The May 2014 Issue of TAS Trader

Electronic Voice Services

The System’s Down

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

On Monday I called a vendor about my invoice. “I’m sorry,” the rep said, “but we’re doing an update, and I can’t access your records.”

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Given that they only operate sixty hours a week, doing an update in the middle of the day was strange timing. Evening would be a great time, and the weekend would be even better, but not in the midst of the busiest day of the week.

Then I realized the true meaning of her words: “The system’s down.”

I remember in the early 80s, switching from cordboards to a computerized TAS system. This was in the early days of computers, before many businesses had them and before many PCs existed.

On occasion we needed to tell clients the system was down. They reacted strongly to that, especially given the relative stability of cordboards and accessibility of handwritten messages. However, as more businesses installed computers and more people brought PCs into their home, the concept of a down computer became understood – and accepted.

I’ve heard the “doing an update” excuse a lot recently, but it’s been years since I heard “The system’s down.” I guess the euphemism of an “update” is less jarring than “We’re down.” An update sounds planned; a down system isn’t.

However, as much of the industry migrates to cloud-based solutions with monitored data centers, redundancy, backups, and controlled upgrades, the chance of being down or caught in the midst of an update decreases dramatically.

The new threat becomes a lost Internet connection. But I’m not sure what reason call centers will give for that problem, because if they also use VoIP, they won’t be able to tell callers anything.

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


Wealth Building with Your Answering Service, Part Two: Replace Yourself Using Systems

By Arthur Cronos

The second essential often overlooked by TAS owners is making their business capable of independent operation, instead of a series of activities requiring the owner’s personal skill set. This is important if you intend to someday sell the business and turn your years of work into a big payout.

If it all depends upon you, then the only thing you have to sell is you. On the other hand, if the business is a working system and makes money whether you’re there or not, then the business is a value-producing asset. This asset can be sold, allowing you to walk away with a profit.

So how do you create systems when you’ve been handling everything on your own? The basic process is time-consuming but simple:

  1. Break down all your activity into small “tasks.”
  2. Choose the simplest of the tasks, document what you do, and spell out a method that will produce the same result every time. Eliminate random results by defining the exact process that produces the exact results needed.
  3. Devise a way to quantify these results so the exact result is measured and verified. So far, it’s your task, and it may seem silly to measure yourself. But wait, there’s more.
  4. Now assign someone to do that task. Train them, and document the training so the training can be precisely repeated. Set them loose, and monitor the quantification to see if they’re producing the correct results.
  5. Getting variable results? Revise your procedure, documentation, quantification, and monitoring.

When you have that one task working right, you now have a system for that task – a system that includes a procedure, documentation, quantification, and monitoring. Now do the next task.

When all your tasks have been systematized and assigned, assign somebody to do the training and monitoring process, which should now become a system itself. Now you don’t have to work there anymore. Even better, you own a wealth-creation asset. It can be sold. Wealth can be pocketed. Wonderful!

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

Telephone Answering Service News

Robin Bailey Named One of Top 25 Entrepreneur Alumni
The National Alumni Society at the University of Alabama at Birmingham announced the winners of its UAB Excellence in Business, Top 25, Class of 2014. Robin Bailey, owner of Tuscaloosa-based The Legacy Connection, was one of the top twenty-five. The UAB Excellence in Business Top 25 award program identifies, recognizes, and celebrates the success of the top 25 UAB alumni-owned or UAB alumni-operated businesses. Ms. Bailey, a graduate of the Collat School of Business at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said, “When I think of the number of successful business owners who call UAB their alma mater, I am particularly honored.”

Szeto Secured Messages via Mobile Apps
To protect medical patient privacy and personal health information among medical professionals and answering services and to enhance features of its product to better support its customers, Szeto Technologies has developed its own mobile app, Central Secured, to ensure that messages transported via wireless mobile devices are secured for HIPAA compliance. The app is integrated into Szeto’s Call Linx TAS system. The service is also available to other call center platforms to ensure that messages are secured among end users and the answering services via an easy and simple API interface. Szeto’s mobile app is compatible with various types of market-available cell phones.

Professional Teledata Adds Skills-Based Routing to eConn IP-PBX Softswitch
Since their acquisition of the eOn product lines last July, Professional Teledata continues to offer enhancements. Most recently, they announced a software update to the eConn IP-PBX Softswitch to support skills-based routing (SBR). SBR is a call assignment strategy used to assign incoming calls to the most suitable agent instead of the next available agent. The need for SBR has risen as call centers have become larger and deal with a wider variety of calls. Skills-based routing “improves customer service, makes training shorter and easier, increases agent utilization and productivity, and even increases revenue,” stated Pat Kalik, president.

Telescan Spectrum Dialer
Telescan announced the release of Spectrum Dialer, a SIP-based outbound dialer that supports appointment reminders using imported CSV- or Excel-formatted call sheets. Once the calls are made and the responses are gathered, Spectrum Dialer automatically emails a summary report to the client showing the results of each person’s confirmation request. Spectrum Dialer is platform-independent, softswitch-based, and works with any call center system. With Spectrum Dialer, call centers can offer customers a cost-effective tool for appointment reminders with the ability to automatically route calls back to the call center for rescheduled appointments or cancellations.

Amtelco and the 2014 NAEO Conference
The 2014 National Amtelco Equipment Owners Conference took place in Dallas, Texas, March 11–13. Over 200 NAEO members attended the conference to learn and share their success using the Infinity system and other Amtelco products. Amtelco participated in the pre-conference activities by presenting an Amtelco University (AU) session and welcomed attendees to a reception on Tuesday evening. Kevin Beale, Amtelco’s vice president of R&D software, Greg Beale, Amtelco’s vice president of customer service, and Jody Laluzerne, customer service supervisor, all made presentations. Additionally, the Amtelco demo room was always full of attendees looking for more information and one-on-one demonstrations.

Quotes for the Month

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” -Elie Wiesel

“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.” -Jane Goodall

“When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.” -unknown

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