On September 2, 2015, Professional Teledata and Startel Corporation announced that the two companies had merged. While news of the merger may have come as a surprise to the telephone answering service industry, it was a natural fit for two of the industry’s leading providers.
From the Beginning: Allen Kalik, Pat Kalik, Jim Graham, and Dale Schafer started Professional Inbound in the early 1990s. The first PI-2000 Order Entry system was delivered soon after at the 1993 ATSI Convention in Chicago, where it made an instant impact on the industry. Within a few years, there were more than a hundred PI-2000 systems across North America, and Professional Inbound had over four hundred employees.
At this same time Alan Hartmann was developing the B/CS billing program – predecessor to today’s Total Billing System (TBS) – with his team at Tele-Data Systems. In addition to the billing system, Tele-Data Systems also created waves in the industry in the early 1990s with the introduction of the Fax Message Delivery System (FMDS). In the years that followed, more than four hundred billing systems and six hundred FMDS systems were installed across four continents.
In 1997 Professional Inbound and Tele-Data Systems merged to create Professional Teledata. Since the merger, and with the success of their existing and new solutions (including the PInnacle TAS platform, PI-2000 Order Entry system, FMDS, TBS, and the PInnacle Freedom hosted platform), Professional Teledata has evolved into an industry leader. Since then they have successfully attracted high-quality, committed professionals and invested in their training, development, and growth. As a result the company has experienced steady growth over the past several decades.
For its part Startel has been providing telephone answering services, contact centers, government agencies, healthcare systems, insurance, and utility companies with contact center solutions and services since 1980. Their customers depend on Startel’s services and solutions, including the Contact Management Center and the Startel soft switch, to increase business efficiencies, identify performance opportunities, and deliver quick and secure communications 24/7. Today Startel has customers in forty-three states in the United States as well as in Canada, New Zealand, and Switzerland.
In 1985 Tele-Data Systems and Startel began serving many of the same telephone answering service customers when users of the Startel platform began utilizing Tele-Data System’s B/CS billing solution. Thirty years later Professional Teledata and Startel have officially combined to create a larger, stronger, more diversified company with a broader array of products and services.
How You Benefit: Professional Teledata and Startel believe this merger is a win-win for both organizations, as well as for their combined customer base and the entire industry. While this sounds great, you’re probably asking, “How does this merger benefit me? Why do I care?” Here are some reasons why:
1) Expanded and More Comprehensive Solution Offerings: The synergy of joining forces expands the combined company’s product offerings. It also allows them to go after broader markets and better challenge their competitors, forcing everyone to step up their game. While Professional Teledata and Startel intend to continue to support each company’s respective products, services, and software, users of each company’s premise-based and hosted platforms will soon be able to benefit from:
- Commercial Grade SMS: Professional Teledata is taking advantage of Startel’s commercial grade SMS solution to offer its users a new SMS solution developed specifically for high-volume, high-availability usage. Throughput and availability are achieved by maintaining direct connections to major wireless carriers, not subject to rate limits, monthly usage thresholds, or cell towers. Instead users can easily and reliably exchange messages each month without worrying about service interruptions or rate limiting. This allows you to focus on growing your business, not managing your SMS provider. Other benefits of Professional Teledata’s new SMS solution are complete mobility, ease of use and implementation, and lower total cost of ownership for comparable services.
- Coast-to-Coast Disaster Recovery: Each company’s hosted platforms are being replicated to provide users with coast-to-coast disaster recovery. By replicating their hosted systems, the companies will be able to ensure greater resiliency and reliability.
- Tighter Integrations: With the combined development resources of both companies, Startel users now can expect to see a tighter integration with the TBS billing system. In turn, Professional Teledata users will soon benefit from integration with Startel’s Soft Fax solution and will be able to use virtualized fax servers.
2) Best-in-Class Service: Delivering the best service experience in the business is the objective of the new merger. Professional Teledata and Startel are fully committed to taking customer service to the next level and have already made strides with some recent changes:
- In October Professional Teledata promoted Mike Antognetti, a tech support specialist, to technical support manager. This well-earned promotion will result in even better service for Professional Teledata customers as Mike implements his vision across the entire spectrum of Professional Teledata product lines.
- Cross training of each company’s respective products kicked off for employees in November.
- Starting in 2016 new customers that migrate from competing platforms to Professional Teledata’s PInnacle and Startel’s Contact Management Center systems will benefit from free data conversion services from both companies.
The combined company looks forward to expanding its customer service availability. With offices located in Irvine, California, and Manchester, New Hampshire, customers can look forward to greater service availability.
3) Tenured Management Team: Combining companies adds a breadth of knowledge and experience to the senior management team. The new team, which collectively has over 117 years of industry experience, is made up of Pat Kalik (director of customer relations and director of New Hampshire HR), Alan Hartmann (director of software development), James Graham (director of special operations), William Lane (president and CEO), Georgia Thompson (controller), Margaret Lally (senior director of operations and technical services), and Rachel Sauerbrey (director of marketing). Lane oversees the senior management team as well as the combined company as president and CEO.
What’s Next? Professional Teledata and Startel are working hard to combine the innovation, development, and operational excellence of both companies for the betterment of its users as well as the marketplace. Together the companies look forward to providing new products and services in the future.
[From Connection Magazine – January/February 2016]