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Don’t Be in a Hurry

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderLast 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

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderLast 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

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS Trader

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

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderAs 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

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderYou 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.

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The June 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

What Types of Communication Do You Handle?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderYou 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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Technology Versus People

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderTechnology is exciting—at least to me. I love technology and its application. We talk a lot about the technology we use to help our telephone answering services function more effectively and provide a greater array of services to clients. It’s hard to imagine processing calls without technology.

Yet without staff the best technology means nothing. Though the technology in our TASs is critical, the staff who use it is even more critical.

When we analyze our operation, it’s not our technology that makes us unique, it’s our staff. Other answering services can match our technology: computer for computer, application for application, and feature for feature. But no one can match our staff.

Yet the emphasis at too many answering services is the technology. These operations carefully investigate the options and pick the best one. They implement the technology, train their staff how to use it, and form marketing campaigns to reach a quick payoff for their investment and then generate a profit.

All the while, the staff at too many answering services gets whatever attention is left over, which, by the way, isn’t much. Too often staff seems expendable. Hire and train and then fire those who don’t work out.

Too many answering services have an embarrassingly high level of employee churn. Hire ten to find five good ones, one of which may actually work out for the long term. And frankly, some operations would view those numbers as good, but they’re not.

Working at an answering service is hard. Not everyone can do it. And some who could, don’t care to. The key is to discover this before hiring them, not after training them.

Just as we would never buy ten TAS applications and hope one would work out for the long term, we shouldn’t accept this when it comes to hiring staff.

Let’s stop accepting high employee churn as normal. Our employees are our strategic advantage. Let’s reimagine our staffing practices to reflect this reality.

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 May 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Technology Versus People

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderTechnology is exciting—at least to me. I love technology and its application. We talk a lot about the technology we use to help our telephone answering services function more effectively and provide a greater array of services to clients. It’s hard to imagine processing calls without technology.

Yet without staff the best technology means nothing. Though the technology in our TASs is critical, the staff who use it is even more critical.

When we analyze our operation, it’s not our technology that makes us unique, it’s our staff. Other answering services can match our technology: computer for computer, application for application, and feature for feature. But no one can match our staff.

Yet the emphasis at too many answering services is the technology. These operations carefully investigate the options and pick the best one. They implement the technology, train their staff how to use it, and form marketing campaigns to reach a quick payoff for their investment and then generate a profit.

All the while, the staff at too many answering services gets whatever attention is left over, which, by the way, isn’t much. Too often staff seems expendable. Hire and train and then fire those who don’t work out.

Too many answering services have an embarrassingly high level of employee churn. Hire ten to find five good ones, one of which may actually work out for the long term. And frankly, some operations would view those numbers as good, but they’re not.

Working at an answering service is hard. Not everyone can do it. And some who could, don’t care to. The key is to discover this before hiring them, not after training them.

Just as we would never buy ten TAS applications and hope one would work out for the long term, we shouldn’t accept this when it comes to hiring staff.

Let’s stop accepting high employee churn as normal. Our employees are our strategic advantage. Let’s reimagine our staffing practices to reflect this reality.

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 written materials for your answering service? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.

OnviSource Equipment for Sale: OnviSource system and many spare parts and pieces. Includes a brand new Portica VM. Tadiran switch (dual cabinet) with Coral Flexicom phones. Will sell as a complete package or by the piece. Please email PrimeTAS@aol.com for a complete list of available parts; pictures available upon request.

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.


Who’s Protecting Your Business Culture?

By Jason Gazaway

Yes, this is a loaded question. Every day we face choices, decisions, opportunities, attitudes, and a multitude of other factors that make it impossible to protect every aspect of your business culture.

You are not everywhere all the time to know what your answering service staff is saying or doing. That is impossible. Or is it?

Who is Your Brand Ambassador? In marketing, we use the term brand ambassador to describe someone who represents the business externally. This could be a customer, a partner, or a vendor. The list can go on. But what about inside the business? Are your employees’ brand ambassadors? Or better yet, are they culture ambassadors?

While you cannot be everywhere at all times, your answering service staff is. They are your business. They are your culture.

Now, stop and ask, “Do your employees understand the culture of the business?” If the answer is no, then you have a gaping hole in the protective barrier around your business.

Think about it. If your employees do not understand, or even know about, the culture in your business, how are they supposed to function in it? Or better yet, how are they supposed to protect it and fight for it, both internally and externally?

Employee Loyalty Equals Customer Loyalty: Why is this such a big deal? Every employee represents your business, whether they interact with your customers or not. Web developers do not interact with customers directly, but the customers interact with what your web developers create.

Your customers do not usually interact directly with your accounting manager, but if the numbers and money aren’t handled correctly, then the billing could be off and customers would be upset. Or what if your manager forgot to submit payroll? Then you have an uprising. Just think how that would affect your customers.

We have often heard, “Happy employees equal happy customers.” This is possibly true, but it might be better to say: “Loyal employees produce loyal customers.”

If your employees trust and believe in the business at its core, its culture, then they will fight for and protect the business, exerting the effort to treat and serve the customer in such a way that the customer can’t help but fall in love with, trust, and be loyal to the business. (Yes, some customers are just hard to deal with.)

But, if you create an environment and culture of teamwork, trust, mutual loyalty, and growth, then you will have a business your employees will want to be a part of, give themselves to, and go that extra mile for you and your customers, every day.

Jason Gazaway is the growth manager for VoiceNation.


Telephone Answering Service News

CCSP Fuzion Expands to Empower TAS Management

Call Center Sales Pro announced their new one-stop TAS management portal, CCSP Fuzion, is now system agnostic, working with all major TAS platforms. CCSP Fuzion brings all relevant TAS system information together to enable management and supervisors to quickly make informed operational decisions.

CCSP Fuzion was developed by Call Center Sales Pro, a team of industry insiders who understands the importance of timely data presented in easy-to-digest methods. “Today’s systems produce an array of detailed reports, but they are time-consuming to track down, merge, and make sense of,” said Janet Livingston, president of Call Center Sales Pro. “In the worst-case scenario, managers simply ignore the data.”

Everything TASs need to effectively gauge agent and operational performance is included in CCSP Fuzion. Built-in modules include message logs, customized agent QA (quality assessment) and report cards, agent productivity stats, scheduling data, and KPI and SLA metrics.

Learn more about Fuzion and view the informational video at fuzionme.com.

STA to Close June 30

It is with sadness that Southern Telemessaging Association (STA) announces the end of an era. At its last annual meeting, the STA board and members present voted to close the STA by the end of its fiscal year June 30, 2017. The difficult decision was made because of declining member participation. A final workshop and farewell dinner was held April 12, 2017 to allow members to celebrate the association and remember past meetings and friendships. The STA board encourages those in the southern region to continue to participate in ATSI and other regional events.

Maryellen Pruitt New Executive Manager of ASTAA

At the last ASTAA board of directors’ conference call, Dan L’ Heureux announced he would like to step down from his position as the executive manager. He is not fully retiring from the industry, just reducing his roles to spend more time with family. Dan recommended Maryellen Pruitt be considered as his replacement. After a telephone interview with Maryellen, the board hired her.

“Maryellen has been the executive manager of TUNe, also assuming that association’s management from Dan. She has worked with our own board member Gary Edwards, in that association as well,” said ASTAA president, Jim Reandeau. “I want to thank Dan for eleven years of service to our association and wish him happiness as he is about to enjoy more time for himself, his family, and less time on the road or airplane.”

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


Quotes for the Month

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” -Edith Wharton

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”-Malcolm Forbes

“When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.” -unknown

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Does Your Answering Service Use Social Media?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderOn our website, TAStrader.com, we have a TAS directory. (If your company isn’t listed and you want to be, please let me know. There is no cost.)

Presently we have 135 answering services listed. Of those 68 of them, just over half, have social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

  • Facebook is the most popular at 87 percent of those with a social media presence and 44 percent overall.
  • Twitter follows Facebook as the second most popular at 75 percent of those with a social media presence and 38 percent overall.
  • LinkedIn trails both at 65 percent of those with a social media presence and 33 percent overall.
  • In an interesting subset, 53 percent of those with a social media presence use all three, which is 27 percent overall. That means just over a quarter of answering services use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Based on this, I make the following observations.

Half Not Social: First, half of the answering services do not have a social media presence. Though social media takes time, it is important. At the very least, think of social media as a discovery vehicle that allows people to find you and then directs them to your website, your home base. In this analogy, social media serves as an outpost.

Facebook Most Popular, But is it Best? Next, Facebook is the most popular social media platform for answering services. However, this is likely because it’s the most common social media platform and the best understood. That doesn’t mean it’s the most effective. In fact, most people I talk to are frustrated with Facebook and wonder if it’s worth the effort.

Think Strategically: For driving traffic to your website, I think Twitter is far more effective. And if you work to actually interact with people and engage your audience on social media, LinkedIn—the social media platform for businesses—is where to invest your time.

Take Action: I encourage you to spend some time considering your social media strategy. Do you need to up your game? What changes should you make? How can you use social media to drive traffic to your website?

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 April 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Does Your Answering Service Use Social Media?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderOn our website, TAStrader.com, we have a TAS directory. (If your company isn’t listed and you want to be, please let me know. There is no cost.)

Presently we have 135 answering services listed. Of those 68 of them, just over half, have social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

  • Facebook is the most popular at 87 percent of those with a social media presence and 44 percent overall.
  • Twitter follows Facebook as the second most popular at 75 percent of those with a social media presence and 38 percent overall.
  • LinkedIn trails both at 65 percent of those with a social media presence and 33 percent overall.
  • In an interesting subset, 53 percent of those with a social media presence use all three, which is 27 percent overall. That means just over a quarter of answering services use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Based on this, I make the following observations.

Half Not Social: First, half of the answering services do not have a social media presence. Though social media takes time, it is important. At the very least, think of social media as a discovery vehicle that allows people to find you and then directs them to your website, your home base. In this analogy, social media serves as an outpost.

Facebook Most Popular, But is it Best? Next, Facebook is the most popular social media platform for answering services. However, this is likely because it’s the most common social media platform and the best understood. That doesn’t mean it’s the most effective. In fact, most people I talk to are frustrated with Facebook and wonder if it’s worth the effort.

Think Strategically: For driving traffic to your website, I think Twitter is far more effective. And if you work to actually interact with people and engage your audience on social media, LinkedIn—the social media platform for businesses—is where to invest your time.

Take Action: I encourage you to spend some time considering your social media strategy. Do you need to up your game? What changes should you make? How can you use social media to drive traffic to your website?

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:

OnviSource Equipment For Sale: OnviSource system and many spare parts and pieces. Includes a brand new Portica VM. Tadiran switch (dual cabinet) with Coral Flexicom phones. Will sell as a complete package or by the piece. Please email PrimeTAS@aol.com for a complete list of available parts; pictures available upon request.

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.

Writer for Hire: 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 or call 616-284-1305.


5 Reasons Why You Should Pursue Strategic Rate Increases

By Janet Livingston

Smart answering service managers make strategic rate increases each month, adjusting the rates of their least profitable clients. This is preferable to making annual across-the-board increases, which affect clients unevenly. And it’s certainly better than not doing any rate increases at all, which could move an answering service toward insolvency.

Here are five reasons why an answering service should pursue strategic rate increases each month:

1) Turn Unprofitable Clients into Profitable Ones: No matter how careful, your rate plans will never fully align with the actual work required to service an account. Therefore, some accounts on the same rate plan may be unprofitable, while others will be profitable. It’s not uncommon for up to half of an answering service’s accounts to be unprofitable, which the other half subsidizes. Identify the least profitable accounts and raise their rates to make them profitable. Now you have fewer unprofitable accounts and more profitable ones. Repeat this each month until every account is profitable.

2) Protect Profitable Clients: Some answering services do across-the-board rate increases. Though this seems fair, it actually penalizes already profitable clients by raising their rates even more. You don’t want to lose one of those clients. By only increasing the rates on unprofitable accounts, the profitable ones remain untouched.

3) Grow Revenue Incrementally: Increasing rates for some accounts each month means that every month the revenue from your existing client base will grow. Now increase rates on another group of accounts the second month, and a third group the third. But these aren’t increases that last for one month. Instead they are month-over-month improvements. A rate increase that produces an extra thousand dollars this month will produce an extra thousand dollars next month and every month after that, for as long as those accounts remain on service.

4) Condition Clients to Expect Rate Increases: Too many answering services are afraid to raise rates, so they keep existing accounts on old, lower plans. Periodically increasing charges prepares clients to expect rate adjustments when needed, which produces less fallout when increases do occur.

5) Maintain a Healthy Business: For a business to remain healthy, it must charge customers more than what it costs to provide service, yet too many answering services fail in this area. They persist in servicing some clients even though they lose money on them every month.

A healthy answering service should make money on every account, every month. And it takes strategic rate increases to make that happen. Don’t be afraid of raising rates. Embrace strategic rate increases as an essential element of being in business—and staying in business.

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.


Telephone Answering Service News

Pulsar360 Strategic Partners in the TAS Industry

Pulsar360, Inc., a provider of hosted cloud PBX and premised-based systems, SIP trunks, BCDR, and carrier services, received the Internet Telephony Product of the Year Award for 2017 and the Hosted VoIP Award of Excellence. “We are extremely honored and excited to be recognized two years in a row by Internet Telephony for our SIP trunking, PBX hosting, and premise-based PBX solutions,” stated Michael Dozier, president and CEO. “At Pulsar360 we are constantly innovating and improving our products to meet the demands of our clients and partners.”

Pulsar360 has experience serving the telecommunications requirements of SMB to enterprise business customers and the telephone answering service (TAS) industry, currently providing services to 120 TAS customers. They provide up to 20 percent burstable trunking to TAS clients at no additional charge, as well as trunk, DID, and toll free number redundancy. They operate four data centers, with redundant infrastructure for all their service offerings, and have a presence in five additional geographically dispersed data centers. In addition, they offer a business continuity disaster recovery solutions designed for the TAS industry.

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


Quotes for the Month

“Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.” -Andrew Carnegie

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” -Steve Prefontaine

“We’ll never run out of math teachers because they always multiply.” -unknown

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