Category Archives: Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Columns

Articles by TAS Trader publisher and editor Peter Lyle DeHaan

Optimize Agent Hiring

Streamline Your Hiring Process to Realize Fast Results

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-phone interview

Have you ever offered a promising job candidate a position only for them to decline because they already accepted a job with another company? I have. I took too long. Even though they claim to have preferred to work for me, they grabbed the first job offer that came their way.

People today—including job seekers—have little patience. We live in a world that wants instant gratification, and we have little tolerance for waiting. Unless you want to continue to lose qualified candidates, you need to optimize your hiring process. Look for ways to make it more efficient so you can hire the best applicants before someone else does.

Don’t continue to follow yesterday’s hiring practices, because they’re no longer appropriate for today’s workplace. What is the average time between a job seeker first expressing interest and you hiring them? I hope your answer isn’t more than a week. Even a couple of days is too long. Can you get down to twenty-four hours? How about a same-day decision? Just how fast can you act?

Here is an idea to consider. Note that this isn’t a proven plan to follow but merely a possibility to spark your creativity:

Online Self-Assessment

Once you’ve captured a prospective employee’s attention, provide them with an online self-assessment tool that will allow them to determine if an answering service environment is a good fit for them. Present a series of questions that reflects work at your answering service. The more questions they answer “yes” to, the better fit they are. Score their answers. Then tell them: “People who score between X and Y tend to like working for our company, whereas people with lower scores may struggle to succeed in this position. Do you want to apply?” [Note: unless you take time to validate the outcome, don’t record their score or ask them their results. To avoid a legal quagmire, let them use this tool privately to determine if they want to move forward.]

This assessment occurs online and automatically without any involvement on your part.

Phone Screening Call

If they want to proceed after taking the online self-assessment, move them immediately to a prescreening evaluation over the phone. This is a standardized set of questions to rule out candidates who don’t fit your criteria, such as people wanting full-time work when you’re hiring part-timers or candidates seeking a business-hour’s position when your openings are for evening and weekends.

You should script the call flow so that any of your operators can conduct the phone screen call. Anyone who passes should move on to a phone interview.

Same Day Phone Interview

For candidates who pass the phone screen, give them the option of an immediate phone interview, or let them schedule one. Yes, an immediate phone interview. Connect them with your hiring manager or HR department. Again, this should be a structured process that will provide an instant pass/fail outcome.

Though you may prefer an in-person interview, remember that all their work at your answering service will take place over the phone, so a phone interview should be more indicative of their capabilities than an in-person meeting.

Make an Immediate Offer

For candidates who pass the phone interview, make an offer at that point. Don’t delay. Desiring to compare a group of candidates who pass the phone interview will not only take more time, but it also increases the risk of your best candidate receiving a job offer from someone else before you make yours.

Once you’ve made the offer, don’t push them for an immediate yes/no answer. Though some people will accept right away, others will want to think about it. If that’s the case, schedule a follow-up phone call.

This idealized hiring process could take less than an hour. Though it will require effort to fine-tune each step and compress it into a sixty-minute procedure, you can do it.

Now your next task is to optimize your onboarding and training process to make it just as efficient.

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.

Don’t Forget SEO for Your Website

Your Website Isn’t Finished Until It’s Optimized for Search Engines 

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

If you have a website for your answering service, I suspect you’ve heard of search engine optimization (SEO). It’s a critical component of every website, assuming you want people to find you. SEO means that the content of your site is optimized for search engines. If you skip this step, expect the search engines to skip you.

SEO is part art and part science. Many people promote themselves as SEO experts, promising grand outcomes. Some know what they’re doing and produce great results. Others talk a good game but can’t deliver. Even more irritating, some SEO experts disagree on best practices. The final frustration comes from the reality that SEO best practices change often.

In addition to consultants, there are books, classes, and seminars that teach about search engine optimization. Though I can only touch on SEO in this short article, here are some things to consider.

Pages and Posts

Though the terminology may vary from one web platform to the next, a page is static content that doesn’t change often. Examples include your home, services, get started, about, and contact pages.

In contrast to pages are posts. Posts are the dynamic content that you publish on your blog—assuming your site has one. You use pages for content marketing.

Both pages (your online marketing brochure) and posts (your content marketing gateway) benefit from SEO. 

The Essentials

Every page or post will have a title for visitors. Write a title that will capture their attention. Beyond this, there’s also an SEO title working behind the scenes. This is for search engines. Search engines will evaluate the title and display it in their search results. Most web platforms allow you to differentiate between these two types of titles. If not, you must write a title that will work for both visitors and search results.

Next is a page or post description, called meta-description. Your visitors won’t see this directly, but it will display in search results. You want this meta-description to provide information that will grab the search engines’ attention.

The third element is a keyword or key phrase. The content on each page or post should revolve around this word or phrase. But avoid repeating keywords or phrases on different pages and posts.

There are many other SEO elements, such as headings, graphics, link strategy, keyword density, content length, and URL selection. But title, description, and keyword are the essential SEO elements.

SEO Tools

Your website designer should have handled SEO for your pages when they designed your site, but not all do. Ask if they did. Then verify. But what about the content you add, such as blog posts? They need search optimization too. You can pay someone to do this, or you can use an SEO tool, often called a plug-in. A couple of leading SEO tools are Yoast SEO and All-In-One SEO. They’re easy to use, but mastering them—just like SEO—takes time. 

Remember, your answering service website isn’t finished until you’ve added SEO.

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.

Consider Content Marketing for Your Answering Service

Provide Valuable Information Your Clients and Prospects Will Appreciate 

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-content marketing

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 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.

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-customer service

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.

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

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-answering service

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.

How to Make Your Website Shine

Discover How to Make Your Website an Essential Marketing Resource

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

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

your website

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.

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?

market your answering service

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.

To market your answering service, 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.

How to Start a Telephone Answering Service

Key Information Provided as a Service to the Industry

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

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.

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.

new possibilities
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.

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.

How Much Do You Pay Your Entry-Level Staff_

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.