By Peter L DeHaan, PhD
There is nothing wrong with being a generalist, but if you are a broad-based telephone answering service, you might decide to grow your business by pursuing strategic niches. But how do you determine which niches to pursue?
Look at the types of accounts you currently handle. Do you see any trends or groups? Poll your staff. Ask them which accounts they like and why. Also consider items such as profitability, customer service needs, and payment history. These factors often vary by industry or subgroup. If so, they should be easy to identify.
Ideally, you want to pursue a niche that you are already good at, you have proven yourself in, your staff enjoys and serves well, can be charged profitable fees, doesn’t overtax your support team, and pays on time. It is unlikely to find a market segment that matches all these goals, but seek to match as many items as possible.
Pursuing a niche, however, is “putting all your eggs in one basket.” If that niche experiences a downturn, so will you. The key is to develop multiple niches. After you establish yourself in one niche, pursue a second and then a third.
How many niches to pursue? You need at least three. That way if one niche tanks, you have the other two to prop up your answering service and maintain some degree of stability. Of course this assumes each niche represents an equal portion of business. A general guide is that it is unwise to derive more than half of your business from any one industry or market.
When pursued strategically, niches can provide a means for growth and stability.
Content Marketing: Need content for your blog? Let Peter DeHaan provide it for you. Rates are $25 to $50 for non-exclusive content and $150 per post for exclusive content. Themes include TAS case studies, customer service stories, general business, and more. Contact Peter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616-284-1305.
Mastar.com…for in/outbound stand-alone TAS systems since 1986. Startup as low as $1,500 per station and you own it. Contact 541-606-9272 or email@example.com
Seeking to Acquire TAS: Looking to purchase an answering service or call center. Please contact me if you are selling! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Equipment For Sale: Full CMC Cabinet with SCMC/TP (version 9.0) plus Dispatch Server, Voice Processor, 4-U SDB (the KVM doesn’t work). The lower cabinet has 14 DID/Loop Start cards and the all the standard processor cards to function. Components/spares include: 1 Data Multiplexer / OP Interface card; 1 Switch / ACD Gen card; 2 BICs; 1 BIC CPU Master; 1 BIC CPU Slave; 1 SWC CPU; 2 Power Supplies; 3 spare DID/Op Con Cards; 13 OpCon Boxes. Contact Andy at 612-490-7150 or email@example.com.
Seeking Acquisitions: Cash is king! Solid, 45-year old TAS looking to grow. We keep staff and business in place. All conversations confidential. Contact Susan at 908-770-3779 or SEMH0429@yahoo.com.
Seeking Acquisitions: Reputable TAS, in business since 1967 and still owned by the founding family, seeks a small TAS acquisition in the USA. Ideally, you’re billing under $50k per month. Smaller is better. We’ll treat you right, and your employees and customers. Let’s talk. Contact Doug at 888-693-7935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
9 Tips for Returning Phone Calls
By Mark Hastings
You probably have no trouble returning personal calls, but what about business calls? How do you reconnect with customers in a professional, courteous way? Here are nine strategies and etiquette tips I’ve gleaned from a lifetime of phone customer service:
1) Return Their Call as Soon as Possible: This is one of the easiest ways to demonstrate that you respect your caller and their time. They went through the effort to call you, so you owe the courtesy of a quick response. In a sales context, this increases the likelihood that individual will choose your service.
2) Document When You Made the Call: I keep a spiral notebook on my desk. On every call I jot down the date, time, who I talked to, and their phone number. You should use whatever record keeping system works for you so you can look up whom you talked to and when.
3) Give Key Information When Calling Back: Say the name of the person who called you, your name, and that you are returning their call. For example, I would say, “Jane Doe, please. This is Mark Hastings returning her call.” Never, ever say you are returning a call if it is not true; I never do business with someone who would lie to me. If the person you are calling is in a different city than you, be sure to note where you’re calling from, for example, “This is Mark Hastings, calling from Austin.” This occasionally gets heightened attention and quicker action by the person answering the phone.
4) Always Leave a Message: If the person you are calling is unavailable be sure to leave a message. Don’t just say you’ll call back later. If they called asking for specific information, leave it in the message. Demonstrate that you value their time.
5) Give Key Information When Leaving a Message With a Person: Give your name and number, even if you think they know it. This will make it easier for them to return your call. Note the name of the person who took your message. Be polite, courteous, and respectful.
6) Provide Vital Details When Leaving a Voicemail Message: Say who you are, what your call is regarding, when is the best time to call you back, and how they may reach you: “This is Jane Doe, I’m returning your call regarding the contract. You may call me back between now and 8 p.m. or tomorrow morning. My phone number is 512-555-1212.”
7) Pick the Right Channel: Should you call, text, or email? If they specified the method then your choice is easy, just do what they asked. If you know they’re likely to be driving, it’s best to call.
8) Be Prepared: Have the information they asked for ready to deliver when you call back.
9) Be Easy to Reach: Even if you leave a message with your contact information, the caller might not be able to get back to you immediately. They might not be able to hear your phone number clearly, or they might lose or accidentally delete the message. Prominently display your business’s phone number on your website, online listings, and social media channels. Also, put all of your relevant contact information in your email signature.
Mark Hastings is the CEO of Hastings Humans, hastingshumans.com. This piece originally appeared on Hastings Humans’ Good Call Blog.
Telephone Answering Service News
VoiceNation Releases Open Source Answering Service Software
VoiceNation recently launched their OpenAnswer answering service software, which uses leading technology and open standards without the restrictions of binding contracts. This lets answering services have complete control over their operations. It is the same software VoiceNation uses in their answering service. OpenAnswer is available free of charge to download, install, and modify. There are no licensing fees, and answering service owners get unlimited seats and scalability in their operations. Since it is open source, telephone answering services can share their code changes with the budding OpenAnswer user community. For more information: www.voicenation.com/openanswer.
The Maryann Wetmore Leadership Development Fund Update
The Maryann Wetmore Leadership Development Fund was established in December 2014 in honor of Maryann Wetmore. The fund’s purpose is to cultivate tomorrow’s industry leaders. In addition to Maryann, within recent months the industry has lost Tom Gelbach and Judy Vincent. “As we honor Maryann we also want to pay tribute to Tom, Judy, and the many leaders who contributed to ensuring the sustainability of the telecommunications industry,” noted Gary Kerner. Send donations to Maryann Wetmore Leadership Development Fund, c/o ATSI Educational Fund, 222 S Westmonte Dr, Ste 101, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714.
Amtelco’s miSecureMessages App Version 4.1
Amtelco released miSecureMessages app version 4.1. Highlights include: 1) Menu Icon: The user interface is updated with an icon for the menu drawer, which is used to change accounts, navigate to the various pages of the app, and access user settings and other functions. The first section lists the names of the miSecureMessages accounts registered to that user; a checkmark show which account is selected. 2) Dynamic Contact Circles: Users can collapse and expand contact circles in their master list of contacts. 3) Color Themes: Users can customize the color theme of the headers of the miSecureMessages screens.
Quotes for the Month
“Don’t try to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” – William Faulkner
“Pleasure may come from illusion, but happiness can come only of reality.” -Nicolas de Chamfort
“Acupuncture: a jab well done.” -unknown