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The July 2019 Issue of TAS Trader

Consider Content Marketing for Your Answering Service

Provide Valuable Information Your Clients and Prospects Will Appreciate

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, author, blogger, publisher, editor

In past columns, we looked at how to make your answering service website stand out and the main pages every site should have. Now let’s switch our focus to content. You know what to put on your homepage, services, get started, about us, and contact us pages. But what if you want to incorporate a blog on your website? 

Coming up with good, fresh content on a regular basis is a challenge for TAS owners and managers who are already too busy. So if you’re going to make it a priority, you want to make it count. Avoid blogging about random topics that don’t provide value to your readers. You want to post what matters. This means content marketing.

What Is Content Marketing? Content marketing is providing information that your audience will appreciate, find useful, and see as beneficial. It is not advertising. And it is not the place for self-promotion. Also, your content marketing piece will seldom end with a direct call to action.

Though this will frustrate advertise-focused people, the goal of content marketing is to provide value to readers. In doing so you establish yourself or company as a credible source a practical content they’ll want to read month after month.

Find a Theme: To guide your writing and direct your vision, you need a theme for your blog. That way your audience will know what to expect, and you’ll meet their expectations every time. What should your theme be? That’s a great question. 

What are you and your team knowledgeable about? This is an ideal place to start. There are two general areas to consider: answering service content and client-focused content.

Answering Service Content: For content marketing focused on the answering service industry, you’ll certainly be writing about what you know: answering services. Just remember this is not a place to promote your business. This is a place to provide intelligent and actionable content that will help clients better use their answering service and prospects better understand how to select one.

When you do this honestly, you help everyone who uses, or may use, an answering service, even if it’s not yours. But if this is the case, don’t despair. Your excellent posts about the industry positions you as a go-to expert. And eventually they’re bound to go to you.

Client-Focused Content: You can also do content marketing around the topic that’s of interest to your clients or a large group of your clients. Think of this as a value-added service. If you are a medical answering service, cover topics of interest to healthcare practitioners. If you specialize in the service industry, right about that. If most of your clients are small businesses, provide them with valuable information about running their company.

The Goal: Regardless of the theme you pick, the goal is not to sell your services but to position yourself as a thought leader and earn their trust. Over time, your content marketing pieces will help drive business your way. And even if you have a regular reader who loves what you write but never uses your service, you can take solace in knowing that your words are benefiting the industry as a group. 

Everyone wins with content marketing.

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.

Operations Manager: 32-year-old TAS in sunny Central Florida looking for an operations manager. Experience is a must! Send resume to jeanpearson49@gmail.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 online, now only $199 a year. Overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan. Email Valerie for details.

Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit 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.


ATSI Recognizes Top Answering Services

The 2019 ATSI Call Center Award of Distinction (AoD) Recipients are:

  • Answer Quick, Louisville, TN
  • Call 4 Health, Delray Beach, FL
  • Connections Call Center, Squamish, BC
  • Extend Communications, Inc., Brantford, ON
  • First American Payment Systems, Fort Worth, TX
  • Nationwide Inbound, Freeport, IL
  • Telelink, St. John’s, NL
  • Time Communications, Roseville, MN

And the answering services that earned the ten highest scores in the 2019 ATSI Award of Excellence (AoE) are: 

  1. Alliance Wireless Communications, Kingston, ON
  2. Alphapage, LLC, Denver, CO
  3. Answer – Southern States, Hopkinsville, KY 
  4. Answer Midwest, Inc., Alton, IL
  5. AnswerTel of Athens, Inc., Athens, AL
  6. Carolyn’s Communications Inc., Snellville, GA
  7. Connections Call Center, Squamish, BC
  8. King’s Telephone Answering Services, Shreveport, LA 
  9. Main Line TeleCommunications, Aston, PA 
  10. Rochester Telemessaging Center, Rochester Hills, MI

Congratulations to these fine organizations and all who participated in the AoD and AoE programs this year. You’ll notice that Connections Call Center is on both lists. They earned the highest scores in both programs. [Look for a full list of ATSI AoE winners in the next issue.]


Industry News

Ansercomm Acquires Academy Messaging: Ansercomm announced that they acquired Academy Messaging of Hackensack, NJ. Ansercomm has helped businesses since 1964 with 24/7 answering services serving the United States and Canada. Academy Messaging of Hackensack, NJ is a 60-year-old answering service, giving Ansercomm a third call center location in addition to their Maple Shade, NJ and North Lauderdale, FL operations. Ansercomm president, Anthony Greenfield says, “The acquisition gives us an additional bank of live operators. In today’s digital world, customers still want to speak to a person at some point in the sales and service process, and that’s what we do.”

Szeto Technologies Expands Leadership Team: Szeto Technologies announced that Robert Bidewell and Garrett Bidewell will join the Szeto family as they expand and continue to grow. Robert and Garrett bring over twenty years of collective experience as owners of several thriving answering services in Alberta, Canada. Robert will collaborate with engineers bringing his experiences and know-how with telephony installations and technical skills. Garrett brings his strengths in marketing and business to the company. Szeto Technologies looks forward to working with these new team members and welcomes them to their family.

Amtelco Introduces Genesis Service Level Reports: Amtelco’s Genesis provides reporting on service level statistics for each agent ID, agent ACD skill, agent skill group, and client account. There is also a service level report grouped by interval. Service level reports include color-coded indicators of thresholds that aren’t met or exceeded. Benefits of these reports for the answering service include improved customer satisfaction and better business management.

NAEO Summer Series: The National Amtelco Equipment Owners (NAEO) users’ group Summer Series will offer three separate tracks: IS 101 for beginners, IS 102 for intermediate to advanced programming, and a supervisor leadership path. Sessions will run simultaneously from 9-5 each day from Monday, July 29 through Wednesday, July 31 in Atlanta, Georgia. While the IS 101 and 102 tracks are specific to Amtelco software, the leadership track would be beneficial to supervisors and operations managers of answering services and call centers with any equipment. Learn more at https://www.naeo.org/event/2019-summer-series.

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


Quotes for the Month

“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.” -Hal Borland 

“Life is an adventure in forgiveness.” –Norman Cousins

“When you’ve seen one shopping center you’ve seen a mall.” -unknown

The June 2019 Issue of TAS Trader

Look to Fine-Tune Your TAS Processes

Seek to Provide the Fast Responses Your Prospects and Clients Expect

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

We live in an I-want-it-now culture. People, in general, and your answering service clients, specifically, expect quick responses to their inquiries. If they don’t get what they want when they want it, they’ll seek solutions elsewhere.

That’s why we need to look at our various answering service processes and seek to fine-tune them. The goal is to develop new ways of doing things so we can respond quicker with our present and future clients.

Here are some areas to consider.

Streamline Sales

How long does it take from the time a prospect clicks a button for more information until they’re interacting with a person who can help them? Though it’s a good practice, an automated response doesn’t count, nor does someone texting, calling, or emailing that someone will get back with them in a few minutes. What matters is contact from a salesperson who can answer questions and move toward a successful close.

The patience of prospects is extremely short. The chances of success decrease noticeably as response times increase. For many situations, a five-minute response time is the new standard. Making prospects wait even thirty minutes, dramatically decreases the chance of someone connecting with them and closing the deal. That’s why some companies push for a one-minute response time. Most prospects will wait sixty seconds before they contact another company.

This means you need to figure out a way that the information on the clicked form goes immediately to a salesperson who can contact them right away. Any other steps or delays is unacceptable.

Streamline Onboarding

Once you sign up a new client, what’s your process for getting them setup so you can take calls? This doesn’t mean giving them a generic solution now and fine-tuning it later. This means a fully functional, working answering service solution.

In pursuing this goal, the objective is to balance speed with accuracy. Don’t program their account so quickly that it contains errors. But don’t take so long that they give up on you.

This means sending the information collected by the salesperson directly to the programmer. Even if you sell customers on the paradigm that “it will take us three business days to set up your account properly, because we’re focused on quality,” still look for ways to do things faster and better.

Streamline Customer Service

Now you’ve turned a prospect into a client. Ideally, they’ll never have any customer service issues, but they will.

When it comes to responding fast to customer service inquiries, there are two considerations. The first is how quickly the client can share their concern with someone who can act upon it. The second is how quickly the customer service agent can implement and communicate the solution to the client. Address both these issues, looking for ways to fine-tune your processes to respond with speed and accuracy.

Streamline Other Areas

Sales, client onboarding, and customer service are the three big areas to address first. But when you’re finished with those, this doesn’t mean you’re done. There’s more to do. In accounting, look at the timeliness of sending invoices, handling receivables, and processing payables. What about dealing with technical issues? First restructure procedures that address problems affecting more than one client. Then look at simplifying the process to resolve the technical concerns of one client.

A related issue is in your agent hiring and training procedures. Though this isn’t a client-facing concern, it does directly affect your answering service’s productivity and profitability.

Be Ever Streamlining

Once you’ve fine-tuned the processes in all these areas, now you can sit back and take it easy, right? Wrong! Always seek ways to do things faster and better. Don’t accept the status quo, and don’t assume that if something was good enough last year, it’s good enough now.

Always seek to do things faster and better. Other answering services are. If you want to keep up, so should you.

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:

Specialty TAS/Call Center for Sale: Health forces sale. Specialty TAS/Call Center started in 2005. We are the leader in our segment of the market, with an excellent reputation. Sale includes: URLs, toll-free number, trade show display if you want it, and 33 accounts averaging $25,568 monthly billing. Accounts are currently on Infinity. Contact: mycallcenter4sale@gmail.com or 628-220-0647.

Operations Manager: 32-year-old TAS in sunny Central Florida looking for an operations manager. Experience is a must! Send resume to: jeanpearson49@gmail.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 online, now only $199 a year. Overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan. Email Valerie for details.

Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit 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.


5 Signs it’s Time to Say “Goodbye” to Your Client

By Kate Zabriskie

Sometimes you can’t meet clients’ expectations, other times clients require an inordinate amount of time, and on rare occasions, a client’s behavior may expose an organization to undue peril. When any of these situations occur, it’s best to say “goodbye” and to do so quickly in a way that creates the least resentment on both sides.

1. They cause 80 percent of your problems but don’t cover 80 percent of your revenue: From time to time, any client could require more energy than others. Those high-demand situations are normal. What isn’t normal, however, is the perpetual squeaky wheel that routinely disrupts normal business operations.

These clients may not be the clients you want to keep. This is especially true if serving them prevents you from taking care of clients who are more profitable and easier to help. If they insist on staying anyway, consider raising their rates.

2. They’re abusive: When management allows clients to abuse employees, it’s the same as perpetrating the abuse directly. Do clients swear, yell, demean, or harass your employees? If so, it’s time to let them know their behavior isn’t acceptable.

If the bad behavior continues, the relationship should stop. Not acting could expose your company to a lawsuit, erode morale, and negatively affect your culture.

3. Their behavior doesn’t align with your ethics: You are the company you keep. If you enable your clients to act in a way that conflicts with your organization’s values or the law, it may be time to say, “Goodbye.”

Do you really want to associate yourself and your organization with those whose business practices are illegal, immoral, or questionable? When a client exposes you to unneeded risk, it’s prudent to disassociate yourself from them pronto.

4. They expose you to unneeded financial risk: If you spend more time chasing payments than performing work, it’s time to consider a new payment plan or a permanent breakup if that doesn’t solve the problem. It’s best to avoid an organization that puts your pocketbook on the line.

5. You’re no longer a good fit: Sometimes providers and their clients grow apart. Nobody has done anything wrong. The two parties are just in different places, and it’s time to say goodbye.

Conclusion: No matter the reason, prolonging a relationship that isn’t working does no one any favors. It’s usually not fun to say “goodbye,” but once you do, you’ll have more time to say “hello” to clients you want to work with.

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.

[Read the full article, which contains additional information.]


Industry News

Amtelco’s Newest Genesis IS Release Rated Avaya Compliant: Amtelco announced that its Genesis Intelligent Series solution is compliant with key Avaya IX Workplace Calling solutions from Avaya. The Genesis software switching solution provides the Intelligent Series applications with advanced software-based telephony. Genesis provides an all-inclusive, enterprise-wide call center with skills-based automatic call distribution (ACD), built-in speech recognition, text to speech, and voice services to improve call routing and management. 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 businesses to grow without adding additional hardware, helping save time and money.

Utility Expands Customer Interactions: OnviSource announced that an electric utility company successfully deployed OnviSource Inspecta feedback, notification, and response management software. This allows them to intelligently automate outbound customer surveys and feedback. It also cost-effectively manages customer notification and response related to critical service events and other general communications. The electric utility can better manage, measure, and improve customer engagement and the overall customer experience.

Inspecta offered automation and management of surveys, notifications, and responses, as well as new telecom and VoIP-based technologies to reduce the telecom expenses and response time.

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


Quotes for the Month

“The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” -Moliere

“Never harbor grudges; they sour your stomach and do no harm to anyone else.” -Robertson Davies

“A plateau is a high form of flattery.” -unknown

The May 2019 Issue of TAS Trader

The Essential Pages Every TAS Website Should Have

An Effective Website Doesn’t Need to Be Big, but It Does Need to Cover the Basics

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-April 2019

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

In Does Your TAS Have a Great Website? we looked at how to make your website stand out as an essential marketing resource for your answering service. The tips offered aren’t revolutionary and comprise best practices for website design. Unfortunately, too many websites in the industry fall short of meeting these essential requirements. Though some answering services can fix their failing websites by updating them, other sites need a complete overhaul.

Regardless of where you are in the process, every website should have five essential pages. Though this discussion is specifically for answering services, the principles apply to any website for any industry.

1. Homepage

Your homepage should embrace visitors and draw them in. It should give them a reason to stick around and explore the other pages on your site. Don’t make your homepage about you. Seriously.

Focus on your audience. Make it about them. This is hard to do well. To see if your words resonate with your audience, ask someone who doesn’t know you or your business to read your homepage and tell you what they think. Adjust the text as appropriate to hone your message to resonate with visitors, that is your prospects.

2. Services

Next you need a page that lists your services. Don’t provide too many options or you will overwhelm them, and visitors will bounce, searching for a more user-friendly site. Ideally, give them two options. That will make it easiest for them to decide. The more options, the harder you make it for them to choose, and if it’s too complicated, they’ll choose to go elsewhere.

Only listing two service options, however, presents a challenge. Three would be okay, four at the most.

Don’t attempt to list every option you offer on this page. Instead, include the popular ones and the ones you want to sell. Then add something about contacting you for custom solutions. In most cases, you should include pricing for each service option. The only exception might be if you are a premium provider and don’t want to get into pricing until after you’ve sold them emotionally on the value of your service.

3. Get Started

The next page should explain how easy it is for a prospect to become a client. Businesses that have used answering services will know what to expect and will skip this page. So write the content for someone who has never used an answering service. Spell things out for them in an easy-to-follow list.

They may not be familiar with call forwarding. Explain it. They won’t have any idea as to which billing package they should select. Give them guidelines on how to figure it out. The goal is to make the process of hiring you simple, easy-to-understand, and painless.

End this page with the call to action, designed to move them from prospect to new client. This may include a sign-up form or a phone number to call.

4. About Us

After these pages, include a section that talks about your answering service. The goal is to make your service shine, while hinting at how your unique characteristics will benefit your prospects. Talk about anything that will make your answering service stand out. This could include how long you’ve been in business, awards you’ve won, or your leadership in the industry or your community.

Every answering service talks about their great staff, so you should too. Share your vision to serve your clients. As appropriate, talk about your quality service, easy-to-understand invoices, or the outcomes your clients can expect.

Don’t be afraid about making this page too long, but make sure it’s easy for visitors to scan. If they’re interested, they’ll read whatever you put there. At the end, list client testimonials. Though you can sprinkle selected testimonials throughout the site, one on each page, listing them all here is a great idea.

5. Contact Us

The final page should tell prospects how to reach you. At minimum there should be a phone number, but most people expect an email address as well. Also list your social media pages. This, however, assumes they’re up to date and you’re active on them. Unless you’re trying to obscure where you’re located, include your mailing address. If you have multiple offices, this is a great place to list them.

Though your essential contact information—phone number and email address—should prominently appear on every page at least once, include all options here. Some prospects will immediately look for a “contact us” page.

Other

There are a couple of other items to include on your website. These are not part of the main five essential items and don’t deserve one of the main navigation tabs, but they should be someplace. One good location is in the header that appears on the top of every page.

Client Portal: Assuming you have a client portal, add a login link for your clients.

Employment Opportunities: If you’re like most services, you’re on the outlook for quality staff. Include a link for employment opportunities. On this page, sell them on the desirability of working for your answering service, and make it easy for them to apply

Blog: Some answering services have a blog. This is an option you should only take if you’re committed to posting regular, valuable content. For most answering services, a blog is a time-consuming item that they don’t have time for.

However, a blog is a great long-term move that will engage your audience, improve your SEO rankings, and make you stand out in the industry. (Unlike “client portal” and “employment opportunities,” you will want to list your blog as one of your main navigation tabs.)  To learn more about the value of a blog, explore content marketing.

Conclusion

Use these tips to improve or overhaul your website. This will attract more visitors. It will help you turn more prospects into clients. You’ll sign them up faster and keep them longer.

That’s what the right website can do for you.

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:

Operations Manager: 32-year-old TAS in sunny Central Florida looking for an operations manager. Experience is a must! Send resume to: jeanpearson49@gmail.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 online, now only $199 a year. Overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan. Email Valerie for details.

Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit 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.

Call for Submissions

Because the first article of this issue is twice the length as usual, we won’t have a second one this time. However, were looking for content for the rest of the year.

Will you help?

Please email Peter with your thoughts about the industry. If you’re not a writer, that’s okay. We’ll polish it and make your piece shine. You may even be able to repurpose something you’ve already written, such as a blog post or excerpt from a client letter. Just remember that our audience is other answering services, not answering service prospects.

Together we can work to make the industry better.

Thank you!


Industry News

TAS Marketing Celebrates 40 Years: Since 1979, Steve Michaels and his wife Chris have supported the industry selling various products such as the ACI teleprinter system, the AVI training program, and the DC 7 call management system, along with launching Connections Magazine. (Now published by Peter DeHaan.)

Recently the team has been one member short due to cancer, but Chris is on the mend and should be back at her desk in June. TAS Marketing sells six to ten businesses per year, now totaling almost 500 businesses sold. As a service to the industry, Steve publishes a newsletter “TAS Tips.” Reach Steve at 800-369-6126 or tas@tasmarketing.com

MiSecureMessages Secure Messaging App 4.2.0 for iOS/Apple Devices: Amtelco released version 4.2.0 of the miSecureMessages secure messaging app. Version 4.2.0 features enhanced functionality with Apple Watch. Apple Watch Series 3 and 4 users with Watch OS 5 or later can read and reply to secure messages. A new Apple Watch menu displays which accounts contain new messages.

The miSecureMessages Apple app provides secure messaging and paging services for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. It receives notifications of secure messages sent from the miSecureMessages Web Service via the Apple Push Notification Service. Users can view, respond to, and initiate messages to other miSecureMessages users within their organization. Customers may update the app from their iPhone’s App Store account.

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


Quotes for the Month

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” -E. M. Forster

“Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” -Abigail Adams

He had a photographic memory which was never developed.” -unknown

The April 2019 Issue of TAS Trader

How to Make Your Website Shine

Discover How to Make Your Website an Essential Marketing Resource

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-April 2019

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

In Does Your TAS Have a Great Website? we talked about the importance of having a killer website to serve as your online home base for your marketing plan.

You can hire a professional web developer to do this for you. You can also do it yourself. Either way, here are some tips to guide the process. Follow these and you’ll be ahead of most websites in the answering service industry.

Seek a Clean, Fresh Design

First, pursue a website that looks fresh and clean. If this tip doesn’t provide enough clarity, then avoid the opposite: a dated, cluttered website. Don’t try to squeeze everything in a small area. Instead use white space to make the content more inviting and readable. Stick with one common font, with black type on a white background. Anything else is hard to read, as well as trendy, which will become dated fast. Also, keep a simple color palette that matches your logo.

Provide Search Engine Friendly Content

If you want people to find your site through organic search, make sure you have at least 300 words on every page. Google needs to see that many to properly index it. This means don’t put text in graphics, which search engines can’t read. It also means avoiding making visitors click “more” to read additional text. Be sure all the text on a page is readily available without an extra click.

Avoid Industry Jargon

Most answering service websites contain industry terms that most prospects won’t understand—unless some answering service has trained them. Don’t make a prospect speak your language to do business with you. Instead speak their language. This means explaining your service in terms they can understand from a basic business perspective. Keep things simple, and you’ll close more sales and do it faster.

Make It User Friendly

If someone ever asks you how to navigate your website or where to find something, this is a clue that you need to simplify its structure. Make it user friendly. Make it intuitive. Don’t hide links to needed information. Visitors should be able to find everything from your home page. The more clicks they need to make or the longer they need to search for something, the more likely they are to bounce.

Focus on Mobile First

A few years ago, website traffic reached a tipping point, where more visitors used mobile devices then computers. This means you need a mobile-first strategy when it comes to website design. Merely being mobile ready isn’t enough, though it’s a good start. View your website on a mobile device, and see how easy or hard it is to navigate. I’ve been to some websites on my smartphone and was so frustrated that I closed my browser and went to my computer. Few prospects, however, will bother to do that.

Proof Content and Test Links

I’m surprised at how often I see errors and typos on TAS websites. Website designers are weak when it comes to catching problems. You need to hold them accountable. Get as many people reviewing your website as possible. Even more valuable is asking people who don’t use answering services to give you feedback.

Prioritize Search Engine Optimization

I suspect you’ve heard of SEO (search engine optimization). If you’re like most business owners, you’re ignoring it or giving it scant attention. This is a mistake. The best website will struggle without SEO, while a less than ideal one will get more traffic if they do a good job at SEO.

SEO is part science and part art. You need someone who can master both. And just because they say they’re an expert, doesn’t mean they are. The proof is in results. As an SEO guru begins optimizing your site, you should see results within a month, two at the most. If your traffic isn’t increasing, you’ve hired the wrong person. How much should traffic increase under a good SEO program? The answer depends on how bad things are to start with, but the results must be measurable and should be significant.

Conclusion

Apply these tips when you update or overhaul your website. You’ll get increased traffic, fewer complaints, and hopefully more sales.

Next month we’ll look at the essential pages every TAS website should have.

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


Classified Ads:

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

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

Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit 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.

Operations Manager: 32-year-old TAS in sunny Central Florida looking for an operations manager. Experience is a must! Send resume to: jeanpearson49@gmail.com.


10 Commandments for the Inspirational Leader: The Foundation of Business Solutions

By Michele Wierzgac

There are many theories in leadership ranging from vision to self-awareness to service. The simplest way to develop your leadership skills is to have a work ethic mixed with a solid foundation of core values.

Inspirational leaders have commandments they work with and live by. These commandments, or guidelines, lay the critical foundation for the development of leadership and business solutions.

These Ten Commandments will work as a guidebook to inspire your staff, increase workplace morale, and lay the foundation for a successful company.

1. Be truthful
2. Be consistent
3. Be empathetic
4. Be generous
5. Be strong
6. Be articulate
7. Be approachable
8. Be a brand champion
9. Be a genuine spirit
10. Be credible

As an inspirational leader, do you have commandments that you work and live by? If not, use this list as a starting point.

Michele Wierzgac is a leadership expert, keynote speaker, and author of the forthcoming book, Ass Kicking Women: How They Leverage Their Informal Networks for Success. With her high energy presentations, Michele conveys sound leadership solutions and promotes audience engagement and on-your-feet participation.

[Read the full article at ArticleWeekly.com.]


Telephone Answering Service News

Join Answering Service Forum, a Free Online Meeting Place for the TAS Industry

Rob Hudelson unveiled the Answering Service Forum for everyone in the TAS industry. There you can find “everything you always wanted to know about the answering service industry but were afraid to ask,” said Hudelson. Join the Answering Service Forum today and start exchanging ideas with others in the industry.

“I have long thought there should be a meeting and exchange place for everyone involved in the TAS industry regardless of their ability to join associations or attend conventions,” said Hudelson. “So, I created the Answering Service Forum. It’s a free place for TAS owners, managers, and employees to share ideas and ask questions.”

ASTAA to Present 2019 Sales Symposium

The 2019 TAS Sales Symposium, hosted by ASTAA will be August 7–8 at the Hotel Indigo in Baltimore MD. “This will be a full two-day class on all aspects of sales specifically geared toward answering services,” said executive director Maryellen Pruitt. “As a bonus, the last half of day two will be a panel discussion from some of the best sales people in our industry.” 

Presenters include: Stacey Brown Randall on “Generating Referrals Without Asking”; Farnoosh Brock on “Addressing Objections Effectively” and “Charging Appropriately”; Diane Helbig covering “Long Term Results from Real Time Engagement” and “Sales Management”; Michael Schmidtmann on “How to Be More Persuasive in Sales”; and Liz Dederer addressing “The Four Currencies of Conversation.”

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


Quotes for the Month

“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.” -Mark Twain

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

“A boiled egg is hard to beat.” -unknown

The March 2019 Issue of TAS Trader

Does Your TAS Have a Great Website?

Regardless of How You Market Your Answering Service, a Killer Website is Key

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

There are many ways to market your answering service, limited only by your creativity and budget. Regardless of which strategy you use, you need a website. Even if you claim you’re not accepting any new clients—and I never met an answering service that meant that—you still need a website for existing clients.

And this isn’t just any website but a great one. Your website stands as your make-or-break element to close sales. Regardless of your marketing tactics, prospects expect to find a website. In most cases your website will be part of your marketing campaign. But even if it isn’t, buyers may still look for one. What they see will determine whether they say “yes” or “no.”

Impress them and they’re likely to sign up. Disappoint them and they’ll go to your competitor. And if you don’t have a website, or they can’t find it, you’ve lost their business.

What about Social Media?

Some businesses, including those in the answering service industry, insist a website isn’t necessary, that they get along just fine using social media—thank you very much. However, using social media as your online home base is foolish. You don’t own it or have any control over what happens to it.

On social media, you’re at the whim of corporate overlords. At any moment, your online social media presence could go away or your audiences’ ability to see your content could face severe limitations. All social media platforms are moving to a pay-to-play scenario, some faster than others. At the most basic level, they want to charge you to reach your audience.

Instead, use social media to point people to your website, your home base, the only online real estate that you can own and control.

What about Print?

In the old days, back before the internet, businesses did just fine without a website. They relied on various forms of print media to promote their business and gain new clients. This included the Yellow Pages, newspaper ads, and direct mail. When is the last time you’ve seen the Yellow Pages? When’s the last time you read a newspaper? And what do you do when you receive direct mail? You throw it away without opening it. Even for specific print niches that still work, today’s consumers expect you to have a website. To not have one means you’re not viable. You’re invisible.

What about Online Advertising?

Many people love online advertising. It’s easy to track and determine your ROI. You can measure your success, or the lack thereof, fast. Though the call to action for online marketing can be to call a phone number, most involve a website. And even if the goal is to have the prospect pick up the phone, having a website adds essential credibility to your offer.

Rethink Your Website

You should view your website as your online home base. Use social media to point to it. Social media is ancillary to marketing, not central. And if you prefer print media, the results will be stronger if you have a killer website riding shotgun. The same is true for online advertising. Without a website, you might get a lot of ad clicks but few conversions.

So, scrutinize your website. Is it as good as it can be? Or does it look tired and dated. I’ve looked at a lot of TAS websites. Most could be better. And too many are embarrassing. For the sake of the industry, and the sake of your business, that needs to change.

Hopefully you’re convinced of the importance of a website, a good website. Next month I’ll share tips on how to make yours stand out.

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:

Operations Manager: 32-year-old TAS in sunny Central Florida looking for an operations manager. Experience is a must! Send resume to: jeanpearson49@gmail.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 online, now only $199 a year. Overhauled and redesigned, make FindAnAnsweringService.com part of your online marketing plan. Email Valerie for details

Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit 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.


5 Philosophies that Lead to a Destructive Company Culture

By Magi Graziano

Most leaders say they want a constructive corporate culture, but many are uncertain of what it really takes to shape it. Consequently, these executives and managers unintentionally lead their people toward the fatal, destructive side of the culture coin. They do this by buying into five positive-sounding philosophies:

1. Winning Above All Else: Winning is a powerful motivator. The desire to win can make things happen and bring in profits. However, a once healthy desire to “beat the competition” gone unchecked often creates opportunities for unproductive behavior and perpetuating ways of thinking that result in an organization eating itself alive.

These show up with people arguing for win/lose scenarios, as well as in-fighting for power, control, rewards, promotions, and resources. A workplace culture that values winning more than anything else can be fertile ground for destructive behavior and employment brand erosion.

2. Commanding and Controlling: In power-driven organizations, hierarchy reigns and members of the management team must take charge, control subordinates, and yield to the demands of superiors. Historically, this has been the “right” way to lead, and for many decades it worked.

This model is flawed, however, and those managed by people who pursue this approach atrophy and stagnate. In workplace cultures that rewards this type of behavior, the powerful take over and the powerless surrender.

3. Opposing Others:In oppositional workplace cultures there is often a root of overcoming obstacles that afforded the organization sustainability and success over the years. But what often got us here will not get us there. Opposition is one of those elements of culture, much like winning at all costs, that turns the organization against itself. In work cultures where members are expected to be critical, oppose ideas of others, and make “safe” decisions, people drop into fear and suppress their ideas and creativity.

4. Pursuing Perfection:In other cases, leaders’ of quality-driven organizations pride themselves with a commitment to excellence. While this intention may have been initially pure, too often the unconscious underlying behavior fostered with this value is perfection. In a culture of perfection, people do not take risks, they do not try new things, and they certainly do not put themselves or their reputation on the line.

5. Keeping the Peace and Getting Along:Everyone who is anyone in business understands the need to cooperate with others in the workplace and the need for teamwork and collaboration. However, creating a work culture where everyone must get along with little to no emphasis on performance or results, most often leads to over-the-top consensus building, perceived favoritism, a loss of focus and ambition, inconsistent accountability, and a destructive fear of conflict.

Conclusion

These seemingly-good philosophies can undermine your company’s overall mission and get you off track. Shaping constructive culture is about intentionally causing the corporate culture that exemplifies your brand promise. Intentional culture is all about monitoring what you are creating and making necessary shifts along the way to ensure you are accomplishing what you set out to do by creating the intentional culture in the first place.

Magi Graziano is the CEO of KeenAlignment, a speaker, employee recruitment and engagement expert, and author of The Wealth of Talent. Magi provides her customers with actionable, practical ideas to maximize their effectiveness and ability to create high-performing teams. She empowers and enables leaders to bring transformational thinking to the day-to-day operation. For more information visit www.keenalignment.com.

Read Magi’s full article at Article Weekly.


Telephone Answering Service News

2019 TAS Events: Though some events have already occurred, and others haven’t yet been announced, we now know most of this year’s industry calendar. Here’s a current list:

Check out our TAS Events Calendar for the latest updates and new postings.

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


Quotes for the Month

“A house is no home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.” -Margaret Fuller

“That some achieve great success is proof to all that others can achieve it as well.” -Abraham Lincoln

“A lot of money is tainted: ‘Taint yours, and ‘taint mine.” -unknown

The February 2019 Issue of TAS Trader

How to Start a Telephone Answering Service

Key Information Provided as a Service to the Industry

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

When I consulted for the answering service and call center industries, people kept contacting me who wanted to start a telephone answering service. I didn’t feel right taking their money and tried to talk them out of it. After all, who wants to go into a business that is labor-intensive, capital-intensive, and never closes? (Though running an answering service is no longer as capital-intensive, it certainly was back then.) And the few people who insisted on hiring me, soon gave up.

Yet the inquiry calls continued to roll in, taking up too much of my time and providing no business in return. In desperation, I set up a website, StartAnAnsweringService.com and referred people to it. That little site gave all the essential information and appeased most people.

When I stopped consulting to focus on publishing, I left the website up as a service to the industry. I even added occasional updates. With no promotion, it continued to get traffic, month after month, year after year. Though it had always been my intention to turn that website into a book, I never got around to it.

Until now.

How to Start a Telephone Answering Service book

On January 29, 2019, I released my first call center book, How to Start a Telephone Answering Service. And I turned StartAnAnsweringService.com into its sales page. It even has a book trailer. On that day, How to Start a Telephone Answering Service, became the number one new book on Amazon in the outsourcing category.

For those of you in the answering service industry, you already know everything that’s in this book. But if you’re new to the industry or thinking about getting into it, this book contains valuable information. I think it’s the best information you’ll ever find on the subject, but then I’m a bit biased.

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


Classified Ads:

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

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

Industry Domain Names for Sale: LocateAnAnsweringService.com, LocateACallCenter.com, and Outsourcezine.com. Make an offer. More info or email Peter DeHaan for details.

Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit 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.


One-on-One Meetings Matter More Than You Know

By Kate Zabriskie

Without trying too hard, it’s easy for many managers to compile a list of reasons not to meet with the people they supervise. Guess what? These excuses don’t outweigh the value and importance of a regularly scheduled meeting with a direct report.

Benefits of Regular One-on-One Meetings

If used correctly, over time managers and employees can enjoy many benefits by meeting one on one.

  • Visible Appreciation: Time is currency. If managers carve out time for their people and are prepared when they meet, they show they value their direct reports.
  • Better Thinking: Regular one-on-one meetings give managers and employees space to step away from the urgent and immediate and to think more holistically and strategically about work, goals, and development opportunities.
  • Stronger Results: Accountability tends to improve when people have an opportunity or a requirement to report on their progress.
The Perfect One-on-One

Once a manager has bought into the value of one-on-one meetings, the next step is to execute them in a way that works for the manager and the employee. Good one-on-one meetings are not one-size-fits-all activities. That said, here are a few guidelines to make a one-on-one meeting successful.

  • Schedule: Pick a schedule and stick to it. One-on-ones shouldn’t regularly disappear from the calendar simply because something else suddenly comes up.
  • Frequency: Choose a frequency that makes sense. For some people meeting once a month may be enough. For others, meeting weekly may be more appropriate. Every relationship is different. Furthermore, circumstances evolve. Depending on what’s happening inside and outside the organization, an employee’s needs could change drastically. Evaluate meeting frequency from time to time. If the rate of meetings is correct, managers and employees should not routinely find themselves with no reason to meet.
  • Plan: Follow a written agenda. Well-run one-on-one meetings are not free-for-all conversations. They follow an agenda just as any other good meeting does. A one-on-one meeting agenda might include such topics as current projects, progress on yearly development goals, current challenges, and so forth.
Dealing with Obstacles

One-on-one meetings rarely go from nonexistent or dysfunctional to perfect overnight. For that reason, managers should prepare to overcome a variety of obstacles. Read the full article to learn how to deal with four common obstacles.

Reevaluate from Time-to-Time

Like anything, one-on-one meetings can get stale. It’s important to look at the format and frequency from time to time and to solicit feedback regarding what’s working and what isn’t.

If you’ve fallen out of the habit of holding regular one-on-one meetings or if you’re not getting all you could from them, now is the time to take another look. After all, can you really afford not to?

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

Peter DeHaan Releases TAS Book: Longtime industry veteran Peter Lyle DeHaan released his insider’s guide to starting an answering service on January 29, 2019. Titled How to Start a Telephone Answering Service, the book concisely shares the essential information needed for an entrepreneur to start an answering service. Based on decades of industry experience and years of consulting, Peter DeHaan, PhD, released this book as a service to the industry.

“Though I open the book trying to talk people out of starting an answering service, if they decide to proceed, I want them to do it right and not damage the industry by making naïve mistakes,” said DeHaan. “It’s a must read for anyone thinking about getting into the answering service industry.”

Learn more at StartAnAnsweringService.com.

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


Quotes for the Month

“Patience is also a form of action.” -Auguste Rodin

“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.” -Samuel Johnson

“A calendar’s days are numbered.” -unknown

The January 2019 Issue of TAS Trader

A New Year Means New Possibilities

Embrace Today as an Opportunity to Form a Better Tomorrow

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As we step into the new year, we embrace the potential that it brings. Now is the time to move toward our best year yet. It starts with embracing the opportunities we have in front of us at this moment.

What might this be? It might involve personnel, such as a new hire, a restructuring, or fixing a broken team. Could it be technology? To implement or fully master what’s already installed, to acquire something new, or to replace something that’s inadequate. What about operations? Streamline an outdated process, establish a procedure, or simplify the complicated. Then there’s sales and marketing. Master online ads, overhaul sales collateral, or update an ineffective website.

There’s plenty to do and each one of these things will help pave the way for a better tomorrow.

Today Is the Day

We’re a couple days into the new year, and if you’re like me, you’re still trying to wrap up last year and put a nice bow on it. Yet it’s hard to look forward when we’re absorbed with the past. It’s true that we shouldn’t leave last year undone, yet we shouldn’t use this as an excuse to not move forward. Today is the day to step into our future. Don’t delay.

Don’t Wait for Tomorrow

We shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that next week will be a better time to embark on a special project. Promising ourselves that we’ll make a fresh go of it tomorrow, merely serves to delay forward progress. Putting things off till tomorrow can easily become next week and then next month. Before we know it, it’s spring and then summer, and the year is half over. Don’t wait for a better time to launch important initiatives. Start today.

Focus on One Thing

I have more great ideas then I’ll ever have time to do. If I try to do them all, I’ll end up accomplishing nothing. Therefore, join me today in picking one thing that will make tomorrow better. Then go do it. We aren’t likely to wrap up our project in one day, but the work we do now brings us one day closer to completing it.

Then Move to the Next Task

Once we complete one item, it’s time to start the next. Though taking a day off to catch our breath is enticing, it also threatens to negate the habit we just formed of using today to produce a better tomorrow.

May today be the day that we start to take hold of our future, for our business and for our life.

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 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.

 Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit www.courteouscom.com.


Why an Answering Service Is an Essential Part of a Disaster Management Plan

By Benjamin Pure

While the economics of hiring an answering service appears to be driving a rapid growth in the industry, answering services are in the spotlight for yet another reason—their role in ensuring seamless continuity for critical services in times of unforeseen mishaps.

It’s important to collaborate as a business community to lay the groundwork for comprehensive disaster preparedness plans in times of crisis. Not only is it an essential community service, it encourages growth of our businesses and industry. Experienced answering services can go the extra mile by establishing multiple call centers with streamlined processes and protocols that can offset a substantial part of the affected center’s workload when needed. This ensures the best possible outcome in any given situation.

While all businesses prepare for breakdowns in service, it’s especially important for medical, government, and emergency related institutions given the importance of the services they provide. It’s imperative for such groups to plan for disasters that can disrupt or even further burden their infrastructure due to the increased call volume that can occur during a crisis.

Disasters—natural or man-made—amplify the need for community services, and relevant care or action is possible only if communication lines remain connected. Doctors need to be reached, patients need to be transported, members of the general population may need information or assistance, and family and caregivers need to stay connected to manage and mitigate the effects of any calamity. Hospitals, businesses, and relevant establishments cannot afford not to have backup communication in place given the central role they play in helping survivors. While always an advantage, an answering service can become indispensable at a time like this.

Benjamin Pure started his call center career from the ground up, answering calls while studying at university. After graduating, he transitioned into the management side of the business and is currently the business development manager for  The Doctors Answer. What Ben enjoys most about his work day is delivering real life solutions for real life problems.


Telephone Answering Service News

Startel Announces Retirement of Wayne Scaggs: Wayne Scaggs retired as the company’s director of corporate strategy effective January 1, 2019. Scaggs joined Alston Tascom (previously known as Conrac Alston) in 1979. He began as a field service engineer and progressed through the organization in a variety of roles until he had the opportunity to purchase the company in 1994. He served as the president of Alston Tascom until September 2017, when Startel, Professional Teledata, and Alston Tascom merged.

“I have given this decision a great deal of thought and concluded that the time is right for me to take this step,” said Scaggs. “I’m confident that Startel has the right strategy and team to drive our business forward.”

Amtelco’s Genesis Intelligent Series Receives Unify Certification: Amtelco received interoperability certification for the Genesis Intelligent Series call center console solution with the version 8.x Unify OpenScape 4000 PBX (private branch exchange) by the Unify Technology Partner Program, based in Munich, Germany, on December 3, 2018.

Testing of the interoperability between Amtelco’s Genesis Intelligent Series solution and Unify’s open SIP interface for the OpenScape 4000 PBX was conducted remotely in October by Amtelco’s PBX Integration Lab staff in McFarland, Wisconsin, and the Unify Communications Development Lab in Beersel, Belgium. Amtelco received interoperability certification from Unify in 2016 for the Infinity Intelligent Series call center console solution with the version 7.x Unify OpenScape 4000 PBX.

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


Quotes for the Month

“To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.” -Samuel Johnson

“The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” -Thomas Moore

“He broke into song because he couldn’t find the key.” -unknown

The December 2018 Issue of TAS Trader

How Much Do You Pay Your Entry-Level Staff?

It’s Time to Take a Counterintuitive Look at Hourly Pay

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

The biggest expense for telephone answering service is payroll. You know that. You strive to hold down payroll costs to control expenses and stay in business, hopefully to turn a profit. Scheduling too many people to answer phone calls drives payroll costs up. Paying too much per hour also drives payroll costs up. This is bad. Left unchecked, runaway payroll costs is the quickest way for an answering service to fail.

Or is it? What if we challenge conventional wisdom and dare to consider paying new hires a higher hourly rate?

Will Higher Pay Increase Retention?

I’ve never met anyone at an answering service who felt they earned too much. Most employees, especially entry-level operators, complain they’re not being paid enough. I get this—from both the employee and the employer standpoint.

Employees leave an answering service for various reasons. Sometimes they quit and exit the workforce, but usually they leave for a new position—often one with better pay. And often it’s the best employees—the most employable ones—who leave first. Will paying a bit more encourage them to stay a bit longer?

Will Higher Pay Reduce Other Costs?

Assuming that by paying telephone operators a bit more will increase your retention rates, consider the ramifications of this. If employees stay longer, that means you need to hire fewer replacements. This means hiring costs will go down. Even more significantly, training costs will decrease. You won’t have to pay as many new hires for their training; you’ll also save on the cost of the trainer.

Will Higher Pay Improve Customer Service?

When you pay an entry-level rate, you get entry-level work. This reflects the level of service your staff provides to your clients. New employees are also the ones who make the most errors. If you pay new employees more, will you get a higher level of work from them? Maybe. Keep reading.

Will Higher Pay Reduce Management Hassles?

Is there a correlation between level of pay and job commitment? People who arrive late, quit without notice, cause conflicts with coworkers, and trigger a myriad of other issues take up management bandwidth to deal with. If paying staff a bit more will reduce a bit of these headaches, is it worth it?

Will Higher Pay Result in a Higher Caliber Employee?

The fundamental question is, will a higher pay rate result in higher caliber employees? That’s largely up to you. Seriously. If you offer to pay more but don’t change your hiring process or expect more from new hires, you won’t realize much benefit by paying a higher hourly rate.

However, if you tighten your screening procedures, raise your hiring requirements, and increase your employee standards along with the hourly rate, you can expect to get a higher caliber employee. When you do this, you’ll be able to shift money from your hiring and training budget into your operations payroll budget. This could even have a net positive effect on your bottom line.

Increasing your starting pay to realize these benefits is a high-risk, high-reward proposition and shouldn’t be entered into without careful thought and preparation. However, when done wisely, the result could positively impact every aspect of your answering service.

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


Classified Ads:

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

 TAS Directory: Promote your TAS 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.

 Seeking Acquisition: We’ll pay cash for your TAS! Completely confidential. A Courteous Communication has been in business for 32 years. Contact Doris at 800-785-6161 or Doris@courteouscom.com; visit 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.


The Overlooked Management Tool: Staff Meetings Matter More Than You Might Think

 By Kate Zabriskie

 How do you turn a halted or ho-hum approach to staff meetings into a high-functioning management tool? Here are six tips to rejuvenate your staff meetings.

1. Connect Daily Work with Your Organization’s Purpose: In addition to distributing information, staff meetings present an opportunity to connect your team’s daily work to your organization’s purpose. If you’re thinking, “My people know how their work fits into our overall goal,” you would be wrong. In fact, if you ask your group what your organization’s purpose or your department’s purpose is, don’t be surprised when you get as many answers as there are people in the room.

And you thought you had nothing to talk about in a staff meeting! A discussion about purpose is a good one to have. Purpose is why you do what you do. You connect the work to it by explaining how what people did aligns with the greater goal.

No matter what they do, employees usually enjoy their jobs more when their organization’s leaders talk about the importance of their work. They also tend to make better choices if they receive frequent reminders about purpose and what types of activities support it.

2. Highlight Relevant Metrics: Connecting work to purpose usually happens best when a team focuses on both anecdotal and analytical information. If you don’t currently track statistics, start. Whatever you decide should clearly connect to the larger goal. With regular attention placed on the right metrics, the team is far more likely to make good choices as to where it should focus its efforts.

3. Follow a Formula and Rotate Responsibility: Successful staff meetings usually follow a pattern, such as looking at weekly metrics, sharing information from the top, highlighting success, a team-building activity, and so forth. By creating and sticking with an agenda, managers help their employees know what to expect. Once employees know the pattern of the meeting, many are capable of running it because they’ve learned by watching. Managers then have a natural opportunity to rotate the responsibility of the meeting to different people. By delegating, the manager is able to free up his or her time and provide employees with a chance to develop their skills.

4. Celebrate Successes: In many organizations, there is a huge appreciation shortage. Staff meetings provide managers and employees with regular intervals to practice gratitude. A steady drip of sincere gratitude can drive engagement. Note the word sincere. Most people have an amazing capacity to identify a false compliment. Real praise is specific. Well-delivered praise also ties the action to the outcome. A praise segment in your staff meetings ensures you routinely take the time to recognize efforts.

5. Focus on Lessons Learned and Continuous Improvement: Staff meetings that include an opportunity to share lessons learned help drive continuous improvement. At first, people may be reluctant to share shortcomings. However, if you follow step four, you should begin to develop better communication and a sense of trust with your team. Modeling the process is a good place to start. The more you practice this exercise, the greater the gains you should experience.

6. Develop a Schedule and Stick with It: To get the most out of staff meetings hold them consistently. Publish a meeting schedule, and stick with it. Make it a priority.

Conclusion: Good staff meetings aren’t perfunctory activities that add little value. When used to their full capacity, they are a dynamic management tool. Now what are you going to do about yours?

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

Contact Center Software Market to Surpass USD 40 Billion By 2024: The global contact center software market is set to grow from its current market value of more than 14 billion dollars to over 40 billion dollars by 2024, according to a new research report by Global Market Insights, Inc. The contact center software market growth is attributed to the increasing adoption of social media platform by customers, with active social media users in 2018 being approximately 3.1 billion. The incorporation of social media with contact center software allows businesses to communicate in an improved way with their current and prospective customers, providing improved sales opportunity, increased customer awareness, and high-quality customer service.

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


Quotes for the Month

The past is to be respected and acknowledged, but not to be worshipped. It is our future in which we will find our greatness. -Pierre Trudeau

“All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.” -Alexandre Dumas

“Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under.” -unknown

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

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Thanksgiving 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

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Over 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