The January 2017 Issue of TAS Trader


Lessons From Cars, Computers, and Software

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Since I work at home, I don’t do much driving. I sometimes wonder if I really need a car. Couple this with my preference to invest in a product and use it as long as I can. As a result my higher-end car was nineteen years old and pushing a quarter million miles. In November I replaced it. Though it’s time wasn’t up, I wanted a change. I don’t think anyone would fault me for that.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I take the same approach with technology. I buy the best I can afford and use it as long as I can. My main computer is four years old, my backup computer is six years old, and my laptop (which I seldom use) is ten. It’s replacement should arrive this week.

For the first time I didn’t buy a computer with Microsoft Office pre-installed. Instead I will make the switch to Office 365, a subscription software service. Philosophically I object to subscription services because in the past they haven’t made financial sense given the way I approach technology. (Subscription services are a brilliant move for vendors as it provides them with consistent cash flow, which allows them to support their product, invest in upgrades, and create new modules.) In the past, subscription services would have cost me more than making an outright purchase and using it well past its expected life span.

Switching to Office 365 will allow me to have the newest software on all my computers (not just the new laptop) and will keep me on the latest software version. And since Microsoft is calling Windows 10 “the last version of Windows,” I can expect my software to outlast my hardware. Instead of paying several hundred dollars for Office 2016 Professional on my laptop (or over a thousand dollars to update all three computers), I will instead pay a low monthly fee to enjoy the latest and greatest. How cool is that?

While I don’t run an answering service anymore and therefore haven’t done a cost analysis, I understand the same dynamics applies to operating an answering service using subscription-based services (whatever label you place on it: hosted, cloud-based, SaaS, PaaS, and so forth). It’s good for answering services, it’s good for vendors, and clients benefit as well.

If you’ve already moved to a subscription approach to your answering service platform, congratulations. If you’ve not made the switch, now might be a good time to revisit it.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. Check out his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.

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Be a Customer Service Contender

Why most customer service isn’t as good as it could be and what you can do about it

By Kate Zabriskie

Too often, organizations recognize they have a service issue, yet their efforts to address shortcomings fail to solve the problem. In the worst cases, customer service initiatives backfire. However, legendary service organizations have a service mindset, commitment, and reward great performance.

Service Mindset: Great service companies eat, sleep, and breathe extraordinary service. They don’t pull people off the phones for a few hours and expect magic.

  • They have a service mission, and it does more than sit in a frame on a wall in some conference room. It’s top-of-mind throughout the organization. People know it and live it through their daily interactions with customers and each other.
  • They design processes with the customer’s best interest in mind. Think about that well-known airline, so full of love for its customers, it allows them to cancel flights for full credit on a future trip. Clearly they believe most their customers won’t book travel they don’t need, and those who must make a change will eventually choose to fly with them again.
  • They hire people who genuinely love service and are proud to live the brand.
  • They constantly retool the customer experience because they know what worked well in earlier years is long overdue for a makeover.
  • They educate, educate, and then they educate some more. They want to make sure that the people who represent the brand understand what the brand experience is and how to deliver it.

Commitment: Great service companies involve everyone in their service culture and improvement efforts. They invest in their employees and trust them to do what’s right.

  • Their management team models service-centric behavior and holds others accountable for doing the same.
  • Their leaders participate in education efforts, often introducing workshops, wrapping them up, and actively taking part during sessions.
  • They commit to and believe in their staff. Because they’ve chosen their employees well and trained them appropriately, they treat staff members as the adults they are and give them latitude when solving service problems.

Reward: Great service companies reward service-centric behavior. They don’t ignore great work or punish people for taking initiative.

  • They value their employees and recognize that without them there is no customer service.
  • They reward employees by trusting them to do what’s right.
  • They encourage people to find new ways of solving problems.
  • They recognize that a paycheck alone is not enough.

When thinking about everything that the greats do, it’s easy to get discouraged or think your business or department will never achieve true service success. The good news is you’re wrong. While it won’t happen overnight, you can learn from the masters to elevate your approach to customer service.

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

Amtelco Releases Hosted Spectrum: Spectrum Prism is now available as a hosted service. Some of the advantages of hosting include increased call handling capacity without adding hardware or IT labor. And there’s no need for a support plan; it’s all included along with updates. Hosted Spectrum is scalable, which makes it ideal for startups. Stations are easy to add. Virtual answering services and the use of a collocated solution breaks the answering service away from the physical constraints and overhead costs of a building, equipment room, and back-up power.

Send us your TAS articles and news for consideration in the next issue.

Quotes for the Month

“A timid question will always receive a confident answer.” -Charles John Darling

“The wisest mind has something yet to learn.” -George Santayana

“A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.” -unknown