Conduct a Year End Review
To Know Where You’re Headed You Must First Determine Where You Are
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Year end is an especially busy time at most telephone answering services, but that’s not an excuse to focus strictly on the present and stop thinking about the future. In fact, December is an ideal time to give some thought to where you are and to what lies ahead so that you can prepare for next year.
If you don’t know where you are, it’s impossible to get to where you want to be. Take some time now to evaluate your current situation. This will form the basis to move forward with intentionality next year. Here are some things to assess.
Staff: Let’s start with the backbone of your answering service, your employees. They make you shine, but they can also produce problems, affecting your clients, the schedule, and overall profitability. In short, they can make or break your business. Here are some questions to ask:
- Telephone Staff: Do you have enough frontline employees to answer phone calls? Don’t worry (too much) if your answer is no; you’re in good company. This fact, however, provides you with an opportunity for improvement.
- Staffing Model: Do you have a centralized workforce, a distributed one, or a hybrid plan? What elements of this works for you? Which ones do not? What needs to change?
- Turnover Rate: Do you struggle to achieve an acceptable turnover rate? Regardless of where you’re at now, what steps do you need to take to lower it?
- Operator Quality: Are you producing the quality service you aspire to offer and that your clients expect? Can you quantify your answer, or is it wishful thinking?
- Non-Operations Staff: Do you have adequate management and support personnel? In addition to operations, look at accounting, sales, marketing, and technical roles, as well as administration. Consider your strongest areas and weakest. How can you keep your top employees? How can you best help those who struggle?
- Yourself: Do you have adequate time to address what’s most essential for your answering service’s long-term viability? Or do you spend too much time putting out fires and handling day-to-day minutia? What steps can you take to be the leader your answering service needs?
Vendors: Your software and equipment provider is a critical element of your operation’s success. Leading vendors strive to enhance their offerings every year, providing new capabilities and value-added opportunities.
Look at your annual expenses to use their products. This includes one-time charges, ongoing costs, and leases. Is the vendor easy to work with? Do they provide you with what you need to achieve your goals? How is their tech support?
And if your vendor isn’t providing what you need or keeping pace with the industry, consider what you can do to help them achieve the results you want. Work with them, not against them. Changing vendors is the last thing anyone wants to do, so your first goal should be to make the best of what you have.
Industry Developments: Here are some common answering service industry trends to consider:
- Consolidation: The industry continues to consolidate. This produces an opportunity to sell. It also provides niche markets that nimble, smaller players can capture.
- Competition: At the same time, the remaining operations encounter increased competition in a national and even international marketplace. How can you make your service stand out?
- Labor Market: Coupled with these two items is that most services have recently experienced an unprecedented challenge in hiring qualified employees and keeping them. Successfully addressing this dilemma could provide the biggest boost to your operation.
- Technology: The next consideration is technology, which allows you to do more and to do it more easily, but it comes at the cost of a greater investment, coupled with increased configuration complexities.
What else would you add to this list of industry trends?
Marketplace Opportunities: You compete in a national market, but you exist in a local one. What can you do to rise above other providers around the country? What can you do to distinguish yourself in your local marketplace?
Financial Situation: Look at the money side of your answering service. Two common items to address are increasing the money coming in and decreasing the money going out. Another item is access to capital, along with building up reserve fund.
Moving Forward: Don’t attempt to tackle this lengthy list all at once. Work on it over time, adding to it and fine-tuning it as you go. As you move toward the completion of this effort, a strategy to move forward will emerge.
Use this as your plan for next year. May it be your best one yet.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. Check out his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.
Featured Sponsor: Call Centre Hosting
Whether you answer for a single office or dispatch for thousands of contacts, Call Centre Hosting has a cost-effective solution for your business. Set up accounts, answer calls, and dispatch your first message within minutes of your first log in from any high-speed internet connection.
Provide your clients with a professional online manager where they can view their messages as well as add, remove, or update the contacts you dispatch for. Send messages to clients the way they want. SMS/text, email, group, and all-page messaging; copy to and forward while away; as well as daily message reports.
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 email@example.com.
Looking to Sell Your TAS? I have personal connections with buyers ready to act. Completely confidential to ensure trustworthy, private transactions. Competitive fees put more money in your pocket. And professional services provide the best results. Contact Ron Violante to learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-565–8364.
Put up to 45% more cash in your pocket by selling to MAP versus another party. Section 1042 of the IRS Code lets you take advantage of indefinitely deferring taxes by selling to MAP’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Receive an all cash (no note) deal while your employees become part of a large established ESOP with real career opportunities. Dozens of past sellers to MAP include Stericycle Communications Solutions, Answer Center VA Beach, and very recently A-Courteous Communications in Orlando. Please visit us at MapCommunications.Com/Calc and enter your own sale price to see the significant tax advantages gained by selling to MAP. Call Grant Sibley 800-955-9888 or email email@example.com for a confidential conversation.
Seeking Acquisitions: Nexa Receptionists is seeking acquisitions. Past deals include Answer 1, Keener Communications, Alert Communications, and MainLine Telecommunications. We have the capital to get deals done and are committed to fairness and transparency throughout the process. We pay great prices for great companies and treat sellers/owners well. Contact: Ryan.Keener@Nexa.com or 804-527-2687.
System for Sale: Complete Amtelco Infinity 1st link special edition rackmount system, 4 years old with new spares. Great as a super assortment of spare components, main system, or redundant fail-safe system with $12k in new spare components included. Plus, all cables and odds & ends from original install. Let’s talk: 330-307-4721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Telescan Introduces Spectrum Health Monitor: Telescan, a division of Amtelco, announced the introduction of a new product, the Spectrum Health Monitor. It automates regular troubleshooting steps and basic preventative maintenance to help prevent extended system down time. It actively monitors the individual system 24 hours a day. The Spectrum Health Monitor can track as many applications or services as needed. It is also able to monitor the status of the server to prevent serious issues, such as high CPU usage or low disk space, from becoming an issue that causes an outage.
Send us your TAS articles and news for consideration in the next issue.
Quotes for the Month
“Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not a misery, but the very foundation of refinement.” -William Morris
“Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings.” -Salvador Dalí
“My wife and I had words, but I didn’t get to use mine.” -unknown