Tag Archives: Call Center Management Articles

We’re Exploding with Opportunity!

By Roy Emmett

Today’s specialized communication company should be a hybrid of all the best options for making money and building professionalism in a whole new world of business.

An outstanding opportunity for developing a business in telecommunications, by providing services that are currently not being offered by hardly any other communications company inexistence, should be natural. So why is this new communications company so scarce? Why are so few people reaping the rewards?

The reason? Hardly anyone knows what’s really possible. We’re in a whole new age of business. Technology is settling down around us like morning fog in a bog. Our opportunity right now is to bring new ideas of a very practical nature right to the businesses who can best use them. Our opportunity is as a resource to the business community we choose to serve. Our opportunity is to present as wide a range of revenue streams as we can possibly represent, as long as they relate to the primary goal of being a Professional Communications Consultant and have the power to make money.

The world of business communications does not end with voice mail or with pagers or cellular phone or any other single communications entity. It is a compendium of all that is beneficial for the individual clients we have selected to serve. The fact that you can make money on multiple recommended services, even ones you don’t directly provide, is not a bad thing.

To balance out the limitation of only so many hours in a day with our desire not to be working 18 out of the 24 allotted, we need additional revenue streams which will produce income we don’t have to specifically be involved with once a client has been sold. That is one of the secrets of the potential of this special business opportunity; I call it “passive income.”

Voice and Fax Processing are the heartbeat of the newest business opportunities in fact they are also the nerve center. I don’t care what your focus is currently, whether live operator services, paging, an executive suite or cellular telephones, the new opportunities are awesome and you should be aware of them. Properly configured, your voice/fax processing system will be a major kingpin in your credibility. It will be the spring board to your professional standing as a true telecommunications entrepreneur. But it is not the end-all. It simply provides an incredible entree into new services that can make “Maximum Money Per Minute”, without the need for labor or personal involvement in day-to-day service performance.

Long distance services, pagers, 800 numbers, email, the Internet, upcoming wireless devices, interactive television, video teleconferencing and an ever growing capability of custom solutions for helping businesses streamline their operation with the latest communications meet the dynamically changing world of business. Those are some of the obvious directions that it makes sense to include in your mix of revenue streams. That’s our niche.

Hardly anybody at all is out there proactively working with the business community at being that professional who understands the big picture as well as how all these services can be combined to assisting really helping not just responding to requests to fill orders that dozens of competitors can supply. If the bulk of the communications world is standing by ready to take orders by filling in the blanks on an order screen, , or even a major state-of-the-art fiber optic, microwave and satellite network, then the world at large will be left to its own devices to figure out what’s available to really help them in some of the most basic support service around.

It’s time to be awesomely proactive: Painting a picture of what may be a dynamic concept for one person, doesn’t necessarily make it dynamic to someone with a totally different mind set. So who this concept is directed toward is more than likely the new entrepreneur who has decided that telecommunications is the business to be in. Or it may be someone who has chosen to diversify from another area of communications. One special focus that goes with this direction is the ability and the desire to “go for it!” You can’t sit back and wait for advertising to kick-in so you can plant clerks in retail la-la land, to bring in the big bucks.

What is it that is super charging the opportunity quotient? Primarily, it’s the “Age of Automation and Computerization.” It’s also the “Age of the Home Based Business,” the “Age of Complete Mobility,” and the “Age of Downsizing and Overhead Reduction.” In addition to all that, we’re in the “Information Age.”

The times have caught up with technology. People are accepting the benefits of technology over the once perceived impersonal aspects of automation in communication. Now there is both acceptance and a mandate, since the cost of labor has reached a new high. And since the “Age of the Personal Computer” is also in place, the networks of the world are all coming on-line together.

We who choose to take this direction in providing specialized services to the changed business world will be entering fertile territory with almost nobody to challenge us for the fruits of our efforts. The voice/fax processing system of today, with its PC based functionality, is now in tune with the future of the world’s communication. We can do things for businesses that could never be done before.

What is it that we can do that’s so spectacular? It isn’t just what we can do with the technology we have in our facilities, it’s what has come along in the total universe of telephony that has brought us a whole new range of application. Two-way DIDs, for example, are bringing in a whole new menu of concepts. Automated call-screening for one. Remote automated attendant is another. The ability to promote a single phone number that can reach a person on any communication device is going to be invaluable for the Age of Mobility.

How about receiving messages from anywhere in the world, delivered right to your alphanumeric pager via the Internet? How about being a message center to receive and deliver email or Internet information to customers the same way you might handle fax messages or operator messages?

How about having your own share of the revenues that travel through the nationwide communications network built by AT&T, MCI, Sprint and about 300 other companies in the long distance business? A tiny piece of the billions of dollars that flow through that network could be a princely sum. And it’s growing at the rate of $500,000 a month. How much are you making from it now?

Who’s out there bringing creative, custom tailored service ideas to the business community you serve? Who among all the communications companies in existence in your market, or any market, understands how all the relative services work together to provide just what is needed for a specific business and its unique needs? Who can provide truly diversified service packages for businesses that don’t even know what questions to ask, let alone know where to go to ask the questions in the first place?

We’ve gone from a world of flat rate pricing to usage sensitive billing. We’ve moved from basic commodity priced services in communications to custom tailored communications packages. The former headline services of companies like Beeper companies, have now become adjuncts to new primary services that simply access pagers as an alert to the information found in voice mail or email. The voice/fax processing system has become the nerve center of the world of fax, paging, and to a growing extent, email.

The technology of the voice/fax processing system allows it to be a complete information center, messaging center, call director, fax storage depot, call screener, advertising enhancer, order entry service, fax broadcaster, wake-up service, and customer service supporter. And it’s all automated.

Imagine seeking out just a couple hundred accounts worth in excess of $100 a month each to bring you over $20,000 a month in automated services. Add to that about $10,000 a month in passive income from the world wide communications network, just dripping dollars into your bank account. As you watch the little colored lights blinking on your system, realize that it’s actually money accruing in usage sensitive application that don’t require human hands to intervene in the process.

There’s certainly something to be said for all the communications businesses that rely on and use talented operators to provide additional valuable services. They represent the only other real custom communications service option on the scene. I envy the companies that can maintain such a high level of performance in such an interpersonal arrangement. It has to be one of the most difficult arenas in communication in which to operate, given the personality variables and labor considerations.

It is precisely this service that anyone in automated services should link up with to offer operator intervention services as the need arises. We don’t all need to be in that side of the business. In fact, I don’t know many people who want to enter it based on all that it would take just to start. Let those of us who choose to deal with automated services as our prime direction just deal with the professionals who are already out there in operator services, to provide the options that require “people.”

We must bring practical, down to earth ideas to the selected prospects with whom we feel we would really like to do business. Matching valuable concepts to specific prospects is the goal. How you accomplish that is the evolutionary process we need to expedite. And right now, “we’re exploding with opportunity!”

[From Connection Magazine, May 1995]

Automated Dispatch

By Jim Tabb

Dispatch operations vary widely from company to company. Some companies only dispatch messages (telephone answering services for example), but most dispatch people. These include repair and equipment services, sales teams, delivery or pickup services, courier services, alarm services, ATM services, police, fire and emergency services, and many others.

Automated vs. Live Dispatch: The most significant cost in operating any type of dispatch center has, until recently, always been the labor because the typical center has been “live”, meaning operators or clerks take the calls and deliver the messages. In recent years, more and more dispatch operations have been moving toward “lights out” (in business, but no people), through automation of the dispatch processes.

When properly applied, automated dispatch centers significantly improve service while saving enormous sums through reduced labor. To understand what automation means, lets examine the way live and automated centers differ. Live Dispatch & Operators or dispatch clerks receive calls and take messages or orders over the telephone. Then a second call is made to complete the dispatch. This may require calling a paging tower and sending a digital or alpha page, calling another person by telephone or using a mobile radio to contact a driver.

In some cases the person taking the call also delivers the message. In larger operations, the persons working the phone banks specialize in taking calls, then pass messages to others (dispatchers) who specialize in delivering the messages.

Typical Live Dispatch:

  1. Dispatcher takes order
  2. Dispatcher pages out
  3. Service person calls in
  4. Dispatcher delivers order
  5. Service person calls from site
  6. Dispatcher closes out order

In one dispatch, the dispatcher takes calls in Steps 1, 3, and 5, calls out in Step 2, and is involved in all six operations. Each operation is subject to interruption by other calls from customers or from drivers demanding attention.

Live Dispatch Problems; Often the dispatcher can’t reach the service person in the first call, so Step 2 is repeated multiple times. Sometimes a dispatch is rejected due to a problem. This results in a repeat of Steps 2, 3 and 4 until an alternate is found. As a customer base grows, dispatch problems grow on an exponential curve. At some point, more people must be added to maintain growth because as many frustrated customers leave as are added.

Semi-Automated Dispatch: The first step in reducing costs and improving overall operations is a simple one that significantly reduces costs while overcoming the problem most owners have with “customers talking to machines.” In the semi-automated approach, live operators or clerk stake calls from customers for messages or orders which are keyed into the order-entry system. All or part of the call is recorded.

When the caller hangs up, the automated dispatch system does the rest. The operator is only involved in Step 1 of the semi-automated operation, talking to customers, while steps 2 through 6 are completely automated. The best of both worlds!

Fully Automated Dispatch: Some dispatch operations are already fully automated. Many large corporations use a company-wide voice mail system to take and deliver messages, including service dispatch. Many other dispatch operations lend themselves to a full “lights out” operation, such as those that have service contracts with customers for equipment maintenance and/or telephone support. These companies can usually improve service while significantly reducing costs by fully automating.

Each customer is given a personal account number. When they call for service, they are greeted by name, and given options, such as:

  • A selection of topics or information to be faxed immediately.
  • Self help on frequently asked questions or problems.
  • Options to have someone call back with the answer.

Service people are instructed to listen to the recorded problem, look up the service history, research the problem and dedicate themselves to fixing the problem in one call-back. The customer soon appreciates that their calls are answered on the first ring. They can receive information without being put on hold, and when they do get a call back, the right person is on the line who is dedicated to their call without interruption.

A second category suitable for total automation includes companies where the dispatch operations are primarily employee-to-employee. These include medium and large corporations with internal service, message and/or dispatch centers. When one employee is holding up another employee, the entire company suffers. Automated message and dispatch centers make it easy to communicate across time zones and across shift changes.

Messages can be taken while out of the office, during meetings, and while on the telephone, then delivered and responded to without ever talking directly to the caller.

Automated dispatch problems are usually caused by the attempted use of systems not specifically designed for automated dispatch. Short comings of this system include:

  • Insufficient levels or queues
  • Inability to select alternates
  • No automatic escalation
  • Inflexible dialing options
  • Lack of paging ability
  • No reporting ability
  • Calls, dial-outs are not logged

The minimum system should be capable of multiple choices, have the ability to change menus and announcements by time of day and day of week. Features should include order entry, 8 or more levels of dispatch per account, automatic selection of dispatch by zone or time, automatic escalation of dispatch and complete call logging.

The complete system: It should include a full featured voice mail system with capability to selectively transfer calls to an employee. In addition, it should have wake-up or reminder capability and a means to automate job completion and time keeping.

[From Connection Magazine, May 1995]

The New Communications Company

By Roy Emmett

It’s a good time to take stock of what the business world needs, so that you can provide for a whole new world of business.

I don’t care what kind of communications company you are, it’s time to diversify. Everybody go outside. Get out of your office. Go for a walk, a drive or better yet, make an appointment to visit a prospect. Talk to someone not involved in your business. Look at the world of business communications as well as personal, non-business related services. Gather in a whole new perspective on what’s about to happen. “It ain’t at all gonna be like it ever wuz..”

We’re about to be shaken to the rafters in terms of what is going to hit the communications industry over these next couple years and every year from here on out.

Business Week Magazine published its 65th Anniversary issue on October 17 this year. The cover story, with huge letters emblazoned on the cover said, “Rethinking Work.” It noted as a subhead, “The Economy is Changing, Jobs Are Changing, The Work force is Changing. Is America Ready?”

Business Week used this anniversary to announce what they called their “metaphoric rebirth.” Already perhaps the most helpful weekly national business journal for anyone interested in what the world is up to in telecommunications and information processing (from a layman’s perspective), Business Week has bolstered itself as a publication preparing for the new age of business bubbling up around us. In fact, they have added sections titled: “Technology and You,” “Science and Technology” and “Information Processing.” It seems that virtually every issue has a focus article on some aspect of telecommunications in the corporate world and a release or two on some new communication or computer development.

You will also be able to get Business Week on CD-ROM and via America On-line, weekly. This, to join the Information Revolution now taking place worldwide.

In this special issue, Business Week devoted a 34-page special feature to defining the twin forces of technology and globalization and how they are rapidly changing the way we work, indeed the very notion of work itself.

This is not a commercial for Business Week, though it well could be. We need to absorb the perspective that the business world itself is suggesting so we don’t continue to exist in a vacuum. There isn’t any other vehicle dwelling on the changes in business which will define for us just what the business world will want so we can better prepare to sell it to them.

You may not personally deal with Fortune 500 companies, but you do deal with the trickle-down of businesses that are, out of necessity, transforming themselves into a part of the business world that serves them. The global marketplace includes regional areas of the globe to an even greater degree than it does the entire globe. Expansion beyond the borders of your local market, even if it’s only to the next county or to another state, will represent a shift not only just for you, but for the customers you hope to serve. We need to be thinking globally, not just focusing on the beaten paths of our own back yards.

I preface this article with this thought because it is apparent that those of us with entrepreneurial communications companies, are not used to such expansive thinking. And yet it is we who can make it possible for other businesses to actually operate more on a global scale, and get outside of the well worn rut of the past. We must stop thinking of ourselves as either local or limited in our ability to build our client bases.

Is it time for a make-over?: There are perhaps 3,700 independent phone companies, maybe 6,100 answering services, 5,500 paging companies and resellers, zillions of interconnect companies, vast numbers of cellular agents and resellers, and an incalculable number of independent communications companies of some miscellaneous single focus orientation.

Guess what? The business world hasn’t got a clue as to what is available to them in terms of the latest in business communications services. And there’s virtually no place to turn to find out. Most people don’t even look for new ideas because they don’t understand technology or they are afraid of stepping off into the great unknown. And nobody’s there to fill the void.

You may not be interested in becoming more than you already are in your present communications business, but somebody’s got to do it! Somebody’s got to meet the new marketplace at least half way if they expect to tap this ultra rich vein of potential new business.

Two kinds of people are reading this article: those who expected to find a checklist of ideas that would help define the profile of the communication companies of the immediate future, to be able to move in that direction; and, those who are prepared to start something new that is designed to take a major role in what Business Week has assured us is happening now is ” the changing work world.”

A cosmetic make over won’t do, we’ve got to change the guts. We’ve got to bring on a whole new creature, something to attract the imagination of the business world. A good answering service can become a great answering service. But it’s still just an answering service as far as the public is concerned. God bless ’em, they’re needed.

A paging reseller is a commodity seller. Price is the chief arbitrator of a sale in paging. Interconnect companies sell and install phone systems and perhaps computer networks. They aren’t geared to move in these new circles with their image as interconnects. More power to them. The good ones will prosper.

Cellular agents are almost always something else first, with cellular phones as an adjunct. That makes them convenient, but not diversified communications companies. Phone companies are just that- phone companies, institutions. When was the last time you ever got sound advice on developing a specialized communication arrangement from an order taker? Right about now we’re running out of communications companies to take up the banner for the new “Communication Revolution.” They simply don’t exist in any known category that the topical human being can locate. I don’t think a make-over will do.

A Lunar Landing on Earth: We need to come out of the primeval dark and land our sleek new ship smack into the middle of the gray-tone world of yesterday’s technology. The business world needs to know that we have arrived and we brought the beer! At least that’s the way the brewing industry would portray it. Right now there’s more excitement in the beer commercials than there is in the sum total of the business communications service industry.

Of course the services need to be practical, down-to-earth and relevant for the day-to-day aspects of business. But the business world is changing radically! The merging together of computer, telephone and television into a mind-boggling new era of instantaneous information, communications, and entertainment are out dating everything you have on the shelf. New ideas are traveling at warp speed and there isn’t currently an identifiable outlet to bring these revolutionary ideas to the marketplace in bite-size pieces that the average business person can chew on.

If I were to portray what this new business entity were to look like, it would look something like this:

  1. It would be designed for customer inter activity. The very space this business would occupy would have an air of excitement as it relates to communications technology. Customers should look at it as an on-ramp to the information super highway.
  2. It should be a well known resource for the business community. The latest in voice, fax, electronic mail, on-line service and specialized operator services should be available.
  3. Professional communications consultants would be available to assist clients either in person or on the phone, to help assemble bundled service programs custom-tailored to the individual client’s unique needs.
  4. The client would experience new concepts in communications, on their own via video, computer or telephone, right in the reception area.
  5. Signing up for service would automatically outfit the client with 800-number service, long distance service, and a special billing art voice card to relieve the company of billing and collection, but would provide a good commission on all traffic.
  6. The heartbeat of the operation would be a state-of-the-art voice/fax processing system to provide information services, sophisticated messaging, fax on demand, and a wealth of specialized services available from this technology.
  7. Highly trained and personable telesecretaries would be available for quality services where real people are crucial for effective communication.
  8. Access to the latest communication hardware could be found in the “New Technology Display” in the reception area. It would be available directly from the communications consultant for rent or purchase.
  9. Internal facilities would be available for use by customers for video teleconferencing, private meetings using various communications options, and other on-site services.
  10. Overall, the communications company would need to position itself as a source for all the latest ideas in business communications services, regardless of where they come from. More importantly, the company should take the lead in introducing such new services to make sure they maintain a leadership position.

You will need to be versed in the new wireless technologies, provide paging services via the Internet, access on-line services for your customers, offer specialized computer services in support of operator services, and be prepared to help businesses explore the most relevant options specifically for them.

That is obviously an oversimplified outline of some of the high points that need to be fine-tuned to create this new style company. What you would call such a company, how you would present it and promote it are all crucial to its success. It needs to arrive on the scene with all the fanfare it can possibly get. It needs to be, more than anything, on the market now and it needs to encompass a feeling that it will provide the service options not available from traditional sources.

The people who will run such a center will need to be well versed in the computer applications and in telecommunications overall. We need to develop a true sense of professionalism in the field. After all, the industry is one of the most vital in the world today. Those who specialize in it, will truly become invaluable resources. Why is this the TAS of the Immediate Future?

We can no longer expect to build a business by just hanging out a shingle, sticking an ad in the yellow pages and loading up on operators and DID lines. We can’t expect scores of people to come to us for pagers when thousands and thousands of multi level marketers started selling pagers door-to-door in 1995. We can’t expect to be installing cellular phones when they’re all portable. We can’t expect to make money by simply answering phones for people who now have dozens of options for handling incoming calls. We can’t expect businesses to need us at all if we aren’t in tune with what the rest of the world wants and needs.

But we can expect to develop into unmitigated successes if we provide SERVICE. If we bring the ideas to the people we choose to serve, ideas that make absolute sense and can truly be of help.

Inter activity at your place of business will be more and more important, just like it has become important in the computer world. By inter activity, I mean the ability of the prospect to sit down and experience the service concepts you’re trying to sell. Without obligation, people want to know the details of what you’re suggesting and specifically how it relates to them. In short, the new communications company will be more diverse in many aspects, more personal in service and sales, and more in touch with the day-to-day changes in communications technology.

We’ll be more visually stimulating and more retail orientated. You will also be significantly more automated, perhaps as much as 80% of your business in totally automated services.

There it is. Take it or leave it. I don’t have a crystal ball any more than you do. But I can,, with a degree of accuracy, predict that this opportunity to develop a new style of communications company with an automated approach will bring lots of new entrepreneurs into the business. There’s too much of a vacuum out there for it not to be filled with those who will bring about the fulfillment of the ideas that are designed to make money for the entrepreneurs who introduce them.

[From Connection Magazine, January 1995]