Moving Toward a New Normal for Telephone Answering Services
We Should Assume We’ll Never Return to Business as Usual
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
As the telephone answering service industry responded to an unexpected, pandemic-induced spike in call traffic coupled with some workers reluctant to come to the office, changes occurred out of necessity. Many services looked to address this two-pronged threat by pursuing a work-at-home model, either as their first test of remote workers or as a fuller embrace of the concept.
This increased focus on remote staff is not likely a temporary solution until things return to normal. Instead we should view it as a new normal. Even when a reprieve from the coronavirus crisis happens, many predict a second wave to occur—possibly this fall—which could be even more intense. And a few wonder if we’ll see a seasonal reoccurrence each year.
Here are the key things to consider in your plans:
Technical Logistics: The first step in allowing staff to work from home is the technical aspect of getting them connected. This starts with a stable internet connection and adequate computer resources in each home. Consider the glitches and challenges that occurred when doing this. Address them now instead of waiting for the next wave to hit.
Remote Management: Last month I gave tips on managing a distributed workforce. Look at what went well and what could’ve gone better. Work to fix the aspects that didn’t go so well.
HR and Legal Considerations: Aside from the technical and management issues are the human resources considerations and legal aspects of having a staff work from home, even from another state. Update your employee handbook and procedural manuals to reflect this. Review your insurance coverage to make sure it addresses a distributed, home-based workforce. Consult with a labor attorney in your state to make sure you have the needed protection and adequate recourses in the event an off-site employee goes rogue.
Platform: If you have a premise-based system, consider moving to the cloud. This will best facilitate remote staff and provide maximum flexibility. In addition, an off-premise solution removes equipment from your building, which brings up the next point.
Facility: As staff moves off-site, you require less space in your building. And if everyone works from home, you no longer need a physical office. If you lease this means you can scale back or cut your rent. If you own the building, you can either sell it or lease unused space to other businesses.
Sales and Marketing: Consider how much of your sales and marketing occurs online versus how much results from in-person meetings. Going forward expect that more local prospects will want to avoid physical interaction with your sales team. Strive to reach the point where all sales and marketing efforts occur from a distance.
Business Support Functions: Though much of the work-at-home focus so far has been on answering service operators, explore how you can extend that concept to non-operational staff. What if everyone had to work from home? Could you pull it off?
Stay Connected: As you send more of your staff home to work, consider what steps you can take to stay connected with each other and engaged in work. What can you do to counter feelings of isolation? Seek creative ways to maintain morale, effectiveness, and efficiency when physical, in-person interaction doesn’t exist or must be minimized. Consider conference calls, video meetings, and online interaction opportunities—both formal and informal.
Conclusion: Though it’s possible we will soon return to normal, making these preparations unnecessary, it’s an unlikely outcome. Instead, plan for the worst and hope for the best.
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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Three Ways to Select the Best Candidates Without In-Person Interviews
By Jeremy Eskenazie
The candidate experience is what candidates see, feel, and perceive of an employer based on their interaction through the entire recruitment cycle from first contact to onboarding (or if they don’t get a job offer). Mapping your candidate experience can take away much of the guesswork in whether candidates will accept your invitation for an interview and a potential offer.
The interviewing process has become more complex. You may find your organization using more video interviews or going through most of this process virtually. There are distinct benefits of remote interviewing, especially on cost and time for both your team and the candidate. The flip side of saving time is that in-person touches aren’t possible and many teams don’t adjust for this change.
At this early stage of the candidate experience, it’s important to keep candidates engaged. Here are three tips to improve your virtual candidate experience:
1. Focus on the Relationship: Interviewing at a distance means finding new ways to stay connected. Ask how the interview went, be clear about the next steps, and explain how long each step will take. This will build trust and show the candidate what kind of organization they will join if they accept an eventual offer.
2. Optimize Your Tools: Video interviewing is extremely helpful. There are great tools available to ease a virtual experience. The first hurdle is ensuring you’re technically set up so that your video and audio are easy to join and work consistently. You want to avoid wasting time on poor connections and the bad impression it leaves when you spend part of the interview on troubleshooting. The second part of this equation is training your hiring staff to use the tools smoothly. If they’re comfortable, it enhances the candidate experience.
3. Keep Success Practices: Your company is used to hiring. You know what works. Find ways to create the same touchpoints you have for candidates who come into your office. Ensure your hiring staff have positive stories to share about your company and explain how your company functions remotely. Consistency in your recruiting practices help to ensure you are not losing talent for your organization by having vast differences in how the candidate connects with you and your team.
Conclusion: Increasing your virtual candidate experience may be daunting at first. While there is excitement about interviewing remotely there is much to lose if you don’t approach it wisely. With the above guidance in place, you can further improve the virtual candidate experience, and hire the right staff.
Jeremy Eskenazi is the founder of Riviera Advisors, a boutique recruitment/talent acquisition management and optimization consulting firm.
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Quotes for the Month
“A hungry man is not a free man.” -Adlai Stevenson
“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” -Tony Robbins
“R.I.P boiled water. You will be mist.” -unknown