Staff Communication is Key
Effective leaders take time to get input from their employees
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
One of my goals when I ran an answering service was to provide the best possible headsets for my staff. After all, they spend all day on the phone, so voice quality, ease-of-use, and comfort are critical.
To pursue this, I always looked for a better headset. When a new model came out that boasted better technology or results, I wanted to test it. In most cases these trial headsets were as good as what we already had, so they ended up in a box in my closet, which I later moved to the trash. However, I would snag the least objectionable of them for my own use.
Since I used the phone sporadically during the day, headset comfort wasn’t a priority. And less-than-ideal voice quality wasn’t an issue either. What mattered was that my employees had the best.
However, after a couple years I discovered my staff had made their own conclusion about why my headset differed from theirs. They reasoned that I kept the best for myself and forced them to languish with old, subpar units.
Don’t Make Decisions in Isolation
At first this upset me. Then I figured out how to set the record straight. I asked one of our senior operators if we could swap headsets for the day. I wanted her opinion about which one was best.
With a smirk she handed me hers and put on mine. Leaving a smiling operator to do her work, I returned to my office. During her next break, she poked her head inside my doorway. She wasn’t smiling anymore. “I don’t like this headset—not at all.” She shook her head. “The audio’s lousy, and the band hurts my head.”
“Do you want to switch back?” I asked.
“Yes.” She nodded in enthusiasm.
Now it was my turn to smile. “My goal is for you and your coworkers to have the best headsets. It doesn’t matter what I use, because my work isn’t as important as yours.” I paused for dramatic effect. “So, do you think your headset is better?”
She nodded, and I handed her headset back to her. Beaming, she bounced out of my office.
From then on, whenever I tested a new headset, I made sure to check with an operator before making a final decision. If they liked it, they could use it. And if they didn’t, then I would. That stopped the grumblings about me having a better headset.
As an answering service owner or manager, it doesn’t matter if we make the right decisions for the right reasons, because if our staff doesn’t know what we’re thinking, they’ll likely assume the worst.
Effective managers communicate with their staff and seek their input.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. Check out his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.
TAS Sales Rep: 40-year-old, multiple-location, answering service seeks outgoing, highly professional, hard-working, and self-motivated sales representatives. Previous sales experience is preferred. Strong written and verbal communications skills are required. Must be comfortable with phone sales, computer-literate, and capable of creating written sales proposals. Email resume to Janet Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seeking Acquisitions: Reputable TAS, in business since 1967 and still owned by the founding family, seeks a small TAS acquisition in the USA. Ideally, you’re billing under $50k per month. Smaller is better. We’ll treat you right, and your employees and customers. Let’s talk. Contact Doug at 888-693-7935 or email@example.com.
Should You Offer a Free Trial When Selling Answering Service?
By Janet Livingston
Some answering services offer a free trial to new clients. Others do not. Both camps are adamant about their reasons for making this decision. While there isn’t a right answer, it’s critical to carefully consider the pros and cons of each option, strategically picking the approach that best fits your business and business goals. Ask yourself these questions:
Will a Free Trial Show Confidence?
The implication in offering a free trial is that an answering service wouldn’t do so unless they had a high expectation that clients would stay on when the trial period ends. A free trial sends the message that the answering service can back up their verbal promises with verifiable action. This signals that the answering service means what it says about their service.
Will a Free Trial Make You Look Desperate?
The less a business charges for a product or service, the less value it possesses to clients. Sometimes giving something away for free carries a too-good-to-be-true vibe, even to the point of making a company appear desperate for sales. Some prospects may assume your service is so poor that you need to give it away to entice them to use it.
Will a Free Trial Open You Up to Abuse?
Yes, some people will take advantage of you. For this reason, you should be careful with your screening of prospects and be strategic about the structure of your offer.
Will a Free Trial Increase Your Bottom Line?
Offering a free trial will certainly provide you with more clients, but will it provide you with more paying clients? To be successful you must convert a high percentage of free trial prospects into paying clients.
A related concern is how long a client must remain on service to offset your costs in providing them with free service. For example, if they need to remain on service for one year, but on average cancel after nine months, then overall you lose money when you offer a free trial, which drags down your bottom line.
Will a Free Trial Devalue Your Offering?
When answering services talk about the excellence of their work, the quality of their staff, and the value of their processes, they send a strong message to prospects that they’re dealing with a top-notch provider. Their sales staff, website, and literature all back this up.
Many answering services worry that offering a free trial diminishes their assertions and offers a counterpoint to their claims. The concern is that all the talk of quality, and the costs to provide that quality, will be offset by offering a free trial.
Will a Free Trial Subtly Change Prospects into Clients?
When a salesperson works with the prospect, the goal is to get the prospect to say “yes” and become a client. Prospects either say “yes” or “no.”
However, when offering a free trial, a third option presents itself. When a prospect agrees to a free trial, they say “maybe,” stopping short of making an unequivocal commitment. When the trial period ends, they will likely continue using the service, sliding into client status without ever explicitly saying “yes.” It just happens.
Whether to offer a free trial is a tactical decision. When pursued strategically, either approach can produce positive results. So, make sure you choose the right path for the right reasons, and then don’t question your decision.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider for the call center and telephone answering service industry. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-901-7706.
Telephone Answering Service News
Amtelco Introduces Intelligent Series v5.1: Amtelco announced version 5.1 of its Intelligent Series (IS) suite of call center applications at the annual meeting of the National Amtelco Equipment Owners (NAEO) users group in February. New features and enhancements include: Virtual Terminals for the SMS, SNPP, TAP, and WCTP contact methods; Genesis Just Say It IVR; Genesis Just Say It directory assistance; the miTeamWeb dashboard; the Intelligent Series two-way WCTP messaging interface; integration with Infinite Convergence Solutions, a new SMS text messaging aggregator; the Genesis meet me park; and auto attendant behavior.
Send us your TAS articles and news for consideration in the next issue.
Quotes for the Month
“When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.” -John Ruskin
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” -Jim Rohn
“A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion.” -unknown