Are You in the Information Processing Business?
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Although it’s not my intention to relabel the answering service industry, it is my goal to redefine it to better understand the potential that exists. Instead of calling yourself an answering service, let’s adopt the mindset that we are “information processors.” So stop thinking calls and start thinking communication.
Yes, we will still make and receive calls (after all, that is “processing information”), but we can do so much more. Consider the Internet, which affects all areas of business, life, and human existence. With email, social media, text chat, and online order assistance, do you know of any business that can keep up? How does this relate to being an answering service or more correctly, an information processor?
Email: Quite simply, everything you can do with a call, you should apply to email. Screen email, prioritize email, redirect email, answer email, and send email; you can fax a form, mail a brochure, or even call that person back. Most every organization has at least one, probably more, general purpose email addresses, such as sales@…, service@…, and info@… How quickly do they respond to these messages, if at all? Your answering service can handle these email addresses for your clients.
Text Chat: Your call center can become the centralized communication processor for all of your clients’ general text chat options: respond to questions, process information, forward requests, and so on. Staff at many organizations already have too much expected of them. It simply isn’t an option to pile on one more thing. Plus, there is no need to; you can handle this for them.
Order Assistance: Online retailers fret over abandoned shopping carts. With the right interface an answering service can offer a 24×7 response to visitors’ questions who are viewing clients’ websites.
How do you proceed? Visit each of your client’s websites. Send an email to their generic email address. Note how long it takes them to respond. Do they have an option for text chat and “call me?” By now you should have several ideas of how you can better serve your clients.
The future of the telephone answering service industry may reside with the Internet more than the telephone. The opportunities are limited only by imagination and creativity.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. Check out his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.
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Answering Service Case Study: Are You Ready to Take the Call?
Dazed, Bill Mason cradled his head in his trembling hands. Five minutes before, his line supervisor had rushed into his office reporting that the LM-1100 had broken its diamond saw blade, and they did not have a backup on site. Bill had just made an emergency call to his supplier and left an anxious message on their answering machine.
At 2 a.m., Bill knew it was unlikely anyone would respond to his message before 9 a.m. For every minute the machine was down, he had to idle the entire line, with each hour of downtime costing several thousand dollars.
In desperation, Bill called supplier after supplier looking for a replacement blade. Unfortunately, all his calls were answered by voicemail or answering machines – or nothing at all. Finally, he called Pendergast Industrial Supplies. To his surprise, a person answered the phone. He poured out his story to the representative, who assured him she could help. Although Mr. Pendergast was not in the office at that early hour, she would have someone call Bill back as soon as possible. Bill hung up the phone and waited, hoping to hear back soon.
What Bill didn’t know was that his call had been answered by a telephone answering service, which Pendergast Industrial Supplies set up to address emergencies just like his. Immediately, and in accordance with instructions, the answering service operator called Mr. Pendergast at home.
Five minutes later, Bill’s phone rang. He spilled his predicament to an empathic Ken Pendergast. Ken, an experienced industrial professional, knew how costly the down machine would be. He also knew he had a replacement blade in stock.
The next morning, Ken Pendergast called his answering service to share some great news. Thanks to their quick handling of the call, just as he instructed, he took Bill’s order over the phone and personally delivered the saw blade. By 4 a.m. the plant was back in production, and the plant’s employees were back at work. “What could have been a nine or ten-hour shut down turned into a couple hour maintenance operation, all because a person answered the phone at 2 a.m.,” said Ken.
In addition to getting the plant up and running, he also secured a $20,000 contract from a new, satisfied customer. “We weren’t the first place he called,” said Ken, “but we answered when he did, and that made all the difference.”
Peter DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.
Telephone Answering Service News
Combined Communications Recertified Gold
Combined Communications has received the Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification Award for the third time, originally qualifying in 2007. Combined Communications was purchased in 1982 by Larry Kinder, who has since partnered with Kristen & Shawn Borne to further grow the company. Both Larry and Kristen have been active on the SNUG board of directors with Kristen currently serving as president. The certification indicates that Combined Communications has met or exceeded high standards in business practices, life safety, operations, including normal and emergency procedures, personnel hiring, training and ongoing evaluations through a peer review program focusing on 99.9 percent annual run time.
Angelo Celesia Receives the 2015 Allen Kalik Award
Professional Teledata announced Angelo Celesia as the 2015 Allen Kalik Award recipient. The announcement was made during the annual PIN user group meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. The Allen Kalik Award was implemented in 2011 after the passing of industry leader and Professional Teledata’s late president, Allen Kalik. “We are thrilled to recognize Angelo with the 2015 Allen Kalik Award. Angelo truly embodies the award and everything it stands for,” said Pat Kalik, director of customer relations for Professional Teledata. “It is an honor to receive this award,” Angelo added. “I am humbled to be included among such esteemed company.”
Quote for the Month
“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” -Will Rogers