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Amtelco Celebrates miSecureMessages App 10th Anniversary


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Amtelco announced the 10-year anniversary and continued growth of miSecureMessages, their secure messaging app. MiSecureMessages was built specifically to deliver HIPAA compliant text messages and meets the strict HIPAA and HITECH privacy and security standards of the healthcare industry. However, many industries outside of the healthcare sector have also found miSecureMessages to be a valuable encrypted messenger solution as well. 

MiSecureMessages’ tenth anniversary is occurring during unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the considerable importance of maintaining personal space while communicating with co-workers. 

“MiSecureMessages is more than just an encrypted texting app,” said Gary Kerner, director of sales. “Our app is an integral part of a complete secure messaging system that can integrate with other systems. MiSecureMessages provides call centers and corporate teams with a solution to easily share texts, photos, audio files, and videos for their confidential communications.”

The app also reduces the number of devices employees need to carry because BYOD (bring your own device) security is built in. MiSecureMessages is securely siloed from other messaging platforms like email and SMS.

In a few months, miSecureMessages will issue an app update to version 6.8, which will offer customers new capabilities and enhanced app performance. MiSecureMessages works on mobile phones, smartwatches, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. It’s available for Android™ and Apple® iOS devices.

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For more information visit miSecureMessages.com and Amtelco.com

Chris Grothe Joins Quality Contact Solutions as VP of Operations



Quality Contact Solutions, Inc (QCS) announced that Chris Grothe has joined the organization as vice president of operations. Grothe is responsible for driving business performance and ensuring clients achieve their business process outsourcing (BPO) goals. 

Before joining the QCS team, Grothe racked up nearly three decades of call center and telemarketing services industry experience. Throughout his extensive career his passion for identifying opportunities and executing new strategies within an outsourced call center setting has fueled his success. In addition, Grothe has key experience in leading organizational change initiatives. As a telemarketing services professional, Grothe has immersed himself in the servant leadership philosophy and prioritizes removing obstacles that may hinder his team’s success.

“We are thrilled to have Chris join our team. He’s a skilled leader and is a great fit for the hungry, humble, smart culture we’ve built,” said Angela Garfinkel, president and founder of Quality Contact Solutions. “With his record of successful organizational development, operations improvement, and change management, Chris perfectly complements our talented leadership team.” 

Grothe is excited to make an impact. “I’ve been impressed with the tremendous ownership, effort, and passion from the entire QCS team,” Grothe noted. “When it comes to executing client programs, the team is persistent and works with urgency to achieve objectives and goals. It is my intent to ensure we continue to leverage the vast talent and knowledge we have as a company and to position the QCS operations team and our owner-operator partners for continued success.”

Quality Contact Solutions (QCS) is a certified woman-owned business enterprise and an industry leader in call center and telemarketing services solutions, including B2B and B2C programs. QCS offers many telemarketing services including outsourced sales, upsell, cross-sell, surveys, lead generation, sales lead qualification, appointment setting, inside sales, and inbound customer service. The QCS expertise resides in providing turnkey outsourced call center services that augments sales and marketing programs across a variety of industries. 

January 2021 Issue of Connections Magazine

The January 2021 Issue of Connections Magazine, covering call centers and the teleservice industry

Feature Content:

January 2021

Telesales Best Practices: Three Tips to Improve Telesales Training by Angela Garfinkel
Do you want better telesales results? Put these three training tips into practice to produce better outcomes. . . . read more >>

From the Publisher: Welcome to Connections Magazine 3.0, by Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
The call center industry will help our world successfully embrace what lies before us. And Connections Magazine will be there every step. . . . read more >>

Improve Hiring Results with Blind Auditions by Donna West
If you desire employee longevity for your call center, seek nontraditional applicants who appreciate the opportunity to work from home. . . . read more >>

2020 Contact Center Retrospective by Donna Fluss
To move thoughtfully into the digital future, embrace these six positive megatrends that emerged during the past year. . . . read more >>

How AI-Powered Technologies Can Help Reduce Contact Center Agent Burnout by Seb Reeve
Discover how AI-powered technologies and tools can reduce agent burnout, which will contribute to a healthier bottom line. . . . read more >>

Ten Years Ago: Using Incentives in the Contact Center: Five Tips for Success by Peggy Carlaw
Here are five tips to keep in mind when you’re creating a new incentive program or overhauling an existing one. . . . read more >>

Twenty Years Ago: Due Diligence Check List: Don’t Get Nipped in the Bud, by Lisa Olson
Don’t overlook these insider tips when purchasing a company. . . . read more >>

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Industry News

Send us your call center news for consideration in the next issue of Connections Magazine.

About Connections Magazine 

Connections Magazine is the premier publication for the call center industry, providing news and information for call centers, sent at no cost to qualified readers at call centers, contact centers, teleservice agencies, phone answering services, and telemessaging companies.

For more information, email Peter DeHaan

Welcome to Connections Magazine 3.0

Read Connections Magazine Anywhere You Have Internet Access

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections Magazine

As announced last year, the January 2021 issue of Connections Magazine marks an exciting turning point for us. Following a long-standing industry trend, Connections Magazine is now exclusively an online e-publication. We’ve gone all digital.

This means you can access all our content—articles, industry news, vendor intelligence, and association information—anytime, anywhere you have internet access. Read Connections on your computer, laptop, smart phone, tablet, or any other internet-connected device.

To get you started, here are some links to key sections on our website:

We’ve already successfully navigated this transition with our sister publication, AnswerStat, in becoming an e-publication in 2016. Since that time, AnswerStat has continued its mission of being the information hub for the healthcare contact center industry.

We now seek to build upon this history of accomplishment with Connections Magazine.

Advertiser Supported and Free to You

Throughout our 28-year history, Connections Magazine has been an advertiser supported publication. What’s this mean? Quite simply that our sponsors and advertisers provide the funds to produce each issue.

Thanks to them, you’ve always been able to read Connections Magazine for free and will be able to continue to do so. 

We will have no paid subscriptions, and we won’t hide the information you need behind a paywall. It’s readily available for you and all the industry to read. 

Every vendor and association listed on this website helps make Connections Magazine possible. Key among these are our valued sponsors:

Our other advertisers include TASbiller, CenturiSoft, Call Centre Hosting, Alliant, and Quality Contact Solutions

Please join me in thanking each one of them for doing their part to maintain Connections Magazine as a valued industry resource and to serve the call center industry.

A Milestone

Besides my excitement over transitioning Connections Magazine to a 100 percent e-publication, this year will see another landmark moment for me.

In August, I will have completed twenty years at the helm of this publication and as president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc. It’s been a fun and invigorating, albeit at times challenging, adventure. I look forward to many more years of providing you with valuable, actionable, and helpful industry information.

In addition to Connections Magazine, I also produce TAS Trader for the telephone answering service industry and AnswerStat and Medical call Center News for healthcare call centers. These are also advertiser-supported publications, made free to readers.

A New Year

I can’t conclude this column without noting the passage of another year. Last year was indeed challenging for everyone. Lockdowns, restricted mobility, and social distancing shoved our world into an unprecedented time of confusion and perplexing thoughts.

The call center industry, however, found itself well-positioned to provide essential and safe communication between businesses and their customers. I’m proud to be part of such a resilient and indispensable industry that did much to help us navigate what last year threw at us.

Though turning the calendar to a new year does not return us to business as normal, it marks the opportunity to move forward and embrace a new future with new opportunities. I am confident that the call center industry will help our world successfully embrace what lies before us.

And Connections Magazine will be there every step of the way.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.  Read more of his articles at PeterDeHaanPublishing.com.

Telesales Best Practices: Three Tips to Improve Telesales Training

By Angela Garfinkel

When it comes to telesales best practices, evaluating your training program is typically at the top of the to-do list. Telesales training can be painful, both for the trainees and for the trainer. Why is this? Primarily because the training is typically not that effective. 

Here are three ideas that will immediately improve your telesales training.

1. Intersperse Classroom Training with Hands-On Practice

Telesales training should not be jammed into a condensed schedule, racing from one module to the next. Telesales training is best conducted with a thoughtful blend of classroom training and hands-on experience. When it comes to telesales best practices, I’m an advocate for training 20 percent of the product knowledge and then giving the team some practice with some low value leads. People will not successfully retain all the product knowledge, market positioning, and benefits of your product or service when they don’t get a chance to practice and use what they have learned. 

Ideally, training follows a schedule like this:

  • Day 1: Classroom training on the first 20 percent of the training curriculum.
  • Day 2: Practice with live leads. Pair trainers to cut down on burning through your list with unskilled sales presentations. One sales rep does the talking, and the other sales rep does the call guide navigation and data entry.
  • Day 3: Classroom training on the next 20 percent of the training curriculum.
  • Day 4: Practice with live leads and set some realistic stair-step goals to master and implement the first 40 percent of the information trained.
  • Day 5: Classroom training for half the day with the next 20 percent of the training curriculum. Then spend the second half of the day with live calls.
  • Day 6: Classroom training for half the day with the next 20 percent of the training curriculum. Then spend the second half of the day with live calls.
  • Day 7: Classroom training for half the day with the final 20 percent of the training curriculum and tying it all together.
  • Day 8: Graduation from training.
Telesales training is best conducted with a thoughtful blend of classroom training and hands-on experience. Click To Tweet

2. Implement a Training Graduation Bonus

Pay a reward after finishing training and completing a skills assessment certification. This is particularly important if the team is comprised of new hires. Telesales representatives are motivated by money. Pay them a smaller hourly wage for training hours and then offer a bonus for successful completion of training. This includes perfect attendance and skills assessments tests. 

By pairing the training compensation to an end goal—as opposed to just a flat compensation for their hours—the telesales team members will be motivated to attend all training sessions and prepare for the required certifications. This will also cut down on the people that say, “I’ll try this job, and if it doesn’t work out, I don’t have anything to lose.” 

When it comes to telesales best practices, you want people to opt-in for the opportunity to have a high chance of earning the bonus. I recommend the bonus should be 30 to 50 percent of the minimum hourly rate you pay for a training class hour.

3. Integrate the “Why” into the Training

Why do we say the things we say? What is the psychology behind the words? How does the product or service make the world a better place? What is the potential customer missing out on by saying “no” to our call? 

As a telesales best practice, I recommend that you do the deep work to identify the “why” in your training curriculum. Start with answering these questions.

  • Why does the client and product exist?
  • Why do we pitch the product/solution the way we do?
  • Why does this product or service matter?
  • Why should a prospect take our call and listen to us?
  • Why should a gatekeeper provide us with access to the decision-maker?

Put these three training tips into practice to produce better telesales results.

Angela Garfinkel is the president and founder of Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing services organization. She leads a talented team that runs thousands of outbound telemarketing program hours daily. Angela can be reached at angela.garfinkel@qualitycontactsolutions.com or 516-656-5118.

Improve Hiring Results with Blind Auditions

By Donna West

Anyone who has ever seen The Voice knows blind auditions are often surprising. The audience knows that the very big voice is coming out of that very tiny girl, but the experts don’t. The guy with the shaggy looks might have the voice of an angel. The blind audition wipes out all prejudices and concentrates on what is important—in this case, the voice.

Dismissing Qualified Candidates 

In all areas of life and work we form opinions about the people we meet as soon as we see them. This occurs before they ever open their mouths. We often miss many excellent job candidates because their appearance sets them up for failure. Their clothes might be untidy or inappropriate. They may need a haircut or wear dreadlocks. Or they have piercings that give the interviewer a bad impression. 

We’re programmed by our own backgrounds and experiences to reject as unworthy some of the styles that others embrace. And it is certainly the prerogative of every employer to choose the culture they want in their business. 

That said, do we unintentionally disregard candidates who are eminently qualified to work in our answering services and contact centers? A friend will not hire anyone who has visible tattoos. Another person abbreviates interviews they consider a waste of time because the applicant is wearing jeans and deemed “not serious” about work. A nervous interviewee may not make eye contact and we disqualify them.

A Shrinking Labor Market

In a world where job candidates are dwindling, despite (or perhaps because of) unemployment, many businesses may stand to improve hiring processes by implementing blind auditions. The jobs offered by an answering service can be perfect for people whom society deems a misfit for whatever social reason. 

We can find the skills we need in people who choose video games as their passion, who wear neon nail polish—a different color on each finger—prefer green hair, or who have gauges in their ears and tattoos up their necks. 

Our industry can offer remote work to people who are afraid to leave their homes or can’t sit for hours at a time as in a typical office job. We can offer split shifts and uncommon schedules. We should let our agents’ compassion, their understanding, and their voices drive our hiring decisions. We should listen and judge our candidates’ attributes by how they could benefit our callers’ needs. 

If we strive to hire people who are computer literate and caring, the guy who tries to eke out a living by streaming live on YouTube might be the perfect candidate. Or the soldier with mild PTSD. Or the mom with kids at home who still needs an income. Our jobs are comparable to waitressing for an actress. Ours is the perfect reality job for those who are trying to live the dream or waking up from the nightmare.

If we seek employee longevity, let’s regularly seek nontraditional applicants who might offer a symbiotic relationship: someone sweet-natured who knows their way around a keyboard. Someone who appreciates the opportunity to work from home and live their life according to their own vision. 

Donna West is president of Focus Answering Service, which she founded in 1987. She began her second company, Business Calls, Inc., specializing in education and communication for the TAS industry two decades ago. She is a pioneer and thought leader, an award-winning speaker, writer, and educator within the telecommunications service arena. 

2020 Contact Center Retrospective

By Donna Fluss

What an amazing year 2020 was. We’ve never seen anything like it and hope we won’t again. Despite all the challenges, a lot of good things happened, including in the world of contact center. Here are six positive mega trends that emerged during the dark hours of the pandemic. All these developments are here to stay and will continue to play a key role in contact centers for the near future:

1. Work-from Home

When the pandemic hit country after country, many companies were ordered by their governments to close their offices. Contact centers were some of the most successful in getting their employees home and back to work. Contact centers all over the world, those with anywhere from ten to thousands of agents, demonstrated their flexibility and agility, along with the amazing commitment of their employees by being there for their customers.

2. Shift from Traditional Retail to Ecommerce

The world has gone virtual. Anything that can be done virtually, including things most people thought highly unlikely, like doctor’s appointments, has moved to the web or video. The need to socially distance has driven people and organizations to be highly creative as they figured out how to make the best out of demanding situations. 

The need to socially distance has driven people and organizations to be highly creative as they figured out how to make the best out of demanding situations.  Click To Tweet

Retail organizations have taken a major hit. Many retailers, particularly those that could not respond quickly enough to the increasingly virtual world, have gone bankrupt. Store traffic is down and unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels for years. The transition to the web is not unexpected, but the demise of many of the traditional retailers was accelerated by the pandemic. 

3. Digital Transformation

After years of talking about digital transformations, companies are being forced to do what they should have done years ago. They are building out digital channels to address the needs of their customers. Though consumers are expressing an increasing preference for interacting in these channels, voice calls are not going away. However, they are increasingly viewed as the channel of last resort. Digital transformations are proving highly beneficial for customers, companies, and their employees. 

4. Artificial Intelligence-based Self-Service Capabilities

Self-service has become the channel of choice for customers in many countries, as surprising as it seems. Customers increasingly prefer to interact with effective self-service solutions that allow them to take care of their business without the assistance of live agents. 

Artificial intelligence (AI)-based conversational systems are automating and speeding up the handling of all kinds of interactions. The key to success, however, remains being able to connect with a live agent, when necessary. 

5. Automation Solutions

Intelligent virtual agents (IVAs), virtual agents (VAs), robotic process automation (RPA), and workflow have emerged as essential enablers for enterprises. These solutions automate activities and tasks that do not require the cognitive capabilities or decision-making intelligence of live employees. These concepts have been around for years, but what is new is the ease with which they can be applied to all types of business challenges. 

These solutions allow companies and government agencies to reduce dependence on outsourcers by eliminating the human element in low-value tasks previously handled by mostly low-wage workers. The benefits for enterprises are clear, as is the opportunity that these solutions are creating for much higher-level employment opportunities. 

6. Analytics-Enabled Quality Management

After over fifty years of performing quality management (QM) the same way, which was highly people-intensive, even when supported by an application, AI-enabled speech analytics is now able to automate and greatly improve the process. Analytics-Enabled Quality Management (AQM) solutions are game changers for companies. They can now “listen” to 100 percent of their voice and digital interactions to gain an understanding of why people contact them and see which of their automated and live agents are doing a good job in handling the interactions and where changes are needed. 

AQM also reduces dependence on manual QM processes, which have not been effective for the last five-plus years because companies could not afford to properly staff this function as contact volumes increased. AQM was important before the pandemic forced employees’ home to work, and it has become mission-critical for contact center employees and other functions since then. 

Bottom Line

The pandemic has changed the world as we know it, but many of these changes are good and will have positive and lasting benefits for society, companies, customers, and employees. AI and automation are the common themes in these six megatrends. 

The pandemic accelerated their rollout but not their viability. The companies that are going to come out of the pandemic well-positioned to succeed in whatever the new normal looks like are those that are taking the actions needed to move thoughtfully into the digital future.

Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting LLC. For more than two decades she has helped emerging and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary, author, and speaker, Donna drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the services industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community. 

How AI-Powered Technologies Can Help Reduce Contact Center Agent Burnout

By Seb Reeve

The global pandemic has put more pressure than ever on every one of us. Healthcare workers face untold challenges in treating patients, and not just those who become sick with COVID-19. Grocery store, delivery, and restaurant workers, now rightfully seen as the essential workers they are, must overcome their own fears and risks as they continue to work through a crisis. Contact center and office workers now work from home, trying to balance the demands of their careers with the demands of their families, many of whom are now schooling from home too. 

And as more consumers shift their typically in-person interactions into more virtual and online spaces, the changes have likewise put more pressure on contact center agents to respond to a rising number of calls in an uncertain environment. Working in these high-stress environments—in combination with longer working hours—means many agents are at risk for burnout.

Burnout Basics

Burnout, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a “special type of work-related stress,” marked by physical and emotional exhaustion, a sense of reduced accomplishment, reduced productivity and effectiveness on the job, and even dramatic consequences for overall health and wellbeing. 

From a business perspective, agent burnout often leads to turnover, which is extraordinarily expensive, often about 20 percent of the employee’s salary. In an industry with turnover ranging from 30-45 percent, preventing burnout is not simply good for people, it’s good for business.

Preventing burnout is incumbent on all of us. It can start with small, people-first strategies, such as encouraging teams to disconnect and recharge, as improving communication and feedback, and managing workloads to ensure they’re within appropriate boundaries. 

Investing in technology platforms can go a long way toward supporting agents and helping to prevent burnout. Providing the tools and technologies that help everyone do their job better will not only optimize employee workloads, but it can also alleviate the stressors that contribute to burnout. It’s also worth considering which technology platforms no longer serve agents or the organizational vision, and instead add unnecessarily to agent workflows on a day-to-day basis.

Technologies That Alleviate Burnout Stressors

Today’s contact centers can choose from a range of technologies that help agents do their jobs better and more efficiently. For example, artificial-intelligence-powered solutions such as virtual assistants can shorten call handling times by engaging a broader audience and answering repetitive questions. With a digital, automated interface, the virtual assistant can engage callers in natural conversation—either via voice or text—to respond to requests and answer questions with personalized responses in a self-service environment. When a live agent is needed, the virtual assistant uses skills-based routing to deliver the caller to the best agent to handle their issue.

Enabling the virtual assistant not only delivers prompt, live assistance to customers, it frees agents to handle the more complex, high-value calls that matter most and are most meaningful.

Similarly, automated customer service messaging platforms can help engage customers, providing immediate answers to their inquiries, again while alleviating the burden on live contact center agents. Proactive notifications built into these platforms can deflect the number of inbound calls to a call center, which has the added benefit of supporting customer service efforts. 

Preventing Burnout

AI-powered technologies also provide the analytics and reporting to improve live engagements and deliver frustration-free customer experiences. Analyzing 100 percent of call center customer interactions provides visibility into trends, outliers, and opportunities to build, train, and coach a high-performing contact center team—one that’s free from many of the stressors that can contribute to burnout. 

Beyond supporting agents with AI-powered technologies and tools that can reduce burnout, these solutions can contribute to a healthier bottom line—from improved customer service and digital experiences to reduced employee turnover. 

Seb Reeve is the Market Development VP at Nuance Communications.

Amtelco’s Soft Agent Transforms Agent Experience

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Soft Agent now rated “Avaya compliant”

Amtelco announced that its Soft Agent application version 5.4 is compliant with key Avaya OneCloud™ CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) solutions–helping customers optimize the agent experience by turning any personal computer into a professional telephone agent station. Avaya is a global leader in solutions that enhance and simplify communications and collaboration.

Amtelco helps customers simplify and optimize their contact center operations with solutions like Soft Agent that can be integrated with both hard-wired legacy systems and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) based Voice Over IP (VoIP) networks. The backbone of the Soft Agent application is the Amtelco Sandbox, a single-point-of-entry solution that provides agents with the most current information possible to process calls and use that information to quickly resolve customer inquiries. The application is compliance-tested by Avaya for compatibility with the Avaya Aura® platform 8.1.

“We are excited that this latest release of our Soft Agent application has successfully completed Avaya DevConnect compliance testing,” said Tom Curtin, president, Amtelco. “Our mutual customers can confidently deploy Soft Agent with their Avaya OneCloud CCaaS solutions, helping them uncover new possibilities for getting more out of their communications infrastructure.”  

Amtelco is a leading supplier with more than 40 years of communication technologies and software communications applications.

November/December 2020 Issue of Connections Magazine

The November/December 2020 Issue of Connections Magazine, covering call centers and the teleservice industry

Read these articles online:

November 2020