An Interview with Darlene Campbell

This year’s ATSI President, Darlene Campbell, has had a busy and active schedule attending to her duties and pursuing her goals for the association. Connections Magazine caught her between trips for this update:

Connections Magazine: You’ve been busy traveling to various regional and user group meetings this year, how many trips will you have made by the end of your term?

Darlene Campbell: I will have made seventeen trips for ATSI.  On each one, I learn more about our industry.  I have made new friends and reconnected with others.  This has been energizing for me. There is a renewed interest in involvement in our industry as former members rejoin. Many individuals have asked how they may be involved.  I have taken advantage of offers to help and quickly placed volunteers on committees.

Connections: What have you learned over the past year?

Darlene: Our industry is changing and the pace is fast! If you are locked into the traditional answering service mindset, you will continue to make a living but revenues will be limited. My observations are that if you change your business profile and become Web-enabled, adding Interactive Voice Response and bilingual agents then your business will grow significantly.

We also need to consider outbound work. This does not have to be in the telemarketing venue that is considered distasteful. Take one piece of this business profile and move it until you are ready for the next step. Consider collaborating with others who share the same goals.

Connections: What projects have you advanced for ATSI?

Darlene: I have championed a public awareness of our industry through affinity programs with national non-profits. It is important, as business owners, to have corporate good citizenship. I know that many do so at their local level, but we need to look at a broader picture.

The members of ATSI desired a national public awareness of our industry and I considered this as my number one challenge as President. I took this seriously, seeking organizations I thought were a good fit for our membership. After September 11th, I felt that the community blood centers were the right place to start. Our businesses, by nature, are accustomed to handling emergency related calls. That is what we do! We just need to be prepared to handle these calls under extreme circumstances.

Connections: How have these initiatives been working out?

Darlene: Jim Mac Pherson, President of the American Blood Centers called me right after their recent annual board meeting to tell me that their board had unanimously decided to joint venture with ATSI. It is their desire that their offices all over the United States are prepared in the event of another disaster like that of September 11th. He knows they are not prepared now and would like our expertise in getting ready.

Connections: Has there been any resurgence in ATSI membership?

Darlene: Yes. I believe it is because we are committed to a national program of public awareness of our industry. Also, it is because our board of directors agreed to dip into our reserves to provide meaningful education programs.

Connections: What will be some convention highlights?

Darlene: ATSI developed a benchmarking program for the industry with the assistance of Opportunity, Inc. The benchmarking surveys were designed to have us examine every area of our business. Our answers will give our industry a baseline to build upon.

We knew that our industry does not measure every operations component in the same manner but Opportunity, Inc. considered that. It is the goal of ATSI to refine this process over time so we truly have a significant, meaningful benchmarking process.

As business owners, we know that our highest expense is labor. Convention attendees will have the opportunity to look at tools that will assist with the hiring process, the scheduling process, and ultimately better control this highest outlay of capitol. We have new vendors presenting at the convention this year to assist with this goal.

Networking is still one of the greatest benefits of convention attendance. It is difficult to place value on this. Personally, I consider networking to be one of the greatest reasons to attend the convention.

Connections: What are your closing thoughts?

Darlene: I am honored to have represented ATSI this year as President. I have learned much about our industry. The most significant thing is the sharing of information among the members. The exchange of ideas is invaluable.

Our members have conveyed to me that we are all in the same business. “We just do it differently depending upon locale and culture.” Their attitude is “there is enough business out there for all of us.”

I look forward to seeing everyone at the ATSI Convention, July 10th through 13th.

[From Connection MagazineApril 2002]

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