By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
It used to be that telephone answering services (TAS) could function as a generalist – serving all clients – or specialize in specific niches. I now wonder if a niche strategy might be needed in today’s marketplace.
A huge answering service niche is the healthcare industry. Within this focus, there are sub-niches, such as medical answering service, hospital console, telephone triage, physician referral, appointment setting and verification, pharmaceutical support, patient follow-up, clinical trials, and so on.
Other examples of niches for answering services to consider include property management or transportation. There are also regional opportunities, such as with the logging, shipping, oil and natural gas, farming, tourist, or entertainment industries.
The niche a telephone answering service elects to pursue should hinge on the size of that market and the answering service’s connection and affinity with that market. Never pursue a promising niche if your company lacks experience serving it or if it bores you.
Developing services specifically geared towards a particular industry establishes expertise and increases proficiency that is unobtainable by a generalist answering service. Increased efficiencies will result. This provides the option to charge less, improve profitability, or both.
Pursuing a niche, however, is akin to the adage of “putting all your eggs in one basket.” The key is to diversify by developing multiple niches. After establishing yourself in one niche, pursue a second, and then add a third. In most cases, three niches is the minimal number. This keeps an economic downturn in one niche from financially devastating your TAS. However, if you have too many niches, the risk is diluting your focus and becoming a generalist.
Only you can decide if a niche strategy is right for your answering service. But if it is, be intentional and then diversify.