Stuck Like Glue—Part Three
By Donna West
Donna offers her third installment of ideas on how to keep clients “stuck like glue.”
A visit to a client is one of the most impressive things you can do. Call and ask for a time you can stop by to make a short delivery. Take something with your company logo on it, one for each person you have regular contact with, plus one or two extras. There are nice items in all kinds of price ranges – key rings, car blankets, mugs, flashlights, umbrellas, and clocks. Give them a practical reminder of your company with your phone number and Web address clearly printed on the item. If you give them a tin of cookies, add a card with a photo of your senior staff. Then point out the people they have talked with; this is a definite icebreaker.
One thing that really helps them stick like glue is assigning a client liaison to your VIP clients. This is a great perk for your daytime agents, and it occasionally works for an evening agent, too. Having one’s own account manager or liaison will absolutely impress a client. Liaisons put a personal face to your service. A liaison can check a client’s account and messages at least three days a week. They can visit the client when possible and call to make sure things are going well. The liaison will be the one to either program or check the client’s on-call information. He or she will be the person the client contacts when changes are needed. Liaisons also work closely with the customer service director so he or she is always in the loop.
A touch doesn’t have to be all about you. In fact, sometimes it’s better when it isn’t about you, because that way your client won’t feel threatened. If you have a favorite charity, try calling key clients to let them know about a special event. Breast cancer is becoming a recognized cause for our industry, especially since so many women work in telephone answering services. Your agents can even take part in a walk for the cure, thereby getting even more involved. Asking clients to work on a committee with you helps them get involved. It is widely understood that if you ask someone for a favor, you will build a better rapport than if you offer him or her a favor. We all like to help others but often feel just a bit funny accepting assistance.
Make sure your company takes part in at least one charitable or community event and two or three smaller events if possible. If you are nominated (or nominate yourself) for a community or business award, explaining what you do to help your community, or the world at large, is a requirement. In addition, it makes your staff feel good to help others less fortunate. And as successful business owners, most of us believe it is our moral obligation to assist others. When you are known in your community and in the industry as someone who contributes, word gets around and people get to “know” you – and your clients will be impressed.
Donna West is the president of Business Calls (www.businesscalls.biz), a company that produces client newsletters for the telephone answering service industry. She is also the president of Focus Telecommunications, and has served on several industry boards.
The Family Business: Three Deadly Sins
By Bill Lee
Just as there are unique problems in publicly held firms, there are challenges that are just as unique in family-owned-and-operated businesses. All companies have strengths, but the secret to both profitability and perpetuation is a willingness to deal with each business and family issue in a professional manner.
In this article, my purpose is twofold: to bring these “deadly sins” to the attention of family members who have not yet been exposed to them and then to offer recommended solutions. No matter how bad business problems may seem, it’s rarely too late for a full recovery.
Deadly Sin #1: “Daddy” Dominance – In most family businesses, there’s a “daddy” who is actively involved. Sometimes he’s first generation, but he could also be second, third, and sometimes fourth. “Daddy” is often highly reluctant to let go of the reins.
The “kids” are all too frequently little more than “hired hands” because only “Daddy” is qualified to make important decisions. Even when some of these “kids” are well into their forties and fifties, to “Daddy” they will always be “kids.”
Solution: “Daddy” – the patriarch of the family – can never be assured that the business will survive him or that his offspring will survive him in managing the business unless he systematically gives up “important” jobs and delegates them to a qualified subordinate.
Granted, “Daddy” may perform these duties better than anyone else, but no one will ever approach his level of expertise unless he gives them a chance. To do that, he must allow someone else to make a mistake or two. He must be willing to make the transition from player to coach.
It doesn’t really matter when he begins this process, but the point is that he must begin to delegate key projects or duties. It might be preparing the company’s annual budget or profit plan, making credit decisions, assuming responsibility for banking relations, participating in purchasing decisions, pricing, hiring, or managing sales. But well before “Daddy” plans to retire, a competent successor must be given the chance to prove that he or she can perform each of these functions.
Deadly Sin #2: Refusing to Set a Retirement Date – If “Daddy” strongly resists establishing a retirement date, it’s likely he never will. He will die with his boots on. He will have convinced everyone in the company that he simply cannot bear the thought of retiring because sitting at the helm of the family business has been his life and his identity for so many years.
Any owner/manager who is fifty-five or older should set a retirement date as soon as possible. Even those younger than fifty-five should set a retirement date if they plan to retire before reaching sixty-five. Of course, merely setting a retirement date is not sufficient. “Daddy” must take enough proactive steps so it’s clear to all concerned that management changes are eminent, although not immediate.
There are several reasons for this. Employees deserve to know what to expect in the future. Most employees worry that when the “old man” dies, the business will go down the tubes. Also, it’s difficult to recruit top talent into a company that doesn’t have a succession plan in place.
Solution: Set a retirement date and name a successor. In the absence of both, there will always be doubt that the “Daddy” is really serious about retiring. By naming a successor, a lot of this apprehension is lifted. Both family and non-family members will realize there is a good possibility the business will survive the current CEO.
Deadly Sin #3: Not Willing to Name a Non-Family Member as Successor. If the retiring owner does not genuinely believe that one of his offspring has the “right stuff” to succeed him, he owes it to his family and employees to tap a qualified successor from outside the family ranks. Oftentimes, this individual must be recruited from outside the company.
A good example of this principle was executed quite a few years ago at Ford Motor Company. Although since the inception of the company a member of the Ford family had often been at the helm, the family and board of directors was willing to recruit Lee Iacocca when there was no member of the Ford family who measured up to the requirements of the job. As a result of the momentum the company gained under Iacocca’s watch, Ford Motor Company’s sales and earnings soared.
Telelink Call Centre Awarded Call Center Certification
Telelink Call Centre, headquartered in St. John’s, Newfoundland, has received the Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification Award for the third time. Originally certified in 2005 and renewed on a three-year cycle, Telelink is the first Canadian call center to be so awarded. Telelink, founded in 1966, is one of the few answering services in North America that is ISO registered. Meeting strict ISO requirements demonstrates their ability to consistently provide a product that meets customer and applicable regulatory requirements. Their call center certification builds upon this foundation, furthering their goal of delivering superior telephone-based customer service to their clients.
Messages Plus Call Center on YouTube
Cecile Williams, general manager of Messages Plus Answering Service, uses YouTube to promote her growing TAS and call center. In addition to being on YouTube, the video is also embedded on the telephone answering service’s website, which employs search engine optimization (SEO) to enhance organic search engine placement. Messages Plus Answering Service began in 1922 and is a nationwide live telephone answering service. Their services range from virtual receptionist and telephone answering service to call center services.
Westpark Communications Adds Second Location
Kathie Edwards, president and CEO of Westpark Communications, a 24/7 live answering service in Houston, Texas, recently opened its second office in northwest Houston. The new, 8,000-square-foot office includes seventy call center seats that can accommodate 140 full and part-time positions. Westpark’s 10,000-square-foot headquarters also houses a call center as well as offices for administrative staff, operations, customer service, quality assurance, and the sales department. The departments work closely together to provide the highest levels of customer satisfaction to their clients. Westpark serves Fortune 500 corporations, meeting the needs of organizations with interests around the globe.
Alston Tascom Announces New SoftSwitch
Alston Tascom announced the newest SoftSwitch, ADAM (Alston Developed Asterisk Machine), the brainchild of the Alston Tascom open source team. ADAM will provide telephone answering services with a SoftSwitch and office PBX, which accommodates TDM, SIP, fax, remote office, remote agents, and any combination of tools for a telephone answering service and office. The redundant design of ADAM has the call center in mind, in order to keep all the calls answered all the time. Learn more or place an order for ADAM the SoftSwitch or ADAM the complete Evolution system at the ATSI Convention and Expo in June (booth 311).
Amtelco IS Appointments Updates
The Intelligent Series (IS) appointments feature has been redesigned for easier appointment scheduling from the IS supervisor, Infinity telephone agent, soft agent, and IS Web. This includes enhanced viewing, scheduling, programming, and script integration, all which serve to reduce labor costs and training time. The new interface includes a filter for viewing appointments by service (i.e., the types of appointments that can be scheduled). The text color and background color of each service is user-configurable, making different appointment types distinguishable from each other. Additionally, new IS response elements enable appointments to be scheduled from intelligent messaging scripts without having to open the appointment schedule.
The 2012 Allen Kalik Award Given to Ken Goldenberg
During the PINetwork’s Annual Conference, Ken Goldenberg, vice president of Direct Line TeleResponse in Berkeley, California, was awarded the Allen Kalik award. The Allen Kalik award was implemented in 2011 after the passing of Professional Teledata president Allen Kalik. Honoring Allen for his contributions to the telecommunications industry and the PINetwork Group, this award recognizes individuals whose unselfish dedication and leadership have led to the advancement of the PINetwork Group. “Ken Goldenberg couldn’t be more of a perfect fit for this award,” said president Pat Kalik. “I know Allen would be proud.”