Category Archives: Issues

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The April 2018 Issue of TAS Trader

Are You an Answering Service or a Call Center?

Though serving clients is the goal, what we call ourselves does matter

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderAsking if you’re an answering service or a call center isn’t a matter of semantics, it’s a matter of perception. And since perceptions drive behaviors, this is an important discussion to have.

First, let’s cover some definitions to establish our discussion’s foundation. In simplest form, a call center is a centralized place (at least conceptually) that processes telephone calls. With this perspective, a telephone answering service is a call center. However, a more practical understanding of an answering service is that it’s a company that takes messages for other businesses.

Historical Answering Services: Most all telephone answering services started out with message taking as their primary function, especially those that are more than a couple of decades old. Some TASs have held onto this mindset, pursuing an answering service model of taking messages and processing them according to client instructions. They don’t want to branch out and offer other types of communication services. Or maybe they tried to expand, but it didn’t work out, so they committed to sticking with what they knew.

Diversified Answering Services: However, other answering services diversified beyond this traditional understanding of answering services. They branched out to offer more services that relate to the telephone, and even more so, other forms of communications. This includes email, text, web chat, and social media. The distinction between answering service and call center blurs. For most, however, much of their business resides under the classical understanding of an answering service.

No Longer an Answering Service: Conversely, other answering services were so successful with their diversification efforts, that they more resemble a call center then an answering service. In fact, some have so embraced their diversification that they either sold their answering service client base or segregated them to a separate operation. In function, they have become a call center.

What’s Your Brand? In considering these three categories, I’ve seen providers of answering services that refer to themselves as call centers. I’ve also seen operations that offer call center services but still call themselves answering services. Some choose a label to show what they were, and others opt for a brand that foretells what they want to be. Of course, others adopt a name consistent with what they are now.

Regardless if you call yourself an answering service or a call center, it forms your self-perception. This reflects on what you do, the clients you serve, and how you brand and market yourself.

What do you want to be, an answering service or a call center?

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:

Need Blog Posts or SEO Help? 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. Also, we can handle your SEO. Email Peter for more info.

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 Brad Swift at brad@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.

TAS Directory: Promote your TAS for less than a dollar a day. Newly overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan for 2018. Should you list your answering service on FindAnAnsweringService.com? The answer is, “Yes!” Email Valerie to find out how.

Prepare for Family Business Quarrels

By Mitzi Perdue

There’s no such thing as a family business without conflict. At their worst, a quarrel can become a threat to everything the family business holds dear, including relationships, wealth, and position in the community. Seventy percent of family-owned businesses don’t make it to the next generation, and the biggest reason is family quarrels. To prevent disputes from getting out-of-hand, practice these six skills.

1. Agree That It’s Wrong to Move Disagreements Outside the Family: The experience of many family businesses shows that once a family starts down the road of a public dispute or litigation, the usual result is the end of the business. Positions harden, reason goes out the window, and it’s rare for the members of the business to change course. The family members need to know it’s morally wrong to cause this.

2. Let Family Members Know This Isn’t Just About Their Wishes: Any public acrimony in a family business often leads to the company’s failing. This threatens the well-being of innocent bystanders, including the company’s employees, stockholders, lenders, and even the tax base of the community. Members of family businesses need to know they have a responsibility beyond themselves.

3. Emphasize “Family First:” Family businesses are unlike regular families because in the tug of war between individualism and being a member of the group, there needs to be a different balance. Members of a family business have a different level of responsibility because their actions influence all the stakeholders involved with the business.

4. Put Relationships Ahead of Ego: Members of family businesses need to know there are times when they have a choice between getting their way and having a relationship. Being a member of a family business at times means sacrifice, which can mean giving up getting their way. However, in return they’ll get something of greater importance: the chance for the family legacy to continue and thrive.

5. Compromise is Key: Members of a family business need to listen to each other, and they need to avoid the temptation to “stand on principle,” which is a synonym for being stubborn. It means, “I’m not going to listen.” It shuts down discussion and stops the give and take needed for compromise.

6. Avoid Speaking in Anger: Angry words can be self-fulfilling, such as, disparaging someone’s competence or expressing preference for a sibling. A person may say something in momentary anger, but the person hearing it may remember those words for a lifetime.

Done right, the family and business will endure. Done wrong, the family business blows up. Practice these six attitudes to quell any family business dissent before it jeopardizes the health of the company.

Mitzi Perdue is the author of How to Make Your Family Business Last. A cum laude graduate from Harvard University and holder of an MPA from George Washington University, Mitzi draws from her direct experiences in two long-lasting family enterprises to assist businesses in preparing for lifelong success.

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

Telephone Answering Service News

Startel Releases CMC v14.1: Startel Corporation announced the availability of Startel Contact Management Center (CMC) v14.1. This release includes several new features and enhancements designed to maximize agent productivity and efficiency. Customers can expect a tighter integration with QGenda, allowing QGenda schedules to be configured directly within Startel administration controls. The client maintenance module now includes a find feature, enabling programmers to locate specific form features more quickly. New variables are now available for hyperlinks, including agent ID, agent first name, and agent last name, within client maintenance. Enhancements were also made to the Startel web portal and Startel dashboard.

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

Quotes for the Month

“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” -Albert Einstein

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” -Abraham Lincoln

“If you don’t pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.” -unknown

The March 2018 Issue of TAS Trader

Staff Communication is Key

Effective leaders take time to get input from their employees

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderOne of my goals when I ran an answering service was to provide the best possible headsets for my staff. After all, they spend all day on the phone, so voice quality, ease-of-use, and comfort are critical.

To pursue this, I always looked for a better headset. When a new model came out that boasted better technology or results, I wanted to test it. In most cases these trial headsets were as good as what we already had, so they ended up in a box in my closet, which I later moved to the trash. However, I would snag the least objectionable of them for my own use.

Since I used the phone sporadically during the day, headset comfort wasn’t a priority. And less-than-ideal voice quality wasn’t an issue either. What mattered was that my employees had the best.

However, after a couple years I discovered my staff had made their own conclusion about why my headset differed from theirs. They reasoned that I kept the best for myself and forced them to languish with old, subpar units.

Don’t Make Decisions in Isolation

At first this upset me. Then I figured out how to set the record straight. I asked one of our senior operators if we could swap headsets for the day. I wanted her opinion about which one was best.

With a smirk she handed me hers and put on mine. Leaving a smiling operator to do her work, I returned to my office. During her next break, she poked her head inside my doorway. She wasn’t smiling anymore. “I don’t like this headset—not at all.” She shook her head. “The audio’s lousy, and the band hurts my head.”

“Do you want to switch back?” I asked.

“Yes.” She nodded in enthusiasm.

Now it was my turn to smile. “My goal is for you and your coworkers to have the best headsets. It doesn’t matter what I use, because my work isn’t as important as yours.” I paused for dramatic effect. “So, do you think your headset is better?”

She nodded, and I handed her headset back to her. Beaming, she bounced out of my office.

From then on, whenever I tested a new headset, I made sure to check with an operator before making a final decision. If they liked it, they could use it. And if they didn’t, then I would. That stopped the grumblings about me having a better headset.

As an answering service owner or manager, it doesn’t matter if we make the right decisions for the right reasons, because if our staff doesn’t know what we’re thinking, they’ll likely assume the worst.

Effective managers communicate with their staff and seek their input.

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:

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 Brad Swift at brad@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.

 TAS Directory: Promote your TAS for less than a dollar a day. Newly overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan for 2018. Should you list your answering service on FindAnAnsweringService.com? The answer is, “Yes!” Email Valerie to find out how.

 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.


Should You Offer a Free Trial When Selling Answering Service?

By Janet Livingston

Some answering services offer a free trial to new clients. Others do not. Both camps are adamant about their reasons for making this decision. While there isn’t a right answer, it’s critical to carefully consider the pros and cons of each option, strategically picking the approach that best fits your business and business goals. Ask yourself these questions:

Will a Free Trial Show Confidence?

The implication in offering a free trial is that an answering service wouldn’t do so unless they had a high expectation that clients would stay on when the trial period ends. A free trial sends the message that the answering service can back up their verbal promises with verifiable action. This signals that the answering service means what it says about their service.

Will a Free Trial Make You Look Desperate?

The less a business charges for a product or service, the less value it possesses to clients. Sometimes giving something away for free carries a too-good-to-be-true vibe, even to the point of making a company appear desperate for sales. Some prospects may assume your service is so poor that you need to give it away to entice them to use it.

Will a Free Trial Open You Up to Abuse?

Yes, some people will take advantage of you. For this reason, you should be careful with your screening of prospects and be strategic about the structure of your offer.

Will a Free Trial Increase Your Bottom Line?

Offering a free trial will certainly provide you with more clients, but will it provide you with more paying clients? To be successful you must convert a high percentage of free trial prospects into paying clients.

A related concern is how long a client must remain on service to offset your costs in providing them with free service. For example, if they need to remain on service for one year, but on average cancel after nine months, then overall you lose money when you offer a free trial, which drags down your bottom line.

Will a Free Trial Devalue Your Offering?

When answering services talk about the excellence of their work, the quality of their staff, and the value of their processes, they send a strong message to prospects that they’re dealing with a top-notch provider. Their sales staff, website, and literature all back this up.

Many answering services worry that offering a free trial diminishes their assertions and offers a counterpoint to their claims. The concern is that all the talk of quality, and the costs to provide that quality, will be offset by offering a free trial.

Will a Free Trial Subtly Change Prospects into Clients?

When a salesperson works with the prospect, the goal is to get the prospect to say “yes” and become a client. Prospects either say “yes” or “no.”

However, when offering a free trial, a third option presents itself. When a prospect agrees to a free trial, they say “maybe,” stopping short of making an unequivocal commitment. When the trial period ends, they will likely continue using the service, sliding into client status without ever explicitly saying “yes.” It just happens.

Whether to offer a free trial is a tactical decision. When pursued strategically, either approach can produce positive results. So, make sure you choose the right path for the right reasons, and then don’t question your decision.

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or call 800-901-7706.

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Amtelco Introduces Intelligent Series v5.1: Amtelco announced version 5.1 of its Intelligent Series (IS) suite of call center applications at the annual meeting of the National Amtelco Equipment Owners (NAEO) users group in February. New features and enhancements include: Virtual Terminals for the SMS, SNPP, TAP, and WCTP contact methods; Genesis Just Say It IVR; Genesis Just Say It directory assistance; the miTeamWeb dashboard; the Intelligent Series two-way WCTP messaging interface; integration with Infinite Convergence Solutions, a new SMS text messaging aggregator; the Genesis meet me park; and auto attendant behavior.

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


Quotes for the Month

“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” -John Ruskin

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” -Jim Rohn

“A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.” -unknown

 

The February 2018 Issue of TAS Trader

How Many Names Does Your Answering Service Have?

Having multiple business identities for your TAS may be strategic or happenstance.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderNot that I expect many readers to notice, but did you see I made a small tweak to my byline? Instead of Peter L DeHaan it has become Peter Lyle DeHaan. There’s a reason for this. Let me explain

I’m working on some books for the TAS and call center industry. Though I have one finished, I need time to publish it. I planned on listing my name as Peter L DeHaan to distinguish this from other books I’ve written under the name Peter DeHaan, which focus on biblical spirituality. I want to keep these two areas separate, so as not to confuse—or frustrate—readers when they go searching for a particular book using my name.

However, I learned that when most people encounter authors with a single middle initial, they drop the initial. In my case Peter L DeHaan would become Peter DeHaan, thereby defeating my goal of using two different names. The solution, I understand, is to use two initials or a full middle name. Readers tend to not drop those. Therefore, all my writing for the TAS and call center industry now carries my middle name.

And to further complicate matters, I’ve written some young adult (YA) fiction, which I’ll publish under the pen name P D Haan. This means I’m one author, using three names, for three distinct topics, for three diverse audiences.

Why am I telling you this? Because answering services often do the same thing.

You may have one answering service, but for marketing purposes you use different names for different audiences. One example is having one name for medical clients and another one for commercial accounts.

In other instances, answering service names reflect a geographic location, such as a state or city: Answering Michigan, Answering Grand Rapids, or Answering Kalamazoo. (These aren’t actual TAS names. I know, because I just checked. But you get the point.)

Another multi-name scenario occurs when making acquisitions. For strategic reasons the new owner opts to keep the old name. This may be a short-term decision or a long-term strategy.

What I do know is that having multiple names complicates marketing. Whether you’re an answering service or an author, you need a separate online identity for each name that you use. For my three author brands, each one has its own website.

However, I stopped short of having separate social media pages for each name. That’s sheer madness. Maintaining multiple social media identities is a challenge. I know because I have a separate Facebook page and Twitter account for each of my publications. (And this is the point where I’m obligated to encourage you to like TAS Trader on Facebook and follow TAS Trader on Twitter.)

My decision to use three author names is strategic. I have a well-considered reason for doing so. The same thoughtful process applies to many multi-named answering services, too.

However, other answering services accumulated multiple names over time. These names now complicate their branding and their marketing. If this describes your situation, I encourage you to streamline your business names as much as possible. Phase out and redirect those old brands to one consistent, strong brand. It will make your life easier and your marketing and branding simpler to manage. You’ll be glad you did.

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:

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 Brad Swift at brad@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.

 TAS Directory: Promote your TAS for less than a dollar a day. Newly overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan for 2018. Should you list your answering service on FindAnAnsweringService.com? The answer is, “Yes!” Email Valerie to find out how.

 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.


Four Ground Rules for Successful Conflict Resolution

By Chris Ciardello

A major subject in many businesses is conflict resolution. Every office has conflict, but not every office handles it the same way. Here are four ground rules for successful conflict resolution.

Ground Rule #1: Each side must listen fully to the other side before responding. Often when one party explains something, the second party wants to justify their actions. There is nothing more frustrating when someone interrupts you, especially when trying to resolve a problem.

Instead the first person listens to everything the other person has to say. Then the second person can explain their side. This process repeats until both sides have sufficiently made their case.

Ground Rule #2: Identify the issues clearly, professionally, and concisely. Unless the issue is identified, a resolution cannot be found. This morning Betty came into work and snapped at Sally when she said good morning. The reason Betty snapped at Sally could be that Betty got a text from her son saying he forgot his homework. This has nothing to do with Sally, yet the frustration was taken out on her, which caused tension between them the rest of the day.

In some cases this kind of tension can slowly come to a boil, making it extremely important to have open communication with co-workers. You may not always know what is going on in another person’s life, so try not to jump to conclusions.

Ground Rule #3: When both parties meet to discuss their issues, they may only use “I” statements. “I felt ignored at the meeting this morning when I was trying to explain the details about Mrs. Jones.” Framing an issue you have with another person with an “I” statement helps to lower their defenses and move to a resolution.

“You” statements put people on the defensive because they feel their integrity is attacked: “You always leave your things in the breakroom,” or “You never take out the trash.” When someone gets defensive, they stop hearing. But when you bring the problem back to how it makes you feel, it lowers guards and a conversation can begin.

Ground Rule #4: The final and most important rule is: no personal attacks, name-calling or finger pointing. These are surefire ways to put the other person on the defensive. There is no room for this in a professional environment.

Having conflict in an office is okay; in fact, it’s actually healthy. However, preventing conflict from turning into heated confrontation is crucial to avoid division in an office. Everyone wants to work in a happy, peaceful environment, so it’s important to talk it out.

Chris Ciardello is a practice management consultant with Global Team Solutions. Passionate about sharing his expertise in technology and marketing, Chris has a distinctive knack for understanding the needs of office environments and assisting companies in building productive, cohesive teams. For more information visit www.GTSGurus.com.

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Global Messaging Network Launches the Attorneys Receptionist: Global Messaging Network, Inc. launched The Attorneys Receptionist, a five-star virtual receptionist service for attorneys, law firms, and legal professionals. “There are many benefits attorneys can leverage by using The Attorneys Receptionist service as a communications tool with current and potential clients,” said Edmond Cariolagian, chief operating officer, of Global Messaging Network. “We help busy attorneys, especially those who are proactively marketing their law firms, acquire leads and potential clients, at any time of the day or night.” The Attorneys Receptionist monthly service packages start at $239 per month.

Amtelco Tests Cox SIP Trunking: Amtelco and Cox Communications successfully completed interoperability testing of Cox’s SIP trunking services with Amtelco’s Genesis intelligent soft switch, the internet protocol (IP) based private branch exchange (PBX) capability of Amtelco’s Infinity platform, and the Telescan Spectrum Prism II platform. Cox SIP trunking is a scalable, IP trunking telecommunication solution that provides traditional telephony services. Cox SIP trunking calls are routed over Cox’s proprietary fiber-optic network, with guaranteed Quality of Service (QoS), rather than over the internet. To use Cox SIP trunking, Amtelco customers must maintain a separate business agreement with Cox Communications.

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


Quotes for the Month

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” -Bob Dylan

“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” -Leonardo da Vinci

“In a democracy it’s your vote that counts; in feudalism, it’s your Count that votes.” -unknown

 

The January 2018 Issue of TAS Trader

What Are Your Plans for This Year?

If you plan for nothing, that’s likely what you’ll achieve.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderI’m a big advocate of planning. I have a plan for each day and a plan for the week. I have a plan for the month and for each quarter. I also have a plan for the year. It’s not elaborate, but it is written down. It guides me in all I do.

Do you have a plan for this year? If you don’t, no worries. Start one today. If you follow it with care, you’ll finish the year strong. Here are some ideas to consider:

Grow Your TAS

Most answering service owners and managers want to grow their business. No one wants to command a sinking ship. And few people enjoy working for a business that’s just floating along. No, we want to watch sales and revenue trend upward.

Your growth goal can be a percentage or a net number of new clients. You can make it aggressive or stay conservative. The main thing is to pursue an increase in size. This isn’t because bigger is better, but for economies of scale and increased revenue.

Pursue Opportunities

Every leader is surrounded with opportunities. The problem is seizing them. Too often, especially in the TAS industry, the focus becomes on dealing with the day-to-day, leaving no time for tomorrow, let alone the rest of the year.

These opportunities could include pursuing a new market, making an acquisition, or investing in technology. It might be time to reorganize your business, streamline operations, or overhaul sales and marketing. You can’t tackle all these items. That would be impossible. However, you can pursue one or maybe two. But if you don’t make it part of your annual plan, it’s likely you’ll never get around to it.

Resolve Problems

Just as there are opportunities all around us, we also have problems. (I often euphemistically call problems, opportunities. Because they are.) Problems seldom go away on their own. Instead they fester, getting bigger and badder with time. Pick the largest problem facing your TAS, and make it your goal to eliminate that problem this year.

Hire Key Staff

Most answering services are in a constant state of hiring. Because of the need to keep a full schedule of trained employees, it’s hard to divert attention to mid and upper-level management concerns. But we must. Should you add a position? Do you need to find a replacement for one person, so you can later promote them? Is there some work you should offload to give you more time to lead, strategize, and succeed?

As you plan for this year, don’t get carried away. Keep it simple. Make it attainable. Then by years’ end you can take inventory and celebrate the great things you accomplished.

May this be your best year yet.

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


Classified Ads:

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

TAS Directory: Promote your TAS for less than a dollar a day. Newly overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan for 2018. Should your answering service be listed on FindAnAnsweringService.com? The answer is, “Yes!” Email Valerie to find out how.

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.

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 Brad Swift at brad@callcenter-salespro.com


Top Ten Tips to Lift Your Leadership

By Elizabeth McCormick

To enhance your abilities as a leader, begin with an intentional mindset to lift your leadership with these ten tips:

  1. Listen to Your Staff: It’s important to ask for input, and listen to what your team has to say. When your staff feels valued, it improves their personal connection and overall commitment to the desired results.
  2. Make Tough Decisions: Your employees may not like every decision you make, but don’t let that scare you into not making the right decisions. For any decision, do your research and get feedback from your staff. If you are able, explain your decisions diplomatically and address concerns.
  3. Delegate to Staff: Many leaders diminish their potential by hoarding tasks because of fear. Great leaders are great delegators. Empower your team with delegated tasks, while not micromanaging them. Also give them the authority to ask questions and get help if needed. People will surprise you when you trust them.
  4. Admit When You’re Wrong: Everyone makes mistakes, and leaders are no different. When you make a mistake, be upfront with your employees. Your honesty will help open better trust and communication.
  5. Show Appreciation: When your team members do good work, make sure you let them know you noticed. Appreciation goes a long way, and as you incorporate a culture of gratitude, your staff will reciprocate with loyalty and a job well done.
  6. Be Willing to Get Your Hands Dirty: The most successful leaders won’t ever ask an employee to do something they aren’t willing to do themselves. People have more respect for leaders who aren’t afraid to jump in to help.
  7. Mentor Your Staff: If you help your staff become more successful, the whole team will benefit. The more you invest into your employees, the more they will give in return. Lead by example in a mentorship role. Others will follow your lead. This creates a culture where upcoming leaders develop a mindset of helping others.
  8. Bond Through a Social Cause: To lead effectively, you need to be a part of the team. Start a new social cause as a teambuilding activity and make sure you lead the way. To add even more lift to your leadership, adopt a charity to support within your community and get away from the office where you can get to know your staff better.
  9. Let Employees See You Learn: Leaders are learners. Let your team observe you learning a new skill, reading a book, or studying information. Encourage them to do the same.
  10. Keep Meetings Short: Although necessary, meetings can be disruptive and non-productive, especially if nothing was accomplished. Meetings should have a specific purpose and agenda that involves everyone in the room. The more you respect the time of your employees, the more they will respect you as a leader.

Improving your capacity to lead takes intentional effort. These tips will help you focus on what matters most.

Elizabeth McCormick is a keynote speaker specializing in leadership, sales, and safety presentations. A former US Army Black Hawk Pilot, and author of The P.I.L.O.T. Method: The 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life, Elizabeth teaches instantly applicable strategies to boost your employees’ confidence in their own leadership abilities.

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Ron Violante Joins Szeto Technology: Szeto Technologies welcomed Ron Violante to its team. Ron has over thirty years’ experience in the TAS business as a sales representative and is familiar with the requirements that are needed in this industry. He is already well known within the TAS community with his knowledge and involvement in the answering service field. Based in Ohio, Ron began his new role December 2017. Charles and his team welcome Ron to their family and wish him success in his new role.

Pete Glihooly Joins Call Center Sales Pro: Call Center Sales Pro hired Pete Gilhooly as director of hospital call centers. In this new position he’ll finetune and rollout the organization’s operational model for hospital call centers. Janet Livingston, founder of Call Center Sales Pro, brought Gilhooly on boardto further advance the company’s already successful efforts in this market. “Pete is a natural fit with the Call Center Sales Pro team,” Livingston said. “He brings three decades of telecom leadership experience to us, the last fifteen of which focus on healthcare.”

Amtelco Employee Awards Announced: Steve Bormett, of the Field Engineering Department, is the 2017 recipient of Amtelco’s William J. Curtin Employee of the Year award. The honor, conferred annually at year’s end, is named in remembrance of Amtelco founder William J. Curtin II, and is the most cherished award available to Amtelco employees. Other employee awards include Administration Employee of the Year, Jordan Beale; Operations Employee of the Year, Ken Marty; Service Employee of the Year: Thomas Jimenez; TAS Salesperson of the Year: Tom Lindsay; and 1Call Salesperson of the Year: Joe Curtin.

ATSI Awards Gold Call Center Re-Certification to ASCO: ATSI announced that ASCO, dba Answer Quick, again received the Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification Award and has done so continuously since the program’s inception in 2001. Beth Cooper, president of Answer Quick, a division of ASCO, Inc, is a pioneer and founding member of the committee and continuing advocate of the entire certification program. The certification, which requires a physical inspection every three years, indicates that Answer Quick has met or exceeded high standards, focusing on a 99.9 percent annual run time.

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


Quotes for the Month

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” -Naguib Mahfouz

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” -Albert Schweitzer

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” -unknown

Pulsar360: full circle solutions

The December 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

How Fast Do You Put Accounts on Service?

Speed Can Be a Strength or a Weakness

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderHow long does it take you to put a new client on service? How long should it take? I’m sure you can answer the first question quickly. And I imagine there might be a bit of angst in considering your response to the second one.

In a culture where people don’t want to wait, there’s a pressure to respond quickly when a business wants to use your answering service. But does that pressure to react fast push you to go too quickly?

Consider these scenarios.

Fast Activation: When you have a new client, everyone’s excited. You’re happy for more business, and they’re eager to begin using your answering service right away. You assign their number, and they give you their information. So, let’s go!

Many answering services strive to put new clients on fast. Sometimes they’re even answering calls before all the information has been entered. At times staff can answer a new client without first reviewing it and not being able to see the details they need to serve them well. Other times they can’t. In the push for fast activations, attention to detail and quality may suffer.

Some answering services are too fast in adding new accounts. In their pursuit of speed, they sacrifice quality. Do you want your first impression with a new client to revolve around an error caused by going too fast?

Methodical Training: To counter the downsides of a fast-activation strategy, other answering services carefully program the account, review and test the information, and train staff. This can take days, even a week or more. But will the client tolerate waiting so long? Remember, they’re impatient. They said, “Yes,” to your sales offer, so they should be good to go. You painted a great picture for the quality you provide, and they don’t realize that good things take time.

>Some answering services are too slow in putting on accounts. The result is a delay that fails to impress your client. Is that how you want to begin your business relationship?

Just Right: There’s a middle ground that balances speed with attention to detail. What is it? One hour? By the end of the day? Within twenty-four hours?

There’s no right answer, but the solution is left for you to determine. Find a balance between going fast and being thorough. But don’t accept the status quo, either. Continually ask yourselves, “How can we improve?” Seek ways to do things both faster and better. But never sacrifice one in pursuit of the other.

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 Directory: Promote your TAS for less than a dollar a day. Newly overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan for 2018. Should your answering service be listed on FindAnAnsweringService.com? The answer is, “Yes!” Email Valerie to find out how.

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.

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 Brad Swift at brad@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.


Coping Effectively with Clients Who Behave Badly

By Kate Zabriskie

As providers trying to deliver a great experience to clients, answering services need to identify what they want and don’t want their clients to do and pinpoint what people and processes they can put in place to realize the desired results.

Take these steps to obtain better results.

Audit: Experience your business from your clients’ vantage. You need to understand what happens to them before you can encourage or discourage behaviors.

Encourage What You Want: Next, identify the actions you want your clients to take, and put people and processes in place to encourage those behaviors. Do you and your staff model this behavior yourself?

Invite Clients to Participate in the Process: Like anyone else, most clients are more willing to help you reach your service goals if you remind them of the mutual benefit of lending a hand. Let folks know what they can do to aid the common cause, and make it easy for them to do it.

Discourage What You Don’t Want: Beyond communicating your desired end and encouraging clients to participate in achieving it, you need to ensure that you and your staff are not working against yourselves by inadvertent enablement.

Create Alternatives: Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, clients continue to behave in ways you don’t like. While it’s not always possible to creatively accommodate these people, often it is. Whatever the solution, it should never berate clients or accuse them. Instead, keep the message positive.

Left up to chance, you get what you get from clients, but with an understanding of your clients’ experience and by making deliberate choices, you can influence how people behave.

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.

[This is adapted from Kate’s article “They Did What?” in Article Weekly.]

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Amtelco Introduces Tools to Ease Upgrades to IS and Genesis Platforms: Amtelco updated their Intelligent Series Transformer data portability utility. The Intelligent Series (IS) Transformer is a set of tools that transfer information from external sources to the IS database and from the IS database to external destinations. Each transformer tool runs in its own window within the IS supervisor application. The transformer tools are packaged in two optional features: IS Transformer Directory/Data and IS Transformer Client/Agent. For more information on IS Transformer, contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148, info@amtelco.com, or visit callcenter.amtelco.com.

Alex Karanau Joins Call 4 Health as CIO: Call 4 Health hired Alex Karanau as their new chief information officer. With fifteen years of IT experience, including system administration, software engineering, and management, Alex provides leadership for an innovative, efficient, and secure IT environment at Call 4 Health. Prior to joining Call 4 Health, Alex worked as a consultant for small to medium size businesses and was a technical lead for numerous projects in a multibillion-dollar hospitality-company. Alex graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and maintains certifications from leading IT providers.

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


Quotes for the Month

“People forget years and remember moments.” -Ann Beattie

“I have found that if you love life, life will love you back.” -Arthur Rubinstein

“A will is a dead giveaway.” -unknown

The November 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Be Thankful for Your Staff

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderWe will celebrate Thanksgiving Day next week in the United States. And our friends to the north celebrated it last month. Aside from having a day off from work—not that anyone in the answering service industry ever gets a day off, especially holidays—Thanksgiving is a time for us to think about things we’re thankful for.

Top on most people’s list is family and friends. Other items might include our business or job. For most of us who work in the answering service industry, this implies we’re thankful for our clients who provide revenue and our staff who serve our clients.

Where would we be without our staff? This fall let’s take time to thank our employees for all the work they do to handle our clients’ communication needs and keep our business open.

Thankful Minds: We start with the realization that without our answering service staff, we would have no business to run and no clients to serve. Without our staff, we’re nothing. Even though we deal with staffing issues and employee problems from time to time, the reality is that our staff is essential to all that we do. Instead of complaining about errors, attendance, and attitudes, we should develop a perspective of thankfulness. Let’s focus on the positive elements of our employees, because they give us much to be positive about.

Thankful Words: Once we have adjusted our outlook to be thankful for our staff, we need to let them know what our mind is thinking. We must take time to thank them for their work. While some managers feel there’s no need to thank employees for merely showing up and doing the job they were hired to do, that’s an old-school perspective. We need to take time to tell our staff we appreciate them. Thank them for coming to work. Thank them for trying to always do their best. Thank them for trying extra hard on a difficult phone call we’d have surely hung up on. Thank them for smiling most all the time. A simple word of thanks can go a long way in helping our employees feel appreciated.

Thankful Actions: Having the right attitude and saying the right words is a great start. But let’s build upon our thankful words with thankful actions. What actions can we do to show our thanks? While there’s no single right answer, there are many possible ideas. For some people a handwritten note or thoughtful card means a lot. For other people a bonus in their paycheck or even an envelope with cash speaks volumes. How about having a party just because? (Of course, we’d never have a party on Thanksgiving. Let’s save it for when the call traffic returns to normal.) Being publicly recognized goes a long way with others. What about a small gift, even a trinket, that reminds them—every time they look at it—of how thankful we are for them and their work?

We can use the celebration of Thanksgiving as a reminder to be thankful for our staff. Yet what we do in this season, we should carry over throughout the whole year. We need to be thankful for our staff and the work they do 365 days a year, 24/7.

When was the last time you thanked your employees?

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:

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. 

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 Brad Swift at brad@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.

TAS Directory: Promote your answering service on FindAnAnsweringService.com. For less than a dollar a day, you can’t miss. Join other industry leaders on this newly redesigned TAS locator site. Email Valerie for details.


The TAS Industry Responds to Help Its Own

By Lina Cunningham

The past couple of months we have been hit hard by hurricanes, earthquakes, and natural disasters, as well as some not-so-natural gunmen tragedies. My heart goes out to all of those and their families who have been affected by these devastating circumstances.

Following hurricane Harvey, NAEO pulled together with the help of CAM-X and ATSI members, to raise funds for those in need, by establishing the NAEO Relief Fund. NAEO offered to match all donations up to 10,000 dollars. The contributions flooded in.

The relief fund’s mission is to provide financial assistance to needy employees of TAS industry companies who experience a natural disaster or suffer unexpected personal hardship. In a very short time we raised $44,500, and we received twenty-two applications for assistance.

After reviewing some very heart-wrenching stories from applicants, we are humbled to announce that all twenty-two requests were granted. Each recipient received the maximum disbursement amount of $1,500.

I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all who made donations. A big thank you goes out to the Maryann Wetmore Foundation for a generous $10,000 donation. I would also like to give a special “Thank you” to CAM-X members and Linda Osip who participated in a challenge that helped raise $11,573.84 CAD. Combined with the individual donations made on the NAEO website and the contribution matched by NAEO, our expectations were pleasantly exceeded.

I know these donations will be put to good use and are very much appreciated by the recipients. I’m proud to be a part of a group of people who care so much for each other. Thank you all.

If you would like to donate, it’s not too late.

Lina Cunningham is the NAEO president, 2017.

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Call Center Sales Pro Taps Chris Calhoun as VP of Operations: Call Center Sales Pro announced that Chris Calhoun has joined their team to fill the newly created position of vice president of operations. In this role, Calhoun will focus on optimizing the company’s infrastructure to maximize staff effectiveness to better serve clients. Janet Livingston, founder of Call Center Sales Pro, brought Calhoun on board to provide added structure to her mission to serve the call center industry. “Chris brings the leadership and team-building skills to the table that will allow us to better scale Call Center Sales Pro,” Livingston said. “This will enable us to provide more services, products, and innovations to the call center and contact center industry.” Calhoun added, “I look forward to bringing my thirty plus years of leadership, management, and systematic approach to human performance to the Call Center Sales Pro team.”

Amtelco Announces miSecureMessages Version 6.6: New features in miSecureMessages (MSM) version 6.6 were developed in collaboration with members of the miSecureMessages Certified Partner program and MSM app users and are designed to make it easier to use. These include contact importing, email registration, password expiration and reset, personal circle, fingerprint scanning, and more group settings. Many system settings are configurable on a per-group basis allowing device-to-device messaging, registration type, default notification attempts and interval, and the IS web settings.

OnviSource Rolls Out ia.Enterprise: OnviSource announced ia.Enterprise, a new generation of customer experience management (CXM) and business process automation (BPA) integrated solutions. It’s driven by intelligent automation capabilities. The solutions automate the customer journey including the steps before, during, and after customer engagement. “We are experiencing an emerging customer environment that is connected, mobile, and demanding, challenging enterprises to better understand their customers’ demands, behavior, and sentiment to positively manage their customers’ experience,” said Ray S. Naeini, CEO and chairman of OnviSource. Several ia.Enterprise solutions have been deployed and are in use by OnviSource customers.

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


Quotes for the Month

“The highest result of education is tolerance.” -Helen Keller

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The October 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Responding to Industry Consolidation

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS Trader

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.


Classified Ads

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 Brad Swift at brad@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).

Brad Swift Joins Call Center Sales Pro

Brad Swift joined Call Center Sales Pro as national sales manager. “I’m ecstatic to have a person of Brad Swift’s caliber join our team,” said Janet Livingston, president. “Brad will provide additional structure to our sales and marketing efforts, which will allow me to serve our clients even more effectively.”

“I’m excited to join the Call Center Sales Pro team,” said Swift. “I look forward to helping telephone answering services grow, improve, and realize greater success.” Swift has a career of experience in the industry, including having spent eighteen years with Amtelco.

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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The September 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

What’s Your Exit Strategy?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderIf 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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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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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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