Category Archives: News

Tim Searcy Keynote of the ATSI Convention and Expo

Representing ATA, Tim Searcy gave the keynote address at the 2008 ATSI Convention and Expo on June 19 in St. Louis Missouri.  He opened the convention with an insightful presentation entitled: “Futurecast for the Teleservices Industry.”  Tim shared that, as an industry, we are at a fork in the road.  (He had a great graphic in his PowerPoint presentation to re-enforce this point.)  The two options ahead of us go in diverging directions; the path we choose could very well pave way towards either success or failure.  Some of his candid and interesting comments included:

  • Of all communication channels available, 64 percent of interaction is via the telephone.
  • The benefit of focusing on high-quality service versus low-cost service is a much higher retention of clients.
  • An added bonus of focusing on quality is improved agent retention.  This is because agents experience greater job satisfied when they are actually allowed to do what they were hired to do — help callers.
  • Despite a huge decrease in outbound calling and much of the world’s communication shifting to the Internet, call center telephone traffic has not decreased, but has actually remained flat.  This development is counterintuitive, but, nonetheless, welcome news.
  • Offshoring will begin to settle.  This is due to customer backlash against difficult to understand agents and a weakening U.S. dollar.
  • Other countries are actually offshoring to the U.S. to save money or achieve quality.
  • Since clients will complain regardless of what rates they are charged, call centers are advised to charge a premium price (and provide quality service).  That strategy is being used by some of the largest and most successful teleservices call centers in the United States.

In concluding his presentation, Tim offered this summary of key concepts:

1.  Outsourcing is growing.
2.  Live agents are key.
3.  There will be more emphasis placed on the phone.
4.  Consumers will determine the future.
5.  Ignore regulations at your peril.

Some ATA members are also members of ATSI.  ATSI, the Association of Teleservices International, is a trade association, begun in 1942 to support the then nascent telephone answering service industry.  Much has changed in the 66 years since then.  Today, virtually all viable answering services process calls on sophisticated computerized switching systems, type caller information into computer databases, and rely on programmed speed dialing and automated dispatching to relay information to their clients.

The telephone answering service industry is currently undergoing a wave of consolidation, as larger, more technically astute and well-managed centers buy smaller, less able players.  Another reason for consolidation is that, historically, answering services are family-run operations.  Aging owners, who do not have family members interested in taking over the business, view selling their answering service as the most viable and profitable exit strategy.

Another development in the telephone answering service industry is that many are pursuing diversification strategies by offering other types of call processing services.  These include order-taking, ad response, first-level help desk, class registrations, and appointment setting.  The modern telephone answering services’ current level telephony infrastructure and technological sophistication have nicely positioned them to pursue and embrace these types of services.

Given the evolving state of the telephone answering service industry to more fully embrace the teleservice industry, there are interesting synergistic opportunities between ATA and ATSI.

[Posted by Peter DeHaan for Connections Magazine, a contact center publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]

2008 ATSI Convention Summary by Donna West

This was a jam-packed conference and every session I attended was a huge success.  Here are some of my opinions and observations about this great conference.  These are from my meager notes not from the CDs.
I always buy the CDs even though I’m there, because that way I don’t have to take notes or worry about the sessions I couldn’t attend.  I share them with all of my senior employees and they always “hear” something I missed.  They are necessary to my company!  By the way we gave Scott Argo a plaque for his 28 years of service to ATSI!

The first Keynote Speaker was Tim Searcy of the ATA — now the American Teleservices Association rather than Telemarketing.  He gave some great statistics about our industry.  He also shared some information on lobbying that made me extremely glad that we have a man of Dave Wenhold’s integrity at the helm of our lobbying efforts.

Stats — in 2007 there were approximately 354,000 people working remotely in the Teleservices industry.  This included inbound and outbound.

68.4% of interactions are handles by people versus automation.  Easy access to a person from an automated menu was the top concern of 88% of consumers.

My own side note, which I will share — Don’t offer free programming as a new customer perk, offer programming “at cost.”  Programming is going to become a more and more important thing as we script more and more new accounts, or add reporting capabilities.

Casey Smit stated that this is the “Tear of the Leader” at CAM-X, and shared more information on the upcoming convention at Deerhurst in Huntsville, Ontario

Marty Weems spoke on remote agents and legal issues.  He was wonderful, as always, and we didn’t let him get to the end of his presentation — again!  I did note that we need to add to our own remote agreement that we must have a specific training session regarding working from home, (rather than just having an agreement — which is also a must).  We need to emphasis the remote employees equipment must face away from public areas so that no one can see the screens or overhear conversations.  I do not want to personally inspect my remote agent’s homes, so I am going to ask for photos of their work area and a signed statement that they understand the privacy and HIPAA requirements.  OSHA does not require home inspection of the remote agent’s worksite, but that may not stop the employee from making a workers comp claim.

We should also have our remote agents sign a statement that they are responsible for paying their electric and cable/phone bills on time so as not to chance interruption.  We can fire them if they do not.  If you don’t what to buy all the CDs — just be sure you buy this one if you have or are planning to have remote agents.
We also touched on sending bills by e-mail and fax and if you have your agreement printed on the back, be sure to send that also.

We can call our agreement a Contract and we can call money collected up front a non-interest bearing deposit rather than trying to collect first and last — which puts us at a disadvantage if a client is trying to get out of paying us.  Deposits are not taxed.

Beth Cooper and Ray Shaw did a yeoman’s job of talking about disaster planning and recovery, and site certification.  I did note that “Ray said, Go to the Public Insurance Adjuster prior to a disaster so they can review all of your insurance policies.  They will help you if you need to make a claim in the future — if you have a disaster call your insurance agent and call the public adjuster.  Your claims will be more likely to be paid properly without problems.

Finally, the first day we heard from Gary Pudles about the model contracts on the ATSI website.  There is terrific language in them that we should all be familiar with.  Please review them for yourself.  Some of what is listed under Marty above may actually have come from Gary, if so I apologize; I dropped my notes and may have mixed them up.

On Friday our keynote speaker was Doug Tatum who was absolutely fantastic.  His book, No Man’s Land, What to do when your company is Too Big to be small, but too Small to be Big — is recommended reading and should be required reading for us!  Again I recommend getting the CD because I didn’t take notes I simply sat and soaked it all in.  Many of us recognized ourselves in that in-between, and realized that we need to make some very smart decisions regarding our company growth.  This one session was worth the conference cost — and I for one wished he was an all day speaker.  (I believe he will be speaking at one of the regional meetings — get your reservation in early!)

The rest of the day consisted of break out sessions, and rather than describe the ones I went to, I’d encourage our membership to send in a brief synopsis of their presentation.

On Saturday our keynote speaker was Roger Pell of InMatrix who spoke on what we need to know about our financial data.  He explained the importance of being able to look ahead to see what effect our financial plans might have on our future growth.  From his examples it was clear that rapid growth could be devastating to your business, where as simple means — such as raising rates, lowering expenses, and collecting receivables even a few days sooner could easily net huge profit.  The key is knowing what to do.  Having a spreadsheet that will allow you to make assumptions and see how they will play out is essential to making good decisions in today’s high tech world.

Following Roger was an outstanding session on FUSF with Darlene Campbell, new Board member, Brian Gilmore, and Dave Wenhold, of Miller Wenhold, who gave clear insight into where we stand on the fight for a carve out for our industry, and who with other members, did some fantastic role playing that gave good ways to talk to our congressmen and women.  It was also a mini sales course in body language and making the sale.  Dave is a wonderful representative for us.

The Education Foundation Auction was a huge success and SO much fun.  Ryan Chinosky missed his calling he is a fabulous auctioneer!  The foundation event — a trip to the City museum was outstanding, I’m hoping someone who attended will share the highlights, there was a waiting list to attend and I did not get to go.
Your Board is going to execute a survey to members and non-members alike to find out what ATSI can do to earn more members and satisfy more members.

This is enough — did I mention that you really need to buy the CDs — there was SO much to learn and absorb, I know when I get them I’ll listen to them three times and still learn new things every time I hear them.

Hugs
Donna G West
Focus Comm Centers

[Posted by Peter DeHaan for Connections Magazine, a contact center publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]

2008 ATSI Call Center Award of Distinction and Award of Excellence Recipients

The 2008 ATSI Convention and Expo culminated with the annual awards presentation.  This year’s Call Center Award of Distinction winners are:

24-7 INTouch, Inc., Regina, SK
AAMCOM, Redondo Beach, CA
Answer 1 Communications, Phoenix, AZ
Answer Quick, Louisville, TN
Available Communications, St. Louis, MO
Contact One Call Center, Tucson, AZ
Direct Line TeleResponse, Berkeley, CA
Extend Communications, Inc., Brantford, ON
Fallon Communications, Houston, TX
FineLine, Winnipeg, MB
Focus Telecommunications, Inc., Burtonsville, MD
JAM, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, UK
Spectrum Communication Services, Inc., Brookfield, WI
Sundance Vacations, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Telelink Call Centre, St. John’s, NL
Tel-Us Call Center, Inc., Beverly Hills, CA
TransCore, Auburn, MA

For the ATSI Award of Excellence, Michigan Message Center and Rochester Telemessaging Center were recognized for the twelfth consecutive year.  See the complete list of the Award of Excellence recipients.

[Posted by Peter DeHaan for Connections Magazine, a contact center publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]

ATA Supports FTC “Operation Tele-PHONEY”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced today the largest telemarketing fraud sweep ever coordinated by the agency. Through “Operation Tele-PHONEY,” the FTC has filed federal district court complaints against 13 allegedly deceptive telemarketing operations. Combined with the actions brought by other enforcement agencies, the sweep encompasses more than 180 cases that include both civil and criminal actions in the United States and Canada.

The American Teleservices Association (ATA), a non-profit professional trade association representing the contact center industry, is in strong support of Operation Tele-PHONEY. This FTC operation promotes the same principles endorsed by the ATA for over 25 years. ATA upholds efforts to enforce ethical business practices to protect the public, both business and consumer, from fraudulent telephone calls. The ATA does not condone deceptive practices via the telephone and promotes channel-wide self-regulation along with the support of consumer groups.

Tim Searcy, the chief executive officer of the ATA, stated, “The current anti-fraud provisions contained in the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) as well as existing state and federal criminal laws are sufficient to protect consumers, provided they are enforced aggressively.” Searcy continued, “The FTC and its law enforcement partners have proven that today.”

The American Teleservices Association has taken its own measures toward self-regulation and enforcement of fraudulent activities within the Teleservices industry. In 2006, the Association created a Self-Regulatory Organization and subsequently released its own contact center self-regulatory standards. These standards include a section dedicated solely to consumer privacy protection. The standards incorporate current data privacy laws and regulations, but they also go a step beyond existing laws by requiring companies to comply with data security rules developed by major credit card associations, as well as best practices promulgated by international standardization organizations.

[Posted by Peter DeHaan for Connections Magazine, a contact center publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]

CAM-X Supervisor Coaching Clinics

Spring is traditionally a time of growth and rejuvenation.  The annual Spring Supervisor Coaching Clinics sponsored by CAM-X (Canadian Call Management Association) focus on training and educational forums that are aimed at promoting positive growth, expansion, new ideas and leadership for all attendees.

This year, CAM-X’s theme, “Leadership – Color outside the Lines,” was enhanced by professional and in-house presentations geared to promote sharing of information and practical experiences relevant to the Call Centre industry.

Beginning with a fun-filled scavenger hunt, hosted by Education Committee member, Pam Poehlmann, supervisors from various telephone answering services and contact centres were led on a fun-filled, educational odyssey that not only provided insight into how to recognize and react to particular business/personnel situations but also how to incorporate that knowledge into their every day working environments.

Professional speakers, Peter Forint (Toronto) and Reg Neufelt (Calgary), provided take-home tools geared to increase a supervisor’s perception, thus enabling them to recognize and respond to the key personality traits of true leaders.

The on-going CAM-X CSR/Supervisor Certification program, now in its second year, was highlighted with several participants taking advantage of scheduled break out sessions where they received mentoring by previously certified CAM-X members.

Amy Newberry of Intercon Messaging Inc. Drayton Valley, Alberta commented on her experience at the Toronto Coaching Clinic: “After the coaching clinic in Toronto I have been really excited to help out our staff so they can be the best that they can be. I have come in on my days off to help the new girls out a bit by coaching them and answering any questions that have come up with accounts.  Toronto rocked and has left me in awe. I learned so much and can hardly wait for the next one.”

(submitted by Ida Rowlands)

[Posted by Peter DeHaan for Connections Magazine, a contact center publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]

Professional Teledata Celebrates 25 Years in the Industry

“I am pleased to find ourselves reaching this milestone,” stated Alan Hartmann, Vice President of Professional Teledata.  “It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I attended my first ATSI Convention in Bal Harbor, Florida twenty five years ago.  The first Billing and Collections System aka BCS (and that has evolved into today’s Total Billing System or TBS) was signed that year and has seen so many advancements since then.  Tele-Data Systems was working on mini-computers the size of a small refrigerator, and the new ‘state-of-the-art’ personal computers came with a whopping 64k of memory and enormous dual 360k Byte floppies for storage,” joked Hartmann.

Allen Kalik, President of Professional Teledata added, “It’s amazing to see that our company has evolved so very much, and that we are still forward-thinking to this day.”

The industry too has seen its share of development and evolution.  Answering machines and voice mail posed a huge threat back in those days.  Today, new threats like disaster recovery force the industry innovators to keep moving forward.

“The industry has seen many shifts and turns, we’re so very proud that our company was built and continues to stand on such a strong foundation,” concluded Kalik.

So where were you 25 years ago?  Some interesting facts about 1983:

  • Africa, Total Eclipse of the Heart, and Do You Really Want to Hurt Me were all on the Billboard Top 10 List
  • Terms of Endearment swept the Academy Awards in the categories of Best Actress, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Supporting Actor
  • The Washington Redskins beat the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl
  • The Supreme Court reaffirms its 1973 (Roe vs. Wade) Right to abortion
  • Lotus 1-2-3 is released for IBM PC compatible computers
  • The Olsen twins were not even born yet, neither was Miley Cyrus
  • The average cost of a new home was $89,800
  • The cost of a first-class stamp was $.20
  • The average cost of a gallon of gas was $1.24
  • Dale Schafer and Alan Hartmann still had hair

(Submitted by Diana Holland)

[Posted by Peter DeHaan for Connections Magazine, a contact center publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]

Welcome!

“This blog has been established, in order to serve you better and notify you of relevant news, website updates, and information for call centers and the teleservice industry,” said said Peter DeHaan, president of Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc and publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine.”

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[Note: In November of 2014, the Connections Magazine website and blog were merged into one site.]

[Posted by Peter DeHaan for Connections Magazine, a contact center publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]

Professional Teledata Adds Skills Based Routing to eConn IP-PBX Softswitch

Since the acquisition of the eOn product lines last July, Professional Teledata continues to enhance their telephony line of products. Most recently, Professional Teledata announced a software update to their eConn IP-PBX Softswitch to support Skills Based Routing (SBR).

The update includes support for up to 1000 “gates” that can be customized to direct calls to specific agents or ACD groups, in order to provide efficient call handling based on client requirements. An update to the eConn administration program makes it simple to perform the necessary programming.

SBR is a call assignment strategy used to assign incoming calls to the most suitable agent instead of the next available agent. The need for SBR has risen as call centers have become larger and deal with a wider variety of calls.

“Easy to use skills based routing is essential,” stated Pat Kalik, president. “It improves customer service, makes training shorter and easier, increases agent utilization and productivity, and even increases revenue!” This software version is currently being tested at selected customer sites, and is expected to be generally available by June 30, 2014.

[Posted by Peter DeHaan for Connections Magazine, a contact center publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]