Look to Fine-Tune Your TAS Processes
Seek to Provide the Fast Responses Your Prospects and Clients Expect
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
We live in an I-want-it-now culture. People, in general, and your answering service clients, specifically, expect quick responses to their inquiries. If they don’t get what they want when they want it, they’ll seek solutions elsewhere.
That’s why we need to look at our various answering service processes and seek to fine-tune them. The goal is to develop new ways of doing things so we can respond quicker with our present and future clients.
Here are some areas to consider.
How long does it take from the time a prospect clicks a button for more information until they’re interacting with a person who can help them? Though it’s a good practice, an automated response doesn’t count, nor does someone texting, calling, or emailing that someone will get back with them in a few minutes. What matters is contact from a salesperson who can answer questions and move toward a successful close.
The patience of prospects is extremely short. The chances of success decrease noticeably as response times increase. For many situations, a five-minute response time is the new standard. Making prospects wait even thirty minutes, dramatically decreases the chance of someone connecting with them and closing the deal. That’s why some companies push for a one-minute response time. Most prospects will wait sixty seconds before they contact another company.
This means you need to figure out a way that the information on the clicked form goes immediately to a salesperson who can contact them right away. Any other steps or delays is unacceptable.
Once you sign up a new client, what’s your process for getting them setup so you can take calls? This doesn’t mean giving them a generic solution now and fine-tuning it later. This means a fully functional, working answering service solution.
In pursuing this goal, the objective is to balance speed with accuracy. Don’t program their account so quickly that it contains errors. But don’t take so long that they give up on you.
This means sending the information collected by the salesperson directly to the programmer. Even if you sell customers on the paradigm that “it will take us three business days to set up your account properly, because we’re focused on quality,” still look for ways to do things faster and better.
Streamline Customer Service
Now you’ve turned a prospect into a client. Ideally, they’ll never have any customer service issues, but they will.
When it comes to responding fast to customer service inquiries, there are two considerations. The first is how quickly the client can share their concern with someone who can act upon it. The second is how quickly the customer service agent can implement and communicate the solution to the client. Address both these issues, looking for ways to fine-tune your processes to respond with speed and accuracy.
Streamline Other Areas
Sales, client onboarding, and customer service are the three big areas to address first. But when you’re finished with those, this doesn’t mean you’re done. There’s more to do. In accounting, look at the timeliness of sending invoices, handling receivables, and processing payables. What about dealing with technical issues? First restructure procedures that address problems affecting more than one client. Then look at simplifying the process to resolve the technical concerns of one client.
A related issue is in your agent hiring and training procedures. Though this isn’t a client-facing concern, it does directly affect your answering service’s productivity and profitability.
Be Ever Streamlining
Once you’ve fine-tuned the processes in all these areas, now you can sit back and take it easy, right? Wrong! Always seek ways to do things faster and better. Don’t accept the status quo, and don’t assume that if something was good enough last year, it’s good enough now.
Always seek to do things faster and better. Other answering services are. If you want to keep up, so should you.
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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5 Signs it’s Time to Say “Goodbye” to Your Client
By Kate Zabriskie
Sometimes you can’t meet clients’ expectations, other times clients require an inordinate amount of time, and on rare occasions, a client’s behavior may expose an organization to undue peril. When any of these situations occur, it’s best to say “goodbye” and to do so quickly in a way that creates the least resentment on both sides.
1. They cause 80 percent of your problems but don’t cover 80 percent of your revenue: From time to time, any client could require more energy than others. Those high-demand situations are normal. What isn’t normal, however, is the perpetual squeaky wheel that routinely disrupts normal business operations.
These clients may not be the clients you want to keep. This is especially true if serving them prevents you from taking care of clients who are more profitable and easier to help. If they insist on staying anyway, consider raising their rates.
2. They’re abusive: When management allows clients to abuse employees, it’s the same as perpetrating the abuse directly. Do clients swear, yell, demean, or harass your employees? If so, it’s time to let them know their behavior isn’t acceptable.
If the bad behavior continues, the relationship should stop. Not acting could expose your company to a lawsuit, erode morale, and negatively affect your culture.
3. Their behavior doesn’t align with your ethics: You are the company you keep. If you enable your clients to act in a way that conflicts with your organization’s values or the law, it may be time to say, “Goodbye.”
Do you really want to associate yourself and your organization with those whose business practices are illegal, immoral, or questionable? When a client exposes you to unneeded risk, it’s prudent to disassociate yourself from them pronto.
4. They expose you to unneeded financial risk: If you spend more time chasing payments than performing work, it’s time to consider a new payment plan or a permanent breakup if that doesn’t solve the problem. It’s best to avoid an organization that puts your pocketbook on the line.
5. You’re no longer a good fit: Sometimes providers and their clients grow apart. Nobody has done anything wrong. The two parties are just in different places, and it’s time to say goodbye.
Conclusion: No matter the reason, prolonging a relationship that isn’t working does no one any favors. It’s usually not fun to say “goodbye,” but once you do, you’ll have more time to say “hello” to clients you want to work with.
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. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.
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Inspecta offered automation and management of surveys, notifications, and responses, as well as new telecom and VoIP-based technologies to reduce the telecom expenses and response time.
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Quotes for the Month
“The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” -Moliere
“Never harbor grudges; they sour your stomach and do no harm to anyone else.” -Robertson Davies
“A plateau is a high form of flattery.” -unknown