The January 2012 Issue of TAS Trader

The Comcepts Story

By Samantha Walley

Samantha WalleyComcepts is a Mississippi-based answering service serving physicians and their practices nationwide since 2004. The software we were using simply could not keep up with our company’s growth and in some ways was actually holding us back; it was designed with a very limited, one-size-fits-all set of features. However, we take a very hands-on approach with our clients; we provide an answering service experience that is more an extension of their office than a generic call center. Plus, each of our clients wanted their calls processed in a different way.

So, in early 2009 we began searching for new answering service software. From the moment we saw the client screen of one particular system, we knew we were close. It already had many of the features we were seeking, customization was possible, and ongoing development meant new features and updates would be available in the future.

Getting Up and Running: We implemented a training program well before the cutover so operators would be familiar and comfortable with the system early in the process. After our database had been switched over and the equipment had been tested, it was time to cut over. I won’t lie – I worried a lot before the switch, but it was as smooth as I could have hoped. One system was turned off, and the new one took over.

Features and Benefits: The fun part started when we were able to use the system, experience the features, and customize each client’s screen for their practice’s needs. All the information our operators need is right in front of them so there is no need to search for information on other screens or in multiple documents.

This gives our operators the ability to complete calls at a faster pace, and the information our clients deem important is gathered and delivered in the manner they wish without putting a strain on our operation. The same number of operators can now complete a greater number of calls in a given time, which translates into happier callers, pleased clients, and a more prosperous bottom line.

We now have the ability to add new services and features, which gives us an advantage in winning new customers as well as retaining the loyalty of current clients. We have since added nurse triage services to our business offerings, and these services have been integrated into the system.

About Comcepts: Comcepts was founded in 1999 as a medical transcription company based on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In 2004 a client expressed his desire for an answering service that served “physicians only.” After much research and plenty of dead ends with existing answering services in the area, we decided to fill the niche ourselves. Comcepts has grown from a husband and wife working around the clock to a dozen part-time, full-time, and reserve operators working in our offices. The addition of nurse triage services complemented and enhanced our answering service operation and is seen as an “added value” by our clients. For the next step, we are testing some operators working from home.

Samantha Walley (sam.walley@comceptsllc.com) is the president of Comcepts, LLC, which uses nCall answering service software developed and supplied by nSolve (www.nsolve.com).

TAS Multiples Increase in 2011

By Steve Michaels

The year 2011 saw the price of answering services increase to their highest levels in quite some time. Some of the medical services for sale had to consider three and four offers. In some cases, buyers were actually bidding higher than the asking price. Listed below are the multiples for businesses sold by TAS Marketing:

There were several reasons for the increase:

  • Everyone is feeling the effects of the recession. Larger answering services have unused operator positions that they want to keep active, so they are willing to pay a little more to keep their numbers up. This is especially true if they report to investors or a board.
  • Some answering services may have difficulties increasing their client base through sales and marketing. For them, it is smarter and faster to grow through acquisition.
  • In the current economic market, medical accounts are in high demand due to their reliability and stability. Due to this, bidding wars are not uncommon to acquire medical services.

For 2012, the sky’s the limit. The telephone answering service industry is going the way of cable TV and the funeral home industry, with most of the little guys being bought out by larger competitors. (Even so, my TAS Tips email list still has 1,755 answering services.)

I recently sold a business for 12.8 times monthly billing. One of the offers that came in for this business was in the seven-to-eight times monthly billing range. When I asked the potential buyer why her offer was so low, she stated that this was the multiple she paid years ago and didn’t realize that prices had gone up. Hence the reason for this article!

Billing        Location       Accounts    Includes     Multiple
$35,000    Southeast         175         Accts only    11.0
$36,300    Northwest         252         Accts only    11.3
$32,000    West                 140         Accts only    11.0
$37,800    Deep South      192         Accts only     11.1
$86,200    Southeast         425         Entire TAS    11.5
$23,000    Deep South      177         Accts only       9.1    *
$22,200    West                 146         Accts only    12.4
$28,000    New England    164         Entire TAS    13.8
$34,000    New England      88         Entire TAS    12.2
$29,500    Deep South      142         Accts only     12.3
$55,100    East                  215         Accts only     11.9
$33,200    Midwest            120         Entire TAS     12.8
$31,000    Southwest        147         Entire TAS     12.9
$52,000    Southwest        100         Entire TAS     11.5
*distress sale

Steve Michaels is a business broker with TAS Marketing and can be contacted at 800-369-6126, tas@tasmarketing.com, or www.tasmarketing.com. Call him if you have any questions about multiples or the TAS industry.

Fire That Customer

By Mark Hunter

We all have at least one customer we don’t like, the customer that, after we do everything they ask, ends up costing us money. We wind up with these unprofitable customers not because of the rates we charge, but because of the intensity of their demands and requests. No matter how much service you provide, they keep asking for more.

The problem is that the more you do for them, the more they expect. These ongoing demands quickly erode profitability. Plus, it usually happens so slowly that you don’t realize how unprofitable they’ve become. This “slow drain” means that it usually is out of control before anyone realizes how bad the situation is.

To be able to determine which customers need to be “fired,” you must become more discerning about customers who place too many demands on you and your staff. Remember that if a customer becomes high maintenance, they will likely remain high maintenance.

Once you spot a customer making multiple service requests, begin detailing the costs involved, which will help you decide how to deal with them. Too many times, companies roll over and play dead, allowing the customer to continue to make demands. The only thing that happens is a loss of profit. As a result, you become disenchanted with the amount of support devoted to an unprofitable customer who is never happy.

If, on the other hand, you realize something needs to be done to rectify the situation, there are two options:

1) Confront the customer. Your objective is to decrease their requests.
2) Increase their rates. This will offset the additional costs you incur serving them.

Personally, I prefer option two, because increasing their rates either restores the profit, or ends the relationship. Either way, you win. This is a much better option than confronting them. Confrontation tends to create a level of tension that winds up as long-term friction. Ultimately, no one is happy.

If you raise your prices for your difficult customers, you will gain the profit you need, or the customer will walk away. The beautiful part of using this approach to “fire” your customer is that they leave without you ever having to tell them you are firing them.

Profit is good. Don’t sacrifice it in the name of “good customer service.” The best service is that which satisfies your customer and allows you to make money.

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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.