Responding to Industry Consolidation
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
As the telephone answering service industry continues to consolidate amid a sellers’ market, it leaves many wondering what the future looks like as they contemplate their long-term strategy. There are three general scenarios that apply to most any situation: buy, sell, or stay.
Buy: Some large players, both from outside the industry and from within, continue their buying spree. While most of the good deals have been snatched up, there still exists many attractive targets. The objectives of this strategy vary. For some it’s the cash flow. For others it’s to pursue economy of scale. And for still others it’s the basic driving force that bigger is better. Regardless, these folks continue to make their acquisitions in pursuit of their core objective.
Three essential steps exist for those who by answering services. First is the ability to strike a sound deal. Second is to orchestrate a smooth transition. And third, which some people skip, is optimizing the acquisition for maximum financial results.
Some mid-sized players wonder if they should pursue this strategy. If it meets their objective, yes. However, they might fit better in one of the next two groups.
Sell: Some single location answering services (and perhaps all at one time or another) wonder if they should sell. This is a legitimate question, especially given the sellers’ market and the competition that exists across North America. Selling could make for a smart exit strategy.
For answering services pursuing this scenario, the goal is to do everything possible to make the answering service attractive to a potential buyer. This means maximizing EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization). Items included in this pursuit include maximizing the profitability of each account, eliminating unnecessary spending, and removing owner perks from the equation. Each step made to improve EBITDA will serve to increase the sales price.
Stay: The remaining group of answering services are interested in neither buying nor selling. They want to maintain their operation as a single location answering service. Although there are many strategies to allow this to work successfully, the most promising one is to implement a niche and then pursue it for growth and profitability.
This niche could be a certain segment of the market, a unique way of on boarding or serving clients, or a compelling marketing vision that sells the company image as much as its service. Many answering services are successfully pursuing this course, proving that it can be done. But don’t copy their specific strategy. Instead tweak it to make your own.
When done strategically and intentionally, any of these options can produce a successful outcome. And that’s good for the industry and for its clients.
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 email@example.com.
Hurricane Harvey Help
By Janet Livingston
Over the years, I’ve been in a lot of answering services. I’ve seen it all, but one thing I never see enough of is the willingness of one answering service to help another during a crisis. I saw this again with hurricane Harvey.
As the tempest bore down on the Texas coast, answering services scrambled to ensure they could provide continuous operations to their clients at this critical juncture. One coastal answering service experienced a direct assault. Fortunately their facility withstood the hurricane’s beating and remained intact. Unfortunately many of their staff were affected and unable to make it in to work.
For some the storm had left them homeless. Survival suddenly became their number one priority. Others were relatively unaffected, but they were unable to reach the office due to flooding and impassable roads. The remaining employees, who could make it in, couldn’t handle the number of calls backing up in queue. This included their normal call traffic as well as additional emergency communication.
Almost 1,000 miles away another answering service was poised to help. Management alerted staff to go on standby and be ready to supplement the work of other answering services, should they need assistance.
Within hours the operators at this remote answering service were on the phone, taking calls for the hurricane-ravaged answering service and its displaced staff who they had never met. Using a VPN (virtual private network) connection, the remote staff tapped into the distant answering service’s system.
Before taking calls, however, these operators had to familiarize themselves with the specific configuration and protocol the other staff followed. Fortunately both services used the same answering service platform. Because if this commonality, the remote staff could get up to speed quickly and begin taking calls.
During this time the remote answering service provided the staff needed to round out the schedule of this distant answering service. This went on for two weeks, providing an additional three to four operators for both first and second shift. For a time, they also covered overnights.
This is one more example of how our industry helps its own, with two services working together to serve clients. This is one of the reasons I love this industry. Entrepreneurs ready to help one another during difficult times.
Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier telephone answering service consultancy, which helps clients grow their revenue. Contact Janet at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-901-7706.
Telephone Answering Service News
Startel Releases Contact Management Center v14
Startel Corporation announced the availability of Startel Contact Management Center (CMC) v14. “With this latest release, Startel continues the advancement of the Startel Contact Management Center and its commitment to helping enhance the overall customer experience,” said Brian Stewart, chairman and CEO of Startel. The CMC v14 release includes client scrub (to help maintain HIPAA compliance), multi-site responses, enhanced search function, skip voice record (for HIPAA, PCI, and HITRUST compliance), and SMS replies tied to the last message sent to the replying device (to help users to locate and respond to conversations quickly).
Rochester Telemessaging Receives Gold Certification
Rochester Telemessaging Center re-qualified for the Gold 24/7 Call Center Certification Award for the fourth consecutive time, originally qualifying in 2008. The certification, provided by the Association of Teleservices International, indicates that Rochester Telemessaging Center (RTC) has met or exceeded high performance standards. “As Michigan’s only ATSI-24/7 Certified Call Center, Rochester Telemessaging Center demonstrates a continuing effort to bring the highest quality to the telephone answering service industry,” said Dan L’Heureux, certification examiner. Ryan Chinoski, RTC director of operations, noting the industry’s competitiveness, stated, “One way we are able to differentiate ourselves is by third-party testing.”
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Quotes for the Month
“What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?” -Adam Smith
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” -Steve Jobs
“A dentist and a manicurist fought tooth and nail.” -unknown