The July 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Adjusting to Seasonal Traffic Fluctuations

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the solution?

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

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

I hope you have a great summer.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


Classified Ads

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

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


Build a Strong Foundation to Produce Sales Success

 By Janet Livingston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Bill Lane Joins Robertshaw Communications

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

 Professional Teledata Announces Online Payment Processing Solution

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

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

 John Carey Receives the 2017 Don Berry Award            

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

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

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


Quotes for the Month

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

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

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

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The June 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

What Types of Communication Do You Handle?

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


Classified Ads

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

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


4 Tips to Build a Better Business Culture

By Jason Gazaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Gazaway is the growth manager for VoiceNation.

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

Telephone Answering Service News

WTSA Hosts Donna West Workshop

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

2017 NAEO Update

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

Amtelco Announces Enhancements to miTeamWeb Application

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

OnviSource to Support Multichannel and Cross-Channel Analytics

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

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


Quotes for the Month

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

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

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

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The May 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Technology Versus People

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


Classified Ads

Freelance Writer: Need content for your TAS website or written materials for your answering service? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.

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

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


Who’s Protecting Your Business Culture?

By Jason Gazaway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Gazaway is the growth manager for VoiceNation.


Telephone Answering Service News

CCSP Fuzion Expands to Empower TAS Management

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

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

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

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

STA to Close June 30

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

Maryellen Pruitt New Executive Manager of ASTAA

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

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

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


Quotes for the Month

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

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

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

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The April 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Does Your Answering Service Use Social Media?

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

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

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

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

Based on this, I make the following observations.

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

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

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

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

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


Classified Ads:

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

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

Writer for Hire: Need content for your TAS website or written materials for your answering service? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.


5 Reasons Why You Should Pursue Strategic Rate Increases

By Janet Livingston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Telephone Answering Service News

Pulsar360 Strategic Partners in the TAS Industry

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

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

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


Quotes for the Month

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

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

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

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The March 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Three Keywords Describe the Business Benefits of Answering Services

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderAs I consider business trends, specifically as it relates to the telephone answering service, three words come to mind. I think of these terms as keywords we can use to describe what we do and promote our business.

Virtual: An answering service provides a virtual service. It’s been that way from the very beginning, some ninety years ago. We have never done our work on site, but remotely. Our presence is not tangible, but virtual. As the prior century drew to a close, forward-thinking answering services began promoting the concept of the virtual receptionist.

In practice, this was nothing new, but as a concept, it was. Today with many entrepreneurs and small businesses tapping into the parallel concept of a virtual assistant, as a money-saving means to accomplish routine tasks with speed and precision. Answering services need to capitalize on this trend by touting their specialized version of a virtual assistant, also known as a virtual receptionist.

An answering service is virtual.

Scalable: Often technology carries the label of scalable. This means its scope can easily increase or decrease to meet changing user needs. Though answering services often have scalable technology, they remain labor intensive. Labor is not scalable.

However, from the perspective of our clients, we offer a scalable service. If we normally take one call at a time and two come in at once, we “scale up” to handle the extra work. Then we “scale down.” They can’t do that in their office.

What happens if they close early, their receptionist is sick or on vacation, or they want everyone at a staff meeting? We automatically scale up to take their extra calls. Conversely, if they decide to extend their hours and stay open until seven instead of closing at five, we scale accordingly to meet their new expectations.

An answering service is scalable.

Outsource: Though outsourcing, especially as it relates to phone calls, was once severely tarnished by offshore outsourcing done poorly, the reality remains that outsourcing shines as a key concept for businesses. Outsourcing work provides flexibility and controls costs.

Businesses wishing to run a lean, effective operation know that outsourcing is a preferred way to do this. Another significant reason to outsource is that many businesses are reluctant to hire staff. They sight overhead costs—especially healthcare expenses—and the legal hurdles to un-hire staff when no longer needed. As a smart alternative, they outsource whatever they can, whenever they can.

An answering service is an outsource provider.

Next time you talk with a business owner about your service drop these hot keywords. Say that you are virtual, scalable, and an outsource provider. That should get you some attention and hopefully some new business.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine.


Classified Ads:

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

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


The Cost of Poor Performance

Why failing to train your employees costs a lot more than you think

By Evan Hackel

Many people have heard the story about the CEO who said, “What if we spend all this money training our staff and they leave?

The department head replied, “What if we don’t train them and they stay?”

A simple, but pointed, response. If you spend a lot of money on people and they leave, that’s not an optimal outcome. But if you don’t train your employees and they stay, it costs you a lot more. Consider the following:

Trained Salespeople Produce More Income: Statistically trained salespeople:

  • Close more sales
  • Generate larger average sales
  • Sell fewer products at discounted prices and more products at list price
  • Make fewer mistakes
  • Sell the right products
  • Build customer relationships that result in more repeat business
  • Generate more positive online reviews
  • Help keep morale and productivity high among all employees, because people don’t like to work with untrained coworkers who don’t know what they’re doing.

Training Is Not Just for Salespeople: Training has a major impact on customer service practices. Consider the often headache-inducing business of at-home product installation—one that would certainly benefit from customer service-focused training. The basics, such as explaining to customers the details of the installation process, an emphasis on clear communication prior to the start of the job, and of course, conveying the importance of punctuality can boost customer retention. Training staff to be cognizant of their customer service practices can also increase referral business, which can be worth extra hundreds, thousands, or more to your bottom line.

Every Untrained Employee Costs You Money: ROI on training is dramatically greater than most company executives believe. In simple terms, if a trained worker becomes 100 percent productive and an untrained worker is only 60 percent productive, you are losing $40,000 in value on every $100,000 of business you conduct.

In Closing: Not training is hugely expensive—far more expensive than training. In your company, you should look for all the opportunities where proper training can increase profits, reduce waste, and provide an outsized ROI for every training dollar you spend. If you look, you will find many more opportunities than you expect.

Evan Hackel is CEO of Tortal Training, a firm that specializes in developing and implementing interactive training solutions for companies in all sectors. Evan created the concept of Ingaged Leadership and is Principal and Founder of Ingage Consulting, a consulting firm headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts. To learn more about Ingage Consulting and Evan’s book Ingaging Leadership visit www.ingage.net.


Telephone Answering Service News

Telescan Announces New Hires: The Telescan Division of Amtelco continues to grow and advance the development of its Spectrum system in response to demand for a flexible, expandable software-based call center system. The Telescan team is growing to continue helping customers succeed. Paul Schulte joins the Telescan support services team in St. Louis, Missouri. Paul will provide phone support to Spectrum system users and assist in the internal operations of the St. Louis office. Brett Minster joins the software development staff in St. Louis. Brett will be developing applications for Telescan’s next-generation switch, Prism II. For more information contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or info@amtelco.com.

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


Quotes for the Month

“A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.” -Leo Tolstoy

“What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens.” -Benjamin Disraeli

“Thieves who steal corn from a garden could be charged with stalking.” -unknown

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The February 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Tips for Running a Successful Answering Service

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderFor all my adult life writing was something I did, but it meant nothing more. Then about eight years ago I began to take writing more seriously, wondering if it might be my next career. (It is, but it’s a part-time career. No worries, I will continue to publish TAS Trader and Connections Magazine.)

My first step as a writer was to attend a writing conference to learn more about the industry. Now my goal is to attend two conferences a year. Then I begin to study the craft of writing: reading blogs, listening to podcasts, subscribing to magazines, and buying books. Next I joined a couple of critique groups, where we mutually help each other improve. And, since I’ve actually been writing for several decades and been a publisher for fifteen years, I started blogging about writing to give back to the writing community; I also speak at writing conferences. As I moved forward I began working as a commercial freelance writer.

A couple years ago I decided to branch into fiction. Though I could have learned by the school of hard knocks, I decided to jumpstart my efforts by hiring people to guide and instruct me: coaches, developmental editors, and teachers. And I outsource things too: book cover design, copy editing, and proofreading. It would be foolish to try to do these myself.

What’s this have to do with running an answering service? Plenty.

Attend Conferences: I’m shocked that I continue to talk to TAS owners and managers who have never been to an industry event. They claim they can’t afford it. I say they can’t afford not to. Conferences provide a great way to network and learn. I think everyone should attend at least one conference a year—and not just owners but key employees, too.

Give Back: I receive the most when I help others, when I freely share what I know. Peter’s Law of Reciprocity states, “Everyone you meet knows something you don’t… so politely and tactfully learn what it is. Conversely, everyone you meet doesn’t know everything you do…so be willing to graciously share whatever you can when you are asked.” When you give, you receive.

Hire Outside Help: It makes no sense to spend a lot of time trying to figure out something by trial and error when you can pay someone to teach you. When I bought Connections Magazine from Steve Michaels in 2001, I hired a $200-an-hour magazine publishing consultant to point me in the right direction. Best decision ever.

Tap Outsourcers: You can outsource every aspect of running a telephone answering service, including operations. While I know of no one who has outsourced everything, many successful TASs have outsourced specific aspects of their business, such as sales, marketing, billing, collections, technical, and even management. If someone else can do it better or for less, it’s foolish to keep it in house.

Whether it’s writing a book or running an answering service, be intentional about improving and invest in learning. It’s the only way to go.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine.


Classified Ads:

Blog Posts: Need content for your website? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Boost your marketing impact and drive organic search. TAS Case Studies at only $25 per post. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.

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.


7 Tips to Overhaul Your Customer Service

Learn what to do when you realize you’re not as great as you’d like

By Kate Zabriskie

What’s going on when your customer service falls short of your ideal? Usually, a few things. Typically, there’s an organizational mindset misalignment, a lack of commitment from the top, an absence of recognition for giving great service, or a combination of all three.

Consider these seven tips to turn things around:

  1. Start by thinking about your purpose. What is it that your organization does? Articulate your purpose. Everyone needs to understand your core reason for existing and how the actions he or she takes relate in supporting that mission.
  2. Next, think about your processes and how customers interact with you. Do you have your customers’ best interests at heart? If not, what changes can you make to remedy those shortcomings? This step has an added benefit. When your organization’s and your customers’ goals are in harmony, you will have happier customers. Furthermore, it is less likely your people will find themselves dealing with the unhappy, disappointed, or disgruntled.
  3. Model what you want to see. People work for people. If you supervise others, they are watching and learning from you. If you are disengaged, they probably are too. On the other hand, if you embody the spirit of service, you probably see elements of yourself in their performance.
  4. Teach your staff what to do and how to do it. You can’t expect people to deliver great service if they don’t know how. Furthermore, you can’t expect them to care if no one at the top does. Take employee development seriously. This means being a champion for training, participating in education, and coaching for new skills after the fact. Eventually, your people will be able to do more, make better choices, and solve problems more imaginatively.
  5. Hire for service skills. The next time you have an opening, think about what makes someone great at service in your organization and seek those attributes. Don’t settle. You’ll be sorry later.
  6. Even if you have no budget, you can reward employees for giving great service. Start with a sincere “Thank you.” Heartfelt appreciation can work wonders.
  7. Finally, put on your continuous-improvement hat. Systematically evaluate where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going.

None of these steps is necessarily hard. The trick is to take them. To win the service game, you have to be in it. What will you do better today?

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.


Telephone Answering Service News

Spectrum Prism II Begins Beta Testing: The Telescan division of Amtelco has begun installation and field-testing of Prism II at beta sites. Prism II is the next-generation telephony switch for the Telescan Spectrum system. It provides a soft-switching solution. The benefits for call centers include: increased call handling capacity without added hardware, improved backup and recovery options, real-time monitoring and activity logs, enhanced audio quality, and faster call setup. The new Prism II is an entirely software-based switch built around Asterisk, a widely used open-source framework for building communications solutions. For more information contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or info@amtelco.com.

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


Quotes for the Month

“The real index of civilization is when people are kinder than they need to be.” -Louis de Bernieres

“He who lives little, changes little.” -Anatole France

“A thief fell and broke his leg in wet cement. He became a hardened criminal.” -unknown

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The January 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Lessons From Cars, Computers, and Software

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderSince I work at home, I don’t do much driving. I sometimes wonder if I really need a car. Couple this with my preference to invest in a product and use it as long as I can. As a result my higher-end car was nineteen years old and pushing a quarter million miles. In November I replaced it. Though it’s time wasn’t up, I wanted a change. I don’t think anyone would fault me for that.

I take the same approach with technology. I buy the best I can afford and use it as long as I can. My main computer is four years old, my backup computer is six years old, and my laptop (which I seldom use) is ten. It’s replacement should arrive this week.

For the first time I didn’t buy a computer with Microsoft Office pre-installed. Instead I will make the switch to Office 365, a subscription software service. Philosophically I object to subscription services because in the past they haven’t made financial sense given the way I approach technology. (Subscription services are a brilliant move for vendors as it provides them with consistent cash flow, which allows them to support their product, invest in upgrades, and create new modules.) In the past, subscription services would have cost me more than making an outright purchase and using it well past its expected life span.

Switching to Office 365 will allow me to have the newest software on all my computers (not just the new laptop) and will keep me on the latest software version. And since Microsoft is calling Windows 10 “the last version of Windows,” I can expect my software to outlast my hardware. Instead of paying several hundred dollars for Office 2016 Professional on my laptop (or over a thousand dollars to update all three computers), I will instead pay a low monthly fee to enjoy the latest and greatest. How cool is that?

While I don’t run an answering service anymore and therefore haven’t done a cost analysis, I understand the same dynamics applies to operating an answering service using subscription-based services (whatever label you place on it: hosted, cloud-based, SaaS, PaaS, and so forth). It’s good for answering services, it’s good for vendors, and clients benefit as well.

If you’ve already moved to a subscription approach to your answering service platform, congratulations. If you’ve not made the switch, now might be a good time to revisit it.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine.


Classified Ads:

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

Content Marketing: Need content for your website or blog? Let Peter DeHaan provide it for you. Boost your marketing impact and drive organic search. TAS Case Studies at only $25 per post. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.


Be a Customer Service Contender

Why most customer service isn’t as good as it could be and what you can do about it

By Kate Zabriskie

Too often, organizations recognize they have a service issue, yet their efforts to address shortcomings fail to solve the problem. In the worst cases, customer service initiatives backfire. However, legendary service organizations have a service mindset, commitment, and reward great performance.

Service Mindset: Great service companies eat, sleep, and breathe extraordinary service. They don’t pull people off the phones for a few hours and expect magic.

  • They have a service mission, and it does more than sit in a frame on a wall in some conference room. It’s top-of-mind throughout the organization. People know it and live it through their daily interactions with customers and each other.
  • They design processes with the customer’s best interest in mind. Think about that well-known airline, so full of love for its customers, it allows them to cancel flights for full credit on a future trip. Clearly they believe most their customers won’t book travel they don’t need, and those who must make a change will eventually choose to fly with them again.
  • They hire people who genuinely love service and are proud to live the brand.
  • They constantly retool the customer experience because they know what worked well in earlier years is long overdue for a makeover.
  • They educate, educate, and then they educate some more. They want to make sure that the people who represent the brand understand what the brand experience is and how to deliver it.

Commitment: Great service companies involve everyone in their service culture and improvement efforts. They invest in their employees and trust them to do what’s right.

  • Their management team models service-centric behavior and holds others accountable for doing the same.
  • Their leaders participate in education efforts, often introducing workshops, wrapping them up, and actively taking part during sessions.
  • They commit to and believe in their staff. Because they’ve chosen their employees well and trained them appropriately, they treat staff members as the adults they are and give them latitude when solving service problems.

Reward: Great service companies reward service-centric behavior. They don’t ignore great work or punish people for taking initiative.

  • They value their employees and recognize that without them there is no customer service.
  • They reward employees by trusting them to do what’s right.
  • They encourage people to find new ways of solving problems.
  • They recognize that a paycheck alone is not enough.

When thinking about everything that the greats do, it’s easy to get discouraged or think your business or department will never achieve true service success. The good news is you’re wrong. While it won’t happen overnight, you can learn from the masters to elevate your approach to customer service.

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.


Telephone Answering Service News

Amtelco Releases Hosted Spectrum: Spectrum Prism is now available as a hosted service. Some of the advantages of hosting include increased call handling capacity without adding hardware or IT labor. And there’s no need for a support plan; it’s all included along with updates. Hosted Spectrum is scalable, which makes it ideal for startups. Stations are easy to add. Virtual answering services and the use of a collocated solution breaks the answering service away from the physical constraints and overhead costs of a building, equipment room, and back-up power.

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


Quotes for the Month

“A timid question will always receive a confident answer.” -Charles John Darling

“The wisest mind has something yet to learn.” -George Santayana

“A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.” -unknown

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The December 2016 Issue of TAS Trader

On Earth Peace and Good Will Toward Men

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderThis month I’m not going to write about the telephone answering service industry or customer service or any of the things I typically address in TAS Trader. Instead I have a seasonal thought—sort of.

In considering our society as a whole, the past several months have been rough: divisive news, polarized rhetoric on social media, and a general loss of civility. The shouting is deafening. Everyone I talk to is sick of it and looking for us to move beyond the constant turmoil and return to some degree of mutual respect and decorum. I so agree.

Maybe this holiday season can mark a shift toward a fresh start. Let’s start by taking a line from the Christmas story: “On earth peace and good will toward men.” I like that. We need more peace (less fighting) and increased goodwill (less conflict). And then our world—or at least our space in it—will be a much better place.

While we can’t compel other people to promote peace on earth and goodwill to all, we can each do our part to bring it about. Little by little, day by day, we can each do one thing for peace and goodwill. Perhaps others will notice and do their part too.

A little less fighting and a little less conflict will make our world a better place. And there is no better time to start than this time of year.

So I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and on earth peace and good will toward men.

May it be so.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine.


Classified Ads:

Content Marketing: Need content for your website or blog? Let Peter DeHaan provide it for you. Boost your marketing impact and drive organic search. TAS Case Studies at only $25 per post. Custom content available at $150. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.

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.


Achieving Greatness Through Customer Service

By Jason Gazaway

There’s good customer service, and there’s great customer service. What’s the difference? The answer is simple: human-to-human contact. People like to know that when they’re dealing with a company, they’re not just another dollar sign. They’re human beings who want to be listened to with respect. Achieving this level of excellence is no easy task.

The Human Voice: Genesys surveyed 9,000 consumers and found the most important aspect of doing business with a company was human service. One key method for attaining this kind of personal contact is a telephone answering service. In today’s web-driven world, few things beat the authenticity of a one-on-one conversation.

Yielding Returns: Of course, you can’t just put anyone on the phone with a customer. You have to put a great deal of care into the way your company is represented. Most customers are very likely to do business with, or switch their business to, a company known for good customer service. This means that service excellence is not only a good business ethic, but it actually yields returns.

The Qualities of Greatness: Though human-to-human contact is necessary for great service, it has yet to be determined what kind of contact this entails. You can’t have just anyone answering your phones. You need someone who:

  • Has experience
  • Exceeds the expectations of the customer by empathizing with his or her situation
  • Handles the needs of an irritated person calmly and efficiently
  • Makes the customer feel heard and respected

A Culture of Respect: How do you get high-quality customer service representatives? Look at your business holistically. The only way you can expect your staff to achieve excellence is if you yourself treat them as excellent. Creating a culture of respect, where every member of the team is valued as essential and indispensable, is necessary if you expect brilliant customer service.

Two Bonus Tips: In addition to these general principles, there are two specific tips. The first is simple: Know the customer’s name and address them by it. This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to overlook. Studies show that a person’s name causes a completely different part of the brain to light up, making it clear that a name is special and, in this case, useful. Plus, it shows you have genuine concern for who they are and what they mean to your business.

Similarly with the second tidbit, if the customer has a history with the company, refer to a specific aspect of his or her relationship to the business, even if it’s as simple as, “Thank you for your business with us for the last five years. I really appreciate it.” Notice the use of the singular pronoun, “I.” This indicates a personal relationship and communicates to the customer this is not just a transaction with a business but also an interaction with a human being.

In order to achieve excellence in customer service, each representative must treat every customer with respect, listening to their concerns with an open ear, which will result in long-term business relationships.

Jason Gazaway serves as the marketing communications specialist for VoiceNation and as a marketing consultant for Georgia Calls. With over fifteen years of experience managing digital and traditional marketing campaigns, he handles all marketing communications, public relations, and branding projects for both organizations.


Telephone Answering Service News

2017 ATSI Annual Conference: Education, Networking, Fellowship: The Association of TeleServices International (ATSI) will host the 2017 annual conference, “Education, Networking, and Fellowship,” June 27-29, 2017 at The Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. The conference will bring together industry leaders who will share and discuss important topics in the contact center and telephone answering service industry such as hiring talent and training, revenue enhancement techniques, and sales and marketing tactics. Additional sessions will explore HIPAA agent training, business operations, and planning and financial management, upcoming changes in legislation, telco competition, new technology, and equipment. The trade show and exposition provides an opportunity to view the latest in contact center equipment and technology. Registration opens in early 2017 at www.atsi.org.

Executive Services Earns Gold Call Center Certification: The Association of Teleservices International (ATSI) announced that Allgood Communications, Inc, dba Executive Services, has re-qualified for a fourth time and has been awarded the Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification Award. “This qualification is another milestone in our continuous investment in technology, people, and processes,” said April Kasza, Executive Services’ general manager. She continued, “Tom Sheridan, Executive Services’ president and part of the founding certification process, has committed to provide the highest quality services to our clients. Together, we are able to offer the best call center and information technology available, as well as innovative applications and quality service.”

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


 Quotes for the Month

“Of all nature’s gifts to the human race, what is sweeter to a man than his children?” -Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.” -Andre Gide

“The short fortune teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.” -unknown


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The November 2016 Issue of TAS Trader

How Well Do You Pay Your Operators?

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderLong ago, perhaps in graduate school, I read a management guru who advocated that a company’s highest paid employee should ethically make no more than seven times the lowest paid employee. Of course I can’t find that source now, but I remember it well.

For a telephone answering service, the two people at opposite ends of the wage scale are the owner/president/CEO and an entry-level operator. With the federal minimum wage in the United States currently at $7.25 per hour – and yes, there are sadly some answering services that still pay minimum wage – that projects to a top annual salary of around $105,000 a year. Of course it doesn’t need to be that high, but if can be.

How close does your answering service come to meeting this paradigm of no more than a seven-fold wage differential? Maybe it’s time to re-examine pay rates: decrease yours, increase theirs, or do both.

While I’ve met TAS owners who barely scraped by, some effectively making less than minimum wage for their endless hours of work, I think those players have all left the industry, either due to the sale of their business or its closure. Left are the viable players, the serious businesspeople who run great organizations and enjoy success. Many of them work diligently to maximize their paycheck, while at the same time remaining convinced they must pay their front-line staff as little as possible. “It’s the economics of the industry” they say.

I don’t agree.

What happens when the minimum wage goes up? Some states and cities already have, and answering services in those areas have adjusted to a higher starting wage. With talk of $12 to $15 dollars an hour, the low-paying answering services will be forced to make changes, too, or go out of business.

Get ahead of what is bound to come. Start increasing what you pay your answering service operators. But here’s a hint: Don’t pay more for the same caliber of employee. Pay more and expect more. Everyone wins.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine.


Classified Ads:

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

Content Marketing: Need content for your website or blog? Let Peter DeHaan provide it for you. Add exclusive content to your website to boost your marketing impact and drive organic search. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.

Mastar.com can help you startup a TAS for as low as $500 to begin. Single station $1,500 up to 5 stations for $5500 and you own it! Revisit our site; other startup apps now available. Contact Rod Minarik:  rodmastar@gmail.com or 541-606-9272.


 How Well is Your Answering Service Training Working?

By Janet Livingston

As I work with answering services, I see a lot of great things happening. I also see some struggles. Training is one of them. While most answering services have invested a great deal of thought, time, and energy into training, they don’t always meet their objective of producing quality agents at a cost-effective price. Some create admirable agents but at a high cost. Others keep their training costs down but see inconsistent results. And a few struggle in both areas.

Maybe it’s time to look outside your answering service for some cost-effective training expertise. Here are some ideas to consider:

Webinar Training: Hour-long webinars can provide focused training on specific answering service related job skills. Live webinars allow for on-the-fly adjustments, polling attendees, and a chance to submit questions. However, these webinars can also be recorded for later viewing by other staff. Over time an answering service can compile a library of relevant training topics.

Online Seminars: Think of an online seminar as a long-form webinar. It could last half a day: three to four hours, either morning or afternoon. Or the seminar could be a one-day intensive. When done live, the presenters can adjust their instruction to meet the pace and needs of the participants. Recording it allows for future access.

Workshops: A further refinement removes the online element of the seminar and turns it into an in-person event, which greatly enhances the learning potential. This can occur onsite at the answering service or offsite in a central location, which allows multiple answering services to participate and share in the cost.

While none of these options will address 100 percent of the instruction an agent needs, each solution can provide a consistent source of quality training at a low price point. Don’t expect your in-house trainers to do all the training. Supplement their efforts with some outside help. In the process you will cut your training dollars and increase the quality of the results.

You can keep doing training the way you always have and achieve the same outcomes or you can pursue advanced instruction methods to produced better-trained agents for less money.

Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider and consultancy that provides custom training solutions for all levels of telephone answering service staff. Contact Janet at contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or 800-901-7706 to learn more about arranging specific training for your organization.


Telephone Answering Service News

Amtelco Announces miSecureMessages v6.5: Significant features are added in miSecureMessages (MSM) version 6.5, developed in collaboration with miSecureMessages Certified Partner program and MSM app users. Contact-based licensing, instead of device-based licensing, means miSecureMessages clients pay only for the number of contacts they have, not the number of devices they have. Other features include:

  • Easier registration makes the mobile device app easier for call center clients to use.
  • Client permissions give call centers the ability to grant specific permission-based client access to the miSecureMessages administration web thereby reducing labor costs.
  • Canned responses for groups add flexibility for commercial accounts. Each client organization can have a separate list of responses.
  • Added reports address both system administrators and clients.
  • Time zone of reporting is adjustable in system settings.
  • Performance improvements increase the speed of the app and server.
  • Custom app menu links allow call centers to provide clients with web links accessible from the app’s menu, such as to Amtelco’s miTeamWeb or the call center’s support web page.

Amtelco works with call center partners to help market miSecureMessages to their clients. The MSM Certified Partners Program is unique in the industry, continues to grow, and currently has hundreds of successful members.

Focus Telecommunications is Certified Gold: Focus Telecommunications has re-certified for the Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification Award after originally qualifying November 2004, reports ATSI (the Association of TeleServices International). Donna West, president of Focus Telecommunications said, “I am delighted that this certification product is available along with other ATSI products that help to demonstrate a standard of quality to our clients and industry as a whole.”

Tom Reandeau, vice president of operations added, “Focus has been a long-time supporter of the ATSI certification program and along with the site certification, we also participate in the Agent, Advanced Agent, and Supervisor Certification Programs as well as the Award of Excellence and Award of Distinction for Call Centers, which helps to codify our commitment to excellence.”

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


 Quotes for the Month

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

“Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” -Richard Bach

“When fish are in schools they sometimes take debate.” -unknown


 

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The October 2016 Issue of TAS Trader

How Well Do You Know Your Answering Service’s Clients?

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderI recently read a fiction book set in the late nineties. In a small but pivotal part of the story stood a telephone answering service. The author was mostly accurate in describing how an answering service functions, though his depiction of the industry highlighted several negative stereotypes as the norm.

The FBI investigated one of the answering service’s clients, a professional assassin. They laid out two options to the answering service’s owner: cooperate with us and we will ignore your involvement in your customer’s crime or don’t cooperate and be charged as an accessory to murder, over two dozen of them, and risk spending the rest of your life in jail.

The owner decided to cooperate. Though she had never met the man who signed up for the service or the woman who they contacted with messages, the owner did admit she thought something was suspicious. She assumed her client was involved in some low-level fraud, but nothing to the level of a hitman. Since they paid their bill every month, quickly and reliably, she was willing to ignore whatever business they might be in.

A few days later, her client – the hitman – paid her a visit. The gist of the conversation, aided by the threatening presence of a handgun, was if you tell the FBI who I am, my associates or I will kill you.

Talk about a no-win situation.

This story, of course, is a work of fiction. But I share this scenario because I know that – despite the majority of answering services who would carefully avoid such a client – some services will take any client who can pay his or her bill. Maybe it’s time to rethink that strategy.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine.


Classified Ads:

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

Content Marketing: Need content for your website or blog? Let Peter DeHaan provide it for you. Add exclusive content to your website to boost your marketing impact and drive organic search. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.

Mastar.com can help you startup a TAS for as low as $500 to begin. Single station $1,500 up to 5 stations for $5500 and you own it! Revisit our site; other startup apps now available. Contact Rod Minarik:  rodmastar@gmail.com or 541-606-9272.

Accounts for Sale: 49 accounts, 29% medical, billing $11,000 per month avg. Asking 12x average billing, $132,000 with half down, balance on terms or 10% discount for cash. Prefer to sell to someone in the Pacific Northwest. Contact Tom: 509-593-5239 or tschmerer@gmail.com.

Seeking to Acquire TAS: Looking to purchase an answering service or call center. Please contact me if you are selling! gm@answerally.com.


Is Self-Talk Leading You To Success?

By Jason Gazaway

Have you ever talked to yourself or asked yourself a question? You know what I am talking about. We all do it. We debate thoughts in our heads. This can be helpful when wrestling with ideas. Other times this can be harmful, even debilitating. What self-talk we allow to repeat in our heads will eventually affect our perception of situations, people, and even ourselves.

Negative self-talk causes a skewed point of view. If we say destructive things or dwell on bad memories, we will eventually begin to believe them. This creates a toxic mindset that turns our focus from possibilities, opportunities, and hope, and points our attention to problems, issues, and self-pity. A victim mindset forms and quality of life decreases.

On the other hand, positive self-talk creates a mental atmosphere that is uplifting, encouraging, and inspiring. This type of mental talk is self-motivating and strengthening. You begin to believe in yourself, that you can do something. You shift your focus to the possibilities with a “yes I can” attitude.

How do you make this shift? You start. Sounds simple, right? But, it is true. You silence negative self-talk by using positive affirmations. You counteract and disqualify the bad with the good. It is about lining up our words and self-talk with what we are working towards and who we want to be or who we know we were created to be. This can be about our health, relationships, or business.

In June I ran my first half-marathon. Though I am a runner, trust me when I say that there was a lot of negative self-talk going on through the training process. The days where I let the negative self-talk prevail were the days I did my worst and quit early. The days I told myself I could do it, and even visualized myself finishing the race, were my best times. I felt energized.

What we say in our heads, especially about ourselves, has a profound effect on our behaviors. We have to change how we think in order to change how we behave. Dealing with and eliminating the negative self-talk will open a new door in life. Believe in yourself, speak life into situations, and focus on your destiny.

Jason Gazaway serves as the marketing communications specialist for VoiceNation and as a marketing consultant for Georgia Calls. With over fifteen years of experience managing digital and traditional marketing campaigns, he handles all marketing communications, public relations, and branding projects for both organizations.


Telephone Answering Service News

John Freire Recognized with Allen Kalik Award: John Freire of Direct Line Tele Response received the 2016 Allen Kalik Award. The announcement was made during the annual PINetwork User Group Meeting. The Allen Kalik Award was implemented in 2011 after the passing of industry leader and Professional Teledata’s late president, Allen Kalik. Honoring Allen, this award recognizes individuals whose unselfish dedication and leadership have led to the advancement of PIN.

“It was a personal honor and pleasure to be able to present the Allen Kalik award to John Freire,” said Phyllis Shaw, education committee chair of the PINetwork User Group. “John gives so much of his time to our group and is always available to share his knowledge with us. He is someone who thinks outside the box, and pushes us all to the next level.”

“I am honored and humbled to receive this award,” said Freire. “Allen was always giving back to PIN and eager to share his expertise and knowledge with anyone who was interested in learning.” Freire is the IT director at Direct Line Tele Response.

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


Quotes for the Month

“I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer.” -Douglas Adams

“True friends are those who really know you but love you anyway.” – Edna Buchanan

“To write with a broken pencil is pointless.” unknown

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