Stand out in the crowd. Respectfully outshine everyone else in service quality, and hold true to your core values. There is an opportunity around every corner. Have you trained yourself to look for it? Or are you still locked into what you have been doing?

I really care about this industry; it is our life and livelihood. There are many different approaches and opinions; some have merit and others might seem less valuable, but all should be at least considered. For those who have given me the honor of your participation and support, thank you for the opportunity. I’ll continue to work hard to make the most of it.

I can only suggest that by working together to produce a quality product and continually striving to improve that product – even by going outside current habits and processes – and then training our eyes to look for opportunity where it might not be seen today, this industry can survive and even thrive. It won’t be easy, but success seldom is!

CAM-X 2010 Award of Excellence Winners

For twenty-one years, CAM-X (The Canadian Call Management Association) has recognized call centers that have achieved and maintained excellence. This achievement puts them among the top call centers worldwide. The CAM-X Award of Excellence program is a “mystery caller” program that offers telephone answering services the opportunity to have agents evaluated by an independent panel of judges. Multiyear winners are noted for their cumulative achievement of this recognition, a testament to their ongoing, consistent quality year after year. The 2010 CAM-X Award of Excellence honorees are:

Twenty-One Years:
Christie and Walther Communications, Ottawa, ON

Eighteen Years:
Re: Messaging Solutions Inc., Abbotsford, BC

Sixteen Years:
AnswerPlus, Hamilton, ON

Fifteen Years:
Teleconnect International, Wetaskiwin, AB

Fourteen Years:
Northern Communication Services Inc., Sudbury, ON
PDL Contact Centres, Calgary, AB
T.A.S. Communications, Belleville, ON
Tele-Page, Montreal, QC

Thirteen Years:
Select Call Centre Inc., Edmonton, AB
Answer Plus, Toronto, ON
Connections Call Center, Squamish, BC

Twelve Years:
Extend Communications Inc., Brantford, ON

Eleven Years:
Select Communications Inc., Grande Prairie, AB
Alliance Wireless Communications, Kingston, ON

Ten Years:
Intercon Messaging Inc., Drayton Valley, AB

Eight Years:
Encore TeleSolutions, Barrie, ON
Central Communications, Welland, ON
Select Call Centre Inc., Calgary, AB
Select Call Centre Inc., Red Deer, AB

Seven Years:
Telelink Call Centre, St. John’s, NL

Six Years:
ACT Teleservices, Newington, CT
Extend Communications Inc., Cambridge, ON
Answer 365, Halifax, NS
Focus Telecommunications, Inc., Eldersburg, MD
Answer 1 Communications, Phoenix, AZ

Five Years:
On Call Centre Inc., Ottawa, ON
Appletree Answering Service, Inc., Portland, ME
Appletree Answering Service, Inc., Wilmington, DE
The Legacy Connection, Tuscaloosa, AL
Scotia Business Centre Limited, Bridgewater, NS
Keener Communications Inc., Glen Allen, VA
All Call Communications Inc., Georgetown, ON
Directors’ Choice, St. John, NB
Direct Line TeleResponse, Berkeley, CA
TigerTel Richmond, Richmond, BC
TigerTel Oshawa, Oshawa, ON
Time Communications, White Bear Lake, MN
Answer Quick, Louisville, TN

Four Years:
Appletree Answering Service, Inc. – Ohio, Cincinnati, OH
Appletree Answering Service, Inc., Anaheim, CA
Appletree Answering Service, Inc. Pensacola, FL
JAM, Borehamwood
Billie Clarke’s Answering Service, San Diego, CA
Anser Services, Green Bay, WI

Three Years:
Call Experts, Charleston, SC
TigerTel Vancouver, Vancouver, BC
Always On Call Answering Service, LLC, Concord, NH
Appletree Answering Service, Inc., Houma, LA
AnswerOne, Brooklyn, NY
Main Line TeleCommunications, Aston, PA
Professional Communication Services, Longview, WA
Dexcomm, Carencro, LA
Alert Communications, Ventura, CA
Keystone Answering Service, Allentown, PA
Business Connect, New Holland, PA
MedCom Professional Services Incorporated, Levittown, PA

Two Years:
Tel-Us Call Center, Beverly Hills, CA
Appletree Answering Service, Inc., St. Louis, MO
Central Communications Corp., Riverside, CA

One Year:
Concorde Communications, Los Angeles, CA
TigerTel London, London, ON
Ambs Call Center, Jackson, MI
NTC Telephone Answering Service, Mercerville, NJ
AnswerPLus Montreal, Montreal, QC
TAS PAGE Communications, Peterborough, ON
Answer Center America, Chicago, IL
Mid-State Communications, Manchester, TN
Appletree Answering Service, Inc., Kansas City, MO
Appletree Answering Service, Inc., Sacramento, CA
Appletree Answering Service, Inc., Boston, MA
TigerTel Nanaimo, Nanaimo, BC
A Better Connection Inc., Gilbert, AZ

News

Trish Brown Receives 2010 Donald Swift Education Endowment
The Donald Swift Education Endowment affirms that if an individual is given an opportunity not normally available to them, a motivated personality will deliver amazing results. The award is presented to assist one person who may not normally attend the opportunity to experience a CAM-X Convention. A trust fund covers the expense of the attendee. Trish Brown of Connections Call Centre in Squamish, BC, received the 2010 Donald Swift Education Endowment Award and attended the recent CAM-X convention and trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada. “It was an honor to meet so many of the people that I have heard about for years,” said Trish.

Amtelco Software Compatible with Windows 7 64-Bit Mode
The latest versions of Amtelco’s Infinity and Infinity Intelligent Series (IS) applications are 64-bit compatible, allowing the applications to be installed on computers running a 64-bit operating system such as Windows 7. Amtelco applications that are 64-bit compatible include Infinity Voice Logger, Infinity On-Call Supervisor, Infinity Supervisor, Infinity Telephone Agent, IS Server, IS Supervisor, and MDR. The 64-bit designation refers to the maximum size of each piece of data that can be stored and processed on the computer and the size of the memory addresses that are used to access that information. The 64-bit compatible Amtelco applications can run on both 32- and 64-bit systems.

PInnacle Freedom Surpasses 2.5 Million Calls, Enhances Service Capabilities
The PInnacle Freedom hosted call center platform recently processed its 2.5 millionth call. “We feel this certainly demonstrates our industry’s acceptance of hosted solutions,” said Professional Teledata’s Alan Hartmann. The Freedom system is a completely hosted system, using SIP trunking and VoIP agent phones. The company also announced that they are installing additional equipment in a colocation facility. “Being in this business requires architecture with the highest reliability and redundancy,” noted Dale Schafer, VP of engineering. A colocated facility will provide this and more, such as Freedom clients being able to use any number of SIP trunk providers, thus providing options for controlling telephony costs.

Amtelco Client Sharing Tools
New Amtelco tools allow calls to be shared with other call centers. IS Messenger is an instant messaging tool that incorporates real-time chat capabilities into the Intelligent Series (IS) suite of applications, enabling agents to send and receive instant text chat messages for supervisors, other agents, and MiteyMite users. B2B Agent enables multiple call centers to share Intelligent Series client accounts, centralizing campaign call data in a single location. IS Web Scripting presents IS call scripts in a Web browser, inserting the script into a conventional Web page. It also runs call scripts from the IS Web application or the embedded browser of an Infinity telephone agent.

TAS Marketing Proclaims a “Seller’s Market”
“It truly is a seller’s market for telephone answering services,” said TAS Marketing president Steve Michaels. Michaels notes that when he lists a business, it sells within a couple of days. “The last business I listed sold in a day and a half and was purchased by an individual who was traveling to see his son. After receiving and studying the listing information, he literally stopped on the side of the freeway, called, and put in an offer which was accepted,” added Michaels. “Of the last six sales, only one sold for less than ten times monthly billing, and this is for accounts only.”

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