The September 2011 Issue of TAS Trader

Want More from Your Operations and Sales Department?

The Great Lakes TeleServices Association (GLTSA) will be holding its annual meeting in the form of a dual-track event at the Allerton Hotel on the Magnificent Mile in downtown Chicago, October 24-26.

The Sales and Marketing Track will offer a fresh perspective from trainer and communications consultant Donna Howell-DePew, who draws upon an extensive background in sales, manufacturing, quality processes, systems development, and performance. She combines expertise in these fields with facilitation skills to create simple, fun, yet effective ways to integrate new skills into her clients’ work repertoire. A masterful facilitator, Donna possesses an uncanny ability to take great concepts and make them real, interweaving them into clients’ processes for the greatest advantage. She emphasizes participant interaction, encouraging trainees to dig deep to create their own value and take responsibility for effective learning and implementation.

In the complementary Supervisor Track Tuesday, Donna G. West will be focusing on “You the Supervisor.” This all-day session will deal with how supervisors relate to their employers and agents and how they can maximize these relationships. Owners invest in business and that includes supervisors; how can supervisors invest in themselves? Donna will cover ways to do that with little or no money – on up to college and continuing education classes. Supervisors can also learn what an owner is looking for from a supervisor. With over twenty-five years as president and founder of Focus Call Centers, with offices in Maryland and Pennsylvania, Donna has long been involved in training for the TAS industry. She has led the work on the SNUG Excellence DVD series for agents, supervisors, and customer service, as well as ATSI’s HIPAA training. Donna specializes in working with supervisors and managers more than any other group.

Wednesday, October 26, will offer sessions for both tracks with two well-known, successful TAS business owners. Sharon Campbell, president of Answer Direct, will lead a session on “How to Build and Manage High Performance Teams,” and Michele Ringwood, president of Pronto Connections, will present “Agent Skills: Training, Quality Assurance, and the Caller Experience.”

Rounding out the day will be Chuck Boyce, known as the “Independent Executive,” and his presentation “Breaking Free: The Seven Keys to Getting More of What You Want Most from Your Business.” Chuck will share key ways business owners can get more out of their business, whether “more” means more clients, more profits, more time away from the business, or just about anything else that you could want more of. It’s all about changing the way you look and think about your business.

Please join GLTSA for the Welcome Reception hosted by Amtelco at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, October 24, following a bonus, no-cost, non-platform-specific “Tips and Tricks for All Platforms” from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. This session will be presented by Pat Dye and Tom Lindsay from the Amtelco University and will cover “How Business Continuity and Disaster Planning Protect and Enhance Your Business” and “How Cloud-Based Applications Will Improve Your Business in the Future.”

For more information, contact Dan L’Heureux dan@callconsult.net or www.gltsa.org.

GLTSA at a Glance

October 24-26, 2011, Chicago
Monday, October 24
•    Tips and Tricks for All Platforms (2:00 – 4:30 p.m.)
•    Welcome Reception (6:00 p.m.)
Tuesday, October 25
•    Sales and Marketing Track: Donna Howell-DePew
•    Supervisor Track: Donna G. West
Wednesday, October 26
•    Build and Manage High Performance Teams: Sharon Campbell
•    Agent Skills: Michele Ringwood
•    Keys to Get More from Your Business: Chuck Boyce

Avoiding Merger Pitfalls

By Robert Whipple

Mergers are attempts to pool strengths and drive costs down to improve competitive positioning. Normally envisioned as a way to ensure survival, mergers often lead to demise. Failure rates for mergers and acquisitions run from 50 percent to 80 percent, depending on how you define success. Therefore, it is important to find ways to improve the odds. One root cause of failed mergers is top leaders focusing too much energy on the mechanical and financial aspects of the consolidation and not enough on the cultural integration.

Those managing the mergers tend to visualize the tangible rewards, and the benefits look seductively attractive. But the costs, timing, and effect on employees and clients are often grossly underestimated, so less energy is spent on an organized campaign to mitigate potential negative aspects. Often managers just announce the merger, telling everyone to “work together and get along as new processes are invented.”

But there are ways to do mergers correctly. First, improve your estimates. Assume your calculations of the benefits are order-of-magnitude correct, but quadruple the estimated time it will take to accomplish them. Next, take the best estimate of projected investments required to achieve the benefits and multiply it by five or ten. Finally, take the best intelligence on how this merger is going to negatively affect customers and suppliers and bump that up by a factor of five. That might be a reasonable approximation of a business case for the venture.

If the merger looks viable, find a devil’s advocate who will challenge you if there are signs that you are head-over-heels in love with a flawed strategy and blind to reality. Listen to that person. If it still looks right, then carefully proceed with the following steps:

•    Spend as much time planning for the cultural integration as you spend on the mechanical aspects of due diligence, valuation of assets, contracts, negotiations, inventory, and other tangible aspects.
•    Involve impacted individuals in decisions as early in the process as legally possible.
•    Double or triple the typical level of communication during the process, and continually stress the vision.
•    Model good behavior at the top. Whatever attitude is observed among the top leaders will be replicated and amplified throughout both organizations. Avoid an “us versus them” attitude.
•    Do not dump double or triple job functions on individuals and expect them to perform well.
•    Do not tolerate passive-aggressive or other dysfunctional behaviors, but do allow people to vent when needed. Have forums for people to discuss the changes.
•    Celebrate and reinforce small victories on the way to the new vision. Let people know that their extra effort truly appreciated.

Although these simple rules are common sense, they are not common practice. To avoid being a casualty, follow these guidelines and you will have a much greater chance of success.

Robert Whipple, MBA, CPLP, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust. He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust Is Like Sailing Downwind. Contact Bob at www.leadergrow.com, bwhipple@leadergrow.com, or 585-392-7763.

Hosted Services Is a “Business Saver”

Two recent disasters have demonstrated how having your TAS operation running on a hosted platform can be a business saver when disaster strikes.

With Hurricane Irene bearing down on Virginia Beach and Professional Answering Service being told that they needed to evacuate their building, business owner Angelo Celesia moved his agents to hotels on higher ground and out of harm’s way. Along with their toothbrushes and a change of clothes, they also brought their laptops so they could continue processing calls using the hotels’ Internet service. Angelo also enlisted the help of some fellow PInnacle Freedom users in areas of the country that were not affected by the hurricane, who gladly offered some staff in the event that his area went black. Angelo did not have to ride out the storm in his office and try to convince agents to “risk life and limb” along with him. They all happily headed out of harm’s way, knowing they could process calls from anywhere there was an Internet connection.

TAS users with hosted systems on the East Coast were able to continue operations during Hurricane Irene, and some even reported that they set new call volume records.

In another disaster, when Quick Connections in Greenbelt, Maryland, had all of their phone lines cut by a backhoe, they were told by the phone company that it would be one week before service would be restored. Quick Connections was able to route their calls to a hosted system and begin processing calls on their “backup system.”

Both Professional Answering Service and Quick Connections use the hosted “safety net” provided by Professional Teledata’s PInnacle Freedom. Pat Kalik, president of Professional Teledata comments, “These two success stories prove that the hosted concept can bring you significant piece of mind, knowing that you are protected from disasters and can have mutual agreements in place for help at a moment’s notice.”

News

STA Conference to Focus on TAS Improvement Methods
The Southern Telemessaging Association (STA) Conference will be held November 6-8, 2011 in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Chuck Boyce will share his “Seven Keys to Breaking Free: How to Get More Out of Your Business No Matter What the ‘More’ Is.” Melissa Kovacevic, president of CommPlan Call Center Consulting, will speak on “Identifying and Grooming Leaders” and “Changing from Boss to Coach.”
“We are excited to have our featured speakers,” said Tiffany Peavy, STA president. She noted that other sessions include “Motivating Different Generations,” “Forming/Joining a Profit Enhancement Group,” “Quality Assurance Programs,” and “Training and Supervising Remotes.” Learn more at www.STA-ASSOC.org.

Business Brief Newsletter Launches to Business Professionals
AnswerNet has launched Business Brief, a newsletter series aimed at providing real-life business advice to senior management across all industries. Business Brief is a short, useful, and timely email publication. Each issue is laser-focused on a single topic about the challenges of managing a business for profitability and sustainability for the long term. “This is not about selling our services or products. This is about AnswerNet providing business professionals with tactical, real-life, actionable advice about the things that senior managers deal with every single day,” said Gary Pudles, president and CEO of AnswerNet. To sign up, go to media.answernet.com/business-briefs.

Candy DeHaan Joins TAS Trader
Candy DeHaan recently joined TAS Trader and Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc as director of social media. She will also assist in all aspects of the publication’s production. Candy spent the last fourteen years working at CU Radio, serving in many varied capacities. That experience has made her well qualified for her new role. “With the continued success of our publications and associated websites, it became time to tap into some additional expertise,” stated Peter DeHaan, president. “Candy has been informally helping behind the scenes for many years, and now her work and her contributions can be made official.” She can be reached at candy@peterdehaan.com.

Amtelco’s Pro Show Appointment Reminder Now Available as Hosted Service
Amtelco’s Pro Show automated appointment reminder solution is now available as a premise installation or a subscription service. Pro Show is an automated appointment reminder solution that delivers appointment reminders by IVR phone calls; it has been available as an on-premises system for several years. The service is housed and operated concurrently at two fully redundant data centers located 275 miles apart in Minnesota and Wisconsin, both served by multiple Internet and phone connections with 24/7 technical support. For more information, contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or email info@amtelco.com.

Amtelco’s Red Alert System HIPAA Compliant
Amtelco’s Red Alert automated notification system is compliant with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) information technology security guidelines defined in SP 800.53 and FIPS 199. Amtelco has documented this compliance in the SCAP NIST certification and accreditation package approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation. This provides HIPAA regulation compliance. Amtelco is using the same information technology security guidelines for HIPAA compliance for other cloud-based products such as miSecureMessages, and miOnCall. For more information, contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or email info@amtelco.com.

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