How Well Do You Pay Your Operators?
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Long ago, perhaps in graduate school, I read a management guru who advocated that a company’s highest paid employee should ethically make no more than seven times the lowest paid employee. Of course I can’t find that source now, but I remember it well.
For a telephone answering service, the two people at opposite ends of the wage scale are the owner/president/CEO and an entry-level operator. With the federal minimum wage in the United States currently at $7.25 per hour – and yes, there are sadly some answering services that still pay minimum wage – that projects to a top annual salary of around $105,000 a year. Of course it doesn’t need to be that high, but if can be.
How close does your answering service come to meeting this paradigm of no more than a seven-fold wage differential? Maybe it’s time to re-examine pay rates: decrease yours, increase theirs, or do both.
While I’ve met TAS owners who barely scraped by, some effectively making less than minimum wage for their endless hours of work, I think those players have all left the industry, either due to the sale of their business or its closure. Left are the viable players, the serious businesspeople who run great organizations and enjoy success. Many of them work diligently to maximize their paycheck, while at the same time remaining convinced they must pay their front-line staff as little as possible. “It’s the economics of the industry” they say.
I don’t agree.
What happens when the minimum wage goes up? Some states and cities already have, and answering services in those areas have adjusted to a higher starting wage. With talk of $12 to $15 dollars an hour, the low-paying answering services will be forced to make changes, too, or go out of business.
Get ahead of what is bound to come. Start increasing what you pay your answering service operators. But here’s a hint: Don’t pay more for the same caliber of employee. Pay more and expect more. Everyone wins.
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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How Well is Your Answering Service Training Working?
By Janet Livingston
As I work with answering services, I see a lot of great things happening. I also see some struggles. Training is one of them. While most answering services have invested a great deal of thought, time, and energy into training, they don’t always meet their objective of producing quality agents at a cost-effective price. Some create admirable agents but at a high cost. Others keep their training costs down but see inconsistent results. And a few struggle in both areas.
Maybe it’s time to look outside your answering service for some cost-effective training expertise. Here are some ideas to consider:
Webinar Training: Hour-long webinars can provide focused training on specific answering service related job skills. Live webinars allow for on-the-fly adjustments, polling attendees, and a chance to submit questions. However, these webinars can also be recorded for later viewing by other staff. Over time an answering service can compile a library of relevant training topics.
Online Seminars: Think of an online seminar as a long-form webinar. It could last half a day: three to four hours, either morning or afternoon. Or the seminar could be a one-day intensive. When done live, the presenters can adjust their instruction to meet the pace and needs of the participants. Recording it allows for future access.
Workshops: A further refinement removes the online element of the seminar and turns it into an in-person event, which greatly enhances the learning potential. This can occur onsite at the answering service or offsite in a central location, which allows multiple answering services to participate and share in the cost.
While none of these options will address 100 percent of the instruction an agent needs, each solution can provide a consistent source of quality training at a low price point. Don’t expect your in-house trainers to do all the training. Supplement their efforts with some outside help. In the process you will cut your training dollars and increase the quality of the results.
You can keep doing training the way you always have and achieve the same outcomes or you can pursue advanced instruction methods to produced better-trained agents for less money.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier sales and marketing service provider and consultancy that provides custom training solutions for all levels of telephone answering service staff. Contact Janet at email@example.com or 800-901-7706 to learn more about arranging specific training for your organization.
Telephone Answering Service News
Amtelco Announces miSecureMessages v6.5: Significant features are added in miSecureMessages (MSM) version 6.5, developed in collaboration with miSecureMessages Certified Partner program and MSM app users. Contact-based licensing, instead of device-based licensing, means miSecureMessages clients pay only for the number of contacts they have, not the number of devices they have. Other features include:
- Easier registration makes the mobile device app easier for call center clients to use.
- Client permissions give call centers the ability to grant specific permission-based client access to the miSecureMessages administration web thereby reducing labor costs.
- Canned responses for groups add flexibility for commercial accounts. Each client organization can have a separate list of responses.
- Added reports address both system administrators and clients.
- Time zone of reporting is adjustable in system settings.
- Performance improvements increase the speed of the app and server.
- Custom app menu links allow call centers to provide clients with web links accessible from the app’s menu, such as to Amtelco’s miTeamWeb or the call center’s support web page.
Amtelco works with call center partners to help market miSecureMessages to their clients. The MSM Certified Partners Program is unique in the industry, continues to grow, and currently has hundreds of successful members.
Focus Telecommunications is Certified Gold: Focus Telecommunications has re-certified for the Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification Award after originally qualifying November 2004, reports ATSI (the Association of TeleServices International). Donna West, president of Focus Telecommunications said, “I am delighted that this certification product is available along with other ATSI products that help to demonstrate a standard of quality to our clients and industry as a whole.”
Tom Reandeau, vice president of operations added, “Focus has been a long-time supporter of the ATSI certification program and along with the site certification, we also participate in the Agent, Advanced Agent, and Supervisor Certification Programs as well as the Award of Excellence and Award of Distinction for Call Centers, which helps to codify our commitment to excellence.”
Send us your TAS articles and news for consideration in the next issue.
Quotes for the Month
“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
“Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” -Richard Bach
“When fish are in schools they sometimes take debate.” -unknown