Are You an Answering Service or a Call Center?
Though serving clients is the goal, what we call ourselves does matter
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Asking if you’re an answering service or a call center isn’t a matter of semantics, it’s a matter of perception. And since perceptions drive behaviors, this is an important discussion to have.
First, let’s cover some definitions to establish our discussion’s foundation. In simplest form, a call center is a centralized place (at least conceptually) that processes telephone calls. With this perspective, a telephone answering service is a call center. However, a more practical understanding of an answering service is that it’s a company that takes messages for other businesses.
Historical Answering Services: Most all telephone answering services started out with message taking as their primary function, especially those that are more than a couple of decades old. Some TASs have held onto this mindset, pursuing an answering service model of taking messages and processing them according to client instructions. They don’t want to branch out and offer other types of communication services. Or maybe they tried to expand, but it didn’t work out, so they committed to sticking with what they knew.
Diversified Answering Services: However, other answering services diversified beyond this traditional understanding of answering services. They branched out to offer more services that relate to the telephone, and even more so, other forms of communications. This includes email, text, web chat, and social media. The distinction between answering service and call center blurs. For most, however, much of their business resides under the classical understanding of an answering service.
No Longer an Answering Service: Conversely, other answering services were so successful with their diversification efforts, that they more resemble a call center then an answering service. In fact, some have so embraced their diversification that they either sold their answering service client base or segregated them to a separate operation. In function, they have become a call center.
What’s Your Brand? In considering these three categories, I’ve seen providers of answering services that refer to themselves as call centers. I’ve also seen operations that offer call center services but still call themselves answering services. Some choose a label to show what they were, and others opt for a brand that foretells what they want to be. Of course, others adopt a name consistent with what they are now.
Regardless if you call yourself an answering service or a call center, it forms your self-perception. This reflects on what you do, the clients you serve, and how you brand and market yourself.
What do you want to be, an answering service or a call center?
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 Janet Livingston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
Prepare for Family Business Quarrels
By Mitzi Perdue
There’s no such thing as a family business without conflict. At their worst, a quarrel can become a threat to everything the family business holds dear, including relationships, wealth, and position in the community. Seventy percent of family-owned businesses don’t make it to the next generation, and the biggest reason is family quarrels. To prevent disputes from getting out-of-hand, practice these six skills.
1. Agree That It’s Wrong to Move Disagreements Outside the Family: The experience of many family businesses shows that once a family starts down the road of a public dispute or litigation, the usual result is the end of the business. Positions harden, reason goes out the window, and it’s rare for the members of the business to change course. The family members need to know it’s morally wrong to cause this.
2. Let Family Members Know This Isn’t Just About Their Wishes: Any public acrimony in a family business often leads to the company’s failing. This threatens the well-being of innocent bystanders, including the company’s employees, stockholders, lenders, and even the tax base of the community. Members of family businesses need to know they have a responsibility beyond themselves.
3. Emphasize “Family First:” Family businesses are unlike regular families because in the tug of war between individualism and being a member of the group, there needs to be a different balance. Members of a family business have a different level of responsibility because their actions influence all the stakeholders involved with the business.
4. Put Relationships Ahead of Ego: Members of family businesses need to know there are times when they have a choice between getting their way and having a relationship. Being a member of a family business at times means sacrifice, which can mean giving up getting their way. However, in return they’ll get something of greater importance: the chance for the family legacy to continue and thrive.
5. Compromise is Key: Members of a family business need to listen to each other, and they need to avoid the temptation to “stand on principle,” which is a synonym for being stubborn. It means, “I’m not going to listen.” It shuts down discussion and stops the give and take needed for compromise.
6. Avoid Speaking in Anger: Angry words can be self-fulfilling, such as, disparaging someone’s competence or expressing preference for a sibling. A person may say something in momentary anger, but the person hearing it may remember those words for a lifetime.
Done right, the family and business will endure. Done wrong, the family business blows up. Practice these six attitudes to quell any family business dissent before it jeopardizes the health of the company.
Mitzi Perdue is the author of How to Make Your Family Business Last. A cum laude graduate from Harvard University and holder of an MPA from George Washington University, Mitzi draws from her direct experiences in two long-lasting family enterprises to assist businesses in preparing for lifelong success.
Telephone Answering Service News
Startel Releases CMC v14.1: Startel Corporation announced the availability of Startel Contact Management Center (CMC) v14.1. This release includes several new features and enhancements designed to maximize agent productivity and efficiency. Customers can expect a tighter integration with QGenda, allowing QGenda schedules to be configured directly within Startel administration controls. The client maintenance module now includes a find feature, enabling programmers to locate specific form features more quickly. New variables are now available for hyperlinks, including agent ID, agent first name, and agent last name, within client maintenance. Enhancements were also made to the Startel web portal and Startel dashboard.
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Quotes for the Month
“Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.” -Albert Einstein
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” -Abraham Lincoln
“If you don’t pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.” -unknown