The June 2011 Issue of TAS Trader

Ron Violante can help you buy or sell your telephone answering service

WSTA Heads to Hawaii for Annual Meeting

The Western States Telemessaging Association (WSTA) is heading west to host its upcoming 2011 Annual Meeting and Conference in Maui, Hawaii. “Selecting the Westin Maui Hotel was a major component for our event,” said WSTA president Mary Jones. “We purposed to have a fabulous setting to complement our agenda; this hotel accomplishes that and it also provides a venue that families can enjoy as well.”

The Westin Maui Resort & Spa is the premier location for a dream Hawaiian conference. Situated on Kaanapali Beach, the Westin Maui Resort & Spa is the most romantic escape in all the Hawaiian Islands; it’s located at the dramatic point where the legendary Black Rock of Kaanapali meets the ocean. Anchored by the Black Rock itself, this spectacular Maui hotel beckons hopeless romantics, discerning travelers of all types, and fun-seeking families.

“Our meetings are planned for December 8-12, starting with a beachside welcome reception on the eighth and then morning only sessions from the 9th through 12th, providing plenty of time for networking, educational sessions, and roundtables while still leaving time to enjoy the beach, golfing, boating, whale-watching, swimming, surfing, scuba-diving, snorkeling, hiking, biking, Hawaiian culture, great food, shopping, or just lying in the sun, relaxing with the beverage of your choice,” said Dan L’Heureux, executive director of WSTA.

“WSTA has a history of thinking outside the ‘box,’ and we have really gone ‘outside’ with this trip,” Mary Jones said, “and because our schedule will be session-based and action-packed, it would be worth the trip even if the setting was not so spectacular in and of itself.”

“But of course it is,” added Marcy Hewlett, WSTA secretary. “We are very aware of the other opportunities the island offers, and we won’t interfere with those.”

Considering the location and time of travel, WSTA has secured the conference rate of $189 for a mountain view room and $229 for an ocean view room for three days before and three days after, based on availability. Make your plans and reserve your room as soon as possible to guarantee space for the dates you desire.

For more information, contact Dan L’Heureux at 763-473-0210 or

Make a Radical Rate Change

By Paula Ford

More than one TAS owner has been paralyzed about raising rates. The problem is that the longer you go without a rate increase, the harder it is – for both you and your customers. The key question is how to make a radical change in the way you charge. The answer is to “just do it” – but do it thoughtfully, and do it one customer at a time.

The first step is to make up a new price list for new customers. They will accept your new prices as normal, and every profitable customer you sign up will help lessen your worry about losing older, unprofitable customers. Your new prices will also establish your target when negotiating rate increases with unprofitable customers.

Your new price list must allow you to charge enough to compensate yourself and your employees well, including providing good benefits. It also must be enough to allow you to upgrade or replace your equipment when needed, allow you to join ATSI, and participate in user groups so you can keep abreast of new developments in the industry.

If you’re working as an operator as well as running your business, having family members work for little or no pay, working staff over forty hours without paying overtime, or offering no benefits, then you need to right those wrongs with your new rates. Remember, you have overhead that needs to be covered.

Secondly, let your competitors find out that you’ve raised your prices. The odds are that you are the one holding prices down in your area, and once you raise your prices, others will immediately follow. When your customers find out that their rates are going up, you’ll want them to discover that the competition is comparably priced.

Next, run a system report that shows the number of incoming calls, minutes used, and how many resources each client is using. Quickly scan the report for the ten accounts with the highest “operator talk time.” Next, calculate how much you’d bill them if you charged a dollar per minute – and then compare that to how much you actually bill them. If a dollar per minute charge is significantly higher than what you actually billed, you’ve got big trouble.

While your target price may be more or less than a buck per minute, one dollar a minute is in the ballpark. Check what a plumber, electrician, or phone installer charges per hour and divide that by sixty. In comparison, a dollar a minute seems reasonable!

Your busiest customers are the ones who will have the most effect on your bottom-line profit, so they have to be fixed first. If you have a customer who takes 100 minutes per month, you can grossly undercharge him and still only be losing $50 to $200 per month. But when you have a customer who is using 1,000 to 5,000 minutes of your operators’ time every month, a pricing error could easily mean you’re losing thousands of dollars every month.

It’s easy to raise a customer $7 to $20 per month. It’s much harder to find that you have an account that you’ve been billing $600 per month and now realize you should be charging them $2000. Believe me, I’ve been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt! I once bought a small service and waited nine months before analyzing and raising rates. That was a bad move on my part! One customer had us doing quite a bit of work that our system did not track. We had to check their database to decide whether to dispatch the call and then had to give information from that database to their technician.

When you have to triple a $600 client’s rate, do it all in one increase, but have a conference with your client where you clearly lay out all of the work you perform, and make sure you give them some labor and money saving options, like front-end voicemail, gathering less information from each caller, or picking up their messages using voicemail or email.

We offered this customer three choices: $2000 with everything done live, $1300 if the techs got smartphones and we emailed the messages instead of doing live delivery, or $800 with a voicemail screening and smartphone delivery. The customer gulped hard and chose the $2000 package. Six months later they got smartphones that could receive our long text messages. They later experimented with voicemail screening, which they’ve kept and periodically tweak.

I really expected them to go for the $800 deal or find another answering service. I did, however, give them a detailed “specification of work performed,” which I urged them to show any other TAS they might contact. This was to make sure they wouldn’t get a lowball quote from someone that didn’t understand the complexity of their account. My primary contact later told me they talked to about a dozen services and were turned down by most.

Lastly, don’t be tempted to try gradual increases. If you are losing $1000 per month on a client, reducing it to a $900 monthly loss doesn’t make any sense.

Once you have analyzed and adjusted the rates for your ten busiest clients, repeat the process for your next ten. Continue this until everyone has been moved to your target rate.

Paula Ford is with Answer Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Getting New Hires from Old Employees

By Gregg Gregory

Does your organization have an alumni program in place? A couple of weeks ago, traveling from Atlanta to Washington, I sat next to a woman who works in the marketing department for a large law firm in Washington, DC. As we talked, she told me of one way her firm attracts and hires new and talented people: by creating an alumni program, which she heads. And just like a high school or college, they host alumni parties and gatherings as well as send newsletters to their alumni.

At first this sounded a little strange, but as we began to talk this concept made perfect sense. If your organization has averaged 250 employees over the past fifteen years with a constant turnover rate of 8 percent, that equates to twenty people per year. Multiply that by fifteen years and now you have 300 alumni.

Not everyone needs to be invited to participate. Let’s face it – you don’t want some employees back or any referrals they may have. And in some cases they may not want to participate in the program themselves. For instance, if they now work for a competitor, are they going to be quick to give you good referrals? Not likely.

So let’s assume that of the 300 potential alumni in your program you have about 15 percent who will not participate – that gives you just over 250 people to market to.

You might ask, What do I mean by “market to”? Think about it. Who else knows what your company or organization does better than a former employee? Maybe they have simply moved on because they were no longer were growing at your company, but they left on good terms. Maybe they still have friends working there. If you market to them about new positions or new products, they may very well know someone who could benefit. Maybe they have changed direction in their work but know other friends who could benefit, and they might make a referral back to you for a new hire.

If a good employee gives you a referral, don’t you think this referral might be a good employee too?

The larger the organization the more this makes sense – and the greater the rewards. If your organization is growing, why not put this into play now? Your growth plan will be set for the future.


Share ATSI Insights on Facebook
Share your ATSI convention experience on TAS Trader’s Facebook page. Go to TAS Trader’s Facebook page and click on the “Question” tab to let others know what they may have missed, your “aha” moments, and highlights from the 2011 ATSI Convention and Expo. We will also be posting convention photos there as well. And when you’re there, be sure to let us know that you “like it.” Adds New Headings has expanded its contact center listing categories to better help those seeking contact center services to connect with outsourcing contact centers. The new categories list contact centers that offer email processing, text chat, and IVR to clients. These new headings are in addition to the original categories of inbound/outbound call centers, inbound call centers, and outbound call centers. There are also directories of multilingual call centers and call centers serving vertical markets, as well as geographical listings for USA, Canada, and offshore (non-North America).

Teleservice agencies and outsourcing contact centers that wish to be listed can sign up on the Connections Magazine Web site. There is a one-time charge of $100 for a basic listing. Listings will be added to both and, as well as enjoy possible future appearances in Connections Magazine.


[Posted by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD for TAS Trader.]

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