Tag Archives: Peter L DeHaan

How to Make Your Website Shine

Discover How to Make Your Website an Essential Marketing Resource

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In Does Your TAS Have a Great Website? we talked about the importance of having a killer website to serve as your online home base for your marketing plan.

You can hire a professional web developer to do this for you. You can also do it yourself. Either way, here are some tips to guide the process. Follow these and you’ll be ahead of most websites in the answering service industry.

Seek a Clean, Fresh Design

First, pursue a website that looks fresh and clean. If this tip doesn’t provide enough clarity, then avoid the opposite: a dated, cluttered website. Don’t try to squeeze everything in a small area. Instead use white space to make the content more inviting and readable. Stick with one common font, with black type on a white background. Anything else is hard to read, as well as trendy, which will become dated fast. Also, keep a simple color palette that matches your logo.

Provide Search Engine Friendly Content

If you want people to find your site through organic search, make sure you have at least 300 words on every page. Google needs to see that many to properly index it. This means don’t put text in graphics, which search engines can’t read. It also means avoiding making visitors click “more” to read additional text. Be sure all the text on a page is readily available without an extra click.

Avoid Industry Jargon

Most answering service websites contain industry terms that most prospects won’t understand—unless some answering service has trained them. Don’t make a prospect speak your language to do business with you. Instead speak their language. This means explaining your service in terms they can understand from a basic business perspective. Keep things simple, and you’ll close more sales and do it faster.

Make It User Friendly

your website

If someone ever asks you how to navigate your website or where to find something, this is a clue that you need to simplify its structure. Make it user friendly. Make it intuitive. Don’t hide links to needed information. Visitors should be able to find everything from your home page. The more clicks they need to make or the longer they need to search for something, the more likely they are to bounce.

Focus on Mobile First

A few years ago, website traffic reached a tipping point, where more visitors used mobile devices then computers. This means you need a mobile-first strategy when it comes to website design. Merely being mobile ready isn’t enough, though it’s a good start. View your website on a mobile device, and see how easy or hard it is to navigate. I’ve been to some websites on my smartphone and was so frustrated that I closed my browser and went to my computer. Few prospects, however, will bother to do that.

Proof Content and Test Links

I’m surprised at how often I see errors and typos on TAS websites. Website designers are weak when it comes to catching problems. You need to hold them accountable. Get as many people reviewing your website as possible. Even more valuable is asking people who don’t use answering services to give you feedback.

Prioritize Search Engine Optimization

I suspect you’ve heard of SEO (search engine optimization). If you’re like most business owners, you’re ignoring it or giving it scant attention. This is a mistake. The best website will struggle without SEO, while a less than ideal one will get more traffic if they do a good job at SEO.

SEO is part science and part art. You need someone who can master both. And just because they say they’re an expert, doesn’t mean they are. The proof is in results. As an SEO guru begins optimizing your site, you should see results within a month, two at the most. If your traffic isn’t increasing, you’ve hired the wrong person. How much should traffic increase under a good SEO program? The answer depends on how bad things are to start with, but the results must be measurable and should be significant.

Conclusion

Apply these tips when you update or overhaul your website. You’ll get increased traffic, fewer complaints, and hopefully more sales.

Next month we’ll look at the essential pages every TAS website should have.

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.

Does Your TAS Have a Great Website?

Regardless of How You Market Your Answering Service, a Killer Website is Key

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

There are many ways to market your answering service, limited only by your creativity and budget. Regardless of which strategy you use, you need a website. Even if you claim you’re not accepting any new clients—and I never met an answering service that meant that—you still need a website for existing clients.

And this isn’t just any website but a great one. Your website stands as your make-or-break element to close sales. Regardless of your marketing tactics, prospects expect to find a website. In most cases your website will be part of your marketing campaign. But even if it isn’t, buyers may still look for one. What they see will determine whether they say “yes” or “no.”

Impress them and they’re likely to sign up. Disappoint them and they’ll go to your competitor. And if you don’t have a website, or they can’t find it, you’ve lost their business.

What about Social Media?

market your answering service

Some businesses, including those in the answering service industry, insist a website isn’t necessary, that they get along just fine using social media—thank you very much. However, using social media as your online home base is foolish. You don’t own it or have any control over what happens to it.

On social media, you’re at the whim of corporate overlords. At any moment, your online social media presence could go away or your audiences’ ability to see your content could face severe limitations. All social media platforms are moving to a pay-to-play scenario, some faster than others. At the most basic level, they want to charge you to reach your audience.

Instead, use social media to point people to your website, your home base, the only online real estate that you can own and control.

What about Print?

In the old days, back before the internet, businesses did just fine without a website. They relied on various forms of print media to promote their business and gain new clients. This included the Yellow Pages, newspaper ads, and direct mail. When is the last time you’ve seen the Yellow Pages? When’s the last time you read a newspaper? And what do you do when you receive direct mail? You throw it away without opening it. Even for specific print niches that still work, today’s consumers expect you to have a website. To not have one means you’re not viable. You’re invisible.

What about Online Advertising?

Many people love online advertising. It’s easy to track and determine your ROI. You can measure your success, or the lack thereof, fast. Though the call to action for online marketing can be to call a phone number, most involve a website. And even if the goal is to have the prospect pick up the phone, having a website adds essential credibility to your offer.

Rethink Your Website

You should view your website as your online home base. Use social media to point to it. Social media is ancillary to marketing, not central. And if you prefer print media, the results will be stronger if you have a killer website riding shotgun. The same is true for online advertising. Without a website, you might get a lot of ad clicks but few conversions.

So, scrutinize your website. Is it as good as it can be? Or does it look tired and dated. I’ve looked at a lot of TAS websites. Most could be better. And too many are embarrassing. For the sake of the industry, and the sake of your business, that needs to change.

To market your answering service, hopefully you’re convinced of the importance of a website, a good website. Next month I’ll share tips on how to make yours stand out.

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.

How to Start a Telephone Answering Service

Key Information Provided as a Service to the Industry

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

When I consulted for the answering service and call center industries, people kept contacting me who wanted to start a telephone answering service. I didn’t feel right taking their money and tried to talk them out of it. After all, who wants to go into a business that is labor-intensive, capital-intensive, and never closes? (Though running an answering service is no longer as capital-intensive, it certainly was back then.) And the few people who insisted on hiring me, soon gave up.

Yet the inquiry calls continued to roll in, taking up too much of my time and providing no business in return. In desperation, I set up a website, StartAnAnsweringService.com and referred people to it. That little site gave all the essential information and appeased most people.

When I stopped consulting to focus on publishing, I left the website up as a service to the industry. I even added occasional updates. With no promotion, it continued to get traffic, month after month, year after year. Though it had always been my intention to turn that website into a book, I never got around to it.

Until now.

How to Start a Telephone Answering Service book

On January 29, 2019, I released my first call center book, How to Start a Telephone Answering Service. And I turned StartAnAnsweringService.com into its sales page. It even has a book trailer. On that day, How to Start a Telephone Answering Service, became the number one new book on Amazon in the outsourcing category.

For those of you in the answering service industry, you already know everything that’s in this book. But if you’re new to the industry or thinking about getting into it, this book contains valuable information. I think it’s the best information you’ll ever find on the subject, but then I’m a bit biased.

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.

A New Year Means New Possibilities

Embrace Today as an Opportunity to Form a Better Tomorrow

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As we step into the new year, we embrace the potential that it brings. Now is the time to move toward our best year yet. It starts with embracing the opportunities we have in front of us at this moment.

What might this be? It might involve personnel, such as a new hire, a restructuring, or fixing a broken team. Could it be technology? To implement or fully master what’s already installed, to acquire something new, or to replace something that’s inadequate. What about operations? Streamline an outdated process, establish a procedure, or simplify the complicated. Then there’s sales and marketing. Master online ads, overhaul sales collateral, or update an ineffective website.

There’s plenty to do and each one of these things will help pave the way for a better tomorrow.

new possibilities
Today Is the Day

We’re a couple days into the new year, and if you’re like me, you’re still trying to wrap up last year and put a nice bow on it. Yet it’s hard to look forward when we’re absorbed with the past. It’s true that we shouldn’t leave last year undone, yet we shouldn’t use this as an excuse to not move forward. Today is the day to step into our future. Don’t delay.

Don’t Wait for Tomorrow

We shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that next week will be a better time to embark on a special project. Promising ourselves that we’ll make a fresh go of it tomorrow, merely serves to delay forward progress. Putting things off till tomorrow can easily become next week and then next month. Before we know it, it’s spring and then summer, and the year is half over. Don’t wait for a better time to launch important initiatives. Start today.

Focus on One Thing

I have more great ideas then I’ll ever have time to do. If I try to do them all, I’ll end up accomplishing nothing. Therefore, join me today in picking one thing that will make tomorrow better. Then go do it. We aren’t likely to wrap up our project in one day, but the work we do now brings us one day closer to completing it.

Then Move to the Next Task

Once we complete one item, it’s time to start the next. Though taking a day off to catch our breath is enticing, it also threatens to negate the habit we just formed of using today to produce a better tomorrow.

May today be the day that we start to take hold of our future, for our business and for our life.

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.

How Much Do You Pay Your Entry-Level Staff?

It’s Time to Take a Counterintuitive Look at Hourly Pay

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

The biggest expense for telephone answering service is payroll. You know that. You strive to hold down payroll costs to control expenses and stay in business, hopefully to turn a profit. Scheduling too many people to answer phone calls drives payroll costs up. Paying too much per hour also drives payroll costs up. This is bad. Left unchecked, runaway payroll costs is the quickest way for an answering service to fail.

Or is it? What if we challenge conventional wisdom and dare to consider paying new hires a higher hourly rate?

Will Higher Pay Increase Retention?

I’ve never met anyone at an answering service who felt they earned too much. Most employees, especially entry-level operators, complain they’re not being paid enough. I get this—from both the employee and the employer standpoint.

How Much Do You Pay Your Entry-Level Staff_

Employees leave an answering service for various reasons. Sometimes they quit and exit the workforce, but usually they leave for a new position—often one with better pay. And often it’s the best employees—the most employable ones—who leave first. Will paying a bit more encourage them to stay a bit longer?

Will Higher Pay Reduce Other Costs?

Assuming that by paying telephone operators a bit more will increase your retention rates, consider the ramifications of this. If employees stay longer, that means you need to hire fewer replacements. This means hiring costs will go down. Even more significantly, training costs will decrease. You won’t have to pay as many new hires for their training; you’ll also save on the cost of the trainer.

Will Higher Pay Improve Customer Service?

When you pay an entry-level rate, you get entry-level work. This reflects the level of service your staff provides to your clients. New employees are also the ones who make the most errors. If you pay new employees more, will you get a higher level of work from them? Maybe. Keep reading.

Will Higher Pay Reduce Management Hassles?

Is there a correlation between level of pay and job commitment? People who arrive late, quit without notice, cause conflicts with coworkers, and trigger a myriad of other issues take up management bandwidth to deal with. If paying staff a bit more will reduce a bit of these headaches, is it worth it?

Will Higher Pay Result in a Higher Caliber Employee?

The fundamental question is, will a higher pay rate result in higher caliber employees? That’s largely up to you. Seriously. If you offer to pay more but don’t change your hiring process or expect more from new hires, you won’t realize much benefit by paying a higher hourly rate.

However, if you tighten your screening procedures, raise your hiring requirements, and increase your employee standards along with the hourly rate, you can expect to get a higher caliber employee. When you do this, you’ll be able to shift money from your hiring and training budget into your operations payroll budget. This could even have a net positive effect on your bottom line.

Increasing your starting pay to realize these benefits is a high-risk, high-reward proposition and shouldn’t be entered into without careful thought and preparation. However, when done wisely, the result could positively impact every aspect of your answering service.

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.

How Often Do You Thank Your Answering Service Staff?

This Thanksgiving Seek Effective Ways to Show Appreciation to Your Front-Line Employees

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Thanksgiving will soon be here. For many people that means a four-day weekend. There may be a grand feast with family, watching a parade or football game, and perhaps a nap. Then there’s Christmas shopping on Friday—or Thursday afternoon for those who can’t wait. Later in the weekend, some will put up Christmas decorations and others will go to a movie. Traditions vary, but for most people Thanksgiving is a break from work.

Not so for those in the answering service industry. Quite possibly Thanksgiving weekend means four days of work. Given the theme of the holiday, being thankful, let’s look for ways to thank staff who will spend time working when most other people aren’t. Some bosses do a great job at this, others not so well, and a few don’t even think about it. Here are some ideas to say “thank you” to your staff.

Use Words

Sometimes the simplest of ways is the best way. Just look each employee in the eye, and say “thank you for all you do.” It can mean a lot.

I once had a boss who personally handed out paychecks each payday. Though not the most personable guy, he made a point to say “thank you” as he gave each of us our check. That was thirty years ago. I still remember it.

Give a Card

Cards are nice too, but to have maximum impact, don’t use the premade kind with flowery sentiment and your printed signature. Instead handwrite a short note of sincere appreciation, say thank you, and sign it. For increased impact, include a gift card or cash.

Do Something Special

As the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words.” What action can you do to show your appreciation to your answering service staff working on Thanksgiving? Maybe you could drop off a treat for them to enjoy during break. How about a small gift awaiting each one when they come into work? Come up with something creative you can do for your staff, and it will have a huge impact.

Avoid the Cliché or the Routine

Some companies give frozen turkeys to their staff on Thanksgiving, and others have practices that have become expected but carry little meaning. Phase out the old, tired convention and replace it with something fresh and new that will have employees buzzing.

Continue Year-Round

Though we think of being thankful this time of year, don’t restrict your appreciation of your staff to one weekend. Continue to thank them and show your appreciation for the hard work they do throughout the year.

Yes, this takes effort and is time-consuming, but so is hiring and training new staff when your existing employees quit because they don’t feel appreciated.

May you and your staff have a happy Thanksgiving.

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.

Why Do Some Answering Services Grow While Others Struggle?

5 Key Contributors to Answering Service Success

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Over the years I’ve seen some answering services get larger, while others didn’t. Before we attribute the difference to bad timing, being in the wrong place, or poor luck, let’s consider some characteristics that can contribute to answering service success. This isn’t a scientific analysis or a guaranteed checklist. Instead it’s a list of key characteristics that will help tip the balance in favor of growth, profits, and quality.

1. Strong Leadership and Management

Does an answering service need a leader or a manager? It requires both. A leader plans for tomorrow, while a manager handles today. Having one without the other leads to an imbalance in the operation and promotes frustration among staff and clients.

2. A Capable Management Team

When an answering service starts from nothing, the owner needs to wear many hats. However, for existing answering services, having one person attempt to handle everything is a bad idea. They’ll end up neglecting something critical.

That’s why it takes a team to run a telephone answering service. As the answering service grows, the number of people on the team grows with it. Two common mistakes answering services make are growing the team too slowly and growing it too fast.

3. No Weak Links

It takes several departments for a successful answering service. Operations is the biggest. Also needed is sales and marketing, accounting, and technical. A strong leadership administrative team holds them all together. Each of these units must pursue excellence in all they do. There can be no weak links, or the answering service will struggle.

For example, if operations produces high-quality work but sales doesn’t add enough new accounts, it doesn’t matter how good the quality is because there won’t be enough accounts to serve. Conversely, if sales and marketing adds new clients fast, but poor quality and customer service drive them away faster, it’s a losing situation.

4. Attention to Details

Details matter. It matters whether you’re taking a message, programming equipment, setting up a client, sending an invoice, or leading a team. Doing 90 percent of the job isn’t good enough. It requires 100 percent to achieve success.

5. Industry Involvement and Networking

Too many answering services try to function in isolation. They don’t attend industry events, network with other answering services, or work to make the industry better. They toil in isolation, hoping they can figure everything out on their own. And even if this does work, it won’t work as well as if they had regular input from others in the industry to encourage them with new ideas and provide motivation. Though some answering service owners and managers may claim they don’t have the time or the money to get involved, the truth is they can’t afford not to.

Conclusion

Following these five tips may not guarantee answering service growth and success, but they will certainly place the answering service in a better position than had you not pursued them. Look at your answering service operation through the lens of these suggestions. Then determine what area needs attention and seek to improve it. If you do, you could very well end up realizing the growth and success that you seek.

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.

How a Mystery Caller Program Can Benefit Your Answering Service

Receiving Independent, Third-Party Feedback Is the Most Valuable Information You Can Get

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As a writer, I’m a big fan of constructive feedback. Sometimes it’s affirming and other times it’s discouraging, but when it comes from a credible source it’s always beneficial. The same applies to the answering service industry. Receiving independent, third-party feedback about service quality is always beneficial.

Regardless if it’s praiseworthy or agonizing to hear, it provides the means to celebrate what’s good and improve what falls short. Just as smart writers are always open to receive credible feedback, so too should smart answering services.

Although client testimonials are gratifying, they certainly don’t give a balanced view. Online reviews have the potential to address both the good and the not so good, but these are seldom balanced either. They often provide extreme views that are neither helpful nor useful.

That’s where a mystery shopper comes in. A mystery shopper for your answering service provides valuable insight from an outside source. Though you could hire someone to be a mystery shopper, the results may be skewed because you’re picking up the tab. A better solution is to contract with an organization that provides the service and where the evaluation is done blind, without knowledge of which answering service they’re analyzing.

Enter the Independent Mystery Caller

The ATSI Award of Excellence program and the CAM-X Award of Excellence program both function the same way. They place mystery calls to your answering service, evaluate the results, and present a composite score that reflects overall quality. It’s the most valuable input your answering service could ever receive.

Though you may think that one program is enough, they cover different times of the year. This means that by tapping both the ATSI and the CAM-X offerings you can enjoy year-round evaluations, as well as detailed feedback twice a year, instead of just once.

(And for those providers that have moved beyond the traditional answering service clientele, there are two advanced options to consider. One is the CAM-X Call Centre Award of Distinction and the other is the ATSI Call Center Award of Distinction. Both are worth pursuing.)

The Winner Is…

Answering services that meet the quality benchmark standard in the Award of Excellence programs are honored as an Award of Excellence winner for that year. This is the most reliable mark of answering service quality available in the industry. Those who have one these awards operate at a different level than those who don’t.

However, just by participating in these programs, makes answering services a winner, even if they fall a bit short of the expected results. This is because the feedback from the program is invaluable. Applying the evaluators’ analysis of the mystery callers lets answering services know what to work on to increase their level of quality. This allows them to pursue and achieve year-over-year improvement. Both the answering service and their clients benefit.

Last, though this may offend some, I truly hope it serves as motivation: the only ones who lose in the Award of Excellence programs are those that don’t participate.

May this year be the year your answering service’s quality becomes the best it’s ever been. Participating in an Award of Excellence program can help you get there.

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.

The Power of No

Learning to Say No Opens the Door to Yes

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By nature I like to help people. I enjoy diving into exciting projects. And I relish variety. As a result, I tend to say “yes” to opportunities that come my way. And the more I say “yes,” the busier I get. Eventually my commitments overwhelm me and keep me from what’s most important.

Because of this, I’m learning to say “no.” This opens the time to focus on what matters most. I encourage you to do the same.

In the answering service industry, we’re beset with continuous interruptions that demand our attention. We want to keep staff happy and retain clients. We handle the day-to-day fires but neglect the year-over-year needs of our business.

We need to say “no” more often. Then we’ll have room to say “yes.” Here are some ideas of what we might need to say “yes” to.

power of no
Maximize Profit

Regardless of why you’re in the answering service industry, you need to earn a profit to stay in business. There are two ways to increase profit. One is to reduce costs, and the other is to increase revenue. Though you can increase revenue by selling more, the faster way is to make sure each client is profitable. That means selective rate increases. Do it every month.

Improve Quality

As a service business, quality is essential. If quality is poor—or even average—it’s harder to retain clients and to land new ones. This makes it difficult to turn a profit, as well as develop staff and grow the business. It’s hard to say if you should pursue quality first and then profit or profit and then quality. They’re interdependent.

Develop Staff

Having a reliable team to run your business and optimize it is key. Too often we hope a great team will just come about, but that seldom happens. Most of the time we need to groom staff, preparing them for the roles we envision. Therefore, be proactive in employee development.

Grow Your Business

A benefit of the telephone answering service industry is monthly reoccurring revenue. However, no client stays on service forever. Clients eventually cancel. This happens every month. That means replacing departing clients with new ones, which means sales and marketing. At a minimum, you need to keep even. Ideally you should grow. A shrinking client base is a symptom of a much greater problem, one that should have been addressed earlier.

Saying “no” to things that aren’t critical provides the space and time to say “yes” to those things that are. Pick the essential items your answering service needs most to survive, and say “yes” to them before agreeing to any other opportunities.

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.

Welcome to Summer

Be Intentional to Make the Most Out of the Summer Season

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Even though summer hasn’t officially begun, for most of us in the United States it effectively started after Memorial Day. It feels like summer, and I, for one, act like it’s summer. Though it’s been a while, here’s what I recall summer meaning in the answering service business.

More Traffic

With summer comes an increase in call traffic. As clients scale back their hours of operations to embrace a summer schedule and send more calls our way because of staff vacations, call traffic picks up. That means we need to schedule more agents, which we’ve already hired and trained. And for answering services with usage-based rates, this means a nice increase in revenue.

Increased Vacation Requests

Our staff, of course, also thinks about vacation during the summer more so than other times of the year. Often they wish to coordinate their vacation with their spouse’s and their kids’ summer vacation from school. And for those without constraints dictating a vacation schedule, summer seems to be the normal time to take one anyway. Ironically, this increased demand for vacation comes when we’re busier and need our staff in the office taking calls.

Fewer Sales

During the summer, sales can drop. Leads decrease and many that do come in are planning for the fall. Many businesses limit changes during the summer, putting off decisions until after Labor Day (in the United States) when a normal schedule reemerges.

Delayed Decisions

For me, I viewed summer is the time to catch up on projects but not to start new initiatives. I held those for the fall. I also strived to work less. Though I never succeeded in getting down to a forty-hour work week, for some reason I could get a little bit closer in the summer. I guess there were too many other things begging for my time.

Your experiences at your answering service may differ from mine. Or they may hold true for you today as much as they did for me then. Regardless be intentional about the summer season. What opportunities does it provide, either personally or for your answering service? Decide which opportunities to pursue and move toward them. Whatever they are, and however much progress you make, it should leave you better prepared to slide into fall in three months.

Have a great summer!

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.