Tag Archives: Miscellaneous Articles

Call Center Technology History

By Smitha Baliga

Phone answering services, telemessaging, contact centers, and teleservice agencies have certainly changed throughout the years—for the better. From their humble roots in the 1920s and 1930s to today’s ultra-functional, do-it-all, multipurpose powerhouses, call centers barely resemble their predecessors.

Thanks to tremendous technological advancements, present-day contact centers handle heavy call volumes, automated appointments, and crucial customer service communication. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Plenty of key milestones helped turn yesteryear’s communication headquarters into what we recognize as today’s call centers. During that time we’ve come a long way. Let’s take a trip back in time to see how we got from there to here.

  • Early twentieth century: Switchboards functioned as de facto call centers. Human error, unreliable technology, and other hurdles challenged these first call centers.
  • Mid 1950s: In the mid-twentieth century, a system called the Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) collected, routed, and assigned incoming calls to available agents. It wasn’t the most effective method, but the present-day call center had its first prototype.
  • Late 1950s/early 1960s: The blueprint for the modern call center was created with Private Automated Business Exchanges (known as PABX). Of course, PABX enterprises relied heavily on ACD technology.
  • Late 1960s: To make call routing easier, AT&T established 1-800 numbers in 1967. This allowed heavier call volumes and created unexpected advertising opportunities and marketing avenues.
  • Early 1970s: British Gas used an ACD system to field up to 20,000 calls per week in a facility based in Wales. That was the most calls any center had processed in a seven days’ span.
  • Late 1970s: Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology allowed incoming calls to be handled by fully automated systems.
  • Early 2000s: With so much attention paid to automated technology, offshore centers (primarily based in India) sparked a rise in offshoring (using agents overseas).
  • Mid 2000s: Premise-based call center technology ceded call center management to cloud-based systems.Premise-based call center technology ceded call center management to cloud-based systems. Click To Tweet

These are some of the most noteworthy call center developments in the past century. Aside from these landmark events, engineers, software developers, entrepreneurs, and visionaries were responsible for creating today’s call centers that deliver fast service.

While the past provides interesting insights into the call center’s history, it will be even more exciting to see what the future holds.

Smitha Baliga is the CEO of TeleDirect, which provides affordable business process outsourcing (BPO) services to clients from a diverse range of industries and business applications. For more information about TeleDirect, please visit www.teledirect.com.

Startel Releases Latest Version of Secure Messaging Solution

Startel Corporation released its secure messaging solution, Startel Secure Messaging Plus (SM+). Many new features and enhancements were part of this release, including the ability to respond to group messages and allowing the forwarding of messages.

SM+ is a two-way direct messaging solution that allows users to securely send and receive messages, including those containing sensitive information.

All message content and attachments sent and received on devices using SM+ are encrypted. New key features and enhancements included in this release are:

  • Group Response: When replying to a group message, users can choose to reply only to the sender or the entire group.
  • Message Forwarding: Prior to sending a message, users can indicate which messages can be forwarded. Administrators can also enable certain accounts to not allow forwarding of any messages.
  • Account Management: Enhancements have been made for both channel partners and end users.

“We are excited to offer our customers, and the marketplace, with the latest version of Startel Secure Messaging Plus,” said Margaret Lally, senior director of operations and technical services at Startel. “The new features and enhancements included in this release help to ensure that our customers remain competitive, and that sensitive data remains confidential and secure.”

Startel Secure Messaging Plus is available as a stand-alone web-based solution or integrated with the Startel Contact Management Center. The SM+ app is compatible with the latest versions of Android and iOS (iPad, iPhone, iTouch).

StartelFor more information, contact Startel Sales at sales@startel.com.

PACE Win Brings Sensibility to the TCPA

The Professional Association for Customer Engagement (PACE) won a decisive victory for sensible regulation of the teleservices industry. In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit vacated the Federal Communications Commission’s arbitrary and capricious definition of an automated telephone dialing system and creation of a one-call safe harbor for calls to reassigned numbers under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

In its 2015 Omnibus Declaratory Ruling and Order, the FCC held that any system with the present capacity or potential functionality to operate as an automated telephone dialing system (ATDS) meets the definition of an ATDS. PACE strongly objected to this definition as overly broad and not grounded in the law, as evidenced by the fact that even a generic smartphone could be an ATDS under the FCC’s definition. In vacating the FCC’s definition, the Court agreed, “Those sorts of anomalous outcomes are bottomed in an unreasonable, and impermissible, interpretation of the statute’s reach. The TCPA cannot reasonably be read to render every smartphone an ATDS …”

Likewise, the Court set aside the FCC’s one-call safe harbor for calls to reassigned numbers as arbitrary and capricious. In its 2015 Order, the FCC defined the “called party” for purposes TCPA liability as the new subscriber of a reassigned number but exempted from liability callers who erroneously made one call without consent to the new subscriber. Industry participants warned that that this one-call safe harbor was insufficient because in many instances a caller would not learn from that one call whether the number had been reassigned (e.g. the call is not answered, the voicemail is not descriptive, a text message is not returned). The Court not only vacated the safe harbor, it also recognized the potential for strict liability to attach under the FCC’s definition of “called party” as the new subscriber and set the definition aside too.

The Court did let stand the FCC’s decision to allow consumers to revoke their consent to be called using any reasonable means that clearly express a desire not to receive further messages. PACE and other petitioners argued that the reasonable means test could allow for a consumer to revoke consent by telling a store clerk that they revoke consent or another means that would not fall into a caller’s normal process for recording revocation of consent. Acknowledging this concern, the Court elucidated that “[C]allers will have every incentive to avoid TCPA liability by making available clearly-defined and easy-to-use opt-out methods. If recipients are afforded such options, any effort to sidestep the available methods in favor of idiosyncratic or imaginative revocation requests might well be seen as unreasonable.”

Reacting to this victory, Stuart Discount, PACE CEO, stated, “PACE appreciates that the Court rightly found that the FCC went too far in its definition of an ATDS and its treatment of reassigned numbers in its 2015 Order.

“PACE looks forward to working with the FCC over the coming months to develop reasonable regulations that align with the statutory language and protect both consumers and callers.”

PACE continues to analyze the Court’s decision and its impact on callers across the country.

Founded in 1988, PACE is dedicated to the advancement of companies that engage with customers via the contact center. The association promotes its members’ ability to provide outstanding customer service and sales solutions delivered via omnichannel communication including voice, email, chat, text, and social media.

PACE Adds Puerto Rico to the USA DNC Regulatory Guide

The Professional Association for Customer Engagement (PACE) added Puerto Rico to the PACE USA DNC Regulatory Guide. Touted as a valued industry resource, the PACERegulatoryGuide.com series has been available for over ten years.

It covers Federal (both FTC and FCC) and state specific telemarketing and TCPA regulations. The new Puerto Rico section includes a summary of applicable rules with links to the relative bills, laws, and statues. Summaries by categories include registration requirements, call restrictions, solicitation disclosures, and call monitoring rules. This is organized by topic and state/territory.

“We continue to expand the information contained in the regulatory guides to meet the needs of our subscribers and telemarketing compliance professionals,” said Dean Garfinkel, administrator of the guide.

The USA DNC Regulatory Guide is part of the PACERegulatoryGuide.com series. Other resources include the Canadian DNC Regulatory Guide and the Charitable Fundraising Regulatory Guide.

Subscribers receive email alerts announcing new legislation. The guides’ interpretations take the confusion out of DNC compliance, TCPA compliance, wireless calling laws, and telephone solicitation regulations. Find exactly what you need, with interpretive text linked directly to the pertinent statutory wording.

The legal team at MacMurray Shuster LLP reviews compliance regulations to keep the guide current and relevant. Information is made accessible and understandable, reducing the chance of inadvertent noncompliance. Email alerts are sent to subscribers whenever the guide is updated.

Contact Dean Garfinkel at 516-656-4191 or visit https://paceregulatoryguide.com.

ASTAA Workshop a Success

Maryellen Pruitt became the new Executive Director of ASTAA, just in time to support the Supervisor Workshop, You Can Move Mountains, held in Baltimore. “There is nothing like trial by fire, said Jim Reandeau, president of ASTAA, “Maryellen no sooner said ‘Yes’ to the position than she had to board a plane to go to work. She never missed a beat.”

“Maryellen was a delight to work with at the Supervisor Workshop,” said presenter Donna West. “She took care of a few issues before I even knew they existed. Her support was invaluable. I know this is going to be a great relationship.”

Maryellen has been a part of the industry since 1997 when she accepted a position with Gary Tedrick at Answer Midwest as an agent. “We tend to grow people from within our organizations, and that is how she is where she is today. When she left Answer Midwest, her title was director of operations.” Maryellen has also recently accepted a position as the new executive director of the Telecommunications Users Network (TUNe).

Four Ways Raised-Access Flooring Can Help Your Contact Center

By Ryan Hulland

You’ve heard of raising the roof, but the trend in commercial architecture is raising the floor. Solutions allow facilities such as contact centers to enjoy the benefits of raised-access flooring without sacrificing much space. Today’s raised-access flooring is elevated two inches from the subfloor; phone lines, electrical cords, and Internet cables are secure and hidden, yet still easily accessible by simply raising a panel on the floor. Low-profile raised-access flooring can be built into new contact center facilities or installed in existing ones.

Low-profile raised-access flooring is made from concrete and steel, and it can be covered with a custom finish to meet any design need. Concealed with carpet tiles or completed with a custom finish made to look like terrazzo, marble, granite, hardwood, or bamboo, raised-access flooring can seamlessly blend into any design scheme.

With raised-access flooring, there are four benefits you can expect:

Simplify Cable Management: Dealing with cables is a challenge for all IT managers, but especially those in contact centers. Wires and cords need to be tucked away in the interest of safety and aesthetics, but they also must be accessible to troubleshoot connectivity issues or move when cubicles are reconfigured. Many commercial furniture manufacturers make products that hide and organize cables, but facility managers must still route the wires safely to workstations from the IT closet or computer room. The most common means of doing this are using cable runners across the floor, running them up the walls to thread cables through the ceiling panels, or drilling into the floor to lay cables. Many contact center facilities take pride in their modern, streamlined look. Click To Tweet

With low-profile raised-access flooring, cables can safely run underfoot below the access floor. When they need to be accessed or reconfigured, all technicians need to do is simply open the appropriate cable raceway. Large data centers have been using this cable management method for more than fifty years because it works. It’s the simplest way to hide and access cables.

Decrease Fall Risks : According to the US Department of Labor, falls, slips, or trips accounted for 27 percent of occupational injuries in 2014, leading to 95 million workdays lost annually. They cause 15 percent of all accidental deaths in the workplace. OSHA cites electrical cords as one of the most common hazards.

It’s easy to see why it’s in the best interest of your contact center to ensure that all cords and wires are secure. Many businesses use cable runners to contain cords that run across the floor, but these cumbersome covers often become a tripping hazard themselves, not to mention an eyesore. By running all cords and wires under a low-profile raised-access floor, you eliminate a huge cause of potential workplace injuries, protecting both your business and your employees.

Future-Proof Your Infrastructure: Though wireless technology is becoming more popular, some contact centers are concerned with the increased security vulnerability it represents. Raised-access flooring lets these facilities wire agent stations without the security risk.

Technology is constantly evolving, and research is always suggesting new ways to make your contact center operate more productively. The last decade has seen so many changes in the workplace, from Wi-Fi and communal workspaces to remote employees moving back to the office. With raised-access flooring, your facility can easily embrace any change that comes its way. The contact center floor can be quickly reconfigured for new purposes and shifting needs just by popping up the affected cable raceway.

Complement Interior Design: Many contact center facilities take pride in their modern, streamlined look. Nothing ruins a sleek, modern aesthetic like a chaotic mess of jumbled cords and wires. Raised-access flooring allows facilities to easily hide cables from sight—perfect for a clean and contemporary design.

Don’t let cables keep your business twisted up in the past. Investing in low-profile raised-access flooring will give your facility the freedom it needs to grow and evolve with the future.

Ryan Hulland is the president of Netfloor USA. His company manufactures, designs, and installs raised-access flooring that simplifies cable management for facility managers.

Change the Way You Look at Things and Make a Difference

By Wayne Scaggs

I moved to California in 1971 with thirty-five dollars in my pocket, no transportation, and no education. I only knew one person with whom I could stay for a little while. I carried with me my grandmother’s wisdom: “Don’t take advantage of people because you can; it is much better to help them if you can.”

Almost twenty years later, in 1990 I was driving to work listening to Les Brown (a motivational speaker). He encouraged listeners to make a difference in their industry. I thought “Yeah, right. I’m just a customer service manager in a company on the decline, and I’m supposed to make a difference – ha!” But I never said, “I can’t.”

I looked for ways to make a difference. I stopped using the word but and replaced it with and. What a transformation that made! I strove to complete whatever I started and did the best I could. It was important that I do what I said I would do, even when it hurt or was costly at the time. I still feel that way.

As opportunities presented themselves, I took on all I could. As the opportunities got bigger, I got stronger; my confidence grew. I prided myself with the knowledge that I could fix anything another person had built. This made me certain we could make the Tascom system viable and keep our customer base. We did lose a few customers, but for the most part we were doing okay for a company whose parent corporation had decided to cease development on the Tascom product line.

Then came 1994, the year everything changed. I asked the parent corporation if I could buy Tascom. What I received was an outdated system the size of three refrigerators and a wonderful, outstanding customer base. I became a business owner, and the transition seemed to age me overnight.

I bought the company on November 1, 1994. Two weeks later I attended my first Tascom User Group (TUG) meeting as Tascom’s owner. Seared into my memory is the combination of jubilation and fear. I experienced the elation of a standing ovation for buying Tascom and terror because I had no money to cover payroll in two weeks. Since I’m writing this twenty-two years later, you know that we made it.

Though some customers left, we continued to work to improve Tascom. We kept our word, and introduced the first TAS system with a Microsoft SQL database to house the Tascom information.

The next transformative year was 1999. I must have made a difference because I was inducted into the ATSI Hall of Fame. Also that year my local Chamber of Commerce awarded me Business Person of the Year, and the Toastmaster club of which I was president won first place in the world for the achievements our club accomplished that year. Yes, one person can make a difference.

In 2000 I hit a brick wall, and for the next eighteen months, I went through my own personal midlife crisis. I had to remember that this too would pass, and the sun would shine again. (When you get knocked down, get up.)

Well, the sun did shine again. In 2006 Alston Tascom introduced the hosted system, the first in the industry to provide a complete telemessaging platform in the cloud with all the functionality of a premise-based system and a guaranteed service level in excess of 99 percent uptime. It was a fraction of the price point and unmatched by any premises system in the industry.

Alston Tascom is poised to continue to make a difference in our industry. We no longer have customers; we only have clients who we put first. We deliver our ADAM soft switch with a shared, matured SQL database, and we share our cloud and hosted systems. We have your reservation for our personal and priority care of your business. I’ll end with a quote from Wayne Dyer: “Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at will change.”

Wayne Scaggs is the president of Alston Tascom, provider of call center database information and network telephony systems.

Looking Ahead

Kevin Beale

AmtelcoAmtelco is celebrating its fortieth year of call center innovations this year. As we look at the last four decades, we see how the focus of technology has shifted from hardware in the early days to advanced software today. Software technology is much more dynamic and flexible than hardware technology. The pace of change and advancements with software technology is increasing at an exponential rate.

As we look at call center technology, we have shifted from racks full of individual computers and servers, each with their own specialized purpose, to a much smaller virtual server environment that has hundreds of times more horsepower and capability than its predecessors. We can now spin up new virtual servers as we need them, with dozens of servers running on a single physical machine. This applies to application servers, web servers, communications servers, and switching servers. Virtual servers can provide an added layer of redundancy and high availability by allowing servers to be easily replicated and moved to another physical machine, either manually while performing a system upgrade or automatically in response to an outage.

The introduction of soft switching provides the ability to migrate call center switching to a virtual environment. Soft switching shifts the control and processing of telephony functions away from hardware to the virtual server CPU, with software controlling the CPU. This provides much more dynamic and flexible switch configuration and management.

Soft switching and virtualization open the door to cloud deployment. Cloud solutions such as Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure are perfectly suited to provide cloud-based call center infrastructure. The entire Amtelco Intelligent Series and Genesis platform can be operated in the cloud at either of these providers’ facilities, or at another similar provider’s facilities.

Amtelco’s Genesis platform provides a soft switch controlled by an ACD and voice-processing module within Amtelco’s Intelligent Series platform. Controlling the soft switch functions from within the Intelligent Series provides a single point of administration, simplifying the process of adding and changing trunks, agents, and call behaviors. Genesis combines the flexibility of soft switching with the ease of administration and the power of the Intelligent Series.

System Integrations and Automation: Another major area of call center advancement is system integration and automation. In today’s world of technology, there is a much greater demand for these types of services. Call center clients expect their call centers to automatically integrate to their IT platforms, databases, websites, web services, and mobile devices.

Amtelco’s MergeComm module of the Intelligent Series is built to provide these services. MergeComm is like adding a dispatcher that lives inside your system twenty-four hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, 365 days-a-year. MergeComm dispatch scenarios can run automatically based on inbound triggers such as email and SMS text messages; scheduled to run automatically, initiated by a call center agent or a web user; or initiated by a third-party application via the Intelligent Series REST web API. MergeComm can deliver content to call center clients via any of the available Intelligent Series contact methods.

With today’s mobile work force, servicing clients’ needs means supporting them in their workflows in ways that were not feasible until recently. In the past, messages were delivered to clients as a one-way transmission with minimal ability to provide feedback. This often consisted of several discrete steps in order to close out the message. But now, thanks to the pervasiveness of wireless and smartphone technology combined with the power and automation of Amtelco’s Intelligent Series, MergeComm, miSecureMessages, and miTeamWeb, these steps are seamlessly combined and serve to enhance the workflow rather than impede it.

How to Move Ahead with Technology: As you analyze your client relationships, strive to identify the critical components of their workflows that can be improved by your services. Look for ways new technology and software can be applied, perhaps in uses not previously anticipated. This is the key to innovation and seizing an opportunity.

At Amtelco we are excited about what the next forty years will bring and look forward to working with each of you.

Kevin Beale is vice president for software, research and development, at Amtelco, a developer and supplier of call center and communications solutions located in McFarland, Wisconsin. Contact him at kbeale@amtelco.com.

[From Connection MagazineJuly/August 2016]


A Tribute to Allen Kalik

Allen Kalik died Aug. 14, 2010, at the age of fifty-nine, leaving behind his best friend and life partner, Patricia Kalik, and their children, Lisa and Daniel Kalik. He is survived by his parents, Betty and Larry Kalik; his sister, Millie Kalik; and his nieces and nephews Melanie, Julie, David, Jessica, Zach, Kylie, Josh, Danielle, and Emily.

He was born on Sept. 17, 1950, and grew up in New York City. He graduated from Cornell University in 1972 and went from teacher to ski bum to successful entrepreneur, all while windsurfing around the world, speaking French, and playing acoustic guitar to whoever would listen. Forever passionate in life and in his fight against cancer, he left peacefully with all of his loved ones nearby.    – Published in Union Leader on August 15, 2010

Here are some selected remembrances posted on Allen’s online guest book:

To a best friend of twenty-six years, one of the most talented people I’ve ever known. To a successful entrepreneur who put his faith in me as a business partner and profoundly changed my life! You will always be in my thoughts and prayers.   – Dale Schafer

Allen was a pioneer… twice he helped revolutionize the industry with his introduction of software that changed the face of that industry forever. Personally, he was so kind to me and so willing to share his vast knowledge about the industry and life.   – Gary Pudles

Allen wasn’t just a boss; he was a force. An intense, funny, and caring guy, his spirit overspills his sixty years, and we will all carry a little bit of him with us. – Mike Antognetti

A pioneer, visionary, and great guy who enjoyed his businesses and his life to the fullest. – Scott Lyons

Allen was a truly gifted man who genuinely cared for his fellow man. His intelligence was unsurpassed and his contribution to the growth of the answering service/order entry industries will always be remembered and respected.   – Marcy Hewlett

In an industry replete with smart and sharing people, Allen stood above the rest. He was a brilliant man who transformed the way we all do business. More importantly, he was a kind and sharing person who was always helping others.   – Michael Leibowitz

He will live in our hearts and our equipment and our imaginations as we go about our days. – Donna West

You were a great teacher and you had a great understanding of people. You were a kind and generous man, and you really did make a difference in so many peoples’ lives. If heaven is whatever we could imagine it to be, I can see you windsurfing your way all the way to Paris.   – Michelle Rivet

No industry meeting was ever quite the same without Allen. He had a warmth, a wonderful and heartfelt smile, a great sense of humor, and a humanity that could brighten up a tradeshow room – or any room – like few others.   – Gary Blair

Allen always took the time to speak with everyone; I recall sitting with him outside of a meeting room and knowing that I was learning more from him than I would have if I had entered the session. His sense of sharing was immense.   – Lil Lyle

Allen was a gifted and unique individual that touched anyone… with his wit, grace, and uncanny intelligence.  – Raymond Baggarly

Allen truly did have a zest for life and a passion like no other. Whether it was singing karaoke at a user meeting or brainstorming ways to make systems better, Allen’s passion was always an inspiration to us all.  His enthusiasm was always contagious!   – Phyllis Shaw

Allen was more like a friend than a boss. I loved the great stories that he shared with us all. I will always remember that [he] lived life to its fullest.   – Karen Black

A proud and witty man, with many clever visions.   – Elaine Senecal

Allen was a treasure to us all and a mentor to many of us. A true visionary and certainly one of the most generous people I have had the pleasure of calling a friend. The grace and zest with which he lived his life is a model we should all strive for.  – Judy Wood

Allen was one of the most beautiful people I have even known. We completed our master’s in French at the same time, and I emulated his fervor and creativity. He sang beautifully in French and was often very funny.   – Lauren Osepchuk

Allan was truly a visionary and a trailblazer… he opened the possibility for all of us to dream big dreams.   – Jannemieke Keener

Allen taught me more about business then I could have ever learned in any school and more about life than I could ever learn in a million lifetimes. He was a mentor, a father figure, and a great friend to me.   – Matthew Salvas

Allen hosted me over ten years ago when I was a chaperone to a group of French students. That was the beginning of a long and enriching friendship. We built up a special way of communicating, an odd mixture of English, French, and idioms. He taught me more than any other English speaker I have known, but most of all, he was a genuine friend.
– Céline Barré

I always admired Allen for his business acumen and unique insights that reduced the complex to the comprehensible. I remember his warm smile, zest for life, and the ease with which he shared compelling stories.    – Peter DeHaan

[From Connection Magazine October 2010]

Dan L’Heureux: The Man Behind the Scenes

By Steve Michaels

Dan L’Heureux, the man behind the scenes, is usually traveling. He is busy attending to the details of the conferences and meetings held throughout the country for many of the telemessaging industry’s various user groups and regional meetings. Dan, who is the executive director for eight such groups, finds his job not only rewarding but also fun.

In 1977, Dan started a telephone answering service in Minneapolis with a cordboard and high hopes for business success, which he achieved twenty years later when he sold his business of over 1000 accounts. He decided to retire; he got into sports car racing, where he won the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) central division champion in 1996.

Taking on the role of event coordinator happened by chance, says Dan. He was racing in Phoenix the same weekend that SNUG (Startel Network Users Group) was having their annual meeting. He stopped by the event to visit old friends and was approached by a couple of board members to help facilitate their conference – and the rest is history.

Dan started with SNUG in 1999 and along the way other groups approached him. Dan now represents eight industry groups: four regional associations and four user groups. The regional associations are WSTA (Western States Telemessaging Association), STA (Southern Telemessaging Association), ASTAA (Atlantic States Telephone Answering Association), and GLTSA (Great Lakes Telemessaging Services Association, Inc.); the user groups are SNUG, TUNe (Telescan Users Network), PIN Users Group, and OEO (Onvisource Equipment Owners).

Dan’s responsibilities vary depending upon each group’s needs. While his title is executive director, he also does administrative, meeting planning, and background work for the groups, along with finding the appropriate locations for the meetings. The decision of where an event will be held is usually up to the board, but Dan scouts out two to three possible meeting sites and does the legwork so they can act accordingly. This includes determining the feasibility of the attendee’s ease of travel, location availability, and overall site package. He also does the negotiating with the locations to get the best possible rates, and he makes sure that the individual conferences are budgeted efficiently and then run according to that budget.

Dan says that it has been a real treat to still be involved with the industry and its members. He was active in his user group when he owned a call center and became convinced of the benefits that can be gained from attending such a meeting. Dan says, “No matter how much you put in, you always get more out.”

Dan indicated that he did not solicit any of the groups for business; each one approached him via word of mouth recommendations. “Every group has its flavor and what it is used to having,” says Dan. He tries to merge the process of hotel and food selection with programming that fits the flavor of a particular association; it’s all about adaptability.

While Dan notes that there has been a reduction in attendance to some meetings, he thinks that reduction is mostly due not to the economy but to “fear” of the economy. People that Dan has talked to throughout the industry say their call volumes are down, but in many cases they have made up for it with new business or different types of business. Certainly, people are in a “wait-and-see” mode and have been for the past year. Hesitation in the economy seems to have a domino effect, and Dan feels that this is as much of an issue as anything else.

According to Dan, people come to the regional events because they can usually drive to them, they are affordable, and they can bring staff members that they might not bring to other events. Mr. L’Heureux indicates that the programming changes from year to year because of the changes in each association’s volunteer board, the economy, equipment changes, new services and features being offered, and an always-changing client base of members. Dan says that you can’t bring the same content year after year to a group and expect it to be successful. The message has to be constantly updated to make sure that what is available in substance as well as features are of value to its members.

[From Connection Magazine March 2010]