Everyone Wants to Improve, Yet Few Are Willing to Change

By Wayne Scaggs

The title of this article may be a broad statement, and most of us say we are willing to change, including me. When we look back over the last few years, we all can point to many things we have changed – some are because we wanted to change and some because we had to change. The real question is, “Was that a change you made to improve or just to maintain?”

Our industry is experiencing many doors closing due to technology, such as operator-less answering services (a fancy way of saying glorified voicemail systems), small IP-based phone systems with follow-me service, bringing work in-house that used to be the job of the answering service, the downturn in the economy, and so on. Many things seem to be chipping away at your customer base.

However, the same technology that threatens us on one hand rewards us on the other. You may lose customers because they no longer need live agents; their customers are willing to call a cell phone or send an email. As an industry we have embraced all this technology in hopes of keeping the customer.

What is new technology doing to us – or for us? One change is the move from an answering service to an information center. This is not just a name change; it is also a mental shift, moving out of your comfort zone a little to service a different customer with what you already have. This is nothing new. You already have accounts that don’t consider you an answering service; they think of you as an integral part of their business.

SIP and cloud-based technologies are both threats and opportunities; what matters is how you choose to deal with them. These are logical next steps for our industry’s technology. Travel with me to a time before I knew what telephone answering service was. There were people answering phones in their homes on lines tied to a doctor’s line; the operator answered the doctor’s phone and wrote down the messages. This technology then progressed to the line concentrator. Next came call forwarding, DID numbers, and voicemail. We wondered how answering services were going to survive. Well, we did survive – and did so very well.

PRIs took over DID trunks, as we talked about digital voice and digitizing information. Much of what we dreamed about in years past is here today. It may look a little different, feel a little different, and sometimes make you uncomfortable.

So what are you going to do about it? How do you provide more and better services? Think about cloud-based technology, which has brought us social media. Businesses not engaged in some form of social media are missing potential business. This opportunity poses new questions. Are you engaged in social media? Do you see the possibility of managing a company’s social media instead of answering their phone calls? How long will it be before one of your prospects asks you, “Can you manage my social media?”

Change continues to both challenge us and provide opportunity. Let’s keep moving forward.

Wayne Scaggs is president of Alston Tascom, Inc., which offers premised-based and hosted contact center solutions.

[From Connection Magazine December 2012]