By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
I’m not sure how the telephone answering service industry compares with other industries, but there seems to be many second and third generations running the answering services their families started. (If you’re a fourth or fifth generation owner, please let me know.)
While the process of handing over ownership and control to the next generation used to be straightforward, the path is less clear today. Not only are TASs more complex to run from a technical, legal and business standpoint, they’re also bigger.
Learning the answering service business from the ground up is a perennial prerequisite in preparing the next generation. Having a college degree was once an optional bonus, but it is more critical now, as running an answering service has become more complicated with additional layers to comprehend. Another common stipulation is to first work outside the industry before joining the family business. This gives the future leader a better understanding of business and added background to provide a more balanced perspective. It’s also wise to study other multi-generational family businesses to learn the pitfalls and challenges of succession.
Lastly, while each decade has presented its share of threats to the TAS industry, there seems to be more now than ever before. Being ready to deal with these challenges requires even more preparation, as well as fortitude.
As long as the next generation receives all the training needed to continue the legacy, a TAS is still a great business to own and operate, especially when it’s the family business.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.
Success and Commitment for ASTAA Supervisor Workshop
By Dan L’Heureux
The ratings were great! The ASTAA supervisor two-day workshop, An Adventure Is Going to Happen, with assistance from Winnie-the-Pooh, was the second in a series of three workshops for supervisors and middle-level employees. The reviews lived up to those of the first workshop and encouraged ASTAA to commit to the third seminar.
“This workshop was all about the relationship between supervisors and their agents, and it was completely different than the first workshop in the series,” explained Donna West. “We looked at how to correct people so that they learn without harboring resentment. We covered showing real appreciation and the importance of allowing numbers to help define the goals supervisors want to reach. I believe our attendees left with enthusiasm for their jobs and for the things they wanted to accomplish when they returned to their offices. Most importantly, they believed they could make the changes they wanted to see. We gave them tools to do the job.”
Joan Stagg-Smith of Answer One, in New York City, wrote, “Donna just held a seminar for supervisors that had a profound effect on one of the people I sent. It opened this girl’s eyes to a whole new way of looking at her job and her value. She came back completely motivated and, dare I say, excited! The creative juices are following at warp speed around here! Thank you for another great conference. I think there is no better venue then ATSAA for such a thing, and no one does it better than you!”
The first workshop, You Can Move Mountains, with advice from Dr. Seuss, introduced supervisors to concepts they may not have thought about before – such as the costs of hiring and training and how part of a supervisor’s job is retaining new employees. It also looked at the costs of bringing on a new client compared to those of keeping the current ones. Most importantly, it helped attendees understand how critical their role is in inspiring agents and helping them to grow the company. In both workshops, using quotes from these well-known children’s books helped make the concepts memorable. ASTAA will repeat You Can Move Mountains in the spring of 2015.
“We will roll out the third and final workshop in the spring of 2016,” said Gary Edwards, president of ASTAA. “The third segment will concentrate on the role the supervisor plays in customer satisfaction. And, while these workshops originate with ASTAA, Donna West is willing to conduct these workshops for other organizations.”
How to Use Unique Media to Make Selling Easier
By Arthur Cronos
Last month we discussed how most answering service advertising appears interchangeable; there is no reason why prospects would choose one company over another. But Starbucks sells like gangbusters because they’ve managed to differentiate themselves from their competition.
Powerful sales follow when there’s a congruence of the market you target, the message you present, and the media you use. Each of these provides the opportunity to make you unique.
Consider media. If you only advertise where your competition does, you must compete. But what if you advertised where your competition doesn’t? Consider the following examples.
- Direct Mail: When someone opens your letter, there’s no competition. True, many fail with direct mail, but that’s because they didn’t complete the learning curve. Every day, thousands of companies collect fortunes using direct mail. You can, too.
- Co-Op: Set up an arrangement with a company who sells to the same market. You refer them; they refer you. Use printed flyers for the referral, and then monitor and enforce your system.
- Cold Calling: Few answering services do cold calling; it’s tricky to learn, but it works. If you learn it, you will have no competition.
- Referrals Program: Sometimes we put off calling existing clients for fear of hearing some new problem. Get over it. Call your customers, actively solicit their views, and regularly ask for referrals. When they refer you to someone, you have no competition.
- Think Local: Set up your Google Local for Business page. Google has created 80 million webpages, one for every business they could find. You have one – whether you are aware of it or not. It has a built-in reviews system, and for businesses that work it right, Google will display you on the map, in a special section of seven local businesses, with eye-catching stars by your name. If you have five stars and nobody else does, you have no competition.
- Super-Targeted Ads: Use Facebook ads. Tap the United States Postal Service EDDM service (Every Door Direct Mail®) to saturate your local area. Use door hangers. Nobody else is doing it, so you won’t have any competition.
Business means trading service for money. Giving service is part of your business; selling and marketing your service are also part of your business. Skimp on sales and marketing, and you’ll pay dearly. For easier selling, choose media where your competition isn’t. Next month, we’ll examine smarter market selection.
Arthur Cronos ran Network Answering Service in San Francisco, then worked at Startel, and wrote several books.
Telephone Answering Service News
Jim Marchbank to Lead Business Strategy Seminar
Attend an ATSI-sponsored seminar on business strategy led by Jim Marchbank in St Louis on Sept 28–30, 2014. Jim has taught this class to leaders in the US, Europe, and Bangkok. This program is for TAS owners who want to increase their profitability and take their business to the next level.
Previous attendees touted this seminar as an “unbelievable experience in enhancing problem-solving skills.” Here you can examine your business strategy and decide if it needs to be updated or changed. Best-selling author Tom Peters said, “If it is not broken, fix it anyway.” Non-members can enjoy member pricing; sign up today.
Major Telescan Spectrum Update
In August, Telescan distributed their second major update of the Spectrum System in 2014. Included are improvements to handling inbound SMS and email, enrichments to the secure delivery messaging feature, and a new Spectrum chart for analyzing targeted service levels and operator productivity. Overall, there are sixteen enhancements plus numerous smaller changes to benefit Telescan users and their customers.
Amtelco’s Intelligent Soft Agent Receives Cisco Certification
Amtelco’s Intelligent Soft Agent Attendant Console received certification with Cisco’s UCCX 9.X. Amtelco’s Soft Agent uses SIP connectivity to add a simple agent interface screen to expand call center capabilities. Soft Agent provides a next-generation operator interface, simplifies training, and streamlines call and application processes. Soft Agent integrates with third-party SIP-enabled PBXs to provide call centers with the ability to become part of their clients’ PBX. Soft Agent can eliminate the need for call forwarding and open the door for remote receptionist services.
Quotes for the Month
“Never cut what you can untie.” – Joseph Joubert
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain
“Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under.” – Unknown
Seeking Acquisitions: Reputable TAS, in business since 1967 and still owned by the founding family, seeks a small TAS acquisition in the eastern US. Ideally, you’re billing under $20k per month. Smaller is better. We’ll treat you right, and your employees and customers, too. Let’s talk. Contact Doug at 888-693-7935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mastar.com TAS systems: Get Free 3:1 Emergency Remote TAS on a Memory Stick; email/text/TAP; app optional run on iPads. Contact Rod at 541-606-9272 or email@example.com.