The February 2011 Issue of TAS Trader

WSTA Supervisor Webinar Series Culminates in Las Vegas

By Dan L’Heureux

Most TAS owners have the desire to offer continuing education to their supervisors and frontline personnel but are hampered by a restrictive budget or, more likely, the logistical challenges of sending personnel to off-site training. Off-site training is ideal because of the face-to-face instruction, the dedicated hours of time, and the interaction between staffers from different offices. Think about it, don’t you as a TAS owner or manager frequently get as much or more out of the networking and friendships built up at lunch or after hours than from some of the sessions? However, despite all these advantages, off-site training isn’t practical every time.

Now you can take advantage of the best of both. Western States Telemessaging Association (WSTA) has started a series of three low-cost Webinars for supervisors.

The first one was January 26; the other two will be in early March and April. If you missed the January 26 Webinar, a recording is available for a modest fee. Regardless, be sure to have your staff take advantage of the next two Webinars.

The series will have its finale with off-site training in Las Vegas sometime in early May 2011. We are concentrating on keeping the rates affordable so all the supervisors who participate in the Webinars can also meet face-to-face to tie the whole series together and bring that benefit back to their offices through enhanced performance. The return on investment will definitely be worth the modest investment in agent and supervisor morale, enthusiasm, and quality. Even if you can’t take advantage of the Las Vegas finale, make sure you look into these outstanding Webinars. So far, over sixty TAS companies across the country have registered to take part.

All the Webinars have been designed by supervisors – with WSTA member’s approval – specifically for supervisors and frontline personnel. Even if you don’t have supervisors, someone is managing your agents, no matter what you might call him or her; they too should be participating in the WSTA supervisor Webinar series. The cost is $25 per office connection, so you can share internally on a sub-net or other format with your own staff or put a couple of folks in front of a computer with a speakerphone and spread out the information.

For WSTA members, there is no cost for the Webinars. There is a modest cost for nonmembers, but alternately, nonmembers can join WSTA, attend the Webinars for free, and get member pricing for the May supervisors roundup in Las Vegas, as well as for the December annual meeting in Hawaii.

For more information, visit WSTA or email Dan@CallConsult.net.

Scam Alert: Buyer Beware

By Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderThe telephone answering service industry is a wonderful and close-knit community. Tales abound of one service going the extra mile to help another – even direct competitors providing aid in times of crises. With that as the general tenor of the industry, it is surprising and hurtful when a scam is perpetrated on our members by a fringe player. Such is the case with this fraud alert. The gist is that the same accounts were sold – or partially sold – to several different buyers. Here is what was reported:

It was a small answering service in a remote area. The sellers reached out to TAS owners, offering to sell their client list. The asking price was a reasonable amount, neither too high nor too low. Things appeared to be in order, with proper documentation and an attention to details. Negotiations progressed as expected, with specifics being worked out and stipulations agreed to. As things drew towards a conclusion, a few red flags began to emerge. However, the risk was relatively low, and everything else was proceeding as expected. For the trusting buyers, with time and emotion invested into the purchase, it was easy to overlook these minor warning signs.

Then the sellers asked for money in advance. They were even accommodating in agreeing to receive a percentage in advance and the balance once the transfer was complete. Several TAS owners acquiesced, dispatching the agreed upon advance payment. As it turned out, the buyer who acted quickest did end up with the accounts, but the others did not fare so well. The first indication of malfeasance surfaced when the new owner begin receiving calls from the other “buyers,” effectively demanding, “Why are you answering my accounts that I just bought?”

As far as the buyer who actually ended up with the accounts, the saga has not been pleasant for him either. Though he has the accounts, he can’t bill most of them for six months, because unbeknownst to him, they had paid for their service six months in advance.

How could this have been avoided? First, great care must be taken if any monies are to be paid in advance. Had each buyer made an on-site visit to hand the money over, he or she would have been able to see that there were no accounts to purchase. Another simple step would be to ask around. The TAS community is small, and no one operates in a vacuum. Surely, someone would have known about the seller’s reputation and business ethics.

Unfortunately, this scam alert doesn’t apply just to buying accounts. Similar swindles have also occurred regarding used equipment sales.

Though the TAS industry is a great one and friendships abound, it behooves everyone to remember, “Buyer beware!”

News

NAEO Annual Conference March 13-16 in New Orleans
The National Amtelco Equipment Owners Association (NAEO) is holding its annual conference at the Roosevelt Hotel located in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 13-16, 2011. This year’s theme, “Bamm…Kick Up Your Call Center Menu,” features educational sessions and breakout tracks for marketing and management, operations, technical topics, the latest Amtelco technology, and roundtable discussions aimed at solving specific business challenges. The conference’s keynote speaker is Nancy Friedman, president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training. Nancy is one of America’s most “asked back” conference speakers. Nancy’s interactive and entertaining approach to customer service provides valuable information to assist attendees in improving their customer relationships.

Amtelco Receives US Patent for Scripting Method
Amtelco has been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for for “A System and Method for Intelligent Script Swapping.” The patentable element is Amtelco’s method of writing scripts that are usable by multiple platforms such as Infinity telephone agent, “Just Say It” IVR, and Web scripting, retaining previously collected information as the script moves from platform to platform. Information is passed on as the script moves to another platform, such as from IVR to agent to Web page. All the information collected in each segment of the call stay with it as it moves to the next platform.

New miOnCall Scheduling App
Amtelco announced its subscription-based on-call scheduling solution: miOnCall, a cloud-based on-call scheduling application to assign schedule coverage, view schedule coverage, and dispatch messages. The schedules are available to call center clients and personnel via Web access, can be synched with Microsoft Outlook® calendars, and accessed from many smartphones. The miOnCall app utilizes many features found in Amtelco’s Infinity IS on-call scheduling package. In addition, the setup wizard and online help make it easy to quickly set up schedules. “We are very proud to introduce miOnCall, our first cloud-based solution,” said Amtelco President Tom Curtin. “Additionally, call centers may also become distributors for Amtelco cloud-based subscription applications.”

Amtelco Installs the 200th Infinity IS System
Amtelco announced that it recently set a milestone by installing the 200th Infinity Intelligent Series (IS) system. The Infinity IS is a set of tools that answering services can use to add new services, increase profits, reduce errors and labor costs, and make scripting easier. In addition, customizable reporting allows for increased management control and maximized billing time. “The numbers don’t lie. Customers are clearly turning to Amtelco as their trusted partner,” said Tom Curtin, president of Amtelco. “Through our strong commitment to research and development and customer service, Amtelco makes the experience of preparing your call center for the future a positive one.”

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[Posted by Peter DeHaan for TAS Trader, a telephone answering service e-publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]

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About Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan is the president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc., (http://peterdehaanpublishing.com) the publisher and editor of Connections Magazine and AnswerStat, and editor of Article Weekly. Peter DeHaan’s personal website (http://peterdehaan.com) contains information and links to his blogs, newsletter, and social media pages.