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How to Handle Pricing on Your Answering Service Website 

Sometimes Posting Too Much Information Can Work Against Us

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-answering service

Over the years I’ve looked at hundreds of telephone answering service websites. A few are great, many are good, and some need improvement. A common page for many answering service sites covers pricing. There are different ways to handle rate information, each with their advantages and disadvantages.

Post Rates Online

Though I’ve never tracked it, I think most answering service websites post their rates and rate packages. 

This has the advantage of eliminating budget-conscious tire kickers—who won’t hire you anyway—from taking up your time. It has the disadvantage of conditioning answering service clients—especially yours—to shop for price. Remember, if someone selects your service based on price, they’ll leave as soon as a better price comes along. High churn results. Therefore, I’m not in favor of this practice.

Request a Call

Another approach is to encourage people to call you for more information. You could say something like, “Contact us today for a customized package to fit your specific needs.” 

The advantage of this approach is setting the expectation that you will design an answering service solution to meet the unique requirements of the prospect. The disadvantage is that you will invest time pursuing clients who merely want the cheapest service.

Complete a Form

A step up from requesting the prospect to call you is presenting them with a simple form to fill out to receive more information. Since they’re already on your website, this is an easy ask. The fewer questions you require them to fill out, the greater the chance they will complete your form. 

The advantage of using a form is more requests for information then if you ask them to call. The disadvantage is even more cost-conscious prospects to weed through.

Use an Online Quoting Tool

An option I’ve only seen a few times, but which bears consideration, is an online quoting tool. Prospects enter their basic call parameters and call volume into an app on your website. Then the tool automatically provides a custom quote to best meet their expected usage. You can either display their custom quote once they enter their information or you can automatically email it to them. Obtaining their email address allows you to follow up. 

The advantage of using an online quoting tool is that you can still provide rates quickly to prospects, thereby eliminating those who are shopping for the best price. This also keeps you from posting rates online. The disadvantage is the cost of setting up the quoting tool and maintaining it.

Action Step

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each of these approaches based on what you want to accomplish, your position in the marketplace, and how your prices compare to your competitors.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

The January 2020 Issue of TAS Trader

How to Handle Pricing on Your Answering Service Website

Sometimes Posting Too Much Information Can Work Against Us

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Over the years I’ve looked at hundreds of telephone answering service websites. A few are great, many are good, and some need improvement. A common page for many answering service sites covers pricing. There are different ways to handle rate information, each with their advantages and disadvantages.

Post Rates Online: Though I’ve never tracked it, I think most answering service websites post their rates and rate packages. 

This has the advantage of eliminating budget-conscious tire kickers—who won’t hire you anyway—from taking up your time. It has the disadvantage of conditioning answering service clients—especially yours—to shop for price. Remember, if someone selects your service based on price, they’ll leave as soon as a better price comes along. High churn results. Therefore, I’m not in favor of this practice.

Request a Call: Another approach is to encourage people to call you for more information. You could say something like, “Contact us today for a customized package to fit your specific needs.” 

The advantage of this approach is setting the expectation that you will design an answering service solution to meet the unique requirements of the prospect. The disadvantage is that you will invest time pursuing clients who merely want the cheapest service.

Complete a Form: A step up from requesting the prospect to call you is presenting them with a simple form to fill out to receive more information. Since they’re already on your website, this is an easy ask. The fewer questions you require them to fill out, the greater the chance they will complete your form. 

The advantage of using a form is more requests for information then if you ask them to call. The disadvantage is even more cost-conscious prospects to weed through.

Use an Online Quoting Tool: An option I’ve only seen a few times, but which bears consideration, is an online quoting tool. Prospects enter their basic call parameters and call volume into an app on your website. Then the tool automatically provides a custom quote to best meet their expected usage. You can either display their custom quote once they enter their information or you can automatically email it to them. Obtaining their email address allows you to follow up. 

The advantage of using an online quoting tool is that you can still provide rates quickly to prospects, thereby eliminating those who are shopping for the best price. This also keeps you from posting rates online. The disadvantage is the cost of setting up the quoting tool and maintaining it.

Action Step: Consider the advantages and disadvantages of each of these approaches based on what you want to accomplish, your position in the marketplace, and how your prices compare to your competitors.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.


Classified Ads:

Seeking Acquisitions: Reputable TAS, in business since 1967 and still owned by the founding family, seeks a small TAS acquisition in the USA. Ideally, you’re billing under $50k per month. Smaller is better. We’ll treat you right, and your employees and customers. Let’s talk. Contact Doug at 888-693-7935 or douganswerphone@gmail.com.

Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit www.courteouscom.com.


The 3 Disciplines of Strategic Thinking

By Rich Horwath

To maximize your resources and profitably grow your business, there are three disciplines of strategic thinking you can develop to ground your business in solid strategy:

Discipline 1: Acumen: One of the interesting paradoxes of strategy is that to elevate your thinking to see the big picture, you must first dive below the surface to uncover insight. A strategic insight is an idea that combines two or more pieces of information to create new value.

One of the reasons most people don’t enjoy strategic planning is because the plans don’t contain any new thinking. They repeat Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity by doing the same things and expecting different results. A key premise in business is that new growth comes from new thinking. Carve out time for you and your team to sit down and strategically think about the business, using the group’s insights to identify new approaches to the business. 

What are the key insights you’ve learned about your business? How are you using them to achieve your goals?

Discipline 2: Allocation: While it’s one thing to have a neatly written strategy, the truth is that realized strategy is a result of the resource allocation decisions made by managers each day. Discussions of strategy boil down to how to allocate limited resources to maximize business potential. Where are you currently investing your resources—time, talent, budget—and are they focused on your goals and strategies? 

While everyone has a to-do list, only the best managers have a not-to-do list. Great strategy is as much about what you choose not to do as about what you choose to do. 

What trade-offs will you make to focus resources?

Discipline 3: Action: How often has your team developed a plan for the year, only to see that plan slip by the wayside once the fire drills begin? Fire drills come in the form of customer complaints, competitor activity, and internal issues that are urgent, but not important. The key is to let these fire drills flame out and stay committed to the plan you’ve developed by focusing on your priorities.

What are you top three to five priorities? Are you focused on them or fire drills?

Conclusion: The most important strategy element is you. By developing the three disciplines of strategic thinking, you can elevate yourself from tactical to strategic. In doing so, you’ll separate your business from your competition.

Rich Horwath has helped more than 100,000 managers develop their strategy skills through live workshops and virtual training programs. Rich is a strategy facilitator, keynote speaker, and creator of more than 200 resources on strategic thinking. 

[This piece is adapted from Article Weekly. Read the full article.]

Industry News

Billing Link Advanced Technical Workshop: The National Amtelco Equipment Owners (NAEO) users’ group incorporates an advanced technical workshop with its annual convention each year. Responding to high demand from membership, this year’s advanced technical workshop will dive deep into the capabilities of Billing Link. The workshop will take place Sunday, March 15 at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel preceding the 2020 NAEO Annual Conference. Instructors will include Jana Olson and Gary Kerner from Amtelco and a third person yet to be named. Billing Link 4 is such a powerful and versatile program, don’t miss this time to better understand all that is under the hood.

Stay Informed with miTeamWeb OnCall Widgets: Amtelco’s miTeamWeb Home page presents a variety of information, displayed in widgets. Widgets are useful applications that occupy a portion of a web page and provide information from other websites. The widgets provide information about directory listings, messages, status schedule, voice logs, and on-call schedules. If the system administrator has granted their users access to the layout settings, users can customize their Home page to display the widgets that are most useful.

The OnCall widgets give users access to their on-call assignments, assign their own on-calls (or send on-call requests to the schedule administrator), view on-call assignments for a specific day, week, or month, and show information about on-call assignments for selected roles. For more information, contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or info@amtelco.com.

Email us with your TAS news for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“No amount of belief makes something a fact.” -James Randi

“If you would be loved, love and be lovable.” -Benjamin Franklin

“Acupuncture: a jab well done.” -unknown

Make Sure Your TAS Website Is Ready for Search Engines

Having Great Content on Your Website Means Nothing If No One Can Find It

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-SEO Elements

A few months ago we looked at SEO (search engine optimization) for telephone answering service websites. In that short column, we touched on the essential SEO elements: page or post title, description, and keyword or keyword phrase.

These are the three critical SEO elements. Start with those as the most important, but don’t stop there. Here are some key supporting SEO considerations:

Headings

For SEO purposes, a well-written page or post will use subheadings every couple hundred words. This helps people who scan. This is important since most visitors will scan your content and not read it word for word. Make your headings bold and add heading tags, such as H2 or H3. (Use an H1 tag only once, and that’s for the title of your page or post.)

Images

Every page or post should have an engaging graphic or photo that relates to the content. Give the image a name that reflects it, such as, professional phone answering. Don’t use image1 or Dx23ga234k. Then add relevant SEO alt text to the image. 

Link Strategy

For SEO purposes, it’s a good practice to link every post to another post. And have an existing post link to the new content. Also, many SEO gurus now recommend one outbound link per post to a high-authority site, that is, one that gets a lot of traffic.

Content-Length

Every page or post should be at least three hundred words long, but aim for five hundred. Anything shorter than three hundred doesn’t give search engines enough content to analyze, so they’ll skip that page.

Keyword Density

We mentioned that having a keyword or keyword phrase is a critical SEO element for each page or post. Make sure the content includes your keyword phrase without overusing it. According to Yoast SEO, aim to use your keyword phrase in 0.5 to 3 percent of the text. (In a 500-word post this is 3 to 15 times.)

Web address

A final consideration that’s easy to cover is the words in the web address for that page or post. Make sure they reflect the theme of the content and include the keyword phrase. 

Conclusion

Addressing these SEO elements will help search engines find, appreciate, and promote your site and its content. But remember that the title, description, and keyword phrase are the essential SEO elements. Handle these three items first. Then add the rest.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

The December 2019 Issue of TAS Trader

Make Sure Your TAS Website Is Ready for Search Engines

Having Great Content on Your Website Means Nothing If No One Can Find It

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

A few months ago we looked at SEO (search engine optimization) for telephone answering service websites. In that short column, we touched on the essential SEO elements: page or post title, description, and keyword or keyword phrase.

These are the three critical SEO elements. Start with those as the most important, but don’t stop there. Here are some key supporting SEO considerations:

Headings: For SEO purposes, a well-written page or post will use subheadings every couple hundred words. This helps people who scan. This is important since most visitors will scan your content and not read it word for word. Make your headings bold and add heading tags, such as H2 or H3. (Use an H1 tag only once, and that’s for the title of your page or post.)

Images: Every page or post should have an engaging graphic or photo that relates to the content. Give the image a name that reflects it, such as, professional phone answering. Don’t use image1 or Dx23ga234k. Then add relevant SEO alt text to the image. 

Link Strategy: For SEO purposes, it’s a good practice to link every post to another post. And have an existing post link to the new content. Also, many SEO gurus now recommend one outbound link per post to a high-authority site, that is, one that gets a lot of traffic.

Content Length: Every page or post should be at least three hundred words long, but aim for five hundred. Anything shorter than three hundred doesn’t give search engines enough content to analyze, so they’ll skip that page.

Keyword Density: We mentioned that having a keyword or keyword phrase is a critical SEO element for each page or post. Make sure the content includes your keyword phrase without overusing it. According to Yoast SEO, aim to use your keyword phrase in 0.5 to 3 percent of the text. (In a 500-word post this is 3 to 15 times.)

Web address: A final consideration that’s easy to cover is the words in the web address for that page or post. Make sure they reflect the theme of the content and include the keyword phrase. Conclusion: Addressing these SEO elements will help search engines find, appreciate, and promote your site and its content. But remember that the title, description, and keyword phrase are the essential SEO elements. Handle these three items first. Then add the rest.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.


Classified Ads:

Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit www.courteouscom.com.

Seeking Acquisitions: Reputable TAS, in business since 1967 and still owned by the founding family, seeks a small TAS acquisition in the USA. Ideally, you’re billing under $50k per month. Smaller is better. We’ll treat you right, and your employees and customers. Let’s talk. Contact Doug at 888-693-7935 or douganswerphone@gmail.com.

TAS Directory: Promote your TAS online, now only $199 a year. Overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan. Email Valerie for details.


Build Robust Customer Relationships by Taking a Proactive Approach

By Jill J. Johnson

Today’s sales process appears streamlined and online, but this creates complexities and confusion for consumers who have options. Anticipating potential customer service challenges will help develop a framework for resolving issues in a manner that protects your customer relationship. CRM (customer relationship management) tools also create opportunities for enhanced customer insight and relationship development. 

Team Efforts Build Strong Customer Relationships: The most successful salespeople develop strong and lasting relationships with their customers. They focus on solving problems, not just making a transaction. They become an advisor their clients rely on for accurate information and solutions to address their needs. They are responsive and do not leave their clients waiting for answers. With this approach, you can anticipate opportunities and present new ideas to your customers. Strategizing sales relationships throughout the organization provides the best opportunities to gain accurate customer intelligence when selling services. 

Maintaining Customer Relationships Require Trust: When working with clients who have a long-standing relationship with your organization, it can become easy to take them for granted. Personal relationships often develop among the various parties on both sides. Frequently this evolves into a high-trust relationship. A glitch in service delivery jeopardizes this relationship. Clients make buying decisions based on trust. No matter what, you must resolve a client problem before it becomes a social media nightmare or results in the loss of a major revenue stream to your company. 

Effective Client Relationship Management: Building and managing relationships with prospects and key referral sources require effort. It is more than simply having them on your mailing list or emailing them newsletters or updates. Tap your CRM tools to stay on top of customer follow-up. This requires an investment of time in capturing information. Then you can use its robust capability for data capture and market segmentation. 

Final Thoughts: These efforts will help you more effectively manage your client relationships and provide options for efficient and appropriate outreach. Take time to review the effectiveness of your approach to customer relationship management. Don’t take your client relationships for granted. Just like any relationship, they must be nurtured to be preserved and grown. Improving your customer’s experience will build word of mouth about your effectiveness as a true sales professional—rather than just someone who manages transactions.

Jill J. Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services, an accomplished speaker, an award-winning management consultant, and author of the bestselling book Compounding Your Confidence.

[This piece is adapted from Article Weekly. Read the full article.]

Industry News

Intelligent Series Call Log Agent Assessment: Amtelco’s Call Log Agent Assessment can assess answering service operator productivity to improve their performance, improve customer retention rates, eliminate unproductive processes, and address sources of agent frustration. Supervisors can use the assessment to open a pre-built web script provided by Amtelco to assess an agent based on a series of customizable questions. The customizable “Done” button can perform any actions available in IS scripting, such as emailing or faxing to a specified destination, once the assessment is complete. The call log agent assessment can be accessed in the soft agent application along with the Intelligent Series supervisor application.

Email us with your TAS news for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“The perfection of a clock is not to go fast, but to be accurate.” -Luc de Clapiers

“Judge each day not by the harvest you reap but by the seeds you plant.” -Robert Louis Stevenson

“Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.” -unknown

Streamlined Billing and Collections

Increase Cash Flow by Shortening the Time Between Billing Cut Off and Payment Receipt

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-billing cutoff

As we look at ways to be a responsive answering service, one critical, but too-often overlooked, area is billing and collections. This affects cash flow and is a critical consideration in maintaining the financial viability of your answering service. Each additional day that you wait to receive payment is a day left with you trying to operate without the money that’s due you. 

Let’s look at some ways to streamline billing and collections.

Billing Cutoff Date

How close is your billing cutoff date to when you begin processing invoices? The goal is to make it as short as possible. If you bill monthly, what happens when the end of the month occurs on the weekend? What if it’s a long weekend? Do you wait until Monday or the next business day to begin work on billing? If so, that’s one, two, or even three extra days added to your collection cycle.

If you bill every twenty-eight days, you can strategically pick your billing cutoff date to when you can best work on it. This might be on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Billing Cutoff Time

When do you download or transfer your billing statistics? Though midnight is a logical cutoff time, does that make sense if you won’t start processing information until 9 a.m.? Though nine hours may not seem like much, it represents nine hours of billing that you can collect this billing cycle as opposed to the next one.

Regardless, the goal is to shorten the time between downloading your stats and sending invoices. Strive to make it the same day.

Sending Invoices

Most businesses today email their invoices. Do you? Mailing them adds an extra two or even three days to your collection cycle. Look for ways to get your invoices to your clients’ payables department as quickly as possible. Is texting invoices an option? Most people open text messages within a few minutes. That’s faster than email and much faster than snail mail.

Receiving Payments

Do you have clients mail you a check? That adds another couple of days to your collection cycle. Can you have them pay by credit card instead? Though credit card payments involve additional fees, it may be worth it to collect on time, especially for chronic late payers. What about ACH (Automated Clearing House) and ETF (electronic funds transfer)? These are low-cost ways to collect faster.

Related to credit card and ACH payment is timing. When do you process those payments? Is it when you generate the invoice, at the due date, or sometime in between? Shortening the number of days will allow you to collect faster and reduce your collection cycle. However, don’t change your processing timing without first clearly communicating the new policy to your clients.

Conclusion

Seek ways to shorten the time between your billing cutoff and receiving payment. This will improve your cash flow and increase the health of your answering service. For further information, explore two related accounting principles: average collection period and accounts receivable turnover.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

The November 2019 Issue of TAS Trader

Streamlined Billing and Collections

Increase Cash Flow by Shortening the Time Between Billing Cut Off and Payment Receipt

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, author, blogger, publisher, editor

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

As we look at ways to be a responsive answering service, one critical, but too-often overlooked, area is billing and collections. This affects cash flow and is a critical consideration in maintaining the financial viability of your answering service. Each additional day that you wait to receive payment is a day left with you trying to operate without the money that’s due you. 

Let’s look at some ways to streamline billing and collections.

Billing Cutoff Date: How close is your billing cutoff date to when you begin processing invoices? The goal is to make it as short as possible. If you bill monthly, what happens when the end of the month occurs on the weekend? What if it’s a long weekend? Do you wait until Monday or the next business day to begin work on billing? If so, that’s one, two, or even three extra days added to your collection cycle.

If you bill every twenty-eight days, you can strategically pick your billing cutoff date to when you can best work on it. This might be on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Billing Cutoff Time: When do you download or transfer your billing statistics? Though midnight is a logical cutoff time, does that make sense if you won’t start processing information until 9 a.m.? Though nine hours may not seem like much, it represents nine hours of billing that you can collect this billing cycle as opposed to the next one.

Regardless, the goal is to shorten the time between downloading your stats and sending invoices. Strive to make it the same day.

Sending Invoices: Most businesses today email their invoices. Do you? Mailing them adds an extra two or even three days to your collection cycle. Look for ways to get your invoices to your clients’ payables department as quickly as possible. Is texting invoices an option? Most people open text messages within a few minutes. That’s faster than email and much faster than snail mail.

Receiving Payments: Do you have clients mail you a check? That adds another couple of days to your collection cycle. Can you have them pay by credit card instead? Though credit card payments involve additional fees, it may be worth it to collect on time, especially for chronic late payers. What about ACH (Automated Clearing House) and ETF (electronic funds transfer)? These are low-cost ways to collect faster.

Related to credit card and ACH payment is timing. When do you process those payments? Is it when you generate the invoice, at the due date, or sometime in between? Shortening the number of days will allow you to collect faster and reduce your collection cycle. However, don’t change your processing timing without first clearly communicating the new policy to your clients.

Conclusion: Seek ways to shorten the time between your billing cutoff and receiving payment. This will improve your cash flow and increase the health of your answering service. For further information, explore two related accounting principles: average collection period and accounts receivable turnover.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.


Classified Ads:

Seeking Acquisitions: Reputable TAS, in business since 1967 and still owned by the founding family, seeks a small TAS acquisition in the USA. Ideally, you’re billing under $50k per month. Smaller is better. We’ll treat you right, and your employees and customers. Let’s talk. Contact Doug at 888-693-7935 or douganswerphone@gmail.com.

TAS Directory: Promote your TAS online, now only $199 a year. Overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan. Email Valerie for details.

Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit www.courteouscom.com.


The 5 Myths of Business Strategy

By Rich Horwath

The most important leadership behavior critical to company success is strategic thinking. As a good strategy is at the core of any organization’s success, it’s important to understand the five strategy myths that may hold back your team from reaching greater levels of success. 

Strategy Myth 1: Strategy Comes from Somebody Else: The strategy that you execute should be your own. 

Identify the corporate strategies, product strategies, functional group strategies, and your strategies. Then seek alignment.

Strategy Myth 2: Strategy Is a Once-A-Year Process: The number one driver of revenue growth is the reallocation of resources throughout the year from underperforming areas to areas with greater potential. Strategy is the primary vehicle for making these vital resource reallocation decisions.

Conduct a monthly strategy tune-up to review and calibrate strategies.

Strategy Myth 3: Execution Is More Important Than Strategy: The number one cause of bankruptcy is flawed strategy, not poor execution. Strategy and execution are both important, but all great businesses begin with an insightful strategy. 

Create strategy first. Then shape an execution plan.

Strategy Myth 4: Strategy Is About Beating the Competition: Attempting to be better than the competition results in competitive convergence. Doing the same things in the same ways as competitors, blurs the line of value between your company and competitors. 

Remember that competitive advantage is providing superior value to customers. It’s not beating the competition by being better.

Strategy Myth 5: Strategy Is the Same as Mission, Vision, and Goals: Since strategy is an abstract concept, it’s often wrongly interchanged with the terms vision, mission, and goals. Remember, mission is your current purpose, and vision is your future purpose. Goals are what you are trying to achieve, and strategy is how you will allocate resources to achieve your goals.

Conclusion: If left unchecked, strategy myths can cause you and your business to fail. The number one cause of business failure is bad strategy. Counter these strategy myths with right thinking and decisive action. Then watch your business soar.

Rich Horwath has helped more than 100,000 managers develop their strategy skills through live workshops and virtual training programs. To sign up for the free monthly newsletter Strategic Thinker, visit: www.StrategySkills.com. 

[This piece is adapted from Article Weekly. Read the full article.]

Industry News

Advantage TeleMessaging Turns 25: Advantage TeleMessaging, Inc. celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary on September 28th, 2019. Since 1994, they have been dedicated to the success of every one of their clients by striving to offer nothing less than excellence in customer service. Advantage TeleMessaging, Inc. has grown from a one-agent, local answering service in West Reading, PA to a multi-award-winning, call management center with over 500 clients throughout the United States and Canada. Advantage TeleMessaging, Inc. would like to express their gratitude to all of their clients throughout the years for helping them achieve this milestone. Here’s to another successful twenty-five years.

Email us with your TAS news for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.” -Wendell Berry

“Education is the transmission of civilization.” -Will Durant

“Acupuncture: a jab well done.” -unknown

Ideas to Streamline Agent Training

Look to Increase the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Instructing New Employees

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-agent training

Last month we looked at ways to streamline answering service agent hiring. Now that they’re hired, the next step is to optimize their training. For this initiative, we have two potential goals. One is to train better, and the other is to train faster. Ideally, we want to do both.

To address the speed element, we can look for ways to streamline training from both the company standpoint and the new hire perspective. When we streamline the trainer component, we reduce training costs and decrease trainer hours. When we streamline the trainee component, the new employee becomes productive faster and does so at a lower cost. This reduces the chance of them getting bored or frustrated during training and quitting. It also allows them to generate revenue for your answering service faster.

Here are some techniques to streamline agent training:

One-to-Many Instruction

The more agents you can train at the same time by one instructor, the more efficient that trainer will be. This has the highest potential at larger answering services that hire and train more employees. But smaller answering services that typically train one agent at a time can still look to employ one-to-many training opportunities. Even if one trainer instructs two trainees, it will double the trainer’s output. But what about classroom-style environments with an instructor training four, eight, or even twelve employees at one time?

Though some aspects of training may require one-on-one instruction, look to minimize those instances whenever possible. This allows you to maximize the instructor’s effectiveness with one-to-many training scenarios.

Recorded Lessons

Look for segments of training that are highly repetitive. Record the instructor giving that lesson. Then have future trainees watch the recording. This is a one-time investment that you can use repeatedly for many new employees for months or even years. Just be sure to periodically review the recording to make sure the information hasn’t changed. When the recording becomes out-of-date, make a new one.

Self-Study Opportunities

Not every part of agent training requires an instructor. New employees can conduct some aspects of training by themselves. This may include reading training materials or engaging in hands-on interactive instruction. Though you might need to develop some of these tools yourself, you may be able to get others from your vendor or user group. Whenever possible, adapt what’s already provided instead of making your own.

Fast Productivity

Does your answering service have a high-volume account or a group of accounts that are easy to serve? It might be worthwhile to structure training so that your new hires can handle just this one high-volume account or a group of easy accounts quickly. This will let them gain experience early in the training process. And it will allow them to be productive much faster. 

After they’ve taken these specific types of calls for a while, they can return to training and prepare to handle your other accounts. Not only does this benefit your TAS by having these new hires handle billable transactions quickly, it also benefits the employee by giving them a break in their training and letting them take calls—which is what you hired them to do.

Summary

Streamline agent training to save money, improve results, and produce productive employees faster.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

The October 2019 Issue of TAS Trader

Ideas to Streamline Agent Training

Look to Increase the Efficiency and Effectiveness of Instructing New Employees

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, author, blogger, publisher, editor

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Last month we looked at ways to streamline answering service agent hiring. Now that they’re hired, the next step is to optimize their training. For this initiative, we have two potential goals. One is to train better, and the other is to train faster. Ideally we want to do both.

To address the speed element, we can look for ways to streamline training from both the company standpoint and the new hire perspective. When we streamline the trainer component, we reduce training costs and decrease trainer hours. When we streamline the trainee component, the new employee becomes productive faster and does so at a lower cost. This reduces the chance of them getting bored or frustrated during training and quitting. It also allows them to generate revenue for your answering service faster.

Here are some techniques to streamline agent training:

One-to-Many Instruction: The more agents you can train at the same time by one instructor, the more efficient that trainer will be. This has the highest potential at larger answering services that hire and train more employees. But smaller answering services that typically train one agent at a time, can still look to employ one-to-many training opportunities. Even if one trainer instructs two trainees, it will double the trainer’s output. But what about classroom-style environments with an instructor training four, eight, or even twelve employees at one time?

Though some aspects of training may require one-on-one instruction, look to minimize those instances whenever possible. This allows you to maximize the instructor’s effectiveness with one-to-many training scenarios.

Recorded Lessons: Look for segments of training that are highly repetitive. Record the instructor giving that lesson. Then have future trainees watch the recording. This is a one-time investment that you can use repeatedly for many new employees for months or even years. Just be sure to periodically review the recording to make sure the information hasn’t changed. When the recording becomes out-of-date, make a new one.

Self-Study Opportunities: Not every part of agent training requires an instructor. New employees can conduct some aspects of training by themselves. This may include reading training materials or engaging in hands-on interactive instruction. Though you might need to develop some of these tools yourself, you may be able to get others from your vendor or user group. Whenever possible, adapt what’s already provided instead of making your own.

Fast Productivity: Does your answering service have a high-volume account or a group of accounts that are easy to serve? It might be worthwhile to structure training so that your new hires can handle just this one high-volume account or a group of easy accounts quickly. This will let them gain experience early in the training process. And it will allow them to be productive much faster. 

After they’ve taken these specific types of calls for a while, they can return to training and prepare to handle your other accounts. Not only does this benefit your TAS by having these new hires handle billable transactions quickly, it also benefits the employee by giving them a break in their training and letting them take calls—which is what you hired them to do.

Summary: Streamline agent training to save money, improve results, and produce productive employees faster.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.


Classified Ads:

Operations Manager: 32-year-old TAS in sunny Central Florida looking for an operations manager. Experience is a must! Send resume to jeanpearson49@gmail.com.

TAS Directory: Promote your TAS online, now only $199 a year. Overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan. Email Valerie for details.

Seeking Acquisitions: Reputable TAS, in business since 1967 and still owned by the founding family, seeks a small TAS acquisition in the USA. Ideally, you’re billing under $50k per month. Smaller is better. We’ll treat you right, and your employees and customers. Let’s talk. Contact Doug at 888-693-7935 or douganswerphone@gmail.com.

Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit www.courteouscom.com.


The 4 C’s of Customer Experience

By Tra Williams 

Remember the old saying that if you never expect anything then you’ll never be disappointed? Well, that might work on blind dates and birthday presents, but in business, expectations are impossible to avoid. Fortunately, if you properly position your business in the minds of your customers, you can mold their expectations in ways that are consistent with the service and value you provide. 

There are four foundational elements that define your customers’ expectations. Mastering all four is the key to exceeding your customers’ expectations every time and retaining their business.

1. Culture: Who you are is the key to what you should do and how you should do it. Potential customers begin to build a mental profile of your business the moment they become aware of it. They make assumptions about what to expect from the culture they observe. Subtle and not so subtle clues convey information and frame the expected tone of your interaction even before your initial contact. 

The key to mastering this element is to maintain consistency between the service you provide with your branding and messaging.

2. Credibility: An impressive depth of knowledge is nothing without parallel performance and vice versa. Your customer makes assumptions about your credibility because of and sometimes despite your performance. Knowledge of your industry isn’t enough. Past performance isn’t enough. 

The key to mastering this element is to know why and how, not just one or the other. 

3. Capacity: Revenues will not materialize without the infrastructure they require. How you execute at a smaller level creates expectations with customers of your ability to execute at a larger level. 

The key to mastering this element is to realize that preparation creates opportunity.

4. Command: Your command over the process should eliminate customer effort. Customers expect results without effort on their part. If a customer must call multiple times and talk to multiple people to yield results, your process has failed, and you have likely lost that customer’s business. On the contrary, effortless results yield ongoing business. 

The key to mastering this element is clear communication of a well-defined and effortless process.

Conclusion: Customers choose businesses that consistently meet or exceed their expectations. Your culture, credibility, capacity, and command define whether you exceed their expectations and gain a customer for life or fall short and send them to a competitor. 

Tra Williams is a speaker, business consultant, and author of the upcoming book Feed Your Unicorn. For more information, visit www.TraWilliams.com

 [This piece is adapted from Article Weekly. Read the full article.]

Industry News

Amtelco Offers Weekly Webinars: Amtelco conducts webinars every week to provide customers with up-to-the-minute solutions to their business needs. Many of the webinar topics were developed in collaboration with Amtelco customers. Some upcoming topics include: Web Agent, Telescan R1–R10 Update, MiSecureMessages, Migrating to Contact Architecture, Telescan Prism II, Introducing IS Genesis dashboard, Social Media Monitoring Opportunities, and Agent Status Lights. For more information or to access these webinars, contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or webinars@amtelco.com.

Email us with your TAS news for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“Every student needs someone who says, simply, ‘You mean something. You count.’” -Tony Kushner 

“Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.” -Peter Ustinov

“Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead to know basis.” -unknown

Optimize Agent Hiring

Streamline Your Hiring Process to Realize Fast Results

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-phone interview

Have you ever offered a promising job candidate a position only for them to decline because they already accepted a job with another company? I have. I took too long. Even though they claim to have preferred to work for me, they grabbed the first job offer that came their way.

People today—including job seekers—have little patience. We live in a world that wants instant gratification, and we have little tolerance for waiting. Unless you want to continue to lose qualified candidates, you need to optimize your hiring process. Look for ways to make it more efficient so you can hire the best applicants before someone else does.

Don’t continue to follow yesterday’s hiring practices, because they’re no longer appropriate for today’s workplace. What is the average time between a job seeker first expressing interest and you hiring them? I hope your answer isn’t more than a week. Even a couple of days is too long. Can you get down to twenty-four hours? How about a same-day decision? Just how fast can you act?

Here is an idea to consider. Note that this isn’t a proven plan to follow but merely a possibility to spark your creativity:

Online Self-Assessment

Once you’ve captured a prospective employee’s attention, provide them with an online self-assessment tool that will allow them to determine if an answering service environment is a good fit for them. Present a series of questions that reflects work at your answering service. The more questions they answer “yes” to, the better fit they are. Score their answers. Then tell them: “People who score between X and Y tend to like working for our company, whereas people with lower scores may struggle to succeed in this position. Do you want to apply?” [Note: unless you take time to validate the outcome, don’t record their score or ask them their results. To avoid a legal quagmire, let them use this tool privately to determine if they want to move forward.]

This assessment occurs online and automatically without any involvement on your part.

Phone Screening Call

If they want to proceed after taking the online self-assessment, move them immediately to a prescreening evaluation over the phone. This is a standardized set of questions to rule out candidates who don’t fit your criteria, such as people wanting full-time work when you’re hiring part-timers or candidates seeking a business-hour’s position when your openings are for evening and weekends.

You should script the call flow so that any of your operators can conduct the phone screen call. Anyone who passes should move on to a phone interview.

Same Day Phone Interview

For candidates who pass the phone screen, give them the option of an immediate phone interview, or let them schedule one. Yes, an immediate phone interview. Connect them with your hiring manager or HR department. Again, this should be a structured process that will provide an instant pass/fail outcome.

Though you may prefer an in-person interview, remember that all their work at your answering service will take place over the phone, so a phone interview should be more indicative of their capabilities than an in-person meeting.

Make an Immediate Offer

For candidates who pass the phone interview, make an offer at that point. Don’t delay. Desiring to compare a group of candidates who pass the phone interview will not only take more time, but it also increases the risk of your best candidate receiving a job offer from someone else before you make yours.

Once you’ve made the offer, don’t push them for an immediate yes/no answer. Though some people will accept right away, others will want to think about it. If that’s the case, schedule a follow-up phone call.

This idealized hiring process could take less than an hour. Though it will require effort to fine-tune each step and compress it into a sixty-minute procedure, you can do it.

Now your next task is to optimize your onboarding and training process to make it just as efficient.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

The September 2019 Issue of TAS Trader

Optimize Agent Hiring

Streamline Your Hiring Process to Realize Fast Results

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, author, blogger, publisher, editor

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Have you ever offered a promising job candidate a position only for them to decline because they already accepted a job with another company? I have. I took too long. Even though they claim to have preferred to work for me, they grabbed the first job offer that came their way.

People today—including job seekers—have little patience. We live in a world that wants instant gratification, and we have little tolerance for waiting. Unless you want to continue to lose qualified candidates, you need to optimize your hiring process. Look for ways to make it more efficient so you can hire the best applicants before someone else does.

Don’t continue to follow yesterday’s hiring practices, because they’re no longer appropriate for today’s workplace. What is the average time between a job seeker first expressing interest and you hiring them? I hope your answer isn’t more than a week. Even a couple of days is too long. Can you get down to twenty-four hours? How about a same-day decision? Just how fast can you act?

Here is an idea to consider. Note that this isn’t a proven plan to follow but merely a possibility to spark your creativity:

Online Self-Assessment: Once you’ve captured a prospective employee’s attention, provide them with an online self-assessment tool that will allow them to determine if an answering service environment is a good fit for them. Present a series of questions that reflect work at your answering service. The more questions they answer “yes” to, the better fit they are. Score their answers. Then tell them: “People who score between X and Y tend to like working for our company, whereas people with lower scores may struggle to succeed in this position. Do you want to apply?” [Note: unless you take time to validate the outcome, don’t record their score or ask them their results. To avoid a legal quagmire, let them use this tool privately to determine if they want to move forward.]

This assessment occurs online and automatically without any involvement on your part.

Phone Screening Call: If they want to proceed after taking the online self-assessment, move them immediately to a prescreening evaluation over the phone. This is a standardized set of questions to rule out candidates who don’t fit your criteria, such as people wanting full-time work when you’re hiring part-timers or candidates seeking a business-hour’s position when your openings are for evening and weekends.

You should script the call flow so that any of your operators can conduct the phone screen call. Anyone who passes should move on to a phone interview.

Same Day Phone Interview: For candidates who pass the phone screen, give them the option of an immediate phone interview, or let them schedule one. Yes, an immediate phone interview. Connect them with your hiring manager or HR department. Again, this should be a structured process that will provide an instant pass/fail outcome.

Though you may prefer an in-person interview, remember that all their work at your answering service will take place over the phone, so a phone interview should be more indicative of their capabilities than an in-person meeting.

Make an Immediate Offer: For candidates who pass the phone interview, make an offer at that point. Don’t delay. Desiring to compare a group of candidates who pass the phone interview will not only take more time, but it also increases the risk of your best candidate receiving a job offer from someone else before you make yours.

Once you’ve made the offer, don’t push them for an immediate yes/no answer. Though some people will accept right away, others will want to think about it. If that’s the case, schedule a follow-up phone call.

This idealized hiring process could take less than an hour. Though it will require effort to fine-tune each step and compress it into a sixty-minute procedure, you can do it.

Now your next task is to optimize your onboarding and training process to make it just as efficient.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.


Classified Ads:

Operations Manager: 32-year-old TAS in sunny Central Florida looking for an operations manager. Experience is a must! Send resume to jeanpearson49@gmail.com.

Seeking Acquisitions: Reputable TAS, in business since 1967 and still owned by the founding family, seeks a small TAS acquisition in the USA. Ideally, you’re billing under $50k per month. Smaller is better. We’ll treat you right, and your employees and customers. Let’s talk. Contact Doug at 888-693-7935 or douganswerphone@gmail.com.

TAS Directory: Promote your TAS online, now only $199 a year. Overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan. Email Valerie for details.

Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit www.courteouscom.com.


Reactions: The Superpower You Didn’t Know You Had

By Jennifer Powers

If you want to take more control of your reality you need to take more control of your reactions. But how do you do that? Start with this simple three-step formula:

1. Observe and Resist Your Knee-Jerk Reaction: Observe how you tend to react when things don’t go your way and resist going there. Give yourself time and space to allow any negative reactions to flow through you.

By pausing, you allow your “fight or flight” mechanism time to calm down. This gives yourself a second to regain your composure. Consider taking deep belly breaths, counting to ten, or humming a tune. This will occupy the space that a crappy reaction would normally take.

2. Ask Yourself a Question: To redirect your focus, ask yourself a question. Not just any question, but one that will help you shift into a more positive mindset from which you can react. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • What about this situation can I be grateful for?
  • What belief or opinion would serve me better?
  • How do I deserve to feel?
  • Who would love to switch places with me? 

Feel free to come up with your own powerful questions that will shift you into a positive mindset.

3. Answer the Question: You can’t skip this step. If you only ask yourself the question you are only halfway there. The shift in perspective and your ability to react from a more positive outlook occurs when you answer the question. This part may be challenging at first, but push through it because the payoff is big.

Then you can calmly respond.

Conclusion: Remember, seemingly bad things happen to everyone. You’re not alone. But you have way more power over your day than you may recognize. The moment you begin to take control of your reactions you begin to take control of your reality. 

Jennifer Powers, MCC is an international speaker, executive coach, author of the best-selling book “Oh, shift!” and host of the fun and binge-worthy “Oh, shift!” podcast. For more information visit www.ohshift.com.

[This piece is adapted from Article Weekly. Read the full article.]

Industry News

Amtelco Releases IS Social Media Monitor: The Intelligent Series (IS) social media monitor translates popular social media posts, messages, and notifications into dispatch jobs that call center agents can manage on behalf of their clients. The social media monitor polls the client’s social media accounts—such as Facebook and Twitter—for incoming activity and presents the resulting notifications to the IS server as MergeComm Web API triggers. The MergeComm triggers are presented to agents as dispatch jobs that can be scripted as needed in IS supervisor. For more information, contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or info@amtelco.com.

Email us with your TAS news for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

Life can be perfectly satisfying without major achievements. -Alice Munro

“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.” -Sean O’Casey

“When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she’d dye.” -unknown