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The November 2018 Issue of TAS Trader

How Often Do You Thank Your Answering Service Staff?

This Thanksgiving Seek Effective Ways to Show Appreciation to Your Front-Line Employees

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderThanksgiving will soon be here. For many people that means a four-day weekend. There may be a grand feast with family, watching a parade or football game, and perhaps a nap. Then there’s Christmas shopping on Friday—or Thursday afternoon for those who can’t wait. Later in the weekend, some will put up Christmas decorations and others will go to a movie. Traditions vary, but for most people Thanksgiving is a break from work.

Not so for those in the answering service industry. Quite possibly Thanksgiving weekend means four days of work. Given the theme of the holiday, being thankful, let’s look for ways to thank staff who will spend time working when most other people aren’t. Some bosses do a great job at this, others not so well, and a few don’t even think about it. Here are some ideas to say “thank you” to your staff.

Use Words: Sometimes the simplest of ways is the best way. Just look each employee in the eye, and say “thank you for all you do.” It can mean a lot. I once had a boss who personally handed out paychecks each payday. Though not the most personable guy, he made a point to say “thank you” as he gave each of us our check. That was thirty years ago. I still remember it.

Give a Card: Cards are nice too, but to have maximum impact, don’t use the premade kind with flowery sentiment and your printed signature. Instead handwrite a short note of sincere appreciation, say thank you, and sign it. For increased impact, include a gift card or cash.

Do Something Special: As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” What action can you do to show your appreciation to your answering service staff working on Thanksgiving? Maybe you could drop off a treat for them to enjoy during break. How about a small gift awaiting each one when they come into work? Come up with something creative you can do for your staff, and it will have a huge impact.

Avoid the Cliché or the Routine: Some companies give frozen turkeys to their staff on Thanksgiving, and others have practices that have become expected but carry little meaning. Phase out the old, tired convention and replace it with something fresh and new that will have employees buzzing.

Continue Year-Round: Though we think of being thankful this time of year, don’t restrict your appreciation of your staff to one weekend. Continue to thank them and show your appreciation for the hard work they do throughout the year.

Yes, this takes effort and is time-consuming, but so is hiring and training new staff when your existing employees quit because they don’t feel appreciated.

May you and your staff have a happy Thanksgiving.

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

Great Domain Names for Sale: LocateAnAnsweringService.com, a bargain at $247. LocateACallCenter.com, just $897. Outsourcezine.com, only $697. More info or email Peter DeHaan for details.

Answering Service for All Businesses: A Courteous Communications Orlando, Florida. We specialize in 24-hour answering service for medical, order taking/processing, and most all types of businesses. ATSI Award of Excellence recipient 5 years. Contact: 800-785-6161, Doris@courteouscom.com, www.courteouscom.com.

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

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


Hastings Humans Celebrates Seventieth Anniversary

Virtual Receptionist Company Continues to Provide the Human Touch

In 1948 Ann Hastings answered her first call for a business from an extension telephone sitting on her kitchen table. This was the start of her telephone answering service business. Over the years the business continued to grow and is now a highly respected nationwide provider of live telecommunication services for businesses of any size and type.

After serving as a captain in the Army in World War II, Clint Hastings and his wife, Ann, moved to Austin on East 17th Street so he could go to the University of Texas on the GI Bill. Ann wanted to start a family and was looking for a way to work from home to raise some income. She heard of something called telephone answering service. So she started with one phone and one customer. After six months she had three customers and a monthly revenue of 30 dollars.

Ann’s business grew as word spread about her kind, warm, and efficient service. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the company resided at multiple locations in the Austin area. By the mid-80s, the company moved to their present location, 11th and Shoal Creek. About that time Ann and Clint passed the business on to their sons, Mark and Scott. Originally known as Austin Answering Service and then as Hastings Telephone Answering Service, in 2014 the company changed its name to Hastings Humans to better reflect the true benefit of its services—the human touch.

And while Hastings Humans still operates as an answering service, they now utilize the latest technology to meet the expectations of their customers more efficiently. Among the services they now offer include virtual receptionists, dispatching service calls, capturing sales leads, and tier 1 tech support.

All the services Hastings offers build upon the strengths developed over seventy years, such as their expertise in customer service and their ability to respond to the needs of businesses of all types. Hastings continues to invest in technology and expand its commitment to customer service.

Over thirty-five women and men are employed at Hastings Humans. They handle more than five-thousand calls each day, with an accuracy rate exceeding 99.99 percent. Hasting Humans has earned the Association of Teleservices International’s Award of Excellence for twenty-one consecutive years.

As president and co-owner, Mark Hastings says, “We’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. And we continue to see that it is necessary to involve people in business transactions. We will continue to keep our eyes on the needs of our customers, now and in the future.”

Is your answering service celebrating a milestone anniversary? Fifty years, sixty, or seventy? How about seventy-five, eighty, eighty-five, ninety, or more? Email us your news so we can celebrate your longevity with the rest of the industry.


Telephone Answering Service News

Ron Violante to Focus Attention on Pulsar360: Ron Violante announced that he will rep exclusively for Pulsar360. Last year, Violante began representing Szeto Technologies in addition to Pulsar360. Though this was not a conflict of interest, and Violante was able to fully represent both companies for maximum results, it did cause confusion among some members of the industry. To remove any possible concerns that some people may have, Violante decided that going forward he will rep exclusively for Pulsar360. In addition, Violante will continue with answering service acquisitions, where he assists buyers and sellers to put together mutually beneficial transactions.

Amtelco Enhances IS Transformer for Easier Upgrades: Amtelco adds the Dial String Import Wizard to the Intelligent Series (IS) Transformer Client/Agent, a set of tools that transforms information from external sources to the IS database. The Dial String Import Wizard helps with mass transformations of Infinity dial strings to IS client fields, info pages, and contact methods. Dial strings can be imported from the Infinity system list and individual accounts or all accounts. The dial string values can be modified in the dial string import wizard before being transformed into IS without changing the dial strings in Infinity.

Amtelco Introduces Intelligent Series Version 5.3: Amtelco Intelligent Series (IS) v5.3 adds new features, many of which were developed in collaboration with Amtelco customers. Version 5.3 moves voicemail from Infinity to IS for use with the Genesis system. Other key features allow for reassigned parked calls to go to another ACD skill, auto answer greetings play to callers while waiting for an agent, and the conference join and patch call states now include call recording capability. In addition, the IS supervisor application dashboard includes controls to allow users to configure multiple dashboard layouts, filled with a choice of widgets.

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


Quotes for the Month

“The happiest is the person who suffers the least pain; the most miserable who enjoys the least pleasure.” -Jean-Jacques Rousseau

“It’s a rare person who wants to hear what he doesn’t want to hear.” -Dick Cavett

“You are stuck with your debt if you can’t budge it.” -unknown

The October 2018 Issue of TAS Trader

Why Do Some Answering Services Grow While Others Struggle?

5 Key Contributors to Answering Service Success

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderOver the years I’ve seen some answering services get larger, while others didn’t. Before we attribute the difference to bad timing, being in the wrong place, or poor luck, let’s consider some characteristics that can contribute to answering service success. This isn’t a scientific analysis or a guaranteed checklist. Instead it’s a list of key characteristics that will help tip the balance in favor of growth, profits, and quality.

1. Strong Leadership and Management: Does an answering service need a leader or a manager? It requires both. A leader plans for tomorrow, while a manager handles today. Having one without the other leads to an imbalance in the operation and promotes frustration among staff and clients.

2. A Capable Management Team: When an answering service starts from nothing, the owner needs to wear many hats. However, for existing answering services, having one person attempt to handle everything is a bad idea. They’ll end up neglecting something critical.

That’s why it takes a team to run a telephone answering service. As the answering service grows, the number of people on the team grows with it. Two common mistakes answering services make are growing the team too slowly and growing it too fast.

3. No Weak Links: It takes several departments for a successful answering service. Operations is the biggest. Also needed is sales and marketing, accounting, and technical. A strong leadership administrative team holds them all together. Each of these units must pursue excellence in all they do. There can be no weak links, or the answering service will struggle.

For example, if operations produces high-quality work but sales doesn’t add enough new accounts, it doesn’t matter how good the quality is because there won’t be enough accounts to serve. Conversely, if sales and marketing adds new clients fast, but poor quality and customer service drive them away faster, it’s a losing situation.

4. Attention to Details: Details matter. It matters whether you’re taking a message, programming equipment, setting up a client, sending an invoice, or leading a team. Doing 90 percent of the job isn’t good enough. It requires 100 percent to achieve success.

5. Industry Involvement and Networking: Too many answering services try to function in isolation. They don’t attend industry events, network with other answering services, or work to make the industry better. They toil in isolation, hoping they can figure everything out on their own. And even if this does work, it won’t work as well as if they had regular input from others in the industry to encourage them with new ideas and provide motivation. Though some answering service owners and managers may claim they don’t have the time or the money to get involved, the truth is they can’t afford not to.

Conclusion

Following these five tips may not guarantee answering service growth and success, but they will certainly place the answering service in a better position than had you not pursued them. Look at your answering service operation through the lens of these suggestions. Then determine what area needs attention and seek to improve it. If you do, you could very well end up realizing the growth and success that you seek.

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:

Great Domain Names for Sale: LocateAnAnsweringService.com, a bargain at $247. LocateACallCenter.com, just $897. Outsourcezine.com, only $697. Or make an offer. More info or email Peter DeHaan for details.

Answering Service for All Businesses: A Courteous Communications Orlando, Florida. We specialize in 24-hour answering service for medical, order taking/processing, and most all types of businesses. ATSI Award of Excellence recipient 5 years. Contact: 800-785-6161, Doris@courteouscom.com, or www.courteouscom.com.

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

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

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. Should you list your answering service on FindAnAnsweringService.com? The answer is, “Yes!” Email Valerie to find out more.


Getting Chat Service Right

By Kate Zabriskie

Providing exceptional service via chat involves more than simply choosing a technology platform. Chat is a distinct communication channel with its own set of rules. Organizations that implement a chat system need to prepare their service representatives to use it effectively.

Follow these seven steps for successful chatting.

Step One: Determine who on your team is well suited to serve customers online. Chat service providers should type fast and accurately and have a good grasp of spelling and grammar.

Step Two: Identify some rules to guide chats. You should know the answers before your reps start typing.

  • How many chats should an agent handle at once? (In the beginning, nobody should attempt more than one, and even experienced agents shouldn’t divide their attention among more than three.)
  • What topics can and can’t be addressed via chat? Depending on the industry, regulations may limit what reps can and can’t say.
  • When will you move customers to a different mode of communication if chat isn’t appropriate?

Step Three: It’s important to think about what messaging looks like before rolling out the chat platform.

  • How should a chat start if a customer has already shared information?
  • What words and phrases align with your brand?
  • What words and phrases should providers avoid?
  • How should representatives address angry or frustrated customers? In what way should greetings differ?

To gain insight, visits sites that use chat. Think about each experience: what you liked, what you didn’t, how you felt, and so forth.

Step Four: Be prepared for the obvious. Reps should know how to handle the top twenty or thirty customer requests without having to reference a lot of documentation. Consistency is essential. This is especially true when it comes to the basics. Use roleplaying that addresses common inquiries.

Step Five: Determine the extent to which you wish to use canned responses. Pre-written text has its plusses and minuses. On the plus side, it’s quick and has been proofread. Yet canned text can sound canned. Furthermore, representatives sometimes choose pre-written responses that don’t address a customer’s situation.

Canned text should sound conversational. It’s supposed to be a dialogue. One way to help maintain a conversational tone is to keep your text short. Long sentences usually produce an unnatural feel.

A good place to source potential pre-written responses is from your reps’ actual chats. Some people have a natural gift for chat. Why not tap their strengths and skills?

Step Six: Learn from your failures and successes. As with any service interaction, chat can go well, or it can go poorly. The key is monitoring, course correcting, and standardizing success.

Regularly review chats. The more methodically you evaluate your chats, the quicker you will capitalize on what works and eliminate what doesn’t.

Step Seven: Chat training is not a one-and-done activity. Needs change, technology evolves, and staff turns over. Ideally, focus on one or two best practices a week, evaluate pre-written text twice a year, and spot check transcripts daily.

Chat is no longer a novelty, and more customers expect their service providers to offer it. No matter where you are in the chat-implementation process, there’s always room to improve the way you connect through a keyboard.

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.


Telephone Answering Service News

Sorry, we have no new news to share with you this month.

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


Quotes for the Month

“That man is richest whose pleasures are cheapest.” -Henry David Thoreau

“Knowledge is love and light and vision.” -Helen Keller

“A grenade fell onto a kitchen floor in France and resulted in Linoleum Blownapart.” -unknown

The September 2018 Issue of TAS Trader

How a Mystery Caller Program Can Benefit Your Answering Service

Receiving Independent, Third-Party Feedback Is the Most Valuable Information You Can Get

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, publisher of TAS Trader

As a writer, I’m a big fan of constructive feedback. Sometimes it’s affirming and other times it’s discouraging, but when it comes from a credible source it’s always beneficial. The same applies to the answering service industry. Receiving independent, third-party feedback about service quality is always beneficial.

Regardless if it’s praiseworthy or agonizing to hear, it provides the means to celebrate what’s good and improve what falls short. Just as smart writers are always open to receive credible feedback, so too should smart answering services.

Although client testimonials are gratifying, they certainly don’t give a balanced view. Online reviews have the potential to address both the good and the not so good, but these are seldom balanced either. They often provide extreme views that are neither helpful nor useful.

That’s where a mystery shopper comes in. A mystery shopper for your answering service provides valuable insight from an outside source. Though you could hire someone to be a mystery shopper, the results may be skewed because you’re picking up the tab. A better solution is to contract with an organization that provides the service and where the evaluation is done blind, without knowledge of which answering service they’re analyzing.

Enter the Independent Mystery Caller

The ATSI Award of Excellence program and the CAM-X Award of Excellence program both function the same way. They place mystery calls to your answering service, evaluate the results, and present a composite score that reflects overall quality. It’s the most valuable input your answering service could ever receive.

Though you may think that one program is enough, they cover different times of the year. This means that by tapping both the ATSI and the CAM-X offerings you can enjoy year-round evaluations, as well as detailed feedback twice a year, instead of just once.

(And for those providers that have moved beyond the traditional answering service clientele, there are two advanced options to consider. One is the CAM-X Call Centre Award of Distinction and the other is the ATSI Call Center Award of Distinction. Both are worth pursuing.)

The Winner Is…

Answering services that meet the quality benchmark standard in the Award of Excellence programs are honored as an Award of Excellence winner for that year. This is the most reliable mark of answering service quality available in the industry. Those who have one these awards operate at a different level than those who don’t.

However, just by participating in these programs, makes answering services a winner, even if they fall a bit short of the expected results. This is because the feedback from the program is invaluable. Applying the evaluators’ analysis of the mystery callers lets answering services know what to work on to increase their level of quality. This allows them to pursue and achieve year-over-year improvement. Both the answering service and their clients benefit.

Last, though this may offend some, I truly hope it serves as motivation: the only ones who lose in the Award of Excellence programs are those that don’t participate.

May this year be the year your answering service’s quality becomes the best it’s ever been. Participating in an Award of Excellence program can help you get there.

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:

Great Domain Names for Sale: LocateAnAnsweringService.com, a bargain at $247. LocateACallCenter.com, just $897. Outsourcezine.com, only $697. More info or email Peter DeHaan for details.

 Answering Service for All Businesses: A Courteous Communications Orlando, Florida. We specialize in 24-hour answering service for medical, order taking/processing, and most all types of businesses. ATSI Award of Excellence recipient 5 years. Contact: 800-785-6161, Doris@courteouscom.com, www.courteouscom.com.

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

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

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. Should you list your answering service on FindAnAnsweringService.com? The answer is, “Yes!” Email Valerie to find out more.


Stop Falling Behind Your Competitors

7 Steps to Gain a Competitive Advantage

 By Brad Wolff

If you find your business falling behind, follow these seven steps.

  1. Employee Alignment: When a significant percentage of duties performed by employees don’t fit their innate characteristics or core nature, they won’t perform well. Peter Drucker said, “A manager’s task is to make the strengths of people effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.”
  2. Create a Culture of Personal Growth and Development: Personal growth results in professional growth. It increases the capacity to handle life challenges, accomplish long-term goals, and work well with others. Personal growth and development include an increased awareness of self and others, the ability to manage one’s ego, the ability to manage emotions, and the development of innate talents to maximize productivity and effectiveness. These are fundamental character traits of success.
  3. Align Employees with Mission and Vision: Human beings have an innate need for meaning and purpose. This means they care about how their efforts affect the world outside themselves. Engagement and performance are directly affected by people’s connection to the outcomes of their work.
  4. Align Employees with Culture and Values: People need to feel that they fit in. Employees who are significantly out of sync with an organization’s culture and values will never make their highest contribution. Having perfect alignment is not the goal, but significant misalignments are damaging.
  5. Align Roles and Responsibilities with Strategies and Goals: Organizational goals and strategies change. Frequently, roles and supporting job duties don’t adequately change to align with these shifts. When this occurs, some or much of employee efforts are out of alignment and can impair the ability to achieve the desired outcomes.
  6. Assess Personal and Professional Weaknesses: We’ve been taught to hide or deny our weaknesses. Our ego’s impulse to protect our self-image is normal but counterproductive. It hinders our true potential from being realized, which is a loss to the organization and ourselves. When leaders openly and honestly acknowledge their “challenge areas,” this sets the example for others.
  7. Commit to Work on Personal and Professional Challenges: Self-awareness of the need to change is the first step. Commit to act (starting with baby steps) and take them to develop of positive habits that create lasting positive change.

Conclusion: Leaders make choices that define the present and future of themselves and their organizations. There’s nothing magical about the most effective leaders. They’re just making more effective choices. As a leader, what choices are you making?

Brad Wolff specializes in workforce and personal optimization. He’s a speaker and author of, People Problems? How to Create People Solutions for a Competitive Advantage. For more information on visit: www.peoplemaximizers.com.

[Read the full article at Article Weekly.]


Telephone Answering Service News

Amtelco Summer Interns: Amtelco says “thank you” and “good bye” to the fifteen students who completed internships this summer. They are Adam LaLuzerne, Marcus Seaton, DJ Hogan, Kyle Anderson, Brevin Becker, Hannah Anderson, Luke Anderson, Emmanuel Barber-Thomas, Jessica Mohns, Sean Scanlan, Dillon Clark, Tyler LaLuzerne, Angela Riederer, Ashley Werner, and Bennett Olson.

AnswerNet Acquires Synergy Solutions: AnswerNet acquired Synergy Solutions in an asset transaction. Synergy Solutions specializes in high-touch consultative customer service and sales support programs for many of the nation’s leading brands. Established in 1999, Synergy Solutions focuses on innovative customer interaction solutions. This allows Synergy Solutions to provide superior results for its clients in fast-growth retail and e-commerce, as well as traditional verticals such as healthcare, insurance, and financial services. Gary Pudles, president and CEO of AnswerNet stated, “Synergy Solutions furthers AnswerNet’s continued growth in high-touch customer engagement space for well-known companies and brands.” Synergy’s president and co-founder Lori Fentem is staying with AnswerNet and will work closely with Pudles on building and executing AnswerNet’s growth strategy.

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


Quotes for the Month

“The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis.” -Thurgood Marshall

“People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” -Samuel Johnson

“The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine was fully recovered.” –unknown

The August 2018 Issue of TAS Trader

The Power of No

Learning to Say No Opens the Door to Yes

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderBy nature I like to help people. I enjoy diving into exciting projects. And I relish variety. As a result, I tend to say “yes” to opportunities that come my way. And the more I say “yes,” the busier I get. Eventually my commitments overwhelm me and keep me from what’s most important.

Because of this, I’m learning to say “no.” This opens the time to focus on what matters most. I encourage you to do the same.

In the answering service industry, we’re beset with continuous interruptions that demand our attention. We want to keep staff happy and retain clients. We handle the day-to-day fires but neglect the year-over-year needs of our business.

We need to say “no” more often. Then we’ll have room to say “yes.” Here are some ideas of what we might need to say “yes” to.

Maximize Profit: Regardless of why you’re in the answering service industry, you need to earn a profit to stay in business. There are two ways to increase profit. One is to reduce costs, and the other is to increase revenue. Though you can increase revenue by selling more, the faster way is to make sure each client is profitable. That means selective rate increases. Do it every month.

Improve Quality: As a service business, quality is essential. If quality is poor—or even average—it’s harder to retain clients and to land new ones. This makes it difficult to turn a profit, as well as develop staff and grow the business. It’s hard to say if you should pursue quality first and then profit or profit and then quality. They’re interdependent.

Develop Staff: Having a reliable team to run your business and optimize it is key. Too often we hope a great team will just come about, but that seldom happens. Most of the time we need to groom staff, preparing them for the roles we envision. Therefore, be proactive in employee development.

Grow Your Business: A benefit of the telephone answering service industry is monthly reoccurring revenue. However, no client stays on service forever. Clients eventually cancel. This happens every month. That means replacing departing clients with new ones, which means sales and marketing. At a minimum, you need to keep even. Ideally you should grow. A shrinking client base is a symptom of a much greater problem, one that should have been addressed earlier.

Saying “no” to things that aren’t critical provides the space and time to say “yes” to those things that are. Pick the essential items your answering service needs most to survive, and say “yes” to them before agreeing to any other opportunities.

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

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

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


3 Keys to Successful Strategic Planning

By Andy Slipher

Strategic planning exists to solve problems. Often, pursuing strategic planning means your problem is big: significant, complex, and with higher-than-average stakes. Strategy is the means to simplify and unify activity to get from point A to point B with greater clarity, effectiveness, confidence, and efficiency.

Planning without strategy is like feeling around in the dark. You may eventually find what you’re looking for, but it will most certainly be unpredictable and take longer than anticipated. You’ll run a greater risk of falling on your face along the way.

Here are three things you need to know about strategic planning, no matter what the challenge.

1. Strategy is about choice: Strategy is a word and concept that’s abused today. People love to use it because it sounds, well, strategic. Unfortunately, calling something a strategy doesn’t make it one. Strategy, to function as it’s intended, means making significant choices throughout the planning process. In any complex or challenging situation, such choices are hard. Something must be sacrificed to move in a true and distinct direction. If you’re not making hard choices in your planning, you need to ask how distinct, clear, and achievable your approach is.

2. Strategy fits between goals and plans: Strategy is not the most important thing. But good strategy is necessary and often critical to success. Once you’ve defined your goals, strategy comes next. To delineate between goals, strategy, and plans:

  • Goals answer, “What is the end for the effort?”
  • Plans, which follow strategy, answer, “What are the blueprints for success?”
  • Strategy is the point in between that answers, “In what way are we going to coordinate our efforts to get there?”

3. Strategy marries strength with opportunity: The beauty of strategy is that it coordinates and integrates activities around a common goal. What’s more, good strategy finds the sweet spot where strengths meet opportunity. If you identify an opportunity, yet have no strengths to take advantage, how effective will you be? Likewise, if your strengths abound in a certain area, yet no opportunities exist, your strategy could come up short. Know that to improve the odds of achieving your goals, your strategy will need to amplify your strengths, while playing to the opportunities at hand.

Whatever your challenge, follow these three fundamental principles for better strategic planning. Your strategy will be clear and coherent. What’s more, you’ll realize more successful outcomes sooner.

Andy Slipher is founder of Slipher Marketing, a consultancy where strategy comes first, followed by tangible marketing results. Andy is the author of The Big How: Where Strategy Meets Success. For more information visit thebighow.com.

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Startel & Professional Teledata Complete HIPAA Assessment: Startel and Professional Teledata successfully completed their Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) assessment. This marks Startel’s fourth and Professional Teledata’s first assessment for HIPAA compliance and reinforces the companies’ commitment to protecting consumer data and privacy. The full HIPAA report is available to customers upon request. The companies will also sign Business Associate agreements with clients who require HIPAA compliance. Next year’s audit will include an assessment of Alston Tascom’s operating environment, data center, and solutions.

Amtelco’s Genesis Intelligent Series 5.1 Now Avaya Compliant: Amtelco’s Genesis Intelligent Series release 5.1 is compliant with key solutions from Avaya. Genesis users can keep metrics with customizable reporting, enhance accountability with call logging and video screen capture, connect remote agents, and manage automated dispatch and on-call scheduling. Genesis can operate in a virtual server environment or in the cloud, enabling growth without additional hardware—saving time and money. The application is compliance-tested by Avaya for compatibility with Avaya Aura® Session Manager 7.1 and Avaya Aura Communication Manager 7.1. Amtelco is a Technology Partner in the Avaya DevConnect program.

Startel Announces Unified Product Advisory Board: Startel, Professional Teledata, and Alston Tascom announced the members of the company’s unified product advisory board, representing each of the company’s three user groups: TeamSNUG, PINetwork, and TUG. Their primary responsibility is to provide input related to the company’s strategic product planning. Board members are Ryan Ambs, Kevin Bachelder, Luis Bedoya, Matt Bogan, Kristal Fye, Ken Goldenberg, Jodi Gregory, Peter Gross, April Kasza, Ray Shaw, John Vaughn, and Jeffrey Wood. Overseeing the board is Wayne Scaggs, director of corporate strategy. The board will meet three times during the next twelve months.

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


Quotes for the Month

“I like to say that arms are not for killing. They are for hugging.” -Betty Williams

“Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” -Eddie Rickenbacker

“When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.” -unknown

The July 2018 Issue of TAS Trader

Scheduling Answering Service Staff for Holidays

When Historical Data Can’t Predict Call Traffic, We Need to Guess

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderLast week we celebrated Independence Day in the United States. With it happening on a Wednesday, it threw a lot of people off. Me included. When July Fourth occurs on a weekend, there’s little impact on normal business activity. And when it falls on a Monday or Friday, it gives us a three-day weekend. Last year it was on Tuesday, which caused many companies to declare Monday as a day off, giving people a four-day weekend. I suppose the same could apply if it fell on a Thursday.

But what to do when it’s on a Wednesday? Some people viewed the whole week as a holiday week, while others viewed it as business as normal except for Wednesday, when they took the day off. And I talked to many people who saw this as an opportunity for a five-day weekend.

These various interpretations trickled down to expectations placed on answering services and affected their call traffic. Many schedulers wondered what to do. Normally historical information can project future trends, but with the holiday falling on a Wednesday, there wasn’t a historical model to follow, since I believe the last time July 4 occurred on a Wednesday was in 2012. And even if you have historical data from 2012, how relevant is it six years later in 2018?

Though we like to use data to determine our scheduling needs, sometimes it’s not possible. The best we can do is guess. When this occurs we realize that scheduling staff for an answering service is sometimes more art than science.

This also reminds us to appreciate our staff, for when our traffic projections fail us, and we make our staff busier than we want, it falls on them to bail us out. And they almost always do.

If your staff worked harder than usual last week, remember to thank them, and recognize their efforts. And if your schedule was right on target and caused no surprises, thank them anyway. They deserve it.

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


Classified Ads:

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 Janet Livingston at janet@callcenter-salespro.com.

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

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. Should you list your answering service on FindAnAnsweringService.com? The answer is, “Yes!” Email Valerie to find out more.


3 Simple Training Tips to Boost Performance

By Cordell Riley

Training offers you the potential to dramatically increase profits and performance. Here are three tips to get that to happen for you.

1. Start with the End in Mind: Chances are you know where you would like to see improved performance or profits in your organization. But specifically what would those improvements look like? Would it be better online reviews or a 15 percent increase in sales? What?

Specific goals emerge when you define the business challenges you need to address. And once you have defined those issues and goals, you can determine if there is training that will assist in reaching them.

2. Develop an Appropriate Curriculum: Your curriculum should be designed to teach people the skills they need to learn or improve in their specific role. But developing an effective curriculum is more complex than simply defining skills. It should be right for the people in the roles who are performing the tasks and jobs that your training addresses. And it should be designed to have a focused, specific impact on the business items where you are trying to “move the needle” and bring about change.

An appropriate curriculum should consider how those lessons will be delivered: by a live trainer, on phones or tablets, enlivened with games and exercises, in short chunks, or longer lessons. Creating an effective curriculum depends on considering who your learners are, where they are, and how they would prefer to learn.

3. Measure Results, then Tweak and Adjust Your Training Accordingly: At this point, loop back to the decisions you made in the first step, when you started. Develop ways to measure the change you have brought about through training.

Once you are measuring, you can tweak, modify your training, and find ways to improve results. But one thing for certain? If you don’t measure and adjust, your training will never deliver the results it is capable of.

Cordell Riley is a sought-after keynote speaker and the owner and president of Tortal Training, a training development company that uses strategic engagement methodologies and specializes in developing mobile training platforms for organizations with distributed workforces.

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Startel Announces Renita Dorty As New Chief Customer Officer: Effective immediately, Renita Dorty will begin the new role of Chief Customer Officer (CCO) for Startel, Professional Teledata, and Alston Tascom. This new position will be responsible for all aspects of the companies’ customer service strategies and will provide a comprehensive view of the user experience to create initiatives focused on maximizing customer retention, developing more efficient processes, and facilitating client communications. Dorty has thirteen years of experience in the contact center and telephone answering service (TAS) industry, most recently, as the executive vice president of Nationwide Inbound Inc.

Brad Swift Rejoins Amtelco: Amtelco has brought on Brad Swift as their contract service sales manager. Amtelco created this position in response to the growing need for call centers to quickly have access to the newest Amtelco software features. Brad will offer Amtelco contract services to help call centers get up-to-date with current technologies, assist with projects such as upgrading system software, and help with growth and future development. “Brad had a successful eighteen-year sales career with us in the past, serving our clients in Canada,” said Tom Curtin, Amtelco president.

AnswerNet to Help Deaf Community: AnswerNet and Connect Direct have partnered to bring the deaf community to the forefront of today’s customer service solutions. With one million deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States, little progress has been made in customer service communications. Companies can now allow customer service representatives to connect immediately with their deaf or hard of hearing consumers through video. The agents use American Sign Language (ASL), often the first language of deaf and hard of hearing people, to communicate with the consumer regarding their issue in a quick and efficient manner.

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


Quotes for the Month

“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about the answers.” -Thomas Pynchon

“Time sneaks up on you like a windshield on a bug.” -John Lithgow

“When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.” -unknown

The June 2018 Issue of TAS Trader

Welcome to Summer

Be Intentional to Make the Most Out of the Summer Season

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, publisher of TAS Trader

Even though summer hasn’t officially begun, for most of us in the United States it effectively started after Memorial Day. It feels like summer, and I, for one, act like it’s summer. Though it’s been a while, here’s what I recall summer meaning in the answering service business.

More Traffic: With summer comes an increase in call traffic. As clients scale back their hours of operations to embrace a summer schedule and send more calls our way because of staff vacations, call traffic picks up. That means we need to schedule more agents, which we’ve already hired and trained. And for answering services with usage-based rates, this means a nice increase in revenue.

Increased Vacation Requests: Our staff, of course, also thinks about vacation during the summer more so than other times of the year. Often they wish to coordinate their vacation with their spouse’s and their kids’ summer vacation from school. And for those without constraints dictating a vacation schedule, summer seems to be the normal time to take one anyway. Ironically, this increased demand for vacation comes when we’re busier and need our staff in the office taking calls.

Fewer Sales: During the summer, sales can drop. Leads decrease and many that do come in are planning for the fall. Many businesses limit changes during the summer, putting off decisions until after Labor Day (in the United States) when a normal schedule reemerges.

Delayed Decisions: For me, I viewed summer is the time to catch up on projects but not to start new initiatives. I held those for the fall. I also strived to work less. Though I never succeeded in getting down to a forty-hour work week, for some reason I could get a little bit closer in the summer. I guess there were too many other things begging for my time.

Your experiences at your answering service may differ from mine. Or they may hold true for you today as much as they did for me then. Regardless be intentional about the summer season. What opportunities does it provide, either personally or for your answering service? Decide which opportunities to pursue and move toward them. Whatever they are, and however much progress you make, it should leave you better prepared to slide into fall in three months.

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:

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. Should you list your answering service on FindAnAnsweringService.com? The answer is, “Yes!” Email Valerie to find out more.

 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 Janet Livingston at janet@callcenter-salespro.com.

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


5 Tips to Make Your Family Business Last

 By Mitzi Perdue

Seventy percent of family businesses don’t make it to the second generation. The big question is: how can you beat these odds? The biggest reason business families fall apart is that the family hasn’t developed the kind of culture that supports keeping the family business in the family. Families that leave this to chance rarely make it to the next generation.

So, how do you create this kind of culture?

  1. Know Your Family Stories: We are the stories we tell ourselves, and high-functioning families have heard their family stories over and over. Be intentional about telling these stories. The more stories, legends, myths, and parables, the stronger your family’s culture and the more likely your family business is to endure.
  2. Have Family Vacations: Whether your family vacation is a large group or a small one, having everyone spend time together greatly increases the chances of building a family business that lasts. A vacation means time set aside to share experiences, get to know and appreciate each other, and embed the family’s values.
  3. Subsidize a Family Vacation After You’re Gone: All too often when the patriarch or matriarch passes on, family members stop seeing each other. Soon, there’s nothing left, and family members have superficial relationships—or no relationship at all. A highly effective antidote to this is, leave money in your will to pay for a yearly get-together. Some families subsidize an annual dinner, while others pay for a nice vacation. ­­Endowed family get-togethers can be a highly-effective tool for helping the family business continue across the generations.
  4. Write a Family Newsletter: A newsletter can play a huge role in helping the family maintain a strong and vibrant culture. Include interviews with older family members or employees about the early days and some of the company’s struggles. Make it short, ideally no longer than one or two pages. You want people to read it.
  5. Get Help If You Need It: Fortunately, there’s a whole new ecosystem of family advisors who can help. There’s no such thing as a family business that doesn’t have conflict, and when there’s a serious family conflict, the pain from it can permeate every hour of every day.

Family harmony is so important, that anything you can do to nurture it is a wise investment. Many families don’t stay intact over the generations. The good news is, planning is something you can do, and even better, the implementation can be enjoyable and fulfilling.

Mitzi Perdue is a speaker, businesswoman, and 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 articles for consideration in our next issue.


Telephone Answering Service News

Startel, Professional Teledata, & Alston Tascom Unveil Updates: Startel, Professional Teledata, and Alston Tascom revealed their new unified brand to users of all three of the companies’ software platforms at their first combined user group conference in Denver, Colorado. In conjunction with the new visual branding, content previously found on the three separate company websites is now located on a revamped and unified site, startel.com. The company also launched their new marketing resources center, making custom-branded promotional materials available to their customers. Last, they launched The Customer Spot (TCS), a new self-service customer portal.

New All-in-One Spectrum / Prism II Server: Amtelco hardware and software engineers designed the new Prism II server to run Spectrum, Prism II, and other applications from one server. In other Amtelco news, the Genesis Just Say It feature enhances the IS Navigation Menu feature by enabling callers to speak responses in addition to pressing telephone keypad digits. The Just Say It Navigation Menu features give callers the ability to access information and conduct transactions using either speech recognition or live operator involvement.

 Dan L’Heureux and Renita Dorty Receive Awards: Startel, Professional Teledata, and Alston Tascom recognized Dan L’Heureux and Renita Dorty during the companies’ first combined user group conference in Denver, Colorado. Dan L’Heureux is the recipient of the 2018 Allen Kalik Award, and Renita Dorty is the recipient of the 2018 Don Berry Award of Excellence.

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Startel Updates Secure Messaging: Startel Corporation released Startel Secure Messaging Plus (SM+). Many new features and enhancements were part of this release, including the ability to respond to group messages and allow the forwarding of messages. SM+ is a two-way direct messaging solution that allows users to securely send and receive messages, including those containing sensitive information. All message content and attachments sent and received on devices using SM+ are encrypted. SM+ is available as a stand-alone, web-based solution or integrated with the Startel CMC. The SM+ app is compatible with the latest versions of Android and iOS (iPad, iPhone, iTouch).

 Amtelco Introduces Genesis Just Say It Speech Recognition: The Genesis Just Say It feature enhances the IS Navigation Menu feature by enabling callers to speak responses in addition to pressing telephone keypad digits. It gives callers the ability to access information and conduct transactions using either speech recognition or live operator involvement. The application simplifies and speeds telephone calls, such as listening to what a caller says to interact with them and understand their meaning based on pre-defined parameters. This makes it possible to increase call handling capabilities and call traffic volumes while decreasing labor costs and other operating expenses.

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


Quotes for the Month

“The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.” -Jean Paul Richter

“He that will not sail until all dangers are over, will never put to sea.” -Thomas Fuller

“Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft and I’ll show you A-flat miner.” -unknown

The May 2018 Issue of TAS Trader

Tips for Selling Shoes and Answering Service

 Mishandling Leads Will Result in Lost Sales

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, publisher of TAS Trader

Over a decade ago, in my article “I Want To Buy Some Shoes,” I used my experience buying a pair of sneakers to talk about the TAS industry. Now, I’ll do it again. With my wife serving as my accomplice, she guided me into the inner workings of that dreaded place called the mall.

Ignoring Leads: The first place was a small storefront, empty of shoppers, but with a staff of two. We had to brush by them to reach the tennis shoe display. They continued their rapt conversation with each other and ignored us.

The same thing happens at too many answering services. Their marketing campaign brings in the leads, but the salespeople ignore them. Then they complain about their low commission checks. And before you assure yourself that this doesn’t occur at your TAS, submit an inquiry, and see what happens.

Mismanaging Leads: The second store was larger and busier. There the employees helped some customers, but not us. Unable to get assistance, we left.

A second problem answering services face is mismanaging leads. Yes, lead management is a balancing act, but it’s a balance to pursue. Otherwise viable leads leave and go someplace else.

Distracted Lead Follow Up: I browsed the third store until I found a couple pairs I wanted to try. We failed in making eye contact with anyone to get assistance. Frustrated, my wife marched to the cash register and asked for help. One person obliged. He was a personable young man who worked to move us from prospect to buyer, but I must have taken too long to decide. He moved to another customer. Though I was close to making a purchase, we left instead.

Leads never come at a controllable pace. But wise salespeople manage them well and don’t let one lead distract them from others.

Judging Leads: At the fourth store, employees scurried around trying to help customers. As we waited our turn, a young man hustled toward the stockroom. “What cha need?” he asked. I pointed to a shoe on display. He nodded. “Size?” I answered. Before the storeroom door could swing closed he was back, almost tossing me a box of shoes. They weren’t comfortable, and I looked for another pair. The next time he brushed by, he said, “What cha think?” I shook my head, but before I could point to another pair, he said “Thanks for stopping by.” Then he sped off. That’s when I realized we were the oldest people in this store catering to teens and Millennials. True, most of the styles didn’t appeal to me, but some would have worked.

If only he hadn’t dismissed me as a nonviable buyer. How often do your salespeople do that?

Attending to Leads: Though the staff on the floor at the fifth store was busy helping other customers, they acknowledged our presence. Before long someone emerged from the stockroom to help. Though she wasn’t polished in sales or particularly knowledgeable about shoes, she gave us her full attention. She worked with us until we found a pair that fit and I liked. With patience, she waited as I pondered my decision. I bought them, even though they cost more than I wanted to pay. Notice that it wasn’t her product knowledge that sold me; it was her attentiveness.

Now my remaining objective was to escape the mall before I had a panic attack.

Being attentive to leads, helpful, and patient is the best way to move prospects into buyers. This is true in any industry, whether selling shoes or selling answering services.

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. We can handle your SEO, too. 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 Janet Livingston at janet@callcenter-salespro.com.

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

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. Should you list your answering service on FindAnAnsweringService.com? The answer is, “Yes!” Email Valerie to find out how.


Six Ways to Put Stories into Action

By Henry DeVries

Build an inventory of stories that demonstrate your core values in action. Then deploy the stories. In storytelling, context is everything. You should never randomly tell stories, but instead use stories at the right strategic times. Here are six perfect opportunities to persuade with a story:

  1. During the Job Interview: No, don’t start the interview telling stories. However, once the candidate has shared about themselves, then the interviewer can share stories about the core values of the organization.
  2. During a Training Class: Teach core values as a part of training. First, state the core value, and then explain what that means. For them to really get the point, tell a story about that core value in action.
  3. At Weekly Staff Meetings: One executive boasted that his organization had twenty-two core values, and they were on posters throughout the office. Asked if he had any stories to illustrate them, a little red faced he said, “No.” Now every week at staff meetings they tell a story to illustrate one of the twenty-two core values.
  4. At Company-Wide Meetings: Is it time to assemble all the troops? Maybe for a change in direction or for recognition? This is a perfect time for core value selling by telling stories.
  5. On the Company Website: Promote core value stories on your website to show clients and potential clients the power of your brand and services.
  6. In Company Brochures and Collateral Material: Since stories connect on an emotional level, doesn’t it make sense to put them in writing?

Storytelling helps persuade on an emotional level. That’s why so many Fortune 500 companies are homing in on storytelling techniques and imparting that wisdom on their sales and business development professionals to tell relatable stories that will convince prospects.

Henry DeVries, CEO of Indie Books International, teaches sales and business development professionals how to build an inventory of persuasive stories.

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Startel Updates Secure Messaging: Startel Corporation released Startel Secure Messaging Plus (SM+). Many new features and enhancements were part of this release, including the ability to respond to group messages and allow the forwarding of messages. SM+ is a two-way direct messaging solution that allows users to securely send and receive messages, including those containing sensitive information. All message content and attachments sent and received on devices using SM+ are encrypted. SM+ is available as a stand-alone, web-based solution or integrated with the Startel CMC. The SM+ app is compatible with the latest versions of Android and iOS (iPad, iPhone, iTouch).

 Amtelco Introduces Genesis Just Say It Speech Recognition: The Genesis Just Say It feature enhances the IS Navigation Menu feature by enabling callers to speak responses in addition to pressing telephone keypad digits. It gives callers the ability to access information and conduct transactions using either speech recognition or live operator involvement. The application simplifies and speeds telephone calls, such as listening to what a caller says to interact with them and understand their meaning based on pre-defined parameters. This makes it possible to increase call handling capabilities and call traffic volumes while decreasing labor costs and other operating expenses.

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


Quotes for the Month

“Don’t be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.” -Arthur Miller

“Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.” -G.K. Chesterton

“With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.” -unknown

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 Janet Livingston at janet@callcenter-salespro.com.

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

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 Janet Livingston at janet@callcenter-salespro.com.

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

 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 Janet Livingston at janet@callcenter-salespro.com.

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

 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