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Responding to Industry Consolidation

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As the telephone answering service industry continues to consolidate amid a sellers’ market, it leaves many wondering what the future looks like as they contemplate their long-term strategy. There are three general scenarios that apply to most any situation: buy, sell, or stay.

Buy: Some large players, both from outside the industry and from within, continue their buying spree. While most of the good deals have been snatched up, there still exists many attractive targets. The objectives of this strategy vary. For some it’s the cash flow. For others it’s to pursue economy of scale. And for still others it’s the basic driving force that bigger is better. Regardless, these folks continue to make their acquisitions in pursuit of their core objective.

Three essential steps exist for those who by answering services. First is the ability to strike a sound deal. Second is to orchestrate a smooth transition. And third, which some people skip, is optimizing the acquisition for maximum financial results.

Some mid-sized players wonder if they should pursue this strategy. If it meets their objective, yes. However, they might fit better in one of the next two groups.

Sell: Some single location answering services (and perhaps all at one time or another) wonder if they should sell. This is a legitimate question, especially given the sellers’ market and the competition that exists across North America. Selling could make for a smart exit strategy.

For answering services pursuing this scenario, the goal is to do everything possible to make the answering service attractive to a potential buyer. This means maximizing EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization). Items included in this pursuit include maximizing the profitability of each account, eliminating unnecessary spending, and removing owner perks from the equation. Each step made to improve EBITDA will serve to increase the sales price.

Stay: The remaining group of answering services are interested in neither buying nor selling. They want to maintain their operation as a single location answering service. Although there are many strategies to allow this to work successfully, the most promising one is to implement a niche and then pursue it for growth and profitability.

This niche could be a certain segment of the market, a unique way of on boarding or serving clients, or a compelling marketing vision that sells the company image as much as its service. Many answering services are successfully pursuing this course, proving that it can be done. But don’t copy their specific strategy. Instead tweak it to make your own.

When done strategically and intentionally, any of these options can produce a successful outcome. And that’s good for the industry and for its clients.

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 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Responding to Industry Consolidation

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As the telephone answering service industry continues to consolidate amid a sellers’ market, it leaves many wondering what the future looks like as they contemplate their long-term strategy. There are three general scenarios that apply to most any situation: buy, sell, or stay.

Buy: Some large players, both from outside the industry and from within, continue their buying spree. While most of the good deals have been snatched up, there still exists many attractive targets. The objectives of this strategy vary. For some it’s the cash flow. For others it’s to pursue economy of scale. And for still others it’s the basic driving force that bigger is better. Regardless, these folks continue to make their acquisitions in pursuit of their core objective.

Three essential steps exist for those who by answering services. First is the ability to strike a sound deal. Second is to orchestrate a smooth transition. And third, which some people skip, is optimizing the acquisition for maximum financial results.

Some mid-sized players wonder if they should pursue this strategy. If it meets their objective, yes. However, they might fit better in one of the next two groups.

Sell: Some single location answering services (and perhaps all at one time or another) wonder if they should sell. This is a legitimate question, especially given the sellers’ market and the competition that exists across North America. Selling could make for a smart exit strategy.

For answering services pursuing this scenario, the goal is to do everything possible to make the answering service attractive to a potential buyer. This means maximizing EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization). Items included in this pursuit include maximizing the profitability of each account, eliminating unnecessary spending, and removing owner perks from the equation. Each step made to improve EBITDA will serve to increase the sales price.

Stay: The remaining group of answering services are interested in neither buying nor selling. They want to maintain their operation as a single location answering service. Although there are many strategies to allow this to work successfully, the most promising one is to implement a niche and then pursue it for growth and profitability.

This niche could be a certain segment of the market, a unique way of on boarding or serving clients, or a compelling marketing vision that sells the company image as much as its service. Many answering services are successfully pursuing this course, proving that it can be done. But don’t copy their specific strategy. Instead tweak it to make your own.

When done strategically and intentionally, any of these options can produce a successful outcome. And that’s good for the industry and for its clients.

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.


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TAS Sales Rep: 40-year-old, multiple-location, answering service seeks outgoing, highly professional, hard-working, and self-motivated sales representatives. Previous sales experience is preferred. Strong written and verbal communications skills are required. Must be comfortable with phone sales, computer-literate, and capable of creating written sales proposals. Email resume to Janet Livingston at janet@callcenter-salespro.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.

Need Blog Posts? Need content for your TAS website or answering service newsletter? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Nonexclusive content starts at $25 per article. Email Peter for more info.


Hurricane Harvey Help

By Janet Livingston

Over the years, I’ve been in a lot of answering services. I’ve seen it all, but one thing I never see enough of is the willingness of one answering service to help another during a crisis. I saw this again with hurricane Harvey.

As the tempest bore down on the Texas coast, answering services scrambled to ensure they could provide continuous operations to their clients at this critical juncture. One coastal answering service experienced a direct assault. Fortunately their facility withstood the hurricane’s beating and remained intact. Unfortunately many of their staff were affected and unable to make it in to work.

For some the storm had left them homeless. Survival suddenly became their number one priority. Others were relatively unaffected, but they were unable to reach the office due to flooding and impassable roads. The remaining employees, who could make it in, couldn’t handle the number of calls backing up in queue. This included their normal call traffic as well as additional emergency communication.

Almost 1,000 miles away another answering service was poised to help. Management alerted staff to go on standby and be ready to supplement the work of other answering services, should they need assistance.

Within hours the operators at this remote answering service were on the phone, taking calls for the hurricane-ravaged answering service and its displaced staff who they had never met. Using a VPN (virtual private network) connection, the remote staff tapped into the distant answering service’s system.

Before taking calls, however, these operators had to familiarize themselves with the specific configuration and protocol the other staff followed. Fortunately both services used the same answering service platform. Because if this commonality, the remote staff could get up to speed quickly and begin taking calls.

During this time the remote answering service provided the staff needed to round out the schedule of this distant answering service. This went on for two weeks, providing an additional three to four operators for both first and second shift. For a time, they also covered overnights.

This is one more example of how our industry helps its own, with two services working together to serve clients. This is one of the reasons I love this industry. Entrepreneurs ready to help one another during difficult times.

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier telephone answering service consultancy, which helps clients grow their revenue. Contact Janet at contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or 800-901-7706.

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Startel Releases Contact Management Center v14

Startel Corporation announced the availability of Startel Contact Management Center (CMC) v14. “With this latest release, Startel continues the advancement of the Startel Contact Management Center and its commitment to helping enhance the overall customer experience,” said Brian Stewart, chairman and CEO of Startel. The CMC v14 release includes client scrub (to help maintain HIPAA compliance), multi-site responses, enhanced search function, skip voice record (for HIPAA, PCI, and HITRUST compliance), and SMS replies tied to the last message sent to the replying device (to help users to locate and respond to conversations quickly).

Rochester Telemessaging Receives Gold Certification

Rochester Telemessaging Center re-qualified for the Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification Award for the fourth consecutive time, originally qualifying in 2008. The certification, provided by the Association of Teleservices International, indicates that Rochester Telemessaging Center (RTC) has met or exceeded high performance standards. “As Michigan’s only ATSI-24/7 Certified Call Center, Rochester Telemessaging Center demonstrates a continuing effort to bring the highest quality to the telephone answering service industry,” said Dan L’Heureux, certification examiner. Ryan Chinoski, RTC director of operations, noting the industry’s competitiveness, stated, “One way we are able to differentiate ourselves is by third-party testing.”

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


Quotes for the Month

“What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?” -Adam Smith

“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” -Steve Jobs

“A dentist and a manicurist fought tooth and nail.” -unknown

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What’s Your Exit Strategy?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

If you own a telephone answering service, you spend a lot of time thinking about the future. And if you’re not the owner, you should also consider what’s ahead. More on that later.

Future considerations for owners may include growth, acquisition, or new technology. However, when you think about the future, you should also plan your exit strategy. There are four options to consider when it’s time to scale back or retire.

Sell to Employees or Family: Look to those around you, to your staff and your family, for people who could take over your answering service and buy it from you. And if you sell to a family member, make sure they understand the industry and know how to run the business. Identify these potential people, and then groom them to take over.

Sell to Another Company: Aside from employees and family, you can also look to sell to another answering service or to an investor outside the industry. Going this route may produce the highest selling price, but it might be at the sacrifice of your legacy, staff, or clients. Balance the pros and cons.

Work Until the End: By intention, or sometimes not, business owners continue in their role until the day they die. This eliminates the need for an exit strategy, but it passes the burden on to their heirs. Do them a favor and leave them with a plan.

Shut Down the Business: Some answering services, especially small ones, assume the business has no value, so they close their doors. There’s no reason to do that. Though you may not have a big enough operation to attract high-dollar buyers, your accounts do have value and other services are anxious to buy them.

This discussion focuses on answering service owners, but what if you’re a manager? Then consider these four scenarios, and envision how you can be part of the business owner’s exit strategy. This may involve a direct discussion, or it may require a subtler approach. Either way the potential exists for you to end up as an answering service owner. And then you can form your own exit strategy.

The key is to make a plan, and then work the plan.

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.

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The September 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

What’s Your Exit Strategy?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

If you own a telephone answering service, you spend a lot of time thinking about the future. And if you’re not the owner, you should also consider what’s ahead. More on that later.

Future considerations for owners may include growth, acquisition, or new technology. However, when you think about the future, you should also plan your exit strategy. There are four options to consider when it’s time to scale back or retire.

Sell to Employees or Family: Look to those around you, to your staff and your family, for people who could take over your answering service and buy it from you. And if you sell to a family member, make sure they understand the industry and know how to run the business. Identify these potential people, and then groom them to take over.

Sell to Another Company: Aside from employees and family, you can also look to sell to another answering service or to an investor outside the industry. Going this route may produce the highest selling price, but it might be at the sacrifice of your legacy, staff, or clients. Balance the pros and cons.

Work Until the End: By intention, or sometimes not, business owners continue in their role until the day they die. This eliminates the need for an exit strategy, but it passes the burden on to their heirs. Do them a favor and leave them with a plan.

Shut Down the Business: Some answering services, especially small ones, assume the business has no value, so they close their doors. There’s no reason to do that. Though you may not have a big enough operation to attract high-dollar buyers, your accounts do have value and other services are anxious to buy them.

This discussion focuses on answering service owners, but what if you’re a manager? Then consider these four scenarios, and envision how you can be part of the business owner’s exit strategy. This may involve a direct discussion, or it may require a subtler approach. Either way the potential exists for you to end up as an answering service owner. And then you can form your own exit strategy.

The key is to make a plan, and then work the plan.

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

Blog Posts: Need content for your TAS website or answering service newsletter? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Nonexclusive content starts at only $25 per post. Email Peter for more info.

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.


How Do You Measure Up?

By Janet Livingston

In my presentation at the ATSI convention this year, I spoke about “High Performance Sales.” I shared some alarming stats to highlight the need for salespeople to diligently follow up with prospects.

Four Shocking Facts:

  • 48 percent of salespeople never follow up with a prospect: This means almost half of all salespeople ignore leads. The survey didn’t say if this was because they were busy, lazy, or forgot. But any reason is inexcusable. It could also mean that salespeople make judgment calls about lead quality and cherry pick who to call. Shame on them. They’ll never know for sure if it’s a good lead until they pick up the phone and call.
  • 25 percent of salespeople make a second call and then stop: Of the salespeople who bother to call prospects, one fourth stop after two contacts. Though this is better than nothing, it’s barely better. (More on this later.)
  • 12 percent of salespeople make three contacts and then stop: One out of eight salespeople make three calls. This may seem good, but it’s not. (We’ll see why in a moment.)
  • Only 10 percent of salespeople make more than three contacts: Just one out of ten salespeople bother to contact a prospect more than three times. Statistically these are when most sales occur. We’ll classify the outcomes for the other nine salespeople as failures. You don’t want them on your team.

Here’s Why Follow-up is So Critical:

  • 2 percent of sales are made on the first contact.
  • 3 percent of sales are made on the second contact.
  • 5 percent of sales are made on the third contact.
  • 10 percent of sales are made on the fourth contact.
  • 80 percent of sales are closed after four calls, usually on the fifth to twelfth contact.

In combining these two sets of numbers, we see that 90 percent of salespeople make three calls or less and account for 10 percent of all sales. Now look at the other end of the spectrum. That one salesperson who makes more than three contacts closes 90 percent of the sales.

This shows why following up with prospects is so critical. This also shows why sales managers need a system to ensure their sales staff follow up an appropriate number of times. What’s that number? Not three, not two, and certainly not one, but at least twelve times.

Even more important is for sales managers to make sure their staff follow up with every prospect, and that they don’t dismiss a single one.

Follow up is the key to sales success. Anything less is sales failure.

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier telephone answering service consultancy, which helps clients grow their revenue. Contact Janet at contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or 800-901-7706.

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Startel Announces Merger with Alston Tascom

Startel Corporation announced that effective September 1, 2017, Alston Tascom is a wholly owned business unit of Startel. In September 2015, Startel also acquired Professional Teledata. “We are thrilled to combine three of the telephone answering service’s top providers to form the industry’s premier choice for on-premise and cloud contact center solutions and services,” said Brian Stewart, chairman and CEO of Startel and Professional Teledata.

“The synergies the combined company will generate will be of tremendous benefit to current and future customers,” said Wayne Scaggs, president of Alston Tascom. “I am excited for the opportunities the merger will bring.” Wayne Scaggs, will join the senior management team of Startel and Professional Teledata to help lead the combined company.

 ASTAA Workshop a Success

Maryellen Pruitt became the new executive director of ASTAA just in time to support the supervisor workshop “You Can Move Mountains,” held in Baltimore. “There is nothing like trial by fire,” said Jim Reandeau, president of ASTAA.

“Maryellen was a delight to work with at the supervisor workshop,” said presenter Donna West. “She took care of a few issues before I even knew they existed. Her support was invaluable. I know this is going to be a great relationship.” Maryellen has been a part of the industry since 1997. She also recently accepted a position as the new executive director of the Telecommunications Users Network (TUNe).

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


Quotes for the Month

“I want to walk through life instead of being dragged through it.” -Alanis Morissette

“Achievement is largely the product of steadily raising one’s levels of aspiration and expectation.” -Jack Nicklaus

“If you take a laptop for a run you could jog your memory.” -unknown

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Don’t Be in a Hurry

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Last week I couldn’t log into one of my financial services accounts. I had three options: online help, email, or phone. I opted to call. That’s what you do when you’re in this industry.

I reached their automated attendant and listened to the prompts. After a couple of button pushes I reached a real person, perky and positive sounding. But before I could finish telling her what I needed, she interrupted me. Apparently anticipating what I was going to say, she knew just what to do. “Becky can help you. Let me transfer you.”

I expected to hear ringing. Instead I heard more prompts and after more button-pushing I heard the pleasant voice of the first person again. “I think I’m stuck in a loop.”

She didn’t apologize. “Yeah, it’s best to leave a message in voicemail. You’ll get a call back within 24 hours.”

I didn’t want to wait 24 hours. I wanted help right away. Isn’t that what phone support is for? I left a message and hung up.

I’m still waiting for a call back. Fortunately I figured out the problem myself.

Although the receptionist I talked to was pleasant and confident sounding, she also hurried to pass me on to someone else. Also, both times we talked, she interrupted me to offer her solution. Though the second time I was appropriately transferred to voicemail, I doubt she routed my call correctly the first time.

In the answering service industry, our agents may be tempted to make this same mistake. With callers holding in queue and likely growing less patient by the second, agents may feel pressure to complete their present call quickly and go to the next caller.

I understand this. I suspect it’s common at most answering services, but it shouldn’t be. There are two side effects when agents rush through one call to get the next:

Poor Service: The first outcome is poor customer service. This may result in the caller feeling they weren’t heard, the agent jumping to a wrong conclusion, or the agent handling the call inappropriately. In each scenario, the result is failure.

Lower Revenue: The second outcome of rushing through a call is less time spent talking. If you bill by the minute this means reduced revenue. Now I would never suggest you train agents to stretch calls to boost revenue, but you should train them to take as much time as they need to appropriately respond to the caller while they’re on the line. This will allow the caller to receive great service and end the conversation confident their concern was addressed.

You’ll see improved service, along with a decrease in complaints, as well as an increase in billing. And all it takes is a reminderer to your agents to slow down and not rush through their calls.

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 August 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Don’t Be in a Hurry

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Last week I couldn’t log into one of my financial services accounts. I had three options: online help, email, or phone. I opted to call. That’s what you do when you’re in this industry.

I reached their automated attendant and listened to the prompts. After a couple of button pushes I reached a real person, perky and positive sounding. But before I could finish telling her what I needed, she interrupted me. Apparently anticipating what I was going to say, she knew just what to do. “Becky can help you. Let me transfer you.”

I expected to hear ringing. Instead I heard more prompts and after more button-pushing I heard the pleasant voice of the first person again. “I think I’m stuck in a loop.”

She didn’t apologize. “Yeah, it’s best to leave a message in voicemail. You’ll get a call back within 24 hours.”

I didn’t want to wait 24 hours. I wanted help right away. Isn’t that what phone support is for? I left a message and hung up.

I’m still waiting for a call back. Fortunately I figured out the problem myself.

Although the receptionist I talked to was pleasant and confident sounding, she also hurried to pass me on to someone else. Also, both times we talked, she interrupted me to offer her solution. Though the second time I was appropriately transferred to voicemail, I doubt she routed my call correctly the first time.

In the answering service industry, our agents may be tempted to make this same mistake. With callers holding in queue and likely growing less patient by the second, agents may feel pressure to complete their present call quickly and go to the next caller.

I understand this. I suspect it’s common at most answering services, but it shouldn’t be. There are two side effects when agents rush through one call to get the next:

Poor Service: The first outcome is poor customer service. This may result in the caller feeling they weren’t heard, the agent jumping to a wrong conclusion, or the agent handling the call inappropriately. In each scenario, the result is failure.

Lower Revenue: The second outcome of rushing through a call is less time spent talking. If you bill by the minute this means reduced revenue. Now I would never suggest you train agents to stretch calls to boost revenue, but you should train them to take as much time as they need to appropriately respond to the caller while they’re on the line. This will allow the caller to receive great service and end the conversation confident their concern was addressed.

You’ll see improved service, along with a decrease in complaints, as well as an increase in billing. And all it takes is a reminderer to your agents to slow down and not rush through their calls.

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.

Freelance Writer: Need content for your TAS website or answering service newsletter? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Email Peter for more info.


You Lost Me at “How Are You?”

 By Kate Zabriskie

“Hi, this is Gerald calling from Acme Industries. How are you today?”

“Well, Gerald, I was a lot happier before you called and interrupted me. I’m behind with my project, and I’m too busy to leave my desk. Don’t call me again.”

The truth hurts, but it’s honest. Gerald blew it. He had an opportunity to win the ear of the person on the other end of the line, but he squandered it by asking a silly question.

Gerald probably won’t get another chance. Is there hope for Gerald and others just like him? Of course there is. Paying attention to three basic things will help improve your business-to-business calls:

Preparation: Invest an adequate amount of time to prepare for the call.

First, do you know what you offer? Can you use under twenty words of conversational English to explain that product or service?

Second, have you researched the people you plan to call? This doesn’t mean cyber stalking, but at a minimum you need to look for them in the usual places: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Also search for people by name and company, by name only, and by email address.

The third step in the preparation process is choosing a reason to call. The more specific it is, the more likely you are to get a thoughtful response.

Practice: Just as a skilled skater makes jumping, twirling, and other acrobatics look effortless, phone selling requires athlete-level discipline. What you say should roll off your tongue and sound natural. A perfect conversation starter will often sound stilted if it’s not practiced. Be prepared to work hard to sound unrehearsed. Role playing can be painful and unpleasant, but as the saying goes, no pain, no gain.

Patience: What if you follow the preparation and practice steps, and your first two calls are a bust? Not everyone is going to want to talk to you, and that’s their loss. If you have a good reason to call and you offer a product or service that might solve a prospect’s business problem, hold your head up and press on.

Keep dialing, improving, and learning from what works and what doesn’t, and do it with a smile and a good attitude. Lack of patience will get you no place you want to be. Practice and critique your performance and you will get better. If improvement isn’t happening fast enough for you, enlist someone you trust to provide feedback on your calls.

There’s no secret for better business-to-business calls, just hard work. With better preparation, practice, and patience everyone can improve their results one call at a time.

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. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Nate Gefvert Recognized with 2017 Allen Kalik Award

Nate Gefvert of Towne Answering Service received the 2017 Allen Kalik Award at the annual PINetwork User Group Meeting in Miami, Florida. The Allen Kalik Award was implemented in 2011 after the passing of industry leader and Professional Teledata’s president, Allen Kalik. Gefvert is the systems administrator at Town Answering Service. He joined Towne in 2004 and moved into his current role in 2009. He is an active member of the PIN Board, currently serving as secretary. In 2013, he served as vice president and in 2014 he served as president of the PIN Board.

Alston Tascom Announces Two Easy-to-Use Revenue Enhancing Products

Alston Tascom announced two new products: ADAM Outbound and Reply and Deliver. ADAM Outbound is an excellent tool for taking on outbound campaigns to offset the inherent idle times by offering outbound campaign calls to designated agents when they aren’t taking incoming calls. The built-in scheduler blends calls, adding the ability to keep agents busy during slow times. Reply and Deliver is a feature that allows call center customers to send a reply to the message sent to them via SMS or email with an option for them to close out the message.

Amtelco Introduces Intelligent Series v5.0

Amtelco introduced version 5.0 of its Intelligent Series (IS) suite of applications. The updated IS messenger interface incorporates multiple conversations into one window. The contacts page is used to select agents and supervisors for a new chat message. Agents can initiate a chat, refresh the screen, dock the IS messenger window, and view the IS messenger history. Amtelco also announced that the Genesis Intelligent Series solution and the Intelligent Soft Agent have successfully completed Avaya DevConnect Compliance Testing. The Genesis software switching solution provides an all-inclusive product based on the Intelligent Series suite of applications.

Alan Hartmann Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Alan Hartmann, director of software development for Professional Teledata, received the Maryann Wetmore Lifetime Achievement Award. Hartmann was presented with the award on June 29 during the awards dinner gala at the Association of Teleservices International (ATSI) 2017 Annual Conference. “Alan is a relentless advocate for our industry,” said ATSI president Doug Robbins. “His receipt of the Maryann Wetmore Lifetime Achievement Award is well deserved, and we thank him for his contributions.” Hartmann has forty years of software engineering experience. He oversees all product development of the Professional Teledata product line.

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


Quotes for the Month

“Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.” -Theodore Rubin

“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” -Lord Byron

“The dead batteries were given out free of charge.” -unknown

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Adjusting to Seasonal Traffic Fluctuations

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As we move into a warmer season, many telephone answering services experience increased call traffic during the summer months. But this bump in incoming calls is dwarfed by what many services experience at year’s end with the build up to Christmas.

Although we know these seasonal fluctuations in traffic will happen, it’s still challenging to make the appropriate staffing adjustments at the right time. Even knowing what will occur, many answering services struggle to hire and train enough new staff to be ready to take calls when these traffic increases materialize.

The result is being understaffed, which has two notable side effects. One is that staff is extra busy, and the quality of service suffers, resulting in more complaints and unnecessary cancellations. The other outcome is increased revenue that isn’t fully offset by increased labor costs, which results in increased profits. The effect of ramping up too slowly is both good and bad news: a welcome boost to income coupled with an unfortunate hit to customer service.

The opposite occurs as these seasons of high traffic wind down. If we fail to properly anticipate call traffic downturns, the result is being overstaffed. This serves to boost the quality of service provided to clients, which disproportionately keeps expenses high at a time when revenue decreases. Here the outcome is the opposite of the ramp-up period. This time service improves while revenue and income falter.

While these seasonal fluctuations catch new scheduling managers off guard, despite warnings to prepare, even seasoned professionals often fail to react fast enough. Of course, there’s always the concern of ramping up staff and not needing them as we move into times of anticipated traffic increases, as well as scaling back staff but still needing them when we expect to exit the season of higher call volume.

What’s the solution?

When headed into expected times of high traffic, the best recommendation is to start hiring and training sooner than we think we need to. Conversely, begin scaling back staffing schedules when the anticipated season of higher traffic is expected to end, not when the first signs of a decrease occur. If we wait for tangible evidence that call traffic is trending down, it’s already too late to react in time.

As we say, there’s never a dull moment in the TAS industry. Adjusting to seasonal traffic fluctuations is one reason.

I hope you have a great summer.

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 July 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Adjusting to Seasonal Traffic Fluctuations

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As we move into a warmer season, many telephone answering services experience increased call traffic during the summer months. But this bump in incoming calls is dwarfed by what many services experience at year’s end with the build up to Christmas.

Although we know these seasonal fluctuations in traffic will happen, it’s still challenging to make the appropriate staffing adjustments at the right time. Even knowing what will occur, many answering services struggle to hire and train enough new staff to be ready to take calls when these traffic increases materialize.

The result is being understaffed, which has two notable side effects. One is that staff is extra busy, and the quality of service suffers, resulting in more complaints and unnecessary cancellations. The other outcome is increased revenue that isn’t fully offset by increased labor costs, which results in increased profits. The effect of ramping up too slowly is both good and bad news: a welcome boost to income coupled with an unfortunate hit to customer service.

The opposite occurs as these seasons of high traffic wind down. If we fail to properly anticipate call traffic downturns, the result is being overstaffed. This serves to boost the quality of service provided to clients, which disproportionately keeps expenses high at a time when revenue decreases. Here the outcome is the opposite of the ramp-up period. This time service improves while revenue and income falter.

While these seasonal fluctuations catch new scheduling managers off guard, despite warnings to prepare, even seasoned professionals often fail to react fast enough. Of course, there’s always the concern of ramping up staff and not needing them as we move into times of anticipated traffic increases, as well as scaling back staff but still needing them when we expect to exit the season of higher call volume.

What’s the solution?

When headed into expected times of high traffic, the best recommendation is to start hiring and training sooner than we think we need to. Conversely, begin scaling back staffing schedules when the anticipated season of higher traffic is expected to end, not when the first signs of a decrease occur. If we wait for tangible evidence that call traffic is trending down, it’s already too late to react in time.

As we say, there’s never a dull moment in the TAS industry. Adjusting to seasonal traffic fluctuations is one reason.

I hope you have a great summer.

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

Freelance Writer: Need content for your TAS website or answering service newsletter? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Email Peter for more info.

 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.


Build a Strong Foundation to Produce Sales Success

By Janet Livingston

Selling is part of every telephone answering service business. And successful selling is required for the viable future of your TAS. Yet sales and marketing is an area many answering services struggle to address.

Sales success doesn’t just happen. It requires a plan, a strategy to help ensure positive results. Follow this four-step process to build a strong foundation to produce sales success.

Set a Goal: Your foundation starts with a goal. How many sales do you want to make each month? While the objective at too many answering services is to offset cancellations, this merely strives to maintain the status quo. The wise solution is to set a goal for net growth. This means after selling enough accounts to cover cancellations, how many more clients do you want to add each month?

When setting goals, follow the time-proven technique of making SMART goals. This helpful acronym reminds us to set goals that are strategic, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and timely. Start building your foundation for sale success by developing SMART goals.

Develop a Strategy: Next we need a strategy. Strategy is much more than hiring staff and placing ads. A wise sales strategy looks at process, accountability, and management. Strategy also addresses target niche markets, marketplace opportunities, and the areas of strength of your operations staff. Although developing a sales strategy is more involved than what we can cover here, these tips will get you started.

Build a Sales Team: The third step in building a strong sales foundation is team. Yes, successful sales require a team approach. The obvious members of your sales team are your sales staff. Other members include a sales manager to oversee the team, a marketing specialist to implement lead generation strategies, and possible support staff, which can include lead qualification agents, appointment setters, and logistical support. Though you can’t start with nothing and build your sales team overnight, this overview should give you a vision of what to aim for.

Generate Leads: The final element of building a strong sales foundation is leads. Too many answering services start with leads and try to work the rest around it. Instead, leads should be the final layer of your sales foundation.

You’re likely familiar with a sales funnel, where you pour leads into the top of the funnel and sales drip out the bottom, due to the work of your sales team. Having sales come from your sales funnel requires an adequate number of leads being fed into the top. The key is having enough leads to realistically meet your sales goal.

For example, assume you want thirty new accounts a month. Twenty of these are to offset cancellations, and the other ten are for growth. To keep the numbers simple, assume you close 10 percent of your leads. (Your TASs closing ratio will differ depending on the experience of your sales staff, the focus of your marketing, and the soundness of your strategy.)

This means that to hit your sales goal for the month, you need to feed 300 leads into your sales funnel to reasonably expect thirty sales to flow from the bottom and generate a growth of net ten. Knowing your target number of leads provides your marketing manager with a target to aim for when implementing marketing campaigns.

With these four layers of your sales foundation in place, your answering service is poised to grow and succeed. Happy selling!

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier telephone answering service consultancy, which helps clients grow their revenue. Contact Janet at contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or 800-901-7706.

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Bill Lane Joins Robertshaw Communications

Robertshaw Communications, a large privately held national contact center company, announced that William S. Lane, the former chief executive officer and president of Startel Corporation and Professional Teledata Corporation, has joined the company’s executive team, effective June 2017. Mr. Lane has extensive sales, marketing, and technology experience; he is widely respected in the contact center industry. “After nearly forty years of software development and customer service experience, Robertshaw Communications is the perfect opportunity for me to apply that expertise in the contact center market at one of the premier contact center companies. I look forward to contributing to an already incredibly diverse, skilled, and professional team,” stated William (Bill) Lane.

 Professional Teledata Announces Online Payment Processing Solution

ThePaymentPortal.com is a new payment processing option for Total Billing Solution 3 (TBS3) software. It’s a hosted, online, secure e-commerce site, allowing customers’ clients to manage their account.

Working with QOS Merchant Solutions, Professional Teledata offers this feature to users to pay bills online and view their account statements, invoices, and traffic history. The service optimizes the user experience by providing easy account management, custom branding, strong encryption, and flexible payment options. “ThePaymentPortal.com provides a secure and simple way for our clients’ end users to manage their accounts and pay bills online,” said Alan Hartmann, director of software development.

 John Carey Receives the 2017 Don Berry Award            

John Carey was named the 2017 Don Berry Award of Excellence recipient. The announcement was made during the annual Startel National User Group (SNUG) Meeting in Miami, Florida. “I had the immense pleasure of working with, and being mentored by my dear friend, Don Berry,” said Carey.

The Don Berry Award of Excellence was created in memory of Startel’s founder, Don Berry, with the purpose to honor individuals who gave themselves for the betterment of SNUG and the telephone answering service industry. Individuals who receive this award exemplify excellence in the advancement of SNUG and its members.

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


Quotes for the Month

“When a man is wrapped up in himself he makes a pretty small package.” -John Ruskin

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.” -Confucius

“The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.” -unknown

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What Types of Communication Do You Handle?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

You are in the telephone answering service (TAS) industry. Notice the word telephone. Surely your TAS focuses on telephone communications, but do you process more than phone calls? Should you do more? What are the ramifications if you do? What are the risks if you don’t? As communication continues to move to embrace other forms besides the telephone, should your answering service move to adapt?

These are questions to ponder. I leave them for you to contemplate, but you should contemplate them. Consider these options:

Email: It was about two decades ago when I began receiving more emails than phone calls. I suspect nowadays most everyone does. Email can easily overwhelm. Many entrepreneurs and busy executives have a virtual assistant or have tasked an employee to screen their emails, delete the span, reply to easy ones, and forward the critical ones.

This sounds like what we do with phone calls. Now let’s apply this skill set to email. Perhaps you already have.

Chat: Many people, especially the younger crowd, love chat services. They’ll send text messages all day long but will avoid making a phone call. If they have a customer service question, they’ll pick chat every time they can. As the population ages, more and more people will gravitate toward chat.

Answering services already have the needed customer service skills to handle chat. Maybe you’ve already taken the plunge.

Social Media: The most recent communication opportunity is in social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. For those on a social media platform, who isn’t overwhelmed with the deluge of communication.

For individuals this isn’t a big problem, but for businesses it is. Answering services can handle this problem, too. Possibly, you already offer this critical service.

If you take on these service opportunities, you theoretically move from a telephone answering service to a communications facilitator. While I don’t think our industry will rechristen itself as the communications facilitator industry, that could be a more apt description than telephone answering service.

Therefore, we will likely remain as telephone answering services even if communications facilitation is a better description of what we do.

Regardless of what you end up doing or what you call yourself, the key is to serve your clients well. That, after all, is what we’ve been doing since our inception.

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 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

What Types of Communication Do You Handle?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

You are in the telephone answering service (TAS) industry. Notice the word telephone. Surely your TAS focuses on telephone communications, but do you process more than phone calls? Should you do more? What are the ramifications if you do? What are the risks if you don’t? As communication continues to move to embrace other forms besides the telephone, should your answering service move to adapt?

These are questions to ponder. I leave them for you to contemplate, but you should contemplate them. Consider these options:

Email: It was about two decades ago when I began receiving more emails than phone calls. I suspect nowadays most everyone does. Email can easily overwhelm. Many entrepreneurs and busy executives have a virtual assistant or have tasked an employee to screen their emails, delete the span, reply to easy ones, and forward the critical ones.

This sounds like what we do with phone calls. Now let’s apply this skill set to email. Perhaps you already have.

Chat: Many people, especially the younger crowd, love chat services. They’ll send text messages all day long but will avoid making a phone call. If they have a customer service question, they’ll pick chat every time they can. As the population ages, more and more people will gravitate toward chat.

Answering services already have the needed customer service skills to handle chat. Maybe you’ve already taken the plunge.

Social Media: The most recent communication opportunity is in social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. For those on a social media platform, who isn’t overwhelmed with the deluge of communication.

For individuals this isn’t a big problem, but for businesses it is. Answering services can handle this problem, too. Possibly, you already offer this critical service.

If you take on these service opportunities, you theoretically move from a telephone answering service to a communications facilitator. While I don’t think our industry will rechristen itself as the communications facilitator industry, that could be a more apt description than telephone answering service.

Therefore, we will likely remain as telephone answering services even if communications facilitation is a better description of what we do.

Regardless of what you end up doing or what you call yourself, the key is to serve your clients well. That, after all, is what we’ve been doing since our inception.

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.

Freelance Writer: Need content for your TAS website or written materials for your answering service? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Email Peter for more info.


4 Tips to Build a Better Business Culture

By Jason Gazaway

In the May issue of TAS Trader the article “Who’s Protecting Your Business Culture?” looked at the importance of building a loyalty-enhancing culture for your telephone answering service. This month we will look at how to do that.

All businesses are different, but there are a few consistent factors that play into building and maintaining a solid business culture:

Trust: Without trust your business is on shaky ground no matter what. If you do not trust your employees and they do not trust your business, then how do you expect your customers to trust you and your services? Trust must be built, nurtured, and handled with care. If you feel there is a lack of trust within your business, sit down with your leadership team, or even some employees who have been there for a while, and figure out what needs to be done to build it.

Be Open: This bleeds over from trust. Communicate with employees. If you let them know where the business is at financially, project wise, future planning, or even business issues you are facing, then they are more likely to buy in and understand you want them to be a part of the business. Openness and honesty build trust. This also helps your employees squash rumors or negative statements that might come up that are not true.

Invest: Build into your employees. When you invest in something you expect to get something greater in return. It is a cycle. Your employees are an investment in your business. Yes, they get a paycheck, but if you want a greater return you must make the investment greater. Your employees want to know you have bought into them just as much as you want them to buy into your business. This could be through training, perks, time off, special events, a better work environment, and even listening to their opinions and acting on their recommendations. It is not always about money.

Celebrate: Applaud the wins of the business, as well as the wins of employees. Make it personal for them. When you make someone feel special, an attachment is formed and from this, appreciation is built. When an employee feels appreciated they will go out of their way to make sure the business, and its customers, are taken care of in the best way possible.

This can be done by celebrating individual sales goals, when a person or group finishes a big project, and birthdays or anniversaries. What about celebrating an employee who has not been doing well, but they turned things around or have made strides to get better? Maybe they are not where they need to be yet, but they have made significant improvements. How do you think celebrating the small wins will make them feel towards getting better and the business as a whole?

These are just a few ideas on how to improve your culture and make sure your employees are culture ambassadors for your business. The nice thing about having buy-in from your employees is that they will end up policing the culture and the business for you without you having to lift a finger. Just be sure to give the encouragement and create the environment for it.

Jason Gazaway is the growth manager for VoiceNation.

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

Telephone Answering Service News

WTSA Hosts Donna West Workshop

WTSA will host another Donna West workshop in Las Vegas, July 12-13. Donna loves teaching people at the supervisory level. “Supervisors don’t have a lot of educational choices. When they come to one of my two-day workshops they are so excited and just soak up the information. Nothing makes me happier than when I get an email from an attendee letting me know they tried something we talked about and it worked,” Donna said. “I’m looking forward to July’s workshop.”

2017 NAEO Update

The 2017 National Amtelco Equipment Owners (NAEO) Conference took place in San Antonio, Texas, March 12-15. More than 175 NAEO members attended the event. Kevin Beale, Amtelco’s vice president for software, research and development, presented “What’s New with Genesis—Simplify and Grow!” on Monday. This session shared updates about the Genesis Intelligent Series, MergeComm, miSecureMessages 6.5, and miTeamWeb developments. On Tuesday Greg Beale, Amtelco’s vice president for customer service, and Jody Laluzerne, customer service supervisor shared the best practices for maintaining the Infinity IS, Infinity system, and peripherals. Kevin Beale and Pat Dye hosted a question-and-answer session on the final day.

Amtelco Announces Enhancements to miTeamWeb Application

MiTeamWeb is a mobile-friendly Web application that extends the functionality of Amtelco’s suite of Intelligent Series (IS) call center applications across the enterprise and to handheld devices using a Web browser. The widget-based miTeamWeb screen provides access to status, messages, directories, on-call schedules, call log monitoring, and reporting in one convenient package for both desktop computer and mobile device users. Users can view and update their status, view and send messages, view directory information, and view and administer on-call schedules. With miTeamWeb, users are able to contact other users via a range of methods, including email, miSecureMessages, SMS text messaging, pager, fax, and Vocera messaging.

OnviSource to Support Multichannel and Cross-Channel Analytics

OnviSource integrated the Nuance Transcription Engine (NTE) for the OnviSource speech-to-text (STT) and transcription product, Captora™. Accurate speech-to-text conversion performed by Captora is crucial to OnVision’s text analytics, responsible for big data management, data mining, and trend analysis. Captora taps the power and accuracy of NTE to quickly transform massive amounts of voice and audio into text for rapid search and indexing by OnVision’s text analytics. OnVision™ captures, unifies, and analyzes data from the entire customer journey, including all systems and all multichannel customer interactions. The resulting actionable knowledge and trends are then used by OnVision’s decision-making engines for the automated launch of decisions and actions.

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


Quotes for the Month

“One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night.” -Margaret Mead

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.” -Eckhart Tolle

“The math professor went crazy with the blackboard. He did a number on it.” -unknown

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