ATSI Learning by Association Sharing Award

By Donna West

Instituted in 2005, the Learning by Association (LBA) Award recognizes the contributions members make to one another on a daily basis. Recipients are well known for their generous spirit in sharing their insight and knowledge. ATSI members vote for those of their peers who have made significant contributions to the industry through their sharing of ideas, expertise, and experiences via the ATSI email discussion list.

Marcy Hewlett announced the LBA Award for Tom Gelbach of ACT Teleservices, in Newington, Connecticut. This is always done by reading a quote from an email shared by the recipient during the past year. Tom’s read:

Here is how I look at this issue. The lower your direct labor to revenues is the better, unless of course your charging three-fourths of what the competition is – in which case your labor costs should be higher as a percentage to provide comparable service.

However, if you are charging twenty-five percent more than your competition, you can afford more direct labor than your competition and still come in with the same percent cost of service. Handled properly, you can also afford more indirect labor to support and service your customer, operate a real quality control department, employ full-time techs, and still put more money in your pocket.

Developing the team also means you should be able to a have a real replacement for yourself already written down on paper and in the right-hand drawer of your desk who can take over when you retire or kick the bucket. It’s nice to think in terms of building a business that will outlive you without getting your kids (who may want to be writers, painters, or Indian chiefs) involved out of love or loyalty more than interest or inclination.

Gary Pudles was able to present this year’s award to Jannemieke Keener of Keener Communications in Glen Allen, Virginia, whose posted gem read:

I always thought 66 percent productivity was good in an inbound call center: That is forty minutes out of every sixty, and takes into account break times, training times, waiting for calls to ring, midnight shift volume, etc.

Our system allows us to charge for “agent work time.” This is the time that the full screen on an account is up, and therefore excludes hold time, but includes message checks, on call maintenance, pulling up actions, finishing/cleaning up a message after the conversation, figuring out who to reach, etc.,  etc. – it is far greater than talk time. If you just charge for talk time, you leave a lot of money on the table; you should at least charge a percentage for “wrap” time. (BTW, we have an automatic time-out in case an account was left up on a screen.)  It is also very fair: hang-ups, wrong numbers, etc., take a fraction of a minute, and less intensive accounts get charged much less as a result than more intense accounts.

Mari Osmon and Dee Hawkins presented the award to Gary Blair of Tele-Page, Montreal, Quebec, who shared the following wisdom:

Here’s a good story. We have always complemented our in-house training with outside seminars and courses in order to benefit from the “double whammy” effect.

Years ago, we had someone working in collections who, like most people in the firm at the time, received her training on the job. After a few months, we decided to send her to a one-day “collections” seminar. When she came in the next morning all she could say was, “You’ll never believe it, but you could have written the course!”

In the end, I could have repeated myself a hundred times, but once she heard the same story from another source and in a fancier training room than ours, it stuck, which was the desired effect. All to say that for anyone who is not using the industry supervisor training seminars, regardless of which group is offering them, you simply don’t know how much your center is missing out on.

Past LBA winners were:

  • 2008: Marcy Hewlett, Margo Weiss, and the team of Dee Hawkins, Mari Osmon, and Judy Vincent
  • 2007: Allan Fromm, Gary Pudles, and Donna West
  • 2006: Kevin Bachelder, Larry Goldenberg, and Dennis O’Hara
  • 2005: Paula Ford, Brian Gilmore, and Betty Porter

(Read more about the convention in Awards Recap.)

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2009]