The November 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Be Thankful for Your Staff

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderWe will celebrate Thanksgiving Day next week in the United States. And our friends to the north celebrated it last month. Aside from having a day off from work—not that anyone in the answering service industry ever gets a day off, especially holidays—Thanksgiving is a time for us to think about things we’re thankful for.

Top on most people’s list is family and friends. Other items might include our business or job. For most of us who work in the answering service industry, this implies we’re thankful for our clients who provide revenue and our staff who serve our clients.

Where would we be without our staff? This fall let’s take time to thank our employees for all the work they do to handle our clients’ communication needs and keep our business open.

Thankful Minds: We start with the realization that without our answering service staff, we would have no business to run and no clients to serve. Without our staff, we’re nothing. Even though we deal with staffing issues and employee problems from time to time, the reality is that our staff is essential to all that we do. Instead of complaining about errors, attendance, and attitudes, we should develop a perspective of thankfulness. Let’s focus on the positive elements of our employees, because they give us much to be positive about.

Thankful Words: Once we have adjusted our outlook to be thankful for our staff, we need to let them know what our mind is thinking. We must take time to thank them for their work. While some managers feel there’s no need to thank employees for merely showing up and doing the job they were hired to do, that’s an old-school perspective. We need to take time to tell our staff we appreciate them. Thank them for coming to work. Thank them for trying to always do their best. Thank them for trying extra hard on a difficult phone call we’d have surely hung up on. Thank them for smiling most all the time. A simple word of thanks can go a long way in helping our employees feel appreciated.

Thankful Actions: Having the right attitude and saying the right words is a great start. But let’s build upon our thankful words with thankful actions. What actions can we do to show our thanks? While there’s no single right answer, there are many possible ideas. For some people a handwritten note or thoughtful card means a lot. For other people a bonus in their paycheck or even an envelope with cash speaks volumes. How about having a party just because? (Of course, we’d never have a party on Thanksgiving. Let’s save it for when the call traffic returns to normal.) Being publicly recognized goes a long way with others. What about a small gift, even a trinket, that reminds them—every time they look at it—of how thankful we are for them and their work?

We can use the celebration of Thanksgiving as a reminder to be thankful for our staff. Yet what we do in this season, we should carry over throughout the whole year. We need to be thankful for our staff and the work they do 365 days a year, 24/7.

When was the last time you thanked your employees?

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


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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 douganswerphone@gmail.com.

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The TAS Industry Responds to Help Its Own

By Lina Cunningham

The past couple of months we have been hit hard by hurricanes, earthquakes, and natural disasters, as well as some not-so-natural gunmen tragedies. My heart goes out to all of those and their families who have been affected by these devastating circumstances.

Following hurricane Harvey, NAEO pulled together with the help of CAM-X and ATSI members, to raise funds for those in need, by establishing the NAEO Relief Fund. NAEO offered to match all donations up to 10,000 dollars. The contributions flooded in.

The relief fund’s mission is to provide financial assistance to needy employees of TAS industry companies who experience a natural disaster or suffer unexpected personal hardship. In a very short time we raised $44,500, and we received twenty-two applications for assistance.

After reviewing some very heart-wrenching stories from applicants, we are humbled to announce that all twenty-two requests were granted. Each recipient received the maximum disbursement amount of $1,500.

I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all who made donations. A big thank you goes out to the Maryann Wetmore Foundation for a generous $10,000 donation. I would also like to give a special “Thank you” to CAM-X members and Linda Osip who participated in a challenge that helped raise $11,573.84 CAD. Combined with the individual donations made on the NAEO website and the contribution matched by NAEO, our expectations were pleasantly exceeded.

I know these donations will be put to good use and are very much appreciated by the recipients. I’m proud to be a part of a group of people who care so much for each other. Thank you all.

If you would like to donate, it’s not too late.

Lina Cunningham is the NAEO president, 2017.

Email us with your TAS related articles for consideration in our next issue.


Telephone Answering Service News

Call Center Sales Pro Taps Chris Calhoun as VP of Operations: Call Center Sales Pro announced that Chris Calhoun has joined their team to fill the newly created position of vice president of operations. In this role, Calhoun will focus on optimizing the company’s infrastructure to maximize staff effectiveness to better serve clients. Janet Livingston, founder of Call Center Sales Pro, brought Calhoun on board to provide added structure to her mission to serve the call center industry. “Chris brings the leadership and team-building skills to the table that will allow us to better scale Call Center Sales Pro,” Livingston said. “This will enable us to provide more services, products, and innovations to the call center and contact center industry.” Calhoun added, “I look forward to bringing my thirty plus years of leadership, management, and systematic approach to human performance to the Call Center Sales Pro team.”

Amtelco Announces miSecureMessages Version 6.6: New features in miSecureMessages (MSM) version 6.6 were developed in collaboration with members of the miSecureMessages Certified Partner program and MSM app users and are designed to make it easier to use. These include contact importing, email registration, password expiration and reset, personal circle, fingerprint scanning, and more group settings. Many system settings are configurable on a per-group basis allowing device-to-device messaging, registration type, default notification attempts and interval, and the IS web settings.

OnviSource Rolls Out ia.Enterprise: OnviSource announced ia.Enterprise, a new generation of customer experience management (CXM) and business process automation (BPA) integrated solutions. It’s driven by intelligent automation capabilities. The solutions automate the customer journey including the steps before, during, and after customer engagement. “We are experiencing an emerging customer environment that is connected, mobile, and demanding, challenging enterprises to better understand their customers’ demands, behavior, and sentiment to positively manage their customers’ experience,” said Ray S. Naeini, CEO and chairman of OnviSource. Several ia.Enterprise solutions have been deployed and are in use by OnviSource customers.

Email us with your TAS news for consideration in our next issue


Quotes for the Month

“The highest result of education is tolerance.” -Helen Keller

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The October 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Responding to Industry Consolidation

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS Trader

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.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


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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 Brad Swift at brad@callcenter-salespro.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 douganswerphone@gmail.com.

Need Blog Posts? Need content for your TAS website or answering service newsletter? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Nonexclusive content starts at $25 per article. Email Peter for more info.


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 contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or 800-901-7706.

Email us with your TAS related articles for consideration in our next issue.


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).

Brad Swift Joins Call Center Sales Pro

Brad Swift joined Call Center Sales Pro as national sales manager. “I’m ecstatic to have a person of Brad Swift’s caliber join our team,” said Janet Livingston, president. “Brad will provide additional structure to our sales and marketing efforts, which will allow me to serve our clients even more effectively.”

“I’m excited to join the Call Center Sales Pro team,” said Swift. “I look forward to helping telephone answering services grow, improve, and realize greater success.” Swift has a career of experience in the industry, including having spent eighteen years with Amtelco.

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.”

Email us with your TAS news for consideration in our next issue.


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

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The September 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

What’s Your Exit Strategy?

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderIf you own a telephone answering service, you spend a lot of time thinking about the future. And if you’re not the owner, you should also consider what’s ahead. More on that later.

Future considerations for owners may include growth, acquisition, or new technology. However, when you think about the future, you should also plan your exit strategy. There are four options to consider when it’s time to scale back or retire.

Sell to Employees or Family: Look to those around you, to your staff and your family, for people who could take over your answering service and buy it from you. And if you sell to a family member, make sure they understand the industry and know how to run the business. Identify these potential people, and then groom them to take over.

Sell to Another Company: Aside from employees and family, you can also look to sell to another answering service or to an investor outside the industry. Going this route may produce the highest selling price, but it might be at the sacrifice of your legacy, staff, or clients. Balance the pros and cons.

Work Until the End: By intention, or sometimes not, business owners continue in their role until the day they die. This eliminates the need for an exit strategy, but it passes the burden on to their heirs. Do them a favor and leave them with a plan.

Shut Down the Business: Some answering services, especially small ones, assume the business has no value, so they close their doors. There’s no reason to do that. Though you may not have a big enough operation to attract high-dollar buyers, your accounts do have value and other services are anxious to buy them.

This discussion focuses on answering service owners, but what if you’re a manager? Then consider these four scenarios, and envision how you can be part of the business owner’s exit strategy. This may involve a direct discussion, or it may require a subtler approach. Either way the potential exists for you to end up as an answering service owner. And then you can form your own exit strategy.

The key is to make a plan, and then work the plan.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


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Blog Posts: Need content for your TAS website or answering service newsletter? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Nonexclusive content starts at only $25 per post. Email Peter for more info.

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 douganswerphone@gmail.com.


How Do You Measure Up?

By Janet Livingston

In my presentation at the ATSI convention this year, I spoke about “High Performance Sales.” I shared some alarming stats to highlight the need for salespeople to diligently follow up with prospects.

Four Shocking Facts:

  • 48 percent of salespeople never follow up with a prospect: This means almost half of all salespeople ignore leads. The survey didn’t say if this was because they were busy, lazy, or forgot. But any reason is inexcusable. It could also mean that salespeople make judgment calls about lead quality and cherry pick who to call. Shame on them. They’ll never know for sure if it’s a good lead until they pick up the phone and call.
  • 25 percent of salespeople make a second call and then stop: Of the salespeople who bother to call prospects, one fourth stop after two contacts. Though this is better than nothing, it’s barely better. (More on this later.)
  • 12 percent of salespeople make three contacts and then stop: One out of eight salespeople make three calls. This may seem good, but it’s not. (We’ll see why in a moment.)
  • Only 10 percent of salespeople make more than three contacts: Just one out of ten salespeople bother to contact a prospect more than three times. Statistically these are when most sales occur. We’ll classify the outcomes for the other nine salespeople as failures. You don’t want them on your team.

Here’s Why Follow-up is So Critical:

  • 2 percent of sales are made on the first contact.
  • 3 percent of sales are made on the second contact.
  • 5 percent of sales are made on the third contact.
  • 10 percent of sales are made on the fourth contact.
  • 80 percent of sales are closed after four calls, usually on the fifth to twelfth contact.

In combining these two sets of numbers, we see that 90 percent of salespeople make three calls or less and account for 10 percent of all sales. Now look at the other end of the spectrum. That one salesperson who makes more than three contacts closes 90 percent of the sales.

This shows why following up with prospects is so critical. This also shows why sales managers need a system to ensure their sales staff follow up an appropriate number of times. What’s that number? Not three, not two, and certainly not one, but at least twelve times.

Even more important is for sales managers to make sure their staff follow up with every prospect, and that they don’t dismiss a single one.

Follow up is the key to sales success. Anything less is sales failure.

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 contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or 800-901-7706.

Email us with your TAS related articles for consideration in our next issue.


Telephone Answering Service News

Startel Announces Merger with Alston Tascom

Startel Corporation announced that effective September 1, 2017, Alston Tascom is a wholly owned business unit of Startel. In September 2015, Startel also acquired Professional Teledata. “We are thrilled to combine three of the telephone answering service’s top providers to form the industry’s premier choice for on-premise and cloud contact center solutions and services,” said Brian Stewart, chairman and CEO of Startel and Professional Teledata.

“The synergies the combined company will generate will be of tremendous benefit to current and future customers,” said Wayne Scaggs, president of Alston Tascom. “I am excited for the opportunities the merger will bring.” Wayne Scaggs, will join the senior management team of Startel and Professional Teledata to help lead the combined company.

 ASTAA Workshop a Success

Maryellen Pruitt became the new executive director of ASTAA just in time to support the supervisor workshop “You Can Move Mountains,” held in Baltimore. “There is nothing like trial by fire,” said Jim Reandeau, president of ASTAA.

“Maryellen was a delight to work with at the supervisor workshop,” said presenter Donna West. “She took care of a few issues before I even knew they existed. Her support was invaluable. I know this is going to be a great relationship.” Maryellen has been a part of the industry since 1997. She also recently accepted a position as the new executive director of the Telecommunications Users Network (TUNe).

Email us with your TAS news for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“I want to walk through life instead of being dragged through it.” -Alanis Morissette

“Achievement is largely the product of steadily raising one’s levels of aspiration and expectation.” -Jack Nicklaus

“If you take a laptop for a run you could jog your memory.” -unknown

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The August 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Don’t Be in a Hurry

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderLast week I couldn’t log into one of my financial services accounts. I had three options: online help, email, or phone. I opted to call. That’s what you do when you’re in this industry.

I reached their automated attendant and listened to the prompts. After a couple of button pushes I reached a real person, perky and positive sounding. But before I could finish telling her what I needed, she interrupted me. Apparently anticipating what I was going to say, she knew just what to do. “Becky can help you. Let me transfer you.”

I expected to hear ringing. Instead I heard more prompts and after more button-pushing I heard the pleasant voice of the first person again. “I think I’m stuck in a loop.”

She didn’t apologize. “Yeah, it’s best to leave a message in voicemail. You’ll get a call back within 24 hours.”

I didn’t want to wait 24 hours. I wanted help right away. Isn’t that what phone support is for? I left a message and hung up.

I’m still waiting for a call back. Fortunately I figured out the problem myself.

Although the receptionist I talked to was pleasant and confident sounding, she also hurried to pass me on to someone else. Also, both times we talked, she interrupted me to offer her solution. Though the second time I was appropriately transferred to voicemail, I doubt she routed my call correctly the first time.

In the answering service industry, our agents may be tempted to make this same mistake. With callers holding in queue and likely growing less patient by the second, agents may feel pressure to complete their present call quickly and go to the next caller.

I understand this. I suspect it’s common at most answering services, but it shouldn’t be. There are two side effects when agents rush through one call to get the next:

Poor Service: The first outcome is poor customer service. This may result in the caller feeling they weren’t heard, the agent jumping to a wrong conclusion, or the agent handling the call inappropriately. In each scenario, the result is failure.

Lower Revenue: The second outcome of rushing through a call is less time spent talking. If you bill by the minute this means reduced revenue. Now I would never suggest you train agents to stretch calls to boost revenue, but you should train them to take as much time as they need to appropriately respond to the caller while they’re on the line. This will allow the caller to receive great service and end the conversation confident their concern was addressed.

You’ll see improved service, along with a decrease in complaints, as well as an increase in billing. And all it takes is a reminderer to your agents to slow down and not rush through their calls.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


Classified Ads

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 douganswerphone@gmail.com.

Freelance Writer: Need content for your TAS website or answering service newsletter? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Email Peter for more info.


You Lost Me at “How Are You?”

 By Kate Zabriskie

“Hi, this is Gerald calling from Acme Industries. How are you today?”

“Well, Gerald, I was a lot happier before you called and interrupted me. I’m behind with my project, and I’m too busy to leave my desk. Don’t call me again.”

The truth hurts, but it’s honest. Gerald blew it. He had an opportunity to win the ear of the person on the other end of the line, but he squandered it by asking a silly question.

Gerald probably won’t get another chance. Is there hope for Gerald and others just like him? Of course there is. Paying attention to three basic things will help improve your business-to-business calls:

Preparation: Invest an adequate amount of time to prepare for the call.

First, do you know what you offer? Can you use under twenty words of conversational English to explain that product or service?

Second, have you researched the people you plan to call? This doesn’t mean cyber stalking, but at a minimum you need to look for them in the usual places: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Also search for people by name and company, by name only, and by email address.

The third step in the preparation process is choosing a reason to call. The more specific it is, the more likely you are to get a thoughtful response.

Practice: Just as a skilled skater makes jumping, twirling, and other acrobatics look effortless, phone selling requires athlete-level discipline. What you say should roll off your tongue and sound natural. A perfect conversation starter will often sound stilted if it’s not practiced. Be prepared to work hard to sound unrehearsed. Role playing can be painful and unpleasant, but as the saying goes, no pain, no gain.

Patience: What if you follow the preparation and practice steps, and your first two calls are a bust? Not everyone is going to want to talk to you, and that’s their loss. If you have a good reason to call and you offer a product or service that might solve a prospect’s business problem, hold your head up and press on.

Keep dialing, improving, and learning from what works and what doesn’t, and do it with a smile and a good attitude. Lack of patience will get you no place you want to be. Practice and critique your performance and you will get better. If improvement isn’t happening fast enough for you, enlist someone you trust to provide feedback on your calls.

There’s no secret for better business-to-business calls, just hard work. With better preparation, practice, and patience everyone can improve their results one call at a time.

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

Email us with your TAS related articles for consideration in our next issue.


Telephone Answering Service News

Nate Gefvert Recognized with 2017 Allen Kalik Award

Nate Gefvert of Towne Answering Service received the 2017 Allen Kalik Award at the annual PINetwork User Group Meeting in Miami, Florida. The Allen Kalik Award was implemented in 2011 after the passing of industry leader and Professional Teledata’s president, Allen Kalik. Gefvert is the systems administrator at Town Answering Service. He joined Towne in 2004 and moved into his current role in 2009. He is an active member of the PIN Board, currently serving as secretary. In 2013, he served as vice president and in 2014 he served as president of the PIN Board.

Alston Tascom Announces Two Easy-to-Use Revenue Enhancing Products

Alston Tascom announced two new products: ADAM Outbound and Reply and Deliver. ADAM Outbound is an excellent tool for taking on outbound campaigns to offset the inherent idle times by offering outbound campaign calls to designated agents when they aren’t taking incoming calls. The built-in scheduler blends calls, adding the ability to keep agents busy during slow times. Reply and Deliver is a feature that allows call center customers to send a reply to the message sent to them via SMS or email with an option for them to close out the message.

Amtelco Introduces Intelligent Series v5.0

Amtelco introduced version 5.0 of its Intelligent Series (IS) suite of applications. The updated IS messenger interface incorporates multiple conversations into one window. The contacts page is used to select agents and supervisors for a new chat message. Agents can initiate a chat, refresh the screen, dock the IS messenger window, and view the IS messenger history. Amtelco also announced that the Genesis Intelligent Series solution and the Intelligent Soft Agent have successfully completed Avaya DevConnect Compliance Testing. The Genesis software switching solution provides an all-inclusive product based on the Intelligent Series suite of applications.

Alan Hartmann Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Alan Hartmann, director of software development for Professional Teledata, received the Maryann Wetmore Lifetime Achievement Award. Hartmann was presented with the award on June 29 during the awards dinner gala at the Association of Teleservices International (ATSI) 2017 Annual Conference. “Alan is a relentless advocate for our industry,” said ATSI president Doug Robbins. “His receipt of the Maryann Wetmore Lifetime Achievement Award is well deserved, and we thank him for his contributions.” Hartmann has forty years of software engineering experience. He oversees all product development of the Professional Teledata product line.

Email us with your TAS news for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.” -Theodore Rubin

“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine.” -Lord Byron

“The dead batteries were given out free of charge.” -unknown

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The July 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Adjusting to Seasonal Traffic Fluctuations

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderAs we move into a warmer season, many telephone answering services experience increased call traffic during the summer months. But this bump in incoming calls is dwarfed by what many services experience at year’s end with the build up to Christmas.

Although we know these seasonal fluctuations in traffic will happen, it’s still challenging to make the appropriate staffing adjustments at the right time. Even knowing what will occur, many answering services struggle to hire and train enough new staff to be ready to take calls when these traffic increases materialize.

The result is being understaffed, which has two notable side effects. One is that staff is extra busy, and the quality of service suffers, resulting in more complaints and unnecessary cancellations. The other outcome is increased revenue that isn’t fully offset by increased labor costs, which results in increased profits. The effect of ramping up too slowly is both good and bad news: a welcome boost to income coupled with an unfortunate hit to customer service.

The opposite occurs as these seasons of high traffic wind down. If we fail to properly anticipate call traffic downturns, the result is being overstaffed. This serves to boost the quality of service provided to clients, which disproportionately keeps expenses high at a time when revenue decreases. Here the outcome is the opposite of the ramp-up period. This time service improves while revenue and income falter.

While these seasonal fluctuations catch new scheduling managers off guard, despite warnings to prepare, even seasoned professionals often fail to react fast enough. Of course, there’s always the concern of ramping up staff and not needing them as we move into times of anticipated traffic increases, as well as scaling back staff but still needing them when we expect to exit the season of higher call volume.

What’s the solution?

When headed into expected times of high traffic, the best recommendation is to start hiring and training sooner than we think we need to. Conversely, begin scaling back staffing schedules when the anticipated season of higher traffic is expected to end, not when the first signs of a decrease occur. If we wait for tangible evidence that call traffic is trending down, it’s already too late to react in time.

As we say, there’s never a dull moment in the TAS industry. Adjusting to seasonal traffic fluctuations is one reason.

I hope you have a great summer.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


Classified Ads

Freelance Writer: Need content for your TAS website or answering service newsletter? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Email Peter for more info.

 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 douganswerphone@gmail.com.


Build a Strong Foundation to Produce Sales Success

By Janet Livingston

Selling is part of every telephone answering service business. And successful selling is required for the viable future of your TAS. Yet sales and marketing is an area many answering services struggle to address.

Sales success doesn’t just happen. It requires a plan, a strategy to help ensure positive results. Follow this four-step process to build a strong foundation to produce sales success.

Set a Goal: Your foundation starts with a goal. How many sales do you want to make each month? While the objective at too many answering services is to offset cancellations, this merely strives to maintain the status quo. The wise solution is to set a goal for net growth. This means after selling enough accounts to cover cancellations, how many more clients do you want to add each month?

When setting goals, follow the time-proven technique of making SMART goals. This helpful acronym reminds us to set goals that are strategic, measurable, action oriented, realistic, and timely. Start building your foundation for sale success by developing SMART goals.

Develop a Strategy: Next we need a strategy. Strategy is much more than hiring staff and placing ads. A wise sales strategy looks at process, accountability, and management. Strategy also addresses target niche markets, marketplace opportunities, and the areas of strength of your operations staff. Although developing a sales strategy is more involved than what we can cover here, these tips will get you started.

Build a Sales Team: The third step in building a strong sales foundation is team. Yes, successful sales require a team approach. The obvious members of your sales team are your sales staff. Other members include a sales manager to oversee the team, a marketing specialist to implement lead generation strategies, and possible support staff, which can include lead qualification agents, appointment setters, and logistical support. Though you can’t start with nothing and build your sales team overnight, this overview should give you a vision of what to aim for.

Generate Leads: The final element of building a strong sales foundation is leads. Too many answering services start with leads and try to work the rest around it. Instead, leads should be the final layer of your sales foundation.

You’re likely familiar with a sales funnel, where you pour leads into the top of the funnel and sales drip out the bottom, due to the work of your sales team. Having sales come from your sales funnel requires an adequate number of leads being fed into the top. The key is having enough leads to realistically meet your sales goal.

For example, assume you want thirty new accounts a month. Twenty of these are to offset cancellations, and the other ten are for growth. To keep the numbers simple, assume you close 10 percent of your leads. (Your TASs closing ratio will differ depending on the experience of your sales staff, the focus of your marketing, and the soundness of your strategy.)

This means that to hit your sales goal for the month, you need to feed 300 leads into your sales funnel to reasonably expect thirty sales to flow from the bottom and generate a growth of net ten. Knowing your target number of leads provides your marketing manager with a target to aim for when implementing marketing campaigns.

With these four layers of your sales foundation in place, your answering service is poised to grow and succeed. Happy selling!

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 contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or 800-901-7706.

Email us with your TAS related articles for consideration in our next issue.


Telephone Answering Service News

Bill Lane Joins Robertshaw Communications

Robertshaw Communications, a large privately held national contact center company, announced that William S. Lane, the former chief executive officer and president of Startel Corporation and Professional Teledata Corporation, has joined the company’s executive team, effective June 2017. Mr. Lane has extensive sales, marketing, and technology experience; he is widely respected in the contact center industry. “After nearly forty years of software development and customer service experience, Robertshaw Communications is the perfect opportunity for me to apply that expertise in the contact center market at one of the premier contact center companies. I look forward to contributing to an already incredibly diverse, skilled, and professional team,” stated William (Bill) Lane.

 Professional Teledata Announces Online Payment Processing Solution

ThePaymentPortal.com is a new payment processing option for Total Billing Solution 3 (TBS3) software. It’s a hosted, online, secure e-commerce site, allowing customers’ clients to manage their account.

Working with QOS Merchant Solutions, Professional Teledata offers this feature to users to pay bills online and view their account statements, invoices, and traffic history. The service optimizes the user experience by providing easy account management, custom branding, strong encryption, and flexible payment options. “ThePaymentPortal.com provides a secure and simple way for our clients’ end users to manage their accounts and pay bills online,” said Alan Hartmann, director of software development.

 John Carey Receives the 2017 Don Berry Award            

John Carey was named the 2017 Don Berry Award of Excellence recipient. The announcement was made during the annual Startel National User Group (SNUG) Meeting in Miami, Florida. “I had the immense pleasure of working with, and being mentored by my dear friend, Don Berry,” said Carey.

The Don Berry Award of Excellence was created in memory of Startel’s founder, Don Berry, with the purpose to honor individuals who gave themselves for the betterment of SNUG and the telephone answering service industry. Individuals who receive this award exemplify excellence in the advancement of SNUG and its members.

Email us with your TAS news for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“When a man is wrapped up in himself he makes a pretty small package.” -John Ruskin

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.” -Confucius

“The professor discovered that her theory of earthquakes was on shaky ground.” -unknown

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The June 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

What Types of Communication Do You Handle?

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderYou are in the telephone answering service (TAS) industry. Notice the word telephone. Surely your TAS focuses on telephone communications, but do you process more than phone calls? Should you do more? What are the ramifications if you do? What are the risks if you don’t? As communication continues to move to embrace other forms besides the telephone, should your answering service move to adapt?

These are questions to ponder. I leave them for you to contemplate, but you should contemplate them. Consider these options:

Email: It was about two decades ago when I began receiving more emails than phone calls. I suspect nowadays most everyone does. Email can easily overwhelm. Many entrepreneurs and busy executives have a virtual assistant or have tasked an employee to screen their emails, delete the span, reply to easy ones, and forward the critical ones.

This sounds like what we do with phone calls. Now let’s apply this skill set to email. Perhaps you already have.

Chat: Many people, especially the younger crowd, love chat services. They’ll send text messages all day long but will avoid making a phone call. If they have a customer service question, they’ll pick chat every time they can. As the population ages, more and more people will gravitate toward chat.

Answering services already have the needed customer service skills to handle chat. Maybe you’ve already taken the plunge.

Social Media: The most recent communication opportunity is in social media, especially Facebook and Twitter. For those on a social media platform, who isn’t overwhelmed with the deluge of communication.

For individuals this isn’t a big problem, but for businesses it is. Answering services can handle this problem, too. Possibly, you already offer this critical service.

If you take on these service opportunities, you theoretically move from a telephone answering service to a communications facilitator. While I don’t think our industry will rechristen itself as the communications facilitator industry, that could be a more apt description than telephone answering service.

Therefore, we will likely remain as telephone answering services even if communications facilitation is a better description of what we do.

Regardless of what you end up doing or what you call yourself, the key is to serve your clients well. That, after all, is what we’ve been doing since our inception.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


Classified Ads

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 douganswerphone@gmail.com.

Freelance Writer: Need content for your TAS website or written materials for your answering service? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Email Peter for more info.


4 Tips to Build a Better Business Culture

By Jason Gazaway

In the May issue of TAS Trader the article “Who’s Protecting Your Business Culture?” looked at the importance of building a loyalty-enhancing culture for your telephone answering service. This month we will look at how to do that.

All businesses are different, but there are a few consistent factors that play into building and maintaining a solid business culture:

Trust: Without trust your business is on shaky ground no matter what. If you do not trust your employees and they do not trust your business, then how do you expect your customers to trust you and your services? Trust must be built, nurtured, and handled with care. If you feel there is a lack of trust within your business, sit down with your leadership team, or even some employees who have been there for a while, and figure out what needs to be done to build it.

Be Open: This bleeds over from trust. Communicate with employees. If you let them know where the business is at financially, project wise, future planning, or even business issues you are facing, then they are more likely to buy in and understand you want them to be a part of the business. Openness and honesty build trust. This also helps your employees squash rumors or negative statements that might come up that are not true.

Invest: Build into your employees. When you invest in something you expect to get something greater in return. It is a cycle. Your employees are an investment in your business. Yes, they get a paycheck, but if you want a greater return you must make the investment greater. Your employees want to know you have bought into them just as much as you want them to buy into your business. This could be through training, perks, time off, special events, a better work environment, and even listening to their opinions and acting on their recommendations. It is not always about money.

Celebrate: Applaud the wins of the business, as well as the wins of employees. Make it personal for them. When you make someone feel special, an attachment is formed and from this, appreciation is built. When an employee feels appreciated they will go out of their way to make sure the business, and its customers, are taken care of in the best way possible.

This can be done by celebrating individual sales goals, when a person or group finishes a big project, and birthdays or anniversaries. What about celebrating an employee who has not been doing well, but they turned things around or have made strides to get better? Maybe they are not where they need to be yet, but they have made significant improvements. How do you think celebrating the small wins will make them feel towards getting better and the business as a whole?

These are just a few ideas on how to improve your culture and make sure your employees are culture ambassadors for your business. The nice thing about having buy-in from your employees is that they will end up policing the culture and the business for you without you having to lift a finger. Just be sure to give the encouragement and create the environment for it.

Jason Gazaway is the growth manager for VoiceNation.

Email us with your TAS related articles for consideration in our next issue.

Telephone Answering Service News

WTSA Hosts Donna West Workshop

WTSA will host another Donna West workshop in Las Vegas, July 12-13. Donna loves teaching people at the supervisory level. “Supervisors don’t have a lot of educational choices. When they come to one of my two-day workshops they are so excited and just soak up the information. Nothing makes me happier than when I get an email from an attendee letting me know they tried something we talked about and it worked,” Donna said. “I’m looking forward to July’s workshop.”

2017 NAEO Update

The 2017 National Amtelco Equipment Owners (NAEO) Conference took place in San Antonio, Texas, March 12-15. More than 175 NAEO members attended the event. Kevin Beale, Amtelco’s vice president for software, research and development, presented “What’s New with Genesis—Simplify and Grow!” on Monday. This session shared updates about the Genesis Intelligent Series, MergeComm, miSecureMessages 6.5, and miTeamWeb developments. On Tuesday Greg Beale, Amtelco’s vice president for customer service, and Jody Laluzerne, customer service supervisor shared the best practices for maintaining the Infinity IS, Infinity system, and peripherals. Kevin Beale and Pat Dye hosted a question-and-answer session on the final day.

Amtelco Announces Enhancements to miTeamWeb Application

MiTeamWeb is a mobile-friendly Web application that extends the functionality of Amtelco’s suite of Intelligent Series (IS) call center applications across the enterprise and to handheld devices using a Web browser. The widget-based miTeamWeb screen provides access to status, messages, directories, on-call schedules, call log monitoring, and reporting in one convenient package for both desktop computer and mobile device users. Users can view and update their status, view and send messages, view directory information, and view and administer on-call schedules. With miTeamWeb, users are able to contact other users via a range of methods, including email, miSecureMessages, SMS text messaging, pager, fax, and Vocera messaging.

OnviSource to Support Multichannel and Cross-Channel Analytics

OnviSource integrated the Nuance Transcription Engine (NTE) for the OnviSource speech-to-text (STT) and transcription product, Captora™. Accurate speech-to-text conversion performed by Captora is crucial to OnVision’s text analytics, responsible for big data management, data mining, and trend analysis. Captora taps the power and accuracy of NTE to quickly transform massive amounts of voice and audio into text for rapid search and indexing by OnVision’s text analytics. OnVision™ captures, unifies, and analyzes data from the entire customer journey, including all systems and all multichannel customer interactions. The resulting actionable knowledge and trends are then used by OnVision’s decision-making engines for the automated launch of decisions and actions.

Email us with your TAS news for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night.” -Margaret Mead

“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have.” -Eckhart Tolle

“The math professor went crazy with the blackboard. He did a number on it.” -unknown

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The May 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Technology Versus People

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderTechnology is exciting—at least to me. I love technology and its application. We talk a lot about the technology we use to help our telephone answering services function more effectively and provide a greater array of services to clients. It’s hard to imagine processing calls without technology.

Yet without staff the best technology means nothing. Though the technology in our TASs is critical, the staff who use it is even more critical.

When we analyze our operation, it’s not our technology that makes us unique, it’s our staff. Other answering services can match our technology: computer for computer, application for application, and feature for feature. But no one can match our staff.

Yet the emphasis at too many answering services is the technology. These operations carefully investigate the options and pick the best one. They implement the technology, train their staff how to use it, and form marketing campaigns to reach a quick payoff for their investment and then generate a profit.

All the while, the staff at too many answering services gets whatever attention is left over, which, by the way, isn’t much. Too often staff seems expendable. Hire and train and then fire those who don’t work out.

Too many answering services have an embarrassingly high level of employee churn. Hire ten to find five good ones, one of which may actually work out for the long term. And frankly, some operations would view those numbers as good, but they’re not.

Working at an answering service is hard. Not everyone can do it. And some who could, don’t care to. The key is to discover this before hiring them, not after training them.

Just as we would never buy ten TAS applications and hope one would work out for the long term, we shouldn’t accept this when it comes to hiring staff.

Let’s stop accepting high employee churn as normal. Our employees are our strategic advantage. Let’s reimagine our staffing practices to reflect this reality.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


Classified Ads

Freelance Writer: Need content for your TAS website or written materials for your answering service? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.

OnviSource Equipment for Sale: OnviSource system and many spare parts and pieces. Includes a brand new Portica VM. Tadiran switch (dual cabinet) with Coral Flexicom phones. Will sell as a complete package or by the piece. Please email PrimeTAS@aol.com for a complete list of available parts; pictures available upon request.

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 douganswerphone@gmail.com.


Who’s Protecting Your Business Culture?

By Jason Gazaway

Yes, this is a loaded question. Every day we face choices, decisions, opportunities, attitudes, and a multitude of other factors that make it impossible to protect every aspect of your business culture.

You are not everywhere all the time to know what your answering service staff is saying or doing. That is impossible. Or is it?

Who is Your Brand Ambassador? In marketing, we use the term brand ambassador to describe someone who represents the business externally. This could be a customer, a partner, or a vendor. The list can go on. But what about inside the business? Are your employees’ brand ambassadors? Or better yet, are they culture ambassadors?

While you cannot be everywhere at all times, your answering service staff is. They are your business. They are your culture.

Now, stop and ask, “Do your employees understand the culture of the business?” If the answer is no, then you have a gaping hole in the protective barrier around your business.

Think about it. If your employees do not understand, or even know about, the culture in your business, how are they supposed to function in it? Or better yet, how are they supposed to protect it and fight for it, both internally and externally?

Employee Loyalty Equals Customer Loyalty: Why is this such a big deal? Every employee represents your business, whether they interact with your customers or not. Web developers do not interact with customers directly, but the customers interact with what your web developers create.

Your customers do not usually interact directly with your accounting manager, but if the numbers and money aren’t handled correctly, then the billing could be off and customers would be upset. Or what if your manager forgot to submit payroll? Then you have an uprising. Just think how that would affect your customers.

We have often heard, “Happy employees equal happy customers.” This is possibly true, but it might be better to say: “Loyal employees produce loyal customers.”

If your employees trust and believe in the business at its core, its culture, then they will fight for and protect the business, exerting the effort to treat and serve the customer in such a way that the customer can’t help but fall in love with, trust, and be loyal to the business. (Yes, some customers are just hard to deal with.)

But, if you create an environment and culture of teamwork, trust, mutual loyalty, and growth, then you will have a business your employees will want to be a part of, give themselves to, and go that extra mile for you and your customers, every day.

Jason Gazaway is the growth manager for VoiceNation.


Telephone Answering Service News

CCSP Fuzion Expands to Empower TAS Management

Call Center Sales Pro announced their new one-stop TAS management portal, CCSP Fuzion, is now system agnostic, working with all major TAS platforms. CCSP Fuzion brings all relevant TAS system information together to enable management and supervisors to quickly make informed operational decisions.

CCSP Fuzion was developed by Call Center Sales Pro, a team of industry insiders who understands the importance of timely data presented in easy-to-digest methods. “Today’s systems produce an array of detailed reports, but they are time-consuming to track down, merge, and make sense of,” said Janet Livingston, president of Call Center Sales Pro. “In the worst-case scenario, managers simply ignore the data.”

Everything TASs need to effectively gauge agent and operational performance is included in CCSP Fuzion. Built-in modules include message logs, customized agent QA (quality assessment) and report cards, agent productivity stats, scheduling data, and KPI and SLA metrics.

Learn more about Fuzion and view the informational video at fuzionme.com.

STA to Close June 30

It is with sadness that Southern Telemessaging Association (STA) announces the end of an era. At its last annual meeting, the STA board and members present voted to close the STA by the end of its fiscal year June 30, 2017. The difficult decision was made because of declining member participation. A final workshop and farewell dinner was held April 12, 2017 to allow members to celebrate the association and remember past meetings and friendships. The STA board encourages those in the southern region to continue to participate in ATSI and other regional events.

Maryellen Pruitt New Executive Manager of ASTAA

At the last ASTAA board of directors’ conference call, Dan L’ Heureux announced he would like to step down from his position as the executive manager. He is not fully retiring from the industry, just reducing his roles to spend more time with family. Dan recommended Maryellen Pruitt be considered as his replacement. After a telephone interview with Maryellen, the board hired her.

“Maryellen has been the executive manager of TUNe, also assuming that association’s management from Dan. She has worked with our own board member Gary Edwards, in that association as well,” said ASTAA president, Jim Reandeau. “I want to thank Dan for eleven years of service to our association and wish him happiness as he is about to enjoy more time for himself, his family, and less time on the road or airplane.”

Email us with your TAS news and articles for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” -Edith Wharton

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”-Malcolm Forbes

“When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.” -unknown

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The April 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Does Your Answering Service Use Social Media?

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderOn our website, TAStrader.com, we have a TAS directory. (If your company isn’t listed and you want to be, please let me know. There is no cost.)

Presently we have 135 answering services listed. Of those 68 of them, just over half, have social media pages, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

  • Facebook is the most popular at 87 percent of those with a social media presence and 44 percent overall.
  • Twitter follows Facebook as the second most popular at 75 percent of those with a social media presence and 38 percent overall.
  • LinkedIn trails both at 65 percent of those with a social media presence and 33 percent overall.
  • In an interesting subset, 53 percent of those with a social media presence use all three, which is 27 percent overall. That means just over a quarter of answering services use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Based on this, I make the following observations.

Half Not Social: First, half of the answering services do not have a social media presence. Though social media takes time, it is important. At the very least, think of social media as a discovery vehicle that allows people to find you and then directs them to your website, your home base. In this analogy, social media serves as an outpost.

Facebook Most Popular, But is it Best? Next, Facebook is the most popular social media platform for answering services. However, this is likely because it’s the most common social media platform and the best understood. That doesn’t mean it’s the most effective. In fact, most people I talk to are frustrated with Facebook and wonder if it’s worth the effort.

Think Strategically: For driving traffic to your website, I think Twitter is far more effective. And if you work to actually interact with people and engage your audience on social media, LinkedIn—the social media platform for businesses—is where to invest your time.

Take Action: I encourage you to spend some time considering your social media strategy. Do you need to up your game? What changes should you make? How can you use social media to drive traffic to your website?

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook. Connect with Peter on LinkedIn.


Classified Ads:

OnviSource Equipment For Sale: OnviSource system and many spare parts and pieces. Includes a brand new Portica VM. Tadiran switch (dual cabinet) with Coral Flexicom phones. Will sell as a complete package or by the piece. Please email PrimeTAS@aol.com for a complete list of available parts; pictures available upon request.

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 douganswerphone@gmail.com.

Writer for Hire: Need content for your TAS website or written materials for your answering service? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.


5 Reasons Why You Should Pursue Strategic Rate Increases

By Janet Livingston

Smart answering service managers make strategic rate increases each month, adjusting the rates of their least profitable clients. This is preferable to making annual across-the-board increases, which affect clients unevenly. And it’s certainly better than not doing any rate increases at all, which could move an answering service toward insolvency.

Here are five reasons why an answering service should pursue strategic rate increases each month:

1) Turn Unprofitable Clients into Profitable Ones: No matter how careful, your rate plans will never fully align with the actual work required to service an account. Therefore, some accounts on the same rate plan may be unprofitable, while others will be profitable. It’s not uncommon for up to half of an answering service’s accounts to be unprofitable, which the other half subsidizes. Identify the least profitable accounts and raise their rates to make them profitable. Now you have fewer unprofitable accounts and more profitable ones. Repeat this each month until every account is profitable.

2) Protect Profitable Clients: Some answering services do across-the-board rate increases. Though this seems fair, it actually penalizes already profitable clients by raising their rates even more. You don’t want to lose one of those clients. By only increasing the rates on unprofitable accounts, the profitable ones remain untouched.

3) Grow Revenue Incrementally: Increasing rates for some accounts each month means that every month the revenue from your existing client base will grow. Now increase rates on another group of accounts the second month, and a third group the third. But these aren’t increases that last for one month. Instead they are month-over-month improvements. A rate increase that produces an extra thousand dollars this month will produce an extra thousand dollars next month and every month after that, for as long as those accounts remain on service.

4) Condition Clients to Expect Rate Increases: Too many answering services are afraid to raise rates, so they keep existing accounts on old, lower plans. Periodically increasing charges prepares clients to expect rate adjustments when needed, which produces less fallout when increases do occur.

5) Maintain a Healthy Business: For a business to remain healthy, it must charge customers more than what it costs to provide service, yet too many answering services fail in this area. They persist in servicing some clients even though they lose money on them every month.

A healthy answering service should make money on every account, every month. And it takes strategic rate increases to make that happen. Don’t be afraid of raising rates. Embrace strategic rate increases as an essential element of being in business—and staying in business.

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 contactus@callcenter-salespro.com or 800-901-7706.


Telephone Answering Service News

Pulsar360 Strategic Partners in the TAS Industry

Pulsar360, Inc., a provider of hosted cloud PBX and premised-based systems, SIP trunks, BCDR, and carrier services, received the Internet Telephony Product of the Year Award for 2017 and the Hosted VoIP Award of Excellence. “We are extremely honored and excited to be recognized two years in a row by Internet Telephony for our SIP trunking, PBX hosting, and premise-based PBX solutions,” stated Michael Dozier, president and CEO. “At Pulsar360 we are constantly innovating and improving our products to meet the demands of our clients and partners.”

Pulsar360 has experience serving the telecommunications requirements of SMB to enterprise business customers and the telephone answering service (TAS) industry, currently providing services to 120 TAS customers. They provide up to 20 percent burstable trunking to TAS clients at no additional charge, as well as trunk, DID, and toll free number redundancy. They operate four data centers, with redundant infrastructure for all their service offerings, and have a presence in five additional geographically dispersed data centers. In addition, they offer a business continuity disaster recovery solutions designed for the TAS industry.

Email us with your TAS news and articles for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.” -Andrew Carnegie

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” -Steve Prefontaine

“We’ll never run out of math teachers because they always multiply.” -unknown

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The March 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Three Keywords Describe the Business Benefits of Answering Services

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderAs I consider business trends, specifically as it relates to the telephone answering service, three words come to mind. I think of these terms as keywords we can use to describe what we do and promote our business.

Virtual: An answering service provides a virtual service. It’s been that way from the very beginning, some ninety years ago. We have never done our work on site, but remotely. Our presence is not tangible, but virtual. As the prior century drew to a close, forward-thinking answering services began promoting the concept of the virtual receptionist.

In practice, this was nothing new, but as a concept, it was. Today with many entrepreneurs and small businesses tapping into the parallel concept of a virtual assistant, as a money-saving means to accomplish routine tasks with speed and precision. Answering services need to capitalize on this trend by touting their specialized version of a virtual assistant, also known as a virtual receptionist.

An answering service is virtual.

Scalable: Often technology carries the label of scalable. This means its scope can easily increase or decrease to meet changing user needs. Though answering services often have scalable technology, they remain labor intensive. Labor is not scalable.

However, from the perspective of our clients, we offer a scalable service. If we normally take one call at a time and two come in at once, we “scale up” to handle the extra work. Then we “scale down.” They can’t do that in their office.

What happens if they close early, their receptionist is sick or on vacation, or they want everyone at a staff meeting? We automatically scale up to take their extra calls. Conversely, if they decide to extend their hours and stay open until seven instead of closing at five, we scale accordingly to meet their new expectations.

An answering service is scalable.

Outsource: Though outsourcing, especially as it relates to phone calls, was once severely tarnished by offshore outsourcing done poorly, the reality remains that outsourcing shines as a key concept for businesses. Outsourcing work provides flexibility and controls costs.

Businesses wishing to run a lean, effective operation know that outsourcing is a preferred way to do this. Another significant reason to outsource is that many businesses are reluctant to hire staff. They sight overhead costs—especially healthcare expenses—and the legal hurdles to un-hire staff when no longer needed. As a smart alternative, they outsource whatever they can, whenever they can.

An answering service is an outsource provider.

Next time you talk with a business owner about your service drop these hot keywords. Say that you are virtual, scalable, and an outsource provider. That should get you some attention and hopefully some new business.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine.


Classified Ads:

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 douganswerphone@gmail.com.

TAS Writing: Need content for your TAS website or written materials for your answering service? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Get professional work from an industry veteran. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.


The Cost of Poor Performance

Why failing to train your employees costs a lot more than you think

By Evan Hackel

Many people have heard the story about the CEO who said, “What if we spend all this money training our staff and they leave?

The department head replied, “What if we don’t train them and they stay?”

A simple, but pointed, response. If you spend a lot of money on people and they leave, that’s not an optimal outcome. But if you don’t train your employees and they stay, it costs you a lot more. Consider the following:

Trained Salespeople Produce More Income: Statistically trained salespeople:

  • Close more sales
  • Generate larger average sales
  • Sell fewer products at discounted prices and more products at list price
  • Make fewer mistakes
  • Sell the right products
  • Build customer relationships that result in more repeat business
  • Generate more positive online reviews
  • Help keep morale and productivity high among all employees, because people don’t like to work with untrained coworkers who don’t know what they’re doing.

Training Is Not Just for Salespeople: Training has a major impact on customer service practices. Consider the often headache-inducing business of at-home product installation—one that would certainly benefit from customer service-focused training. The basics, such as explaining to customers the details of the installation process, an emphasis on clear communication prior to the start of the job, and of course, conveying the importance of punctuality can boost customer retention. Training staff to be cognizant of their customer service practices can also increase referral business, which can be worth extra hundreds, thousands, or more to your bottom line.

Every Untrained Employee Costs You Money: ROI on training is dramatically greater than most company executives believe. In simple terms, if a trained worker becomes 100 percent productive and an untrained worker is only 60 percent productive, you are losing $40,000 in value on every $100,000 of business you conduct.

In Closing: Not training is hugely expensive—far more expensive than training. In your company, you should look for all the opportunities where proper training can increase profits, reduce waste, and provide an outsized ROI for every training dollar you spend. If you look, you will find many more opportunities than you expect.

Evan Hackel is CEO of Tortal Training, a firm that specializes in developing and implementing interactive training solutions for companies in all sectors. Evan created the concept of Ingaged Leadership and is Principal and Founder of Ingage Consulting, a consulting firm headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts. To learn more about Ingage Consulting and Evan’s book Ingaging Leadership visit www.ingage.net.


Telephone Answering Service News

Telescan Announces New Hires: The Telescan Division of Amtelco continues to grow and advance the development of its Spectrum system in response to demand for a flexible, expandable software-based call center system. The Telescan team is growing to continue helping customers succeed. Paul Schulte joins the Telescan support services team in St. Louis, Missouri. Paul will provide phone support to Spectrum system users and assist in the internal operations of the St. Louis office. Brett Minster joins the software development staff in St. Louis. Brett will be developing applications for Telescan’s next-generation switch, Prism II. For more information contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or info@amtelco.com.

Email us with your TAS news and articles for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.” -Leo Tolstoy

“What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expected generally happens.” -Benjamin Disraeli

“Thieves who steal corn from a garden could be charged with stalking.” -unknown

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The February 2017 Issue of TAS Trader

Tips for Running a Successful Answering Service

By Peter L DeHaan, PhD

Peter L DeHaan, publisher of TAS TraderFor all my adult life writing was something I did, but it meant nothing more. Then about eight years ago I began to take writing more seriously, wondering if it might be my next career. (It is, but it’s a part-time career. No worries, I will continue to publish TAS Trader and Connections Magazine.)

My first step as a writer was to attend a writing conference to learn more about the industry. Now my goal is to attend two conferences a year. Then I begin to study the craft of writing: reading blogs, listening to podcasts, subscribing to magazines, and buying books. Next I joined a couple of critique groups, where we mutually help each other improve. And, since I’ve actually been writing for several decades and been a publisher for fifteen years, I started blogging about writing to give back to the writing community; I also speak at writing conferences. As I moved forward I began working as a commercial freelance writer.

A couple years ago I decided to branch into fiction. Though I could have learned by the school of hard knocks, I decided to jumpstart my efforts by hiring people to guide and instruct me: coaches, developmental editors, and teachers. And I outsource things too: book cover design, copy editing, and proofreading. It would be foolish to try to do these myself.

What’s this have to do with running an answering service? Plenty.

Attend Conferences: I’m shocked that I continue to talk to TAS owners and managers who have never been to an industry event. They claim they can’t afford it. I say they can’t afford not to. Conferences provide a great way to network and learn. I think everyone should attend at least one conference a year—and not just owners but key employees, too.

Give Back: I receive the most when I help others, when I freely share what I know. Peter’s Law of Reciprocity states, “Everyone you meet knows something you don’t… so politely and tactfully learn what it is. Conversely, everyone you meet doesn’t know everything you do…so be willing to graciously share whatever you can when you are asked.” When you give, you receive.

Hire Outside Help: It makes no sense to spend a lot of time trying to figure out something by trial and error when you can pay someone to teach you. When I bought Connections Magazine from Steve Michaels in 2001, I hired a $200-an-hour magazine publishing consultant to point me in the right direction. Best decision ever.

Tap Outsourcers: You can outsource every aspect of running a telephone answering service, including operations. While I know of no one who has outsourced everything, many successful TASs have outsourced specific aspects of their business, such as sales, marketing, billing, collections, technical, and even management. If someone else can do it better or for less, it’s foolish to keep it in house.

Whether it’s writing a book or running an answering service, be intentional about improving and invest in learning. It’s the only way to go.

Peter DeHaan is publisher and editor of TAS Trader and Connections Magazine.


Classified Ads:

Blog Posts: Need content for your website? Let Peter DeHaan provide it. Boost your marketing impact and drive organic search. TAS Case Studies at only $25 per post. Email Peter or call 616-284-1305.

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 douganswerphone@gmail.com.


7 Tips to Overhaul Your Customer Service

Learn what to do when you realize you’re not as great as you’d like

By Kate Zabriskie

What’s going on when your customer service falls short of your ideal? Usually, a few things. Typically, there’s an organizational mindset misalignment, a lack of commitment from the top, an absence of recognition for giving great service, or a combination of all three.

Consider these seven tips to turn things around:

  1. Start by thinking about your purpose. What is it that your organization does? Articulate your purpose. Everyone needs to understand your core reason for existing and how the actions he or she takes relate in supporting that mission.
  2. Next, think about your processes and how customers interact with you. Do you have your customers’ best interests at heart? If not, what changes can you make to remedy those shortcomings? This step has an added benefit. When your organization’s and your customers’ goals are in harmony, you will have happier customers. Furthermore, it is less likely your people will find themselves dealing with the unhappy, disappointed, or disgruntled.
  3. Model what you want to see. People work for people. If you supervise others, they are watching and learning from you. If you are disengaged, they probably are too. On the other hand, if you embody the spirit of service, you probably see elements of yourself in their performance.
  4. Teach your staff what to do and how to do it. You can’t expect people to deliver great service if they don’t know how. Furthermore, you can’t expect them to care if no one at the top does. Take employee development seriously. This means being a champion for training, participating in education, and coaching for new skills after the fact. Eventually, your people will be able to do more, make better choices, and solve problems more imaginatively.
  5. Hire for service skills. The next time you have an opening, think about what makes someone great at service in your organization and seek those attributes. Don’t settle. You’ll be sorry later.
  6. Even if you have no budget, you can reward employees for giving great service. Start with a sincere “Thank you.” Heartfelt appreciation can work wonders.
  7. Finally, put on your continuous-improvement hat. Systematically evaluate where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going.

None of these steps is necessarily hard. The trick is to take them. To win the service game, you have to be in it. What will you do better today?

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.


Telephone Answering Service News

Spectrum Prism II Begins Beta Testing: The Telescan division of Amtelco has begun installation and field-testing of Prism II at beta sites. Prism II is the next-generation telephony switch for the Telescan Spectrum system. It provides a soft-switching solution. The benefits for call centers include: increased call handling capacity without added hardware, improved backup and recovery options, real-time monitoring and activity logs, enhanced audio quality, and faster call setup. The new Prism II is an entirely software-based switch built around Asterisk, a widely used open-source framework for building communications solutions. For more information contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or info@amtelco.com.

Email us with your TAS news and articles for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“The real index of civilization is when people are kinder than they need to be.” -Louis de Bernieres

“He who lives little, changes little.” -Anatole France

“A thief fell and broke his leg in wet cement. He became a hardened criminal.” -unknown

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