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The September 2020 Issue of TAS Trader

Streamlining Your Answering Service, Summary

Roundup of Articles on Fine-tuning Your TAS Processes

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Over the past several months we have addressed several ways to optimize your telephone answering service and help position you to increase your efficacy and enhance the service you provide to clients. 

Here’s a recap:

  1. Optimize Your Sales: How long does it take your staff to respond to a sales inquiry? Now make it faster.
  2. Optimize Client Onboarding: Once a client signs up for service, how long does it take you to set up their account and begin answering calls? Do they find this acceptable or frustrating?
  3. Optimize Customer Service: How long does it take you to acknowledge and correct a customer service issue? Do you ever lose clients because of it?
  4. Optimize Agent Hiring: Do you measure your hiring process in terms of weeks, days, or hours? How often do you lose a promising employee because you didn’t react quickly enough?
  5. Optimize Operational Processes: What does your policies and procedures manual look like in your answering service? If you don’t have a manual, how’s that working for you?
  6. Optimize Agent Training: What steps can you do to make your agent training more efficient and more effective?
  7. Optimize Billing: How many steps are involved in producing invoices? How much time do you take between billing cut off and sending invoices? The longer it takes, the more you hamper cash flow.
  8. Optimize Collections: What is your average days payable (also known as days payable outstanding)? Seek to collect more of what’s owed to you faster.
  9. Optimize Accounts Payable: How quickly do you turn around invoices? Seek to pay faster to win your vendor’s appreciation and build a buffer for times of tight cash flow.
  10. Optimize Tech Support: Is the technical aspect of running your answering service a strength or weakness? Regardless of your answer, look for ways to make tech support better.
  11. Optimize Admin: When it comes to overhead effectiveness, look for what you can eliminate, delegate, or streamline. Make sure everything you do counts.

Pick the item on this list that deserves the most attention and will produce the biggest positive change for your answering service. Then pursue it. Once you have one item done, pick another one to work on. Work through this list until you have streamlined your entire answering service.

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: 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 Acquisitions: 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.


Industry News

Telescan Announces Auto-Patch of Client Calls Using Secure Apps: Telescan, a division of Amtelco, announced a new feature in development for the Spectrum system for users of the Genesis Prism application: the ability to auto-patch client calls through Prism and present a pre-programmed phone number as the caller ID to the called party. This feature will provide a straightforward way for clients to make calls directly through Spectrum’s secure messaging apps from their cell phones without revealing their personal cell phone numbers. Support for both Spectrum secure delivery and miSecureMessages will be through a common interface. To learn more: 800-356-9148, info@amtelco.com, or www.amtelco.com.


Quotes for the Month

“Go to where the silence is and say something.” –Amy Goodman

“Every exit is an entry somewhere else.” -Tom Stoppard

“I was addicted to the hokey pokey; but, thankfully, I turned myself around.” -unknown

The August 2020 Issue of TAS Trader

Streamlining Accounts Payable

Discover Why You May Not Want to Follow Conventional Wisdom for Payables

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

The standard business advice when it comes to accounts payable is to delay payment as long as possible, even beyond the stated due date—assuming you can get away with it. This benefits cash flow, making more money available for day-to-day operations. This may be shrewd business, but it’s not good business. 

Although lengthening payables may make sense from a money standpoint, it may not be the best overall strategy. Here’s why:

Build A Buffer: A business that mails payables at the 30-day mark or pushes payments beyond that, say perhaps to 45 days, has no cushion when cash flow gets tight and there’s not enough money in their account to pay all the invoices that are one month old. 

A business that pays invoices quickly, perhaps in one week, benefits by establishing a buffer for those times when they can’t pay as quickly. After all, what vendor would care—or even notice—if they received your payment in ten days as opposed to the usual seven? Having a policy of paying invoices quickly whenever possible, builds a buffer for those times when remitting payment suffers a bit of a delay.

Act Ethically: Some businesses readily agree to their vendors’ terms of service, such as net 30, knowing they have no intention of ever following through. Yes, they will pay, but it will happen when they want to and not according to the agreement they committed to with their vendors. This is not an ethical policy. Stop doing it.

Reduce Needless Interruptions: When a business pays invoices late, even by a couple days, they receive collection calls. Each call about a late or missed payment is an interruption to the person receiving the call. Now multiply this by every vendor you work with. That’s a lot of employee time spent dealing with an avoidable problem, and it diverts them from work that’s more important and more profitable.

Become A Preferred Customer: Whenever I have a special promotion who do I contact first? It’s those who pay their bills quickly, followed by those who pay within 30 days. I never consider customers who pay late and cause me extra time chasing down the payments that they committed to make. In short, becoming a preferred customer has rewards, while those who pay late end up on a different list.

Summary: Of all my optimize articles, this may be the least acceptable. I get that. But consider your accounts payable policy and how that affects your vendors and your staff. Granted, you can’t immediately go from paying in 45 days to paying the day the invoice arrives. But you can move in that direction. First, take steps to make sure all vendors are paid within the timeframe they expect and that you agreed to.

Next, consider incrementally shortening your payables cycle one day at a time. Keep working on it until you can pay every invoice quickly. The ultimate accounts payable streamlining will occur when you can pay every invoice on the day it arrives. Your vendors will appreciate it, and your staff will respect you for it.

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: 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 Acquisition: 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.


7 Tips for Better Telework and Remote-Employee Engagement

By Kate Zabriskie

Are you and your team members participating in the new normal of remote work? Telework isn’t going anywhere, and it’s not going as well as it needs to. The good news is there are concrete actions managers can take to steadily improve to make telework more productive and enjoyable.

1. Think in Stages: When talking with your team, stay positive about stage one (going remote), and take the opportunity to congratulate people for making it this far. Then, once you’ve recognized the positives, you can discuss steps to improve. Think long term about what remote work should look like between now and the end of the year.

2. Revisit Expectations: In a perfect world, organizations that move to telework have policies, procedures, guidelines, and training to prepare people for the transition. During the pandemic, however, the cart may have come before the horse. But nothing says you can’t get the horse back on its feet and start planning after the fact.

3. Fix What Isn’t Working: When something is wrong on a team, it rarely fixes itself. This is especially true when work goes remote. As the person in charge, you have the responsibility to find the issues and fix them. If you don’t your team will never function at its full potential.

4. Address Questions: Here are a few questions a manager should address:

  • Can people switch to part-time status if they’re having difficulty balancing work and home?
  • What are the rules for returning calls, emails, and other communication?
  • What communication channels make sense for various interactions?
  • Do people need to be on camera when they meet as a team?
  • How often does the team need to meet?
  • What technology is standard?
  • How can we infuse a little fun into our interactions?
  • How much communication is too much or too little?

5. Seek Continuous Improvement: Few teams get the telework equation right on their first try, and yours probably won’t either. Adopt an evaluate/plan/act mindset to allow your team to systematically reflect on what’s working and adjust what isn’t. Start practicing this cycle at regular intervals as you transition your team’s norms. Once you’ve established a rhythm, people will become used to the process and frequency of change.

6. Connect People to Their Work: When a team is not together, employees can feel disconnected from each other and from the purpose of their work. As a manager, you have an opportunity to reestablish those connections. Do this publicly when possible. Thank them and affirm their contributions.

7. Repeat Important Messages: Even with advances in technology, remote communications often compete with a multitude of distractions. Know that you may need to repeat messages and send them using more than one channel.

Conclusion: With some focus, tenacity, and these seven tips, any manager can successfully navigate the new normal that includes telework. What will you do to chart your course? 

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. 

Industry News

Amtelco Announces Redesigned MSM Website: Amtelco announced the launch of a newly redesigned website for miSecureMessages. Visitors will find new features and a streamlined, modern design, with improved functionality. The user experience is enhanced with industry articles, the latest technical requirements, and resources for partners. Tom Curtin, president, commented, “We’re excited about the launch of the new site. It provides a better user experience and reinforces the miSecureMessages brand.” To see the new site, visit miSecureMessages.com. 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

“Work saves us from three great evils: boredom, vice, and need.” –Voltaire

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.” –Zig Ziglar

The July 2020 Issue of TAS Trader

Streamline Technology in Your Answering Service

Don’t Overlook the Technical Support Component of Optimizing Your TAS

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

In our final article on streamlining your telephone answering service, we’ll look at the technical side of things. For many services, the technology that runs it remains the least favorite aspect of the business. It’s necessary, but it’s not enjoyed.

By streamlining the technical aspects, answering services can remove some of the pain and uncertainty of maintaining a platform and its supporting components.

Hosted Solutions: The easiest way to streamline the technical aspects of running your answering service is to outsource it. Tap a hosted services provider to supply your technology needs from a distance. Not only does this give you added flexibility for remote agent stations, it also moves the tech-support aspect from your purview to theirs.

Backup Power: Making provisions to power your equipment during a power loss is essential for premise-based systems, but it’s also important for cloud-based solutions since some gear remains on site. Most backup power solutions will automatically switch over if utility power becomes unreliable. Resist the temptation to save a little bit of money with a manual transfer switch.

Automated Backups: You backup your database and hope you will never need it, but when you do, it better be current. Manually backing up information is not only time-consuming, but it’s also prone to human error and oversight. Of course, for hosted solutions, your vendor will manage all your backups for you.

Shared Responsibility: Too often the technical aspects of running an answering service fall to one person. This becomes a week area should that lone individual be unavailable. Therefore, have multiple people oversee this important responsibility. Don’t leave it on the shoulders of one person.

Clear Procedures: Document all technical processes in clear step-by-step instructions so that anyone on your staff can follow them. Be sure to post this information where your staff will need it, not filed away where it’s hard to find.

Service Agreements: Foregoing vendor service agreements and managing your technology in-house is one potential way to save money. But allowing your vendor to do this for you will likely save time and minimize service interruptions. Make sure your staff knows how to contact vendors and when to do so. Again, for cloud-based solutions tech-support is part of the package.

Action Plan: Take steps to streamline the technology that runs your answering service and the tech-support behind it. Doing so will minimize any anxiety you may feel over keeping your service up and running. 

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: 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 Acquisition: 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.


Survival Skills for Working from Home

By Kate Zabriskie

Working from home presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges. To get the most out of telecommuting, you need to master some best practices.

Create and Maintain a Routine: Recognize the fact that telework requires self-discipline. Be sure to take regular breaks. You need to eat, you need to stand, and you need to stretch. You also need to turn off work when work ends. Establish psychological boundaries to separate work hours from home hours.

Tap Technology: Learn how to use popular web-conferencing software, get comfortable on camera, and get ready to meet online. The world is moving to the virtual conference room, and you need to know how to function in that space. Nobody looks their best on a webcam; that’s a fact. It’s also a fact that facial expressions, body language, and other visual cues are a big part of communication. If they’re missing, you’re missing out.

Stay Connected: Working alone saves hours, but the lack of chit chat created during casual interactions can also cause your relationships with coworkers to suffer. To remedy the problem, you need to be deliberate in your communication and schedule time to catch up. Set aside time to check in with coworkers. Consider setting up a virtual lunch date. Most people who wake up one day feeling isolated don’t have a contact plan in place. Prepare for regular social interactions before you start missing them.

Seek Opportunity: If you’re working from home and find yourself with extra hours on your hands, look to expand your knowledge, work practices, or professional network. Search for ways to make your work more efficient. Consider developing an education plan for yourself to learn how to best use the tools you need to work remotely.

Be Prepared: Working from home means you must become more self-reliant. Start with the basics. Think about the tools you need to complete your work. For example, do you have a cloud backup? Do you have remote access software so someone in IT can help you if you hit a roadblock? Is your computer powerful enough? Is your internet connection dependable and fast enough?

Summary: Following routines, leveraging tech, being deliberate with communication, setting aside time for growth, and preparing for uncertainty are five ways you can get the most out of a work-at-home experience.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. 

Industry News

Prism II Time Tracking: Many answering services want a log of time spent on administrative tasks. Tracking this time gives greater visibility into internal staffing needs and can form part of client billing. In support of this, Telescan’s Prism II Account Maintenance (PAM) tracks admin time spent in the Prism II database for creating and editing a directory, account, or mailbox record. Send the exported reports to spreadsheets or billing software. The reporting offers a variety of features to help the user find and organize the information they need. For more information, contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148, www.amtelco.com, or info@amtelco.com.

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


Quotes for the Month

“You have reached the pinnacle of success as soon as you become uninterested in money, compliments, or publicity.” -Thomas Wolfe

“A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.” -John D. Rockefeller

“Corduroy pillows are making headlines.” -unknown

Streamline Your Answering Service Administration

Streamline Your Answering Service Administration

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In past issues, we looked at streamlining various aspects of telephone answering services: sales, client onboarding, and customer service, agent hiring and training, billing and collections, and processes and procedures. Now we turn our attention to upper management: the admin function.

Every role in every business carries a bit of fluff, some more than others. This includes upper management, also known as administration. Here are three areas to look at when it comes to streamlining your answering service’s admin function:

1. What Can You Eliminate?

What admin tasks fall short in producing a tangible benefit for your service? These include activities that once held value but no longer do, as well as work that never did contribute to overall business success. Especially scrutinize projects which are done because they’re enjoyable, and duties pursued because they seem essential. Analyze each one.

Ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen if no one did this chore? If the answer is nothing or if there’s a risk of investing in an inconsequential amount of time at some point in the future, then cut that activity.

2. What Can You Streamline?

Of the remaining tasks, consider how to make each one of them more efficient. This includes removing steps that don’t significantly contribute to the outcome, as well as cutting the number of people involved in the project. Each resource removed from the undertaking will serve to make it easier to do and less time-consuming. This frees up energy and staff for other activities of greater importance.

3. What Can You Delegate?

For those items that past the first screen—the ones considered essential to your service’s profitability, viability, or effectiveness— and are appropriately streamlined, consider who should handle them. You may not be the right person for the job. It could be you’re overqualified to manage it, that your time is too valuable to devote to it, or that someone else is better suited to the task.

Look to delegate what you can. This will not only lighten your load, but it will also empower people on your team. Most will jump at a chance to oversee a higher-level responsibility at your answering service. And if someone claims they’re too busy to do your delegated assignment, challenge them to look at what existing tasks they can eliminate or delegate to others.

Act Now

To realize the benefits of streamlining admin functions requires a bit of effort to get there. If you think you’re too busy to do this, you’ve just confirmed how essential this optimization project is.

Start with doing a time study of everything you do for at least a week. Yes, it’s a hassle, but the information is invaluable. And, as a bonus, many people who keep a time log find it automatically makes them more efficient because they don’t want to document their inefficiencies or poor time investments.

Summary

Once you determine how you spend your time, ask how important each task is to your answering service’s overall well-being. Look to cut non-essential work. Then streamline what remains. And last, delegate what you can.

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 June 2020 Issue of TAS Trader

Streamline Your Answering Service Administration

Don’t Neglect Admin Functions as You Optimize Your TAS

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

In past issues we looked at streamlining various aspects of telephone answering services: sales, client onboarding, and customer service, agent hiring and training, billing and collections, and processes and procedures. Now we turn our attention to upper management: the admin function.

Every role in every business carries a bit of fluff, some more than others. This includes upper management, also known as administration. Here are three areas to look at when it comes to streamlining your answering service’s admin function:

1. What Can You Eliminate? What admin tasks fall short in producing a tangible benefit for your service? These include activities that once held value but no longer do, as well as work that never did contribute to overall business success. Especially scrutinize projects which are done because they’re enjoyable, and duties pursued because they seem essential. Analyze each one.

Ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen if no one did this chore? If the answer is nothing or if there’s a risk of investing in an inconsequential amount of time at some point in the future, then cut that activity.

2. What Can You Streamline? Of the remaining tasks, consider how to make each one of them more efficient. This includes removing steps that don’t significantly contribute to the outcome, as well as cutting the number of people involved in the project. Each resource removed from the undertaking will serve to make it easier to do and less time consuming. This frees up energy and staff for other activities of greater importance.

3. What Can You Delegate? For those items that past the first screen—the ones considered essential to your service’s profitability, viability, or effectiveness— and are appropriately streamlined, consider who should handle them. You may not be the right person for the job. It could be you’re overqualified to manage it, that your time is too valuable to devote to it, or that someone else is better suited to the task.

Look to delegate what you can. This will not only lighten your load, but it will also empower people on your team. Most will jump at a chance to oversee a higher-level responsibility at your answering service. And if someone claims they’re too busy to do your delegated assignment, challenge them to look at what existing tasks they can eliminate or delegate to others.

Act Now: To realize the benefits of streamlining admin functions requires a bit of effort to get there. If you think you’re too busy to do this, you’ve just confirmed how essential this optimization project is.

Start with doing a time study of everything you do for at least a week. Yes, it’s a hassle, but the information is invaluable. And, as a bonus, many people who keep a time log find it automatically makes them more efficient because they don’t want to document their inefficiencies or poor time investments.

Summary: Once you determine how you spend your time, ask how important each task is to your answering service’s overall well-being. Look to cut non-essential work. Then streamline what remains. And last, delegate what you can.

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: 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 Acquisition: 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.


Maintaining Quality and Productivity in a Virtual Work Environment

By April Forer

With the increase in more employees working remotely, you might be concerned about a decrease in work quality and productivity, and you are not alone. But there are a variety of analytics and performance measurement functions you can use to ensure that productivity and quality are not taking a hit with your transition to a virtual telephone answering service.

Consider these tools:

Call Analytics: Measure a variety of both historical and live call information with call analytics, such as:

  • Total calls per day
  • Calls per agent
  • Calls per call type
  • Calls per client

Service Level Reports: A helpful way to determine the productivity of your answering service is with service level reports. You can watch agents’ interaction with callers, traffic patterns, agent abandons, and system abandons.

Keeping an eye on the call queue to make sure agents answer calls on time can be a mundane task. However, a system monitor can display the number of calls in queue and which agents are logged in. Any calls that have a longer wait time than the critical time set can trigger an alert. This stands out as a warning that calls are exceeding the wait time threshold.

Quality Assurance: Another important process to ensure agents are adhering to customer service standards is quality assurance (QA). Setting standards to assess agent performance gives agents a clear understanding of expectations. By recording all calls or a sample of calls, you can use a pre-built web script or create your own list of questions to score each agent on their performance.

Assign different points or score values to each question, based on their importance. This is a great training tool for giving feedback to your agents and can also be used to incentivize your staff. Call recordings can also be available to your clients to listen to their calls and ensure their calls are being handled correctly, which is a great selling tool.

Conclusion: Use data from call reports, and set clear expectations of agent performance. Then you can have more confidence in your virtual answering service running smoothly and productively. And you might even see an improvement.

April Forer is the marketing specialist for Amtelco TAS Division. Amtelco has a strong history in the telemessaging industry and was founded in 1976 to provide communication solutions to the answering service and medical messaging industry.

Industry News

Amtelco Deemed Top Workplace: Amtelco received a Top Workplaces 2020 honor and a special award for work/life flexibility by The Wisconsin State Journal. These awards are based solely on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey. The anonymous survey uniquely measures fifteen drivers of engaged cultures that are critical to the success of any organization.

“My father, Bill Curtin, II founded Amtelco in 1976. We have always been family-owned and managed through multiple generations of our family who care for and understand our customers’ business.” said Tom Curtin, president of Amtelco. “We truly believe that our customers and employees are extended family and that culture is what fuels our business success. Being named in the Top Workplace list is a testament to the importance of continually making our company culture a top priority.”

NAEO 2021 in Atlanta: The National Amtelco Equipment Owners (NAEO) users’ group has announced that the 2021 NAEO Annual Conference will be held in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference will run from March 7–10, 2021 and be held at the Omni Hotel at the Battery overlooking Truist Park, home of the Atlanta Braves. We were all disappointed by the international circumstances that resulted in the cancellation of the 2020 conference in New Orleans and are confident that missing a year of sharing ideas and fellowship at conference will make the hunger for 2021 even deeper.

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


Quotes for the Month

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.” -Leo Tolstoy

“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” -Bruce Lee

“I can’t believe I got fired from the calendar factory. All I did was take a day off.” -unknown

Moving Toward a New Normal for Telephone Answering Services

We Should Assume We’ll Never Return to Business as Usual

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As the telephone answering service industry responded to an unexpected, pandemic-induced spike in call traffic coupled with some workers reluctant to come to the office, changes occurred out of necessity. Many services looked to address this two-pronged threat by pursuing a work-at-home model, either as their first test of remote workers or as a fuller embrace of the concept.

This increased focus on remote staff is not likely a temporary solution until things return to normal. Instead, we should view it as a new normal. Even when a reprieve from the coronavirus crisis happens, many predict a second wave to occur—possibly this fall—which could be even more intense. And a few wonder if we’ll see a seasonal reoccurrence each year.

Here are the key things to consider in your plans:

Technical Logistics

The first step in allowing staff to work from home is the technical aspect of getting them connected. This starts with a stable internet connection and adequate computer resources in each home. Consider the glitches and challenges that occurred when doing this. Address them now instead of waiting for the next wave to hit.

Remote Management

Last month I gave tips on managing a distributed workforce. Look at what went well and what could’ve gone better. Work to fix the aspects that didn’t go so well.

HR and Legal Considerations

Aside from the technical and management issues are the human resources considerations and legal aspects of having a staff work from home, even from another state. Update your employee handbook and procedural manuals to reflect this. Review your insurance coverage to make sure it addresses a distributed, home-based workforce. Consult with a labor attorney in your state to make sure you have the needed protection and adequate recourses in the event an off-site employee goes rogue.

Platform

If you have a premise-based system, consider moving to the cloud. This will best facilitate remote staff and provide maximum flexibility. In addition, an off-premise solution removes equipment from your building, which brings up the next point.

Facility

As staff moves off-site, you require less space in your building. And if everyone works from home, you no longer need a physical office. If you lease this means you can scale back or cut your rent. If you own the building, you can either sell it or lease unused space to other businesses.

Sales and Marketing

Consider how much of your sales and marketing occurs online versus how much results from in-person meetings. Going forward expect that more local prospects will want to avoid physical interaction with your sales team. Strive to reach the point where all sales and marketing efforts occur from a distance.

Business Support Functions

Though much of the work-at-home focus so far has been on answering service operators, explore how you can extend that concept to non-operational staff. What if everyone had to work from home? Could you pull it off?

Stay Connected

As you send more of your staff home to work, consider what steps you can take to stay connected with each other, and engaged in work. What can you do to counter feelings of isolation? Seek creative ways to maintain morale, effectiveness, and efficiency when physical, in-person interaction doesn’t exist or must be minimized. Consider conference calls, video meetings, and online interaction opportunities—both formal and informal.

Conclusion

Though it’s possible we will soon return to normal, making these preparations unnecessary, it’s an unlikely outcome. Instead, plan for the worst and hope for the best.

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 May 2020 Issue of TAS Trader

Moving Toward a New Normal for Telephone Answering Services

We Should Assume We’ll Never Return to Business as Usual

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As the telephone answering service industry responded to an unexpected, pandemic-induced spike in call traffic coupled with some workers reluctant to come to the office, changes occurred out of necessity. Many services looked to address this two-pronged threat by pursuing a work-at-home model, either as their first test of remote workers or as a fuller embrace of the concept.

This increased focus on remote staff is not likely a temporary solution until things return to normal. Instead we should view it as a new normal. Even when a reprieve from the coronavirus crisis happens, many predict a second wave to occur—possibly this fall—which could be even more intense. And a few wonder if we’ll see a seasonal reoccurrence each year.

Here are the key things to consider in your plans:

Technical Logistics: The first step in allowing staff to work from home is the technical aspect of getting them connected. This starts with a stable internet connection and adequate computer resources in each home. Consider the glitches and challenges that occurred when doing this. Address them now instead of waiting for the next wave to hit.

Remote Management: Last month I gave tips on managing a distributed workforce. Look at what went well and what could’ve gone better. Work to fix the aspects that didn’t go so well.

HR and Legal Considerations: Aside from the technical and management issues are the human resources considerations and legal aspects of having a staff work from home, even from another state. Update your employee handbook and procedural manuals to reflect this. Review your insurance coverage to make sure it addresses a distributed, home-based workforce. Consult with a labor attorney in your state to make sure you have the needed protection and adequate recourses in the event an off-site employee goes rogue.

Platform: If you have a premise-based system, consider moving to the cloud. This will best facilitate remote staff and provide maximum flexibility. In addition, an off-premise solution removes equipment from your building, which brings up the next point.

Facility: As staff moves off-site, you require less space in your building. And if everyone works from home, you no longer need a physical office. If you lease this means you can scale back or cut your rent. If you own the building, you can either sell it or lease unused space to other businesses.

Sales and Marketing: Consider how much of your sales and marketing occurs online versus how much results from in-person meetings. Going forward expect that more local prospects will want to avoid physical interaction with your sales team. Strive to reach the point where all sales and marketing efforts occur from a distance.

Business Support Functions: Though much of the work-at-home focus so far has been on answering service operators, explore how you can extend that concept to non-operational staff. What if everyone had to work from home? Could you pull it off?

Stay Connected: As you send more of your staff home to work, consider what steps you can take to stay connected with each other and engaged in work. What can you do to counter feelings of isolation? Seek creative ways to maintain morale, effectiveness, and efficiency when physical, in-person interaction doesn’t exist or must be minimized. Consider conference calls, video meetings, and online interaction opportunities—both formal and informal.

Conclusion: Though it’s possible we will soon return to normal, making these preparations unnecessary, it’s an unlikely outcome. Instead, plan for the worst and hope for the best.

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.


Three Ways to Select the Best Candidates Without In-Person Interviews

By Jeremy Eskenazie

The candidate experience is what candidates see, feel, and perceive of an employer based on their interaction through the entire recruitment cycle from first contact to onboarding (or if they don’t get a job offer). Mapping your candidate experience can take away much of the guesswork in whether candidates will accept your invitation for an interview and a potential offer.

The interviewing process has become more complex. You may find your organization using more video interviews or going through most of this process virtually. There are distinct benefits of remote interviewing, especially on cost and time for both your team and the candidate. The flip side of saving time is that in-person touches aren’t possible and many teams don’t adjust for this change.

At this early stage of the candidate experience, it’s important to keep candidates engaged. Here are three tips to improve your virtual candidate experience:

1. Focus on the Relationship: Interviewing at a distance means finding new ways to stay connected. Ask how the interview went, be clear about the next steps, and explain how long each step will take. This will build trust and show the candidate what kind of organization they will join if they accept an eventual offer.

2. Optimize Your Tools: Video interviewing is extremely helpful. There are great tools available to ease a virtual experience. The first hurdle is ensuring you’re technically set up so that your video and audio are easy to join and work consistently. You want to avoid wasting time on poor connections and the bad impression it leaves when you spend part of the interview on troubleshooting. The second part of this equation is training your hiring staff to use the tools smoothly. If they’re comfortable, it enhances the candidate experience.

3. Keep Success Practices: Your company is used to hiring. You know what works. Find ways to create the same touchpoints you have for candidates who come into your office. Ensure your hiring staff have positive stories to share about your company and explain how your company functions remotely. Consistency in your recruiting practices help to ensure you are not losing talent for your organization by having vast differences in how the candidate connects with you and your team.

Conclusion: Increasing your virtual candidate experience may be daunting at first. While there is excitement about interviewing remotely there is much to lose if you don’t approach it wisely. With the above guidance in place, you can further improve the virtual candidate experience, and hire the right staff.

Jeremy Eskenazi is the founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique recruitment/talent acquisition management and optimization consulting firm.

[Read Jeremy’s full article to learn more.]

Industry News

Amtelco Intelligent Series v5.4: Amtelco introduces version 5.4 of its Intelligent Series (IS) suite of call center applications. Many of the features were developed in collaboration with Amtelco customers. New features include: DID limit, call tracker analytics to display configurable charts of call data, Genesis service level reporting, and improvements to the miTeamWeb OnCall. 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

“A hungry man is not a free man.” -Adlai Stevenson

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” -Tony Robbins

“R.I.P boiled water. You will be mist.” -unknown

Tips to Manage a Remote Workforce

With More Reasons to Have Operators Work at Home Comes the Need to Better Oversee Them

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-remote workforce

Around the world, many jurisdictions have enacted stay-at-home mandates to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Other areas are pursuing a “stay home, stay safe” recommendation. This scenario hits answering services doubly hard. First, as clients respond by revamping their business models, they turn to their answering service for additional help, giving them more work and expecting a wider scope of outcomes. But as answering services strive to take more calls, they may struggle to do so with reduced staffing levels. 

The solution is allowing answering service operators to work from home. For some services, this may be a new consideration, while for others they may now pursue remote staff with more diligence. Few answering services have a 100 percent home-based staff. Yet at this time everyone can see the benefits of working from home.

Here are some tips for successfully managing a distributed workforce, such as when most everyone works from home.

Develop a Remote Perspective

Broadcasting a message to all staff that “there are donuts in the break room” sends a strong message to off-site staff that they don’t matter—or you forgot about them, which you probably did. In all your interactions, put your remote staff first. Figure out ways to effectively communicate with off-site employees. Everything that works for remote staff, will work for local staff too. 

Put All Communications Online

Convert physical bulletin boards to virtual bulletin boards. Move from physical inboxes to electronic inboxes. This may be an email, or it may be something else. 

Put all necessary paperwork online, making it equally and as easily accessible for all staff, regardless of location. The same applies to submit paperwork. Don’t make your remote staff jump through hoops that don’t apply to local staff.

Stay Connected

It’s easy to interact with office-based staff. This can be as simple as a wave or a head nod when you walk through the operations room. But you can’t do this with remote staff. Figure out how to offer the same courtesies to your staff working in their homes. You might want to periodically have a video call with them or set up online group meetings that they can attend. These don’t need to belong or complicated interactions. In fact, simple and shorter are better. Aim for quantity over quality.

Update Your Policies and Procedures

A fourth consideration is to review your written policies and operations procedures. Make sure they apply equally to local and remote staff. Then once you have reworded them to be inclusive, post them online, and provide them to each employee electronically. If they need to sign that they received these updates, digitize that process as well. Eliminate the preference for, and the need for, all printed materials.

Conclusion

Taking these steps will help your remote staff be as successful—and as happy—as your local staff. It will also combat the us-versus-them mentality that often occurs among employees who don’t work at the primary location.

When you do this “stay home, stay safe” becomes “go remote, go to work.”

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 April 2020 Issue of TAS Trader

Tips to Manage a Remote Workforce

With More Reasons to Have Operators Work at Home Comes the Need to Better Oversee Them

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Around the world, many jurisdictions have enacted stay-at-home mandates to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Other areas are pursuing a “stay home, stay safe” recommendation. This scenario hits answering services doubly hard. First, as clients respond by revamping their business models, they turn to their answering service for additional help, giving them more work and expecting a wider scope of outcomes. But as answering services strive to take more calls, they may struggle to do so with reduced staffing levels. 

The solution is allowing answering service operators to work from home. For some services this may be a new consideration, while for others they may now pursue remote staff with more diligence. Few answering services have a 100 percent home-based staff. Yet at this time everyone can see the benefits of working from home.

Here are some tips for successfully managing a distributed workforce, such as when most everyone works from home.

Develop a Remote Perspective: Broadcasting a message to all staff that “there are donuts in the break room” sends a strong message to off-site staff that they don’t matter—or you forgot about them, which you probably did. In all your interactions, put your remote staff first. Figure out ways to effectively communicate with off-site employees. Everything that works for remote staff, will work for local staff too. 

Put All Communications Online: Convert physical bulletin boards to virtual bulletin boards. Move from physical inboxes to electronic inboxes. This may be email, or it may be something else. 

Put all necessary paperwork online, making it equally and as easily accessible for all staff, regardless of location. The same applies for submitting paperwork. Don’t make your remote staff jump through hoops that don’t apply to local staff.

Stay Connected: It’s easy to interact with office-based staff. This can be as simple as a wave or a head nod when you walk through the operations room. But you can’t do this with remote staff. Figure out how to offer the same courtesies to your staff working in their homes. You might want to periodically have a video call with them or set up online group meetings that they can attend. These don’t need to be long or complicated interactions. In fact, simple and shorter are better. Aim for quantity over quality.

Update Your Policies and Procedures: A fourth consideration is to review your written policies and operations procedures. Make sure they apply equally to local and remote staff. Then once you have reworded them to be inclusive, post them online and provide them to each employee electronically. If they need to sign that they received these updates, digitize that process as well. Eliminate the preference for, and the need of, all printed materials.

Conclusion: Taking these steps will help your remote staff be as successful—and as happy—as your local staff. It will also combat the us-versus-them mentality that often occurs among employees who don’t work at the primary location.

When you do this “stay home, stay safe” becomes “go remote, go to work.”

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.


9 Steps to Lead Your Team Through Uncertainty

By Kate Zabriskie

An effective leader will lead their team through change and do so with confidence that will inspire others. Here are nine tips to help lead your team through uncertainty:

1. Know That the Path Isn’t Always Linear: As a team deals with workplace change, it isn’t as simple as announcing it, adapting to it, and moving toward goals. It’s normal for employees to have shifting feelings throughout the process. Recognize and address these concerns as they arise is a healthy way to respond.

2. Identify Key Leaders: Spot team members with true leadership qualities early on. They will be crucial in helping to instill confidence and keep the team moving together toward stated goals. 

3. Construct a Solid Plan: Address changes in processes, products, and expectations of the staff involved. Creating and sharing a plan with your team will go a long way toward giving them a feeling of stability as they move forward together. 

4. State Goals: Clearly define objectives and how you will support your team in meeting them. If employees don’t have a firm sense of what they should move toward, they may just move on.

5. Adjust as Necessary: Rumors abound during uncertainty. When your team is unsure, they’ll speculate. This can produce confusion, worry, and employees looking for new jobs. Be upfront and communicate with your team any information you have as soon as you can.

6. Acknowledge the Past: Changes may mean discarding the old ways of doing things. This can leave team members who worked on such projects feeling slighted. Highlight those projects and salute accomplishments, while at the same time leading the team into the new direction.

7. Disclose Challenges: Don’t hide problems. Share them. Your team may have valuable input and will feel more invested in helping overcome obstacles. 

8. Listen: Make yourself available and truly listen to your team. Sometimes, simply letting someone vent about the changes will help them deal with what is going on. And other times, their insight could be invaluable.

9. Restate Performance Objectives: Clearly state any changes in performance goals and reviews. Employees will want to know exactly what you expect. This will allow them to focus on their own objectives and give them confidence to move forward.

Summary: Change can be scary, full of surprises, and extremely challenging. But, if you have a plan, communicate effectively with your team, and move towards new objectives with confidence—and have a team that is committed as well—you can survive and even thrive in the new environment. 

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.

[Read Kate’s full article to learn more.]

Industry News

Amtelco Offers Free Rental Operator Licenses: With the expanding COVID-19 crisis, the ability for agents to work remotely has become important. Amtelco announced they are offering a free month for up to five rental operator licenses to help call centers keep up with call traffic increases. Web-based virtual agent software can turn any personal computer into a professional telephone agent station, allowing agents to work remotely from just about anywhere. Their remote status is transparent to callers.

Amtelco’s Kevin Beale recommends establishing VPN connections for remote agents to ensure a secure connection. Once agents connect to the VPN, they can establish their remote agent connection for data and audio: Data connection through direct connection, remote desktop, thin client, Citrix, or VDI. Audio connection via integrated audio or external audio.For more info 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

“To have and not to give is often worse than to steal.” -Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” -Tony Robbins

“When two egotists meet, it’s an I for an I.” -unknown

“Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?” -unknown

How to Optimize Your TAS Processes

Two Tips to Streamline Your Answering Service’s Procedures

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

optimize your TAS-Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Last year I shared several articles about finetuning the processes in your telephone answering service. The three key areas are streamlining sales, streamlining client onboarding, and streamlining customer service. Beyond that, we looked at fine-tuning billing and collections, agent hiring, and agent training.

In all cases, the goal of optimizing these areas in your TAS is to achieve the same—or better—results more effectively. To realize this goal, however, doesn’t mean working harder. It means working smarter.

To optimize any of these processes, we look at two areas: the number of steps required and the time they take.

Reduce the Number of Steps

As time passes, any process becomes more complicated. The initial steps required in the process remain, while new ones join them. As a result, most of our processes become bloated over time. Even though some of these steps are no longer required to achieve the desired outcome, or have a negligible impact on the result, we and our staff persist in doing them because we always have.

We must scrutinize every process and ask if each step remains relevant. Too often what was once important no longer is. Identify those tasks and cull them. For each step consider the impact if you eliminate it. If it doesn’t warrant its continued existence, cut it out and show your staff why it’s no longer relevant. They may initially resist this change, but once they realize it will make their jobs easier, they’ll quickly embrace the streamlined process.

Shorten the Amount of Time

Removing the number of steps required to complete a task should automatically make it faster. Now look for other delays you can remove from the process. Does one person arbitrarily delay completing a task that’s part of an overall process? Since they must do it anyway, why not do it right away? 

Another opportunity to shorten how long a process takes is to look for areas you can automate. Why wait for a person to do something that a computer can do automatically? Tap technology whenever possible.

Next realize that some things don’t have to proceed in a linear manner, with some tasks or even paths allowing simultaneous execution. For example, when a client signs up for service, one person will need to program the account, while another person will set up billing. It may seem orderly to do one and then the other, but both actions can occur at the same time.

Conclusion

Like any business, an answering service thrives on processes. This ensures that work proceeds in a smooth and organized manner, producing the desired outcome. However, these processes often swell over time, becoming inefficient and unwieldy. 

Look for ways to remove steps and shorten the time it takes to complete them. This will result in achieving better outcomes and realizing the desired results 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.