The August 2023 Issue of TAS Trader


Applying AI in Telephone Answering Services

Consider the Role that Artificial Intelligence Could Play in Your TAS Operation

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

You may be tired of hearing about artificial intelligence (AI), but it’s here to stay, and it will change everything. Not only will it revolutionize business and the answering service industry along with it, but it will reach into and touch every aspect of our lives. In fact, it’s already doing just that, whether we know it or not.

Here are some ways you may want to consider applying AI to your telephone answering service.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Use AI to Supplement Management and Support: AI can function in a support role, assisting the functions and departments that surround your telephone answering service operation. Already, AI is great at producing the first draft of an email or suggesting attention-grabbing subject lines. The same applies for marketing materials and ad copy. But don’t expect AI to make a perfect final draft—at least not yet—but those days are coming, and they’ll likely arrive sooner than you expect.

Look for other ways that AI can assist nonoperation departments, such as accounting, sales, marketing, and technical. These AI tools are either ready today or are close to being ready. All you need to do is find them and implement them.

Use AI to Enhance Customer Service: The same applies for customer service functions. If a concern arrives via email, AI can often make the first draft of a cogent response. All you need to do is verify and tweak.

Chatbots are another area. You’ve likely had experience with them, albeit on the user side. Imagine what AI chatbots can do for your customer service. But before you get carried away, trying to implement a comprehensive system that will cover everything, start simply and address the basics. Once that’s working fine, expand it.

Another area related to customer service is tapping AI to perform agent evaluations. This isn’t just for select calls or random calls but every call. Only outlier results that need attention—either to correct an error or celebrate a success—need to be forwarded to the agent or management.

Use AI to Better Handle Calls: Most of the work—and most of the labor—at an answering service occurs in the operations room and revolves around answering calls or handling communication for clients. This is where AI can have the biggest impact.

Start by considering how AI can better support your telephone agents to allow them to do their job more effectively, quicker, or both. But don’t stop there. Also consider service activities that you can move to AI, with agent oversight and the ability to overrule. And, of course, there are areas you can completely outsource to AI.

Don’t Avoid Artificial Intelligence: Some people are technologically adverse. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s who they are. They just need to realize that ignoring it won’t make it go away, and it will one day put their TAS at a disadvantage.

Consider the last services to switch from cord boards to computerized systems. Or the last providers to stop handwriting messages and start entering them into a database. Though there were holdouts—sometimes for quite a while—they eventually realized they had to embrace the technology. So, too, will be the case with AI.

Conclusion: When it comes to artificial intelligence, the opportunities abound, almost limitless. If you can dream it, it can likely be done—or someone has already done it.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. Check out his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials, ideal for medical answering services.

Evaluating Technology in Telephone Answering Services
A Guide for Owners and Private Equity Firms

By Michael C. McMillan

As the telephone answering service industry evolves, it is essential for business owners and private equity firms looking to acquire these companies to understand and evaluate the technology employed within the organization. Technology plays a crucial role in determining these services’ efficiency, scalability, and value.

This article will discuss key aspects of technology assessment in the telephone answering service industry to guide owners and private equity firms in their evaluation process.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation: Assess the company’s investment in automation and AI technologies, such as natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) algorithms. These technologies can streamline operations, reduce costs, and improve customer satisfaction by providing faster and more accurate responses to customer inquiries (Grand View Research, 2019).

Data Security and Privacy: Analyze the company’s data security measures, including encryption and secure data storage. Ensure the company complies with industry regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to protect customer information and minimize legal risks (Whitman & Mattord, 2018 “Principles of Information Security”).

Integration Capabilities: Evaluate the company’s ability to integrate its technology platform with popular customer relationship management (CRM) systems and other software used by clients. Seamless integration can increase efficiency, improve customer service, and provide a competitive advantage in the industry (Zhang & Wallace, 2017).

Scalability: Examine the company’s technology infrastructure and its capacity to accommodate growth and expansion. Scalable technology can help a company adapt to fluctuations in demand, making it more attractive to potential investors and acquirers (Gompers & Lerner, 2001).

User Experience and Interface: Assess the user experience and interface of the company’s technology platform. A user-friendly, intuitive interface can improve customer satisfaction, retention, and overall company reputation, contributing to higher valuation (Brown & Katz, 2004).

Evaluating the technology employed in telephone answering services is crucial to determining the company’s efficiency, scalability, and value. By considering automation and AI, integration capabilities, data security and compliance, scalability, and user experience, owners and private equity firms can make informed decisions about potential acquisitions and investments in the industry.

Michael McMillan, an influential thought leader, and keynote speaker, specializes in innovation in customer experience (CX) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). With expertise in various industries and critical specialization in technology and call center outsourcing, Michael uniquely understands just how vital the customer journey is for a business. His TEDx speech on empathy and human connection demonstrates his passion for meaningful relationships and strong support networks, making him a sought-after speaker and author.

The Difference Between a Password Manager and a SSO Provider

By Justin Massey

The recent ATSI conference in Atlanta addressed artificial intelligence and the rising significance of cybersecurity. One item related to cybersecurity is to support Single Sign-On (SSO).

By utilizing a single sign-on provider vendors can enable seamless authentication to their TAS solution. This simplifies the login process for answering service operators and enhances security by reducing reliance on multiple login credentials. With SSO, operators can securely access and navigate various business systems without remembering numerous usernames and passwords.

When comparing a password manager (such as 1Password or LastPass) and an SSO provider like Google Login, using an analogy such as keys on a keyring is helpful. LastPass is like a keyring that holds hundreds of keys for different doors. Each time you need to unlock a specific door, you have to search through the keyring to find the right key. While it offers convenience and organization, locating the correct key still requires effort.

On the other hand, an SSO provider is akin to a master key that can unlock multiple doors. With a single master key, you can effortlessly access various doors without the hassle of searching through a bulky keyring. In managing login credentials, LastPass functions as a comprehensive password manager, while an SSO provider simplifies authentication by offering a unified access point.

Implementing a Single Sign-On (SSO) solution is highly recommended for managing authentication across multiple applications. While it may initially seem risky to consolidate all login credentials into a single basket, the convenience and security benefits outweigh the concerns. SSO simplifies the login process for answering service operators, acting as a master key that effortlessly grants access to multiple systems. It reduces the cognitive load of managing numerous passwords and enhances overall productivity.

Additionally, SSOs often provide robust logging capabilities, allowing for detailed visibility into user logins, including information about the application accessed, the time of login, and the location. This logging capability is invaluable for security investigations and monitoring user activity. Only some platforms and applications support SSO. A password manager like LastPass remains valuable for managing credentials that don’t support an SSO.

By combining the strengths of an SSO and a password manager, answering services can balance efficiency, security, and comprehensive logging for their authentication needs.

Justin Massey, the founder of Relay Hawk, started answering phones for his family’s answering service at 16. Later, he became an IT administrator at a managed service provider and helped manage PInnacle IT infrastructure. He now runs Relay Hawk, a cybersecurity company building products exclusively for the telephone answering service industry.

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Industry News

AnswerNet Turns 25

AnswerNet marks its twenty-fifth anniversary in business. Founded in 1998, its roots trace back to 1929, with its AnswerAmerica division beginning as The Western Union Telephone Answering Service.

Fast forward to 2023, AnswerNet services some of the largest companies in the world across multiple communication channels, including SMS, live chat, email, social media, interactive voice response, and AI. The business is a thriving global organization with over 2,000 full-time premised-based and remote employees across six continents and thirty delivery teams.

“AnswerNet’s twenty-five years of growth and success reflect my original vision and the company’s overall dedication to helping our clients and partners grow profitably while providing fulfilling career paths for our employees, said Gary Pudles, AnswerNet’s president and CEO.

As the AnswerNet journey continues, the company remains focused on bringing their clients, the people, and the technology that allows them to run their businesses their way.

Headquartered in Willow Grove, PA, AnswerNet is a full-service provider of inbound, outbound, automated, and BPO contact center services.

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Quotes for Consideration

“You have reached the pinnacle of success as soon as you become uninterested in money, compliments, or publicity.” -Thomas Wolfe

“Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” -Aristotle

“R.I.P boiled water. You will be mist.” -unknown