What Are Your Future Plans?
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Most telephone answering services are small businesses with closely held ownerships. Even many larger ones are still privately held, while a few are public companies or part of a public company. Regardless of size and structure, all answering services must plan for the future. Interestingly, their core concerns are essentially the same.
They all must look to the future, with the present in mind, and consider what overarching strategy they will pursue. There are three primary paths:
- Develop the TAS: The common solution is to continue to develop the business. Considerations include investing in infrastructure, pursuing controlled growth, seeking competitive advantages, controlling costs without sacrificing quality, and increasing revenue without irritating clients. Often all of these are simultaneously pursued to varying degrees.
- Sell the TAS: Sometimes selling a TAS is necessary because it is unprofitable and possesses no reasonable chance for a turnaround. However, most times selling is a calculated decision. Reasons include the owner’s retirement, no one able to take over the business, or the owner leaving to pursue other interests, such as family, charitable work, or other businesses that are more appealing or have greater profitability.
- Buy Other TASs: Answering services can enjoy an economy of scale, where larger operations are more efficient and can generate higher profits. Though a TAS should already be in good shape before looking to buy another one, there is another possibility. It is feasible for two struggling answering services to unite – through either a merger or an acquisition – with their combined size able to become profitable.
Wise owners periodically re-evaluate their future plans. They don’t follow what everyone else is doing; they do what’s right for them and their business. There is no right answer, but it’s important to seriously ask the question. Not asking is the best way to flounder.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. Check out his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.
By Arthur Cronos
Last month we discussed increasing sign-ups from people who visit your website. Basic statistics and thousands of experiments by marketers confirm this fact: If you capture information from website visitors – name and address, email, or phone – and then follow up at least eight more times, your sales will double or even triple. It works best if the follow-up is through multiple channels: phone, email, and letter. But any multiple-touch follow-up will steadily increase your sales.
Too many answering service owners, not wanting to become marketers or salesmen, prefer advertising as the best way to get their name out there. But it doesn’t work. Yes, it may pay off on TV for Nike and Coca-Cola, but answering services can never spend enough, for long enough, to reach enough people to make it cost-effective. It’s a low-percentage shot that’s only advisable for those with deep pockets.
Here’s what does work for answering services:
- Measure the results from every ad and every active lead generation activity. If you can’t measure results, don’t continue it. Try two versions. See which works better. Drop the loser and scale up the winner.
- Every ad and every active lead generation activity must end with a super-attractive offer, to drive prospects somewhere. And when they get there – to sign up for the special report, video, dinner for two, or whatever your bait is – make sure to capture their contact information. Then follow up eight or more times.
The best offer is not free service, which degrades your value. Besides, customers only buy after they trust you. How will you know when they reach that point? When they give you money.
Therefore, stop giving away free service. Instead, provide a trial subscription with a guarantee: You might offer a half-price subscription for three months with three referrals, or consider selling a month’s subscription for a dollar. More prospects will buy for a dollar than for free. The result? Your service will grow.
Arthur Cronos ran Network Answering Service in San Francisco, then worked at Startel, and wrote several books.
Telephone Answering Service News
Hastings Humans Turns 66
Austin-based answering service center Hastings Humans is celebrating its sixty-sixth year of providing twenty-four-hour customer service to businesses across the country. Ann Hastings, a housewife who was looking for a way to earn extra money for her family in post-war America, founded Hastings Communications in 1948. Initially operating from a single room in her home, the company has grown over the decades. Ann eventually handed the reins to her sons Mark and Scott. In 2013 the company changed its name to Hastings Humans to reflect its commitment to lending businesses a friendly voice for their customer service needs.
Amtelco’s miSecureMessages Partner Program Tops One Hundred
Amtelco works with answering service partners to help them market miSecureMessages (MSM) to their clients. The MSM Certified Partners Program continues to grow, and it currently includes more than 100 partners. For MSM-certified partners, Amtelco provides marketing materials, including a new movie, a marketing call script, a case study full of marketing tips, brochure text ideas, and an email template. MSM-certified partners also receive discounted per-device monthly rates that give call centers a better profit opportunity on each miSecureMessages user, access to tier-one customer support, and a “miSecureMessages Certified Partner” marketing logo. MSM-certified partners also are featured on miSecureMessages.com.
Alston Tascom Releases ADAM v1.2
Alston Tascom released ADAM version 1.2, which provides the foundational structure for its graphical user interface (GUI). The GUI allows management to view the system activities pictorially, such as graphically viewing all their pools (queues) or seeing how many agents and how many calls are in each pool (queue). The GUI also allows for listen-in capability, so managers and supervisors can monitor agents’ conversations live, with multiple supervisors able to simultaneously listen in to different calls.
Christian Vargas Join Professional Teledata
Professional Teledata is pleased to welcome Christian Vargas to its Manchester office. Christian Vargas, technical support specialist, is a bilingual graduate of Lincoln Technical Institute and is currently enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University where he is earning his degree in software development. Christian’s background includes customer support and troubleshooting workstation- and network-related issues. His duties with Professional Teledata will begin with technical support of both PInnacle and Freedom clients.
Main Line Telecommunications Earns Gold Certification
Main Line Telecommunications re-qualified for the Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification award. Main Line, the first call center certified for the Amtelco Infinity platform and NAEO Users Group, was originally certified in October 2011. The certification indicates that Main Line Telecommunications has met or exceeded high standards in the areas of business practices, life safety, operations (including normal and emergency procedures), and personnel hiring, training, and ongoing evaluations through a peer review program focusing on 99.9 percent annual run time.
Quotes for the Month
“Just as appetite comes by eating, so work brings inspiration.” –Igor Stravinsky
“We touch other people’s lives simply by existing.” –J.K. Rowling
“He had a photographic memory which was never developed.” –Unknown
Seeking Acquisitions: Reputable TAS, in business since 1967 and still owned by the founding family, seeks a small TAS acquisition in the eastern US. Ideally you’re billing under $20k per month. Smaller is better. We’ll treat you right, and your employees and customers, too. Let’s talk. Contact Doug at 888-693-7935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mastar.com TAS systems: Get Free 3:1 Emergency Remote TAS on a Memory Stick; email/text/TAP; app optional run on iPads. Contact Rod at 541-606-9272 or email@example.com.