Streamline Technology in Your Answering Service
Don’t Overlook the Technical Support Component of Optimizing Your TAS
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
In our final article on streamlining your telephone answering service, we’ll look at the technical side of things. For many services, the technology that runs it remains the least favorite aspect of the business. It’s necessary, but it’s not enjoyed.
By streamlining the technical aspects, answering services can remove some of the pain and uncertainty of maintaining a platform and its supporting components.
Hosted Solutions: The easiest way to streamline the technical aspects of running your answering service is to outsource it. Tap a hosted services provider to supply your technology needs from a distance. Not only does this give you added flexibility for remote agent stations, it also moves the tech-support aspect from your purview to theirs.
Backup Power: Making provisions to power your equipment during a power loss is essential for premise-based systems, but it’s also important for cloud-based solutions since some gear remains on site. Most backup power solutions will automatically switch over if utility power becomes unreliable. Resist the temptation to save a little bit of money with a manual transfer switch.
Automated Backups: You backup your database and hope you will never need it, but when you do, it better be current. Manually backing up information is not only time-consuming, but it’s also prone to human error and oversight. Of course, for hosted solutions, your vendor will manage all your backups for you.
Shared Responsibility: Too often the technical aspects of running an answering service fall to one person. This becomes a week area should that lone individual be unavailable. Therefore, have multiple people oversee this important responsibility. Don’t leave it on the shoulders of one person.
Clear Procedures: Document all technical processes in clear step-by-step instructions so that anyone on your staff can follow them. Be sure to post this information where your staff will need it, not filed away where it’s hard to find.
Service Agreements: Foregoing vendor service agreements and managing your technology in-house is one potential way to save money. But allowing your vendor to do this for you will likely save time and minimize service interruptions. Make sure your staff knows how to contact vendors and when to do so. Again, for cloud-based solutions tech-support is part of the package.
Action Plan: Take steps to streamline the technology that runs your answering service and the tech-support behind it. Doing so will minimize any anxiety you may feel over keeping your service up and running.
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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Survival Skills for Working from Home
By Kate Zabriskie
Working from home presents a unique set of opportunities and challenges. To get the most out of telecommuting, you need to master some best practices.
Create and Maintain a Routine: Recognize the fact that telework requires self-discipline. Be sure to take regular breaks. You need to eat, you need to stand, and you need to stretch. You also need to turn off work when work ends. Establish psychological boundaries to separate work hours from home hours.
Tap Technology: Learn how to use popular web-conferencing software, get comfortable on camera, and get ready to meet online. The world is moving to the virtual conference room, and you need to know how to function in that space. Nobody looks their best on a webcam; that’s a fact. It’s also a fact that facial expressions, body language, and other visual cues are a big part of communication. If they’re missing, you’re missing out.
Stay Connected: Working alone saves hours, but the lack of chit chat created during casual interactions can also cause your relationships with coworkers to suffer. To remedy the problem, you need to be deliberate in your communication and schedule time to catch up. Set aside time to check in with coworkers. Consider setting up a virtual lunch date. Most people who wake up one day feeling isolated don’t have a contact plan in place. Prepare for regular social interactions before you start missing them.
Seek Opportunity: If you’re working from home and find yourself with extra hours on your hands, look to expand your knowledge, work practices, or professional network. Search for ways to make your work more efficient. Consider developing an education plan for yourself to learn how to best use the tools you need to work remotely.
Be Prepared: Working from home means you must become more self-reliant. Start with the basics. Think about the tools you need to complete your work. For example, do you have a cloud backup? Do you have remote access software so someone in IT can help you if you hit a roadblock? Is your computer powerful enough? Is your internet connection dependable and fast enough?
Summary: Following routines, leveraging tech, being deliberate with communication, setting aside time for growth, and preparing for uncertainty are five ways you can get the most out of a work-at-home experience.
Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.
Prism II Time Tracking: Many answering services want a log of time spent on administrative tasks. Tracking this time gives greater visibility into internal staffing needs and can form part of client billing. In support of this, Telescan’s Prism II Account Maintenance (PAM) tracks admin time spent in the Prism II database for creating and editing a directory, account, or mailbox record. Send the exported reports to spreadsheets or billing software. The reporting offers a variety of features to help the user find and organize the information they need. For more information, contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148, www.amtelco.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Quotes for the Month
“You have reached the pinnacle of success as soon as you become uninterested in money, compliments, or publicity.” -Thomas Wolfe
“A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.” -John D. Rockefeller
“Corduroy pillows are making headlines.” -unknown