The October 2009 Issue of TAS Trader

The Simple Tools of Control

Sam Carpenter

In Western culture, the word “control” has an undeserved bad rap.  It conjures up the image of a type A personality gone wild with power, who, headed down the road of personal self-destruction, cuts wide swaths of anxiety among all those encountered.  “Control freak” is a term that often surfaces.  But if hyper-control is a bad thing, do we want the opposite, to be out of control?  Like everything else, moderation is the key.  In truth, most people don’t spend enough time focusing on the methodology of control.  There is a science and an art to it.

In your answering service and in your personal life, if you’re ready to devote some energy and time to seizing control of your day, let’s get technical.  Center your efforts around three primary tools: a digital voice recorder, Microsoft Outlook, and a cellular phone.  Of course, none of these tools are new, and they stand on their own in terms of their usefulness.  However, when one combines them a new and powerful sense of control is found.  These tools are about the following:

•    Having a goal-oriented, consistent strategy of communication with others as well as yourself.
•    Having efficient systems to accomplish all necessary tasks and completing them promptly.
•    Not suffering ineffectiveness due to actions not taken.  Most of our failures stem from what falls through the cracks, not from overt mistakes.

These tools are about event control.  Think of the mind as an endless filmstrip spewing out a stream of thoughts rushing downhill with no rhyme or reason.  How do you trap the good ideas and slow down the incessant mind-noise?  Very simple: Carry a digital voice recorder.  When an idea worth remembering appears, pull out the recorder and record the thought.  Then forget it and move on, leaving your mind with one less bit of clutter.

For me, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing – I capture the thought, and my mind is free to move on.  There is nothing more to ponder in the moment and nothing to remember later.  Daily, I review the recordings of the past twenty-four hours, transcribing them into the appropriate Microsoft Outlook task, calendar, or contact list.  Once transcribed, the thought has permanence and action will be taken.

Microsoft Outlook, my second efficiency tool, has enormous timesaving advantages over the classic paper-based day planner that I lugged around for years.  Synchronizing Outlook with my PDA once a day, all information is at my fingertips no matter where I am.  As a manager, Outlook’s most vital feature is the task list.  (Hint: designate each manager as a “category,” thus centralizing each manager’s various tasks in order to better engender concise and quick “sit-downs” to review progress on various tasks.)  Outlook’s appointment calendar and contact information features are also vital.  Keep them up to date – and use them.

One habit that remains from my former paper-based planner routine is my early morning “planning and solitude session.”  In the quiet of dawn, it’s time to download the voice recorder information into Outlook and then review the tasks for the day.  This session is the day’s most significant act of personal control.

The third efficiency component is the cell phone.  The key understanding here is that a telephone number doesn’t represent a place; it represents a person.  After all, people aren’t looking for the place where Sam is located; they’re looking for Sam.  However, this fact of life can lead to a day of unending disruption.

Everyone has a cell phone, but because most people use it improperly, it’s often a source of anxiety and a time-waster.  This means that the cell phone’s best feature is its on/off switch.  The primary purpose of my cell phone is to make calls – not to receive them – and so my phone spends a large part of the day turned off as I divert incoming calls to voicemail.  This way I can focus on immediate tasks without interruption.  I’ll call people back later when I am in “callback” mode.

That’s it, three communication tools to seize control of the day.  If you can muster the necessary self-discipline and patience to work out the details of how the tools interface with each other to suit your own style, you will experience significantly more control and peace in your day.

Epilogue: Last year I combined these three tools into a single combination tool (i.e., the Blackberry).  I immediately hated it and went back to using three separate tools.  The added “benefit” of having email readily available was a distraction because there was a subtle (and sinister) prodding to check messages in every spare moment.

Sam Carpenter is president of Centratel in Bend, Oregon.

The Belle Behind the Bells

Dear Peter:

I enjoyed reading your movie review of The Bells Are Ringing in the August 2009 issue of TAS Trader.

Here is some background: In 1956, Mrs. Mary Printz, better known as “Ma Belles,” started the Belles Celebrity Secretarial Service in New York.  A few years later it became The Belles Celebrity Answering Service – better known simply as “Belles.”  The answering service, and Mary in particular, became the inspiration for this musical.  Unfortunately, Ma Belles passed away early this year, appointing me as her legitimate successor to carry on with the Belles legacy.

Thank you for sharing the wonderful review.

From Roger Snyder, president, The Belles Celebrity Answering Service, LLC

Here are some related quotes that Roger shared with TAS Trader:

“The Belles may well be the most famous answering service in the United States, even though until four years ago its own number was unlisted.  It was founded in 1956 by a smashing brunette named Mary Printz, whose nicknames range from “Ma Belle” to “The Witch of the East.”  Mary had been in business for just a short time when two of her clients – songwriters Adolph Green and Jule Styne – told her they were going to write a musical about an answering service and base its main character on her.  The result was The Bells Are Ringing…”  (Eisenberg, Lawrence B., “Confessions of an Answering Service,” Cosmopolitan, February 1977).

“Of all the switchboard operators Mrs. Printz trained, few were better than Miss Holliday herself, who reported for instruction after she was cast in The Bells Are Ringing.  Miss Holliday became so proficient, People magazine reported in 1979, that Mrs. Printz offered her a job” (Fox, Margalit, “Mary Printz, an Ear for the Famous, Dies at 82,” New York Times, March 2, 2009).

“The walls of Printz’ office are rim-tight with autographed photos from celebrities: Candice and Louis Malle, for example, sitting in a carriage in a French field after their marriage.  The photo is inscribed:  ‘To all our Belles with love from Candice and Louis’” (Larkin, Kathy, “The Woman Who Wakes Up Robert Redford,” Manhattan Daily News, Wednesday, August 11, 1982).

News

Aaron Boatin Honored with Don Berry Award
TeamSNUG announced that Aaron Boatin has received the Don Berry Award of Excellence. Boatin was selected because of his exceptional dedication and involvement in the business and his demonstrated service to others through TeamSNUG; he and his company are leaders in the industry. The award was created to honor individuals who gave of themselves for the betterment of the telephone answering industry and is named in remembrance of Don Berry for his contribution to this industry. Boatin is VP of Ambs Call Center, a telephone answering and call center based in Jackson, Michigan.

Line Celebrates Thirty Years
Thirty years ago, Larry and Ruth Goldenberg had a dream: to provide quality, reliable answering services to the medical and business community at a good value. So on September 10, 1979, with a 557B switchboard and ten clients, Direct Line was born. Today, their son, Ken Goldenberg, continues the legacy as he increases his leadership role in Direct Line’s daily operations and develops plans for future growth and development.

CAM-X and WSTA to Hold Joint Convention
The Canadian Call Management Association (CAM-X) and the Western States Telemessaging Association (WSTA) announced that their respective fall 2010 annual meetings will be held as a cooperative effort in a combined meeting October 3-6, 2010. “This joint meeting held at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, answers our members’ choice to venture out of Canada every fourth year for the convention,” said Linda Osip, CAM-X executive director. Dan L’Heureux, executive director of WSTA added, “We are confident the combined efforts…will yield a superior product for all participants.”

OnviSource Offers Free Pilot Program for Its Explora Speech Analytics Product
OnviSource announced the launch of a pilot program for its integrated speech analytics software, Explora. Call centers wanting to “try before they buy” can use Explora to automatically analyze customer interaction calls and produce actionable knowledge for quality assurance, compliance management, training, sales and marketing opportunity detection, and business intelligence – all in a fraction of the time it would take to manually perform these tasks.

Telescan Introduces Live Video Monitoring
Telescan introduced new live video monitoring, an addition to its popular Spec- trum ® Messenger. This allows managers to monitor up to six locations at the same time. Either using a local LAN or used remotely, Spectrum video monitoring allows call cen- ters to monitor any location anywhere in the world, as long as there is a Web camera and Internet access.

Professional Teledata Announces PInnacle Enhancements
Professional Teledata announced enhancements for PInnacle customers with eQueue switches and all PInnacle Freedom customers. The ACD Monitor program shows complete details for all calls in the ACD queue, including DNIS, ANI, client name and ID, and the current stage of call handling; agent information shows the agent mode (such as talking or working). These enhancements are designed to be compatible with ATSI Certification.

Amtelco Introduces IS Appointment Scheduling
The Infinity Intelligent Series (IS) appointment-scheduling module offers answering services the ability to host appointment schedules for their clients. IS appointment scheduling offers answering services the ability to purchase the package and run it on their premises, run IS appointment scheduling as a Web module using any platform, and integrate it with Amtelco’s scripted IS messaging or CMI Diamond contact management database.

Cosmopolitan Medical and Answer 1 Earn Gold Certification
Cosmopolitan Medical Communications and Answer 1 Communications have both requalified for the ATSI Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification Award. The certification indicates that they have met or exceeded high standards in the areas of business practices, life safety, operations, and personnel hiring, training, and ongoing evaluations through a peer review program focusing on a 99.9 percent annual run time.

Jan Lee to Speak at ASTAA
The Atlantic States Telephone Answering Association (ASTAA) announced that Jan Lee of PaceLine Communications will speak at its fall conference on October 14-16, 2009, at the Loews Philadelphia. The conference will center on services and leadership through more effective communication.

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