ASTAA Conference Recap
By Chris Bell
The Atlantic States Telephone Answering Association (ASTAA) held its annual conference October 10-12 at the Wyndham Resort Hotel in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The property also adjoins a nearby Courtyard Marriot, two restaurants, and the Gateway movie theater, which is within easy walking distance to the hotels. There were fifty-three attendees. Sponsors included Agility Recovery Solutions, Amtelco, Professional Teledata, Startel, and Telescan.
Events began on Monday afternoon with a group tour of the battlefield, complete with a volunteer historian to fill in the details of the three days of fighting along the battlefields. Three days of intense fighting would result in over 50,000 casualties, making this field the single deadliest of any American war.
The opening reception Monday night, sponsored by Startel, featured a surprise guest speaker (compliments of Telescan). An Abe Lincoln reenactor and look-alike visited the reception. He gave a brief thirty-five-minute presentation, answered questions, and then posed for photographs.
The Tuesday morning keynote speaker was Professor Carol Reardon, the Harold K. Johnson visiting professor of Military History at the U.S. Army War College in nearby Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Professor Reardon gave a spellbinding presentation on wartime communications between Lincoln and his generals during the time of the Gettysburg Campaign. She often tied in interesting side stories about military leadership and how these qualities relate to business. Amtelco sponsored the opening breakfast.
ASTAA had a dual track conference, with content for owners, managers, and supervisors. Content included sessions led by Donna West of Focus Telecommunications, titled “It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It,” followed by “Monster Accounts – Mission Creep,” presented by MedCom’s Katherine Reinholt and Peter Brousseau. During lunch, Civil War speaker Ed Guy provided some interesting commentary on those often-seen black-and-white photographs of soldiers.
Vendor presentations were interspersed between speakers. In the afternoon, Jannemieke Keener spoke on “Selling Custom Service to Your Clients” and Joe Waldholtz and Patty Smith from Teleplex held a session on “How to Go from Friend to Boss” for supervisors and managers. After the evening wine and cheese reception, the contingent walked over to the Gateway Theatre to see the Fields of Freedom movie.
On Wednesday, ATSI and CAM-X presentations were held, along with the ASTAA business meeting. Heidi Black will be the incoming ASTAA president and Gary Edwards will replace Jannemieke Keener, who is rotating off after many years of dedicated service. Debbie Bibber was elected vice president/president elect.
After the business meeting, Tom Sheridan of MedCom presented “Growing Smaller: Getting More Out of Your Existing Clients in a Difficult Economy,” and Doug Robbins gave a session titled “Cut My Bill” to discuss how to handle the difficult conversation many of us have been experiencing lately.
After lunch at Garabaldi’s, Heidi Black presented a session titled “Managing Stability 24/7” and Debbie Bibber spoke on “The Logistics of Remote Locations.” Following that, Lee McAteer of Focus Telecommunications spoke on “Managing and Training Remote Staff” and Chris Bell of MedCom concluded with a session titled “Best Practices to Next Practices.”
Heidi Black and Chris Bell were the conference cochairs. ASTAA board members Doug Robbins (president), Lee McAteer, (secretary), Jannemieke Keener, and Debbie Bibber worked throughout the year with the conference chairs and Dan L’Heureux to make this conference a “one-of-a-kind” event. The Gettysburg theme was on prominent display throughout the conference, with attendees learning many facets and facts about the great battle at Gettysburg.
Be sure to check out the photographs taken from the conference and the battlefield tours.
Answer Midwest Named Business of the Month
The RiverBend Growth Association named Answer Midwest, Inc., of Alton, Illinois, its Small Business of the Month. The RiverBend Growth Association selects a small business to honor each month. Winners are selected based on a scoring system that awards points for number of years in business, number of employees, overcoming adversity, and community service.
Answer Midwest, Inc., is a 24/7 live operator call handling outsourcer for any size business need. The company provides improved customer service and response, emergency dispatching, order taking, and appointment and reservation scheduling, while generally improving productivity and effective call handling. Answer Midwest can gather, encrypt, and transmit data, messages, and any information required as well as serving as a level-one help desk. According to Gary Tedrick, president and CEO of Answer Midwest, after being in business sixty-four years and winning the ATSI Award of Excellence for Customer Service for the last ten consecutive years, their slogan is “Our Only Limitation Is Your Imagination.”
The RiverBend Growth Association is both the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Organization for the communities of the Riverbend area, serving the following communities in southwestern Illinois: Alton, Bethalto, East Alton, Elsah, Foster Township, Godfrey, Grafton, Hartford, Roxana, South Roxana, Wood River, and Wood River Township. The mission of the Growth Association is to provide the leadership required to attract, promote, and support new and existing enterprise growth throughout the Riverbend community.
Barbara Bradbury Inducted into CAM-X Hall of Fame
Congratulations go out to Barbara Bradbury of Answer Plus in Hamilton, Ontario, on her induction into the 2011 CAM-X Hall of Fame. This dynamic presentation took place during the gala banquet at CAM-X’s Annual Convention and Trade Show held recently at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Montreal, Quebec.
Barbara Bradbury was unanimously nominated for this esteemed honor by the CAM-X board of directors in appreciation of the genuine passion she has shown for the association and the countless hours she has dedicated to mentoring others in the industry.
Barbara has been in the call center business for almost twenty-six years. Published in Connections Magazine, Contact Management, and Customer Service Newsletter, her background in sales and customer service and the enthusiasm she brings to everything she does has made her a much sought-after speaker at conventions and trade shows. She is always willing to share what she has learned in the trenches about managing people, running a profitable business, and providing a level of customer service that goes beyond the expectations of her clients.
The CAM-X Hall of Fame was established by the Canadian Call Management Association in 2001 in order to recognize dynamic individuals whose leadership has contributed to the evolution of the telephone answering service and call center industry. The Hall of Fame celebrates inductees for their accomplishments, their vision, and their leadership as well as for their tireless efforts to promote, support, and protect the TAS/call center industry.
A Message from CAM-X President Brad French
At the recent CAM-X meeting, incoming president Brad French shared this with fellow members in anticipation of his term as president.
“CAM-X is an amazing organization, and I am proud to be a member of it, let alone the president. The willingness of the membership to share their ideas, their successes, and their failures show how much we all want to better ourselves and our businesses!
“I would like to thank Tom Sheridan for all of his hard work as president this year. I would also like to thank Gary Blair who is leaving the board this year after his third stint on the board and being convention chair three times.
“I look forward to working with Linda Osip and Ida Rowlands, our board, past president Tom, Denise Reynolds, Tim Carwell, Doug Swift, Debbie Iacovone, and our new board member Bill Tucker and vendor board member Steve Newall. We are always looking for committee volunteers, so please volunteer your time; it is well worth it!
“This year I want our theme to be Communicating the Message. I am not talking about what we do every day with our callers and clients; I am referring to how we communicate our message to our team members, to our prospective team members, to our clients, to our prospective clients, to our callers, and to each other. As communication experts, we need to learn how to communicate to all people: the baby boomers, the Gen Xers, the Gen Yers, and the young up-and-coming Gen Zs. With all the new methods of communication that are available, we need to adapt to them for the betterment of our businesses.
“I will keep this brief but if you wish to get a hold of me, Tweet me, email me, Facebook me, BBM me, text me, Linked In messenger me – you can even call me, but please do not fax me!
“Thank you, and have a great night!”
Alan Hamer Joins AnswerNet
Alan Hamer joined AnswerNet as senior sales executive for Indirect Partner Programs; he will be working on third party relationships, including other call centers that work with AnswerNet as their telecommunication partner. Alan is not new to the industry, having previously owned and operated Exchange Network Inc. for twenty-six years prior to its acquisition by AnswerNet in 2010. “We are so excited to have Alan sign on with the AnswerNet team,” said AnswerNet’s CEO and president Gary Pudles. “Alan joins a growing number of company owners who sold their businesses to AnswerNet and later joined us when they saw how pleased their former employees are to be a part of our family.”
ATSI Awards Gold
ATSI announced that Main Line Telecommunications has received Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification. Main Line is the first to be certified on the Amtelco Infinity platform (through NAEO). In addition, Towne Answering Service received Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification for the third time. Towne was the first to be certified for the CadCom AccuCall platform in 2005, followed in 2008 with certification on Professional TeleData’s PInnacle platform, and re-qualifying this year. Certification indicates that Towne and Main Line have met or exceeded high standards in the following areas: business practices, life safety, operations (including normal and emergency procedures), personnel hiring, training, and ongoing evaluations through a peer review program focusing on 99.9 percent annual run time.
Telescan Unveils New Products
Telescan unveiled several new products at this year’s TUNe meeting to a record-setting attendance. Two new programs are Telescan’s Spectrum Messenger IPhone App and Telescan’s business continuity program. The latter is a disaster-hosted program available to all Telescan platform users. Information was also shared on Telescan’s latest two non-platform-specific programs: Appointment Scheduler and Virtual Observer, a screen logging software. Roger Young, Telescan president, said, “Telescan always looks forward to this conference. Our interaction with TUNe makes us a better company.” One of the main objectives of the conference was to provide technical updates, stat reviews, and marketing ideas from Telescan.
Pat Vos Is 2011 Tom Ryan Award Recipient
Congratulations to Pat Vos of Intercon Messaging Inc. for winning the 2011 Tom Ryan Award for Ethics, Integrity, and Quality Above All. This honor was accepted at the 47th Annual CAM-X Convention and Trade Show held recently in Montreal, Quebec. The award is presented annually in memory of one of the contact management field’s most ardent advocates, Tom Ryan. This industry-specific award honors companies that exhibit quality service with a commitment to ethics and integrity. Also considered are dedication to maintaining a cohesive working environment, practicing ongoing customer service initiatives, and industry and community involvement.
Professional Teledata Adds Secure Messaging
Professional Teledata added a “secure message” delivery method to its PInnacle Platform, in response to HIPAA/HITECH regulations requiring that sensitive information be secure during transmission from the call center to the recipient. Secure message functionality is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android smart phones and iPad and Android tablets. Agents submit secure messages for delivery and then are notified when the message has been delivered to the device and again when it is read. Recipients of these messages can “reply” directly back to the call center. The history for each message is updated with all activity to provide a detailed audit trail. Additionally, secure messages can be configures to be sent automatically.