The March 2014 Issue of TAS Trader

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

Evaluating Change

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

In the March issue of Medical Call Center News (check it out if you serve medical accounts), I wrote about implementing change in your operation. It reminded me of the change TAS Trader went through in January when we switched from a PDF format to an email format.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Though making that change was both timely and warranted, I wondered how you, our readers, would react. I’m pleased to report reader engagement (based on open and click stats, as well as reader comments) is even higher than before. That’s sweet confirmation that we made this change correctly and you appreciated it.

Thank you for the affirmation and your encouraging support of TAS Trader. We are here to serve you and will continue to do so.

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

TAS of the Month

Jannemieke Keener CEO
Jannemieke Keener, CEO, being interviewed and recognized by the local newspaper.

Keener Communications, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, provides twenty-four-hour live answering services, specializing in the home care services and medical markets, and serving companies in the greater Richmond area and across the US.

Jula Day at Keener Communications
Hula Day

Some of team when the entire office dressed up for a Hawaii-themed party to celebrate Gaylan Garrett’s twenty-fifth anniversary with Keener Communications. Keener gave Gaylan an all-expense-paid two-week trip to Hawaii to thank her for her years of service.

To have your TAS featured in an upcoming issue of TAS Trader, just post your photo on the TAS Trader Facebook page – and then ask your staff to like it!

Making Efficiency Scalable for Messagemail’s Telephone Answering Service

Messagemail is a virtual office service provider of professional telephone answering services. Based in London, the company is proud of its “answered within three rings” guarantee and its in-house call center staff, who answer calls with a personal touch. The telephone answering service had grown increasingly popular, but that presented a problem.

Problems of Speed and Scalability: Messagemail used Microsoft Outlook to handle their client contact data. The team’s efficiency depended on how fast they could find callers’ details within Outlook. “It was limited and left a lot to the operator,” said Tara Vorster, Messagemail’s account manager. “Scripts had to be manually searched for within the database and opened. With an increasing client base and call volume, the manual element was getting more and more problematic.”

By the start of 2013, Messagemail had reached a critical moment: Outlook wasn’t fast enough to maintain the high standards of call answering efficiency it intended to deliver. “If we had stuck with the old system, we would not have been able to grow,” said Vorster.

Improved Efficiency and a Better Customer Experience: “Call scripting software is something we had been considering for a number of years,” Vorster said. “The bulk of the work [in switching systems] was collating our client information and instructions from Outlook into a workable database for importing,” Vorster recalled. After collating the data into Excel and importing it, operators found the software “very straightforward to use… the team picked it up almost instantaneously.”

With the new system, the process of receiving calls and pulling up the necessary information became faster and simpler. Messagemail gave each client a direct dial-in (DDI) telephone number for forwarding calls they wanted Messagemail to answer. When calls arrived, the system displayed client details on the operator’s computer. The operators were able to answer each call swiftly and knowledgeably.

After the operator handled the call according to the client instructions – take a message, transfer the call, take orders, or complete support requests – the system automatically recorded details of the call outcome according to the client’s requirements and forwarded the information to them via email, fax, or SMS.

Impressive Results from Day One: Messagemail can now complete call handling and reporting with reduced effort and provide a smoother caller experience at the same time. The first difference Vorster noticed was “streamlining of the whole call handling process, saving significant time on call handling and almost completely eliminating the margin for operator error.” She also cited the ease of detail capture, call transfer, and message sending, as well as several other tools and features of the system, for the boost in Messagemail’s performance. A year later, Messagemail remains pleased with the results. Additionally, clients and callers are more satisfied.

Messagemail selected nCall answering service software, developed and supplied by nSolve

Six Prospect Types

By Arthur Cronos

Not all prospects are equal; some yield better returns for your investment in money and time. Shockingly, most companies put all their money into the most difficult and lowest-yield prospects. Consider these other prospect types, and watch profits climb.

1) Existing Clients: Your best return on your marketing investment is when you sell more to existing clients. For example, sell something new or an add-on, or create a larger and fancier service to sell. Even better, position yourself so you’re no longer in competition with other companies, then stop selling on price and double your rates. (It can be done.)

2) Past Clients: This is likely to give you the next best return. You will need a list of past clients and a solid plan to approach them.

3) Inquiries: These people have already inquired about your services and need proper follow-up. It works far better when your follow-up is prompt and provides multiple touches. For example, according to a 2010 Velocify study, doing six to eight follow-ups with proper timing creates as much as 600 percent more sales than a single follow-up.

4) Referrals: Most small businesses get occasional referrals as a happy accident. These inquiries are easier to sell: they are less price-resistant and less suspicious. Why not create a referral program instead of waiting for referrals to just happen?

5) Cooperative or Joint-Venture Referrals: This can pay off nicely. For example, assume you provide answering services to attorneys and the instant printer up the street offers document printing with delivery to smaller law firms. Each of you creates a special-offer flyer. The printer includes your flyer in each boxed order being delivered. You include his as a billing stuffer or newsletter insert. Each flyer offers a special deal; your flyer offers a special introductory rate because the law firm is one of the printer’s customers.

6) New Leads: Even though this generally provides the lowest return on your marketing investment, most small businesses usually put all their marketing money here. Now, if you’re just starting up, you have no choice but to invest in lead generation. However, when you’re a mature business and possess developed programs for selling more to existing clients, reclaiming past clients, proper follow-up with prospects, an active referrals program, and co-op arrangements, then your costs for new-prospect lead generation will be smaller. New lead-generation is simply an additional source of clients.

The bottom line: Put your money where your best prospects are. It pays.

Arthur Cronos ran Network Answering Service in San Francisco, then worked at Startel and wrote several books.

Telephone Answering Service News

Alston Tascom Promotes Richard Fung and David Wong
Alston Tascom promoted Richard Fung to general manager. Richard is a graduate of UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and has been with Alston Tascom for eighteen years. David Wong was promoted to director of engineering. David is a graduate of UCI (University of California Irvine), also with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. David has been with Alston Tascom for eleven years. “We thank both Richard and David for their many years of service, and we look forward to the exciting times ahead,” said Wayne Scaggs, Alston Tascom president.

Amtelco’s Introduces IS Mobile
Amtelco’s IS mobile app extends Amtelco’s IS (Intelligent Series) Web functionality to handheld devices, providing access to status, messages, directories, and on-call schedules. Users can view and update their status, read and send messages, access directory information, see on-call schedules, and request changes to on-call schedules. Users can also contact other users via a range of methods, including email, phone, miSecureMessages, SMS text messaging, pager, fax, and Vocera. The initial release of the IS mobile app supports version 7.0 and later of Apple’s iOS operating system for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices.

Amtelco’s Mobile App Developers
Amtelco welcomed two new members to its software team in 2013: Ellen Phillips and Robert Haworth. Both were instrumental in the development of the miSecureMessages (MSM) mobile apps and the new Intelligent Series (IS) Mobile app. They joined as interns while attending Madison Area Technical College (MATC) and were hired upon completing their degrees. Phillips, with a focus on Apple™ iOS development, and Haworth will work on mobile apps. To build upon this, MATC will provide Amtelco with an Android™ development intern during the spring 2014 semester.

Sound Telecom Launches New Website
Sound Telecom updated their website to provide an inviting, informative, and easy-to-use interface for customers and prospects. There were three goals for the new site: 1) remove industry jargon or corporate-speak, 2) present a crisp style that didn’t overwhelm users and was easy to navigate, and 3) work well with mobile phones and tablets. “The biggest challenge was taking the existing value in the old site and recreating it with a responsive design and content management system that gives Sound Telecom control of the site,” said Jason LaBaw, the site’s developer.

Quotes for the Month

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” -Mohandas K. Gandhi

“Better shun the bait than struggle in the snare.” -John Dryden

“With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.” -unknown

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