Tag Archives: Vendor Profiles

Call Center Spotlight on InfoCision: Twenty-Five Years of Excellence

By Emma Schwed

InfoCision Management Corporation celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary this year. When Gary Taylor founded the company in 1982, his goal wasn’t to be the biggest teleservices firm in the world – only the best. A quarter of a century later, this same philosophy holds true and has set InfoCision apart from its competitors.

The Akron-based firm is a leading provider of call center solutions specializing in political, Christian, and nonprofit fundraising, as well as sales and customer care. It also provides innovative business-to-business and business-to-consumer solutions to Fortune 500 companies. Unlike other teleservices companies, InfoCision doesn’t refer to its call center employees as TSRs or agents. It calls them “Communicators,” because they build lasting and valuable relationships. With 3,500 employees in thirty state-of-the-art call centers in three states, InfoCision strives daily to make sure clients feel great about the Communicators taking and making their calls and to create an environment in which people enjoy coming to work.

Unique Approach to Clients: For the past twenty-five years, InfoCision has built its reputation on quality. However, achieving this reputation has not been easy. Each program is designed to meet an individual client’s needs. The innovative marketing techniques are crafted and carried out with careful thought, strategy, and attention to detail by a dedicated account team.

InfoCision even goes as far as matching Communicators who have a specific interest in a client’s goals to a program. This ensures that the client is getting the best person on the phone who will provide its customers or donors with the care and attention they deserve. InfoCision employs mature, professional Communicators who receive program-specific training so they become experts on the clients who they make and take calls for. Additionally, the company designed its call centers to be smaller than any others in the industry in order to create an intimate work environment that is competitive, yet team-oriented. InfoCision also has a standing promise to its clients not to take their business offshore. The firm believes that only Communicators here in America can truly understand the regional and cultural nuances of its clients’ customers and donors.

In addition to providing its clients with the highest quality products and services, InfoCision believes that it is their’s – not the clients’ – primary responsibility to meet all state and federal requirements. With a dedicated regulatory compliance team and state-of-the-art technology, InfoCision ensures that a campaign is one hundred percent compliant with all state and federal laws. The company has never had a federal Do Not Call (DNC) violation.

Giving Back to the Employees: InfoCision not only provides top-quality dedication to its clients, but to its employees as well. The company’s philosophy is that a happier employee is a better employee, and it knows that its employees are the heart and soul of its business. Therefore, employees are treated with the respect and appreciation they deserve. Prizes such as cash, televisions, iPods, and even cars are regularly awarded to top performers. Employees who have consistently exceeded company standards are recognized at monthly “Employee of the Month” ceremonies at each location. In addition, InfoCision has a Hall of Fame for employees who have been named employee of the month more than once.

Not only does InfoCision maximize each employee’s job satisfaction with training, encouragement, development, and recognition, but also through the unique programs it has implemented to keep employees happy and healthy.  InfoCision has made a determined effort to create an environment where people enjoy coming to work. This shows through the many programs it has instituted to help employees become healthy in a convenient and cost-effective manner.

The company has added on-site fitness and wellness centers at many locations that provide employees with an easy and affordable way to stay in shape. In addition, many locations have started fitness programs that provide employees with the knowledge and support needed to live a healthier life. InfoCision even offers health fairs with free health screenings to keep employees informed and educated about their health. A free tobacco cessation program has also been implemented to help employees kick the habit. This program includes free nicotine replacement therapy.

Along with providing fitness and wellness centers at many locations, InfoCision has also hired an on-site physician. The physician has a state-of-the-art, on-site doctor’s office and can provide the same services as a traditional primary care physician. Employees who are covered under InfoCision’s health insurance (and even those who are not) can see the corporate physician. The co-pay for InfoCision-insured employees is $10, and all others pay $30. This provides employees and their family members with a convenient way to see the doctor for a reduced co-pay charge. Most recently, InfoCision began offering subsidized daycare in order to give employees and their families an easy and affordable way to receive childcare.

InfoCision’s commitment to its clients and employees is unique. The company highly regards each and every individual and does whatever it takes to provide an environment where people enjoy and find fulfillment in the work they do. This satisfaction is reflected in the unrivaled results it achieves and the services it provides for its clients. These simple principles of operation apply to employees and their interactions with each other, clients, vendors/partners, and anyone else they come in contact with. These values are what InfoCision is all about and what make it unique.

[From Connection Magazine Jul/Aug 2007]

Vendor Profile of TASbiller

TASbiller is the billing and profitability analysis software for the telemessaging industry written by Randy Ripkey, owner of Accurate Messages in Augusta, Georgia. TASbiller is the latest entrant among the teleservices billing software vendors, but it is quickly gaining in popularity.

The Beginning: In December of 1995, Ripkey was approached to help rescue a failing telemessaging service with 90 accounts and a two position Axon 8000. One year later, Ripkey bought out his partners. Since then, he has since grown Accurate Messages into a profitable 400-account teleservice business. He is currently in the process of installing a 10 position Amtelco Infinity system. Here is how he did it and why TASbiller was created.

On that day in December of 1995, “It was like walking back in time,” Ripkey says of his first visit to the business. Coming from his office full of state-of-the-art computers and software, he was surprised by what he saw. The agents at what was then Accurate Information Services were working at Wyse dumb terminals, a main computer that used software loaded into EPROM chips, and serial dot-matrix printers (printing on 15″ paper no less).  The few PC’s in the room were running DOS software programs with monochrome monitors. The surprising part for Ripkey was when the former owner told him that all of the equipment was “brand new.” They had just bought it earlier in the year.

Telemessaging 101: Ripkey started to learn about the industry by attending regional meetings of the Southern Telemessaging Association (STA) and networking with the people he met. He learned about the various pricing methods used by other services and how the owners would calculate profitability, typically using manual methods or spreadsheet programs.

In the beginning, Accurate Information Services was billing everyone by the number of messages taken, regardless of how long that message might be or how many attempts it took to deliver it. Ripkey knew that was part of the company’s problem. After Ripkey’s acquisition, the company was renamed Accurate Messages.

At an STA meeting, Ripkey met Scott Molitor, who had a large successful teleservices business in Cocoa, Florida. He told Ripkey about analyzing accounts by revenue per minute and that every so often he would take invoices, compare the billed amount to the time used by the account from another report, and manually calculate the revenue per minute. Molitor would then manually adjust the customer’s rate.

Shouldn’t Billing Software Be Able To Do That?: The previous owners of Accurate Messages had purchased the best of everything available at the time, including a popular DOS-based billing program. Having an extensive background in computer programming, Ripkey knew all of the data to do these calculations were already being captured by the billing program, but he didn’t know if it allowed him to see a simple calculation of revenue per minute. He discovered that the answer was no.

Knowing that a computerized method of pricing accounts would help make Accurate Messages profitable, Ripkey began to modify an accounts receivable program he originally developed for an orange juice company in Florida. He wanted his program to be able to load billing data from his call processing system, instantly calculate revenue per minute, call, or message, be able to change a customer’s rate plan and then have the program recalculate profitability immediately. He also wanted to print his own invoices on plain paper that would fit into window envelopes available from the local office supply store, instead of the expensive pre-printed ones the old billing software used.

While discussing billing programs at a regional meeting one year, a well-known hardware salesperson interjected, “I know a great billing program and its only $5000!” To his disappointment, Ripkey learned that for five thousand dollars, the software still didn’t do the simple math that he wanted.  Ripkey forged ahead with his plan to develop his own software to meet his needs as a telemessaging service provider.

TASbiller is Born: The idea of marketing his billing program stayed in the back of his mind. After a few years when his telemessaging business was stable and profitable (thanks to the program he wrote), Ripkey presented his billing program at a meeting of the STA in Atlanta during the Spring of 2001. It was very well received and he even sold a few of the DOS versions to the company that later became TASbiller, but everyone was asking for a Windows version.

The development of a Windows product would require a great deal of Ripkey’s time for at least a year and he knew he would need help with marketing. Luckily, Ripkey met Chris Twigg who was promoting TASbill.com, an invoice printing and mailing service. He was impressed with Twigg’s presentation and personality, so he approached Twigg about the possibility of teaming up to sell his billing program.

Ripkey and Twigg formalized an agreement between their two companies wherein Twigg would provide marketing and installation support while Ripkey handled development. Twigg actually came up with the name TASbiller, as a play off of his company’s TASbill.com name since the two products worked so well together.

Windows Version: Development of the current Windows product began in January of 2002 with a planned introduction at the annual ATSI meeting in Denver that June. Microsoft’s Visual Basic was chosen as the programming language due to its power and availability of resources. Microsoft’s Access database was chosen for the same reasons and its networking features. With millions of users, both products are certain to be supported for the foreseeable future.

Learning a new programming language is almost like learning a foreign language and Ripkey wanted a faster pace of development. Researching online, he found a freelance programmer, Warren Sirota, with great credentials. Sirota proved himself invaluable right from the start. Once Ripkey was comfortable that he would be able to help with all of the unique features he wanted in TASbiller, Sirota was given portions of the project to develop. Sirota continues to make important contributions to TASbiller’s development to this day.

Ripkey and Twigg shared a booth at the 2002 ATSI meeting in Denver and TASbiller was the talk of the show. Although still in the early stages of development, the attendees were impressed and liked what they saw. In less than six months, Ripkey had taken TASbiller from the drawing board to the marketplace and the sales started rolling in.

State-of-the-Art Online Support: Great customer support is extremely important toRipkey. TASbiller utilizes an online service that supplies a “pcAnywhere-style” application that can be used to assist customers with program installation or troubleshooting. The product allows Ripkey to share control of a customer’s computer, upload or download files, draw on the customer’s screen to assist with training, and many other support related features.

One customer recently lost their billing person due to a serious illness that required hospitalization. She was the only person in the organization who knew how to use TASbiller. Ripkey was able to connect online and do his customer’s billing while training the owner and another employee. The invoices got out on time. “I’ve had tremendous positive feedback from our customers who have used this feature,” Ripkey stated.

TASbiller today: With development under control and wanting to maintain consistent support quality, Ripkey moved all support functions back to Augusta late last year and is in the process of training a member of his staff to handle routine TASbiller calls. Marketing was also brought back in-house when Twigg sold his TASbill.com business. Although Twigg still sells TASbiller, there is no longer an exclusive marketing agreement. TASbill.com’s new owner, Dixon Johnston, is also interested in marketing TASbiller and Ripkey will be sharing a booth with him at the next ATSI meeting in Vancouver.

New features: New features are constantly being developed and introduced. For example, user customizable invoice formats was a high-demand feature requested by TASbiller customers and introduced earlier this year. TASbiller customers can now use either the software’s built-in word processor or Microsoft Word to change the layout and appearance of their invoices, inserting graphics (logos), and adding or changing any text in the invoice they want. The changes immediately flow through to all invoice formats including fax or email.

TASbiller’s business philosophy: When a customer purchases TASbiller software and maintains a $200 per year support fee, they receive everything that is subsequently developed, at no cost. Early TASbiller customers who bought-in during the startup days enjoy the same features as those who purchase today. This philosophy keeps customers happy and support for Ripkey easy. “I don’t like being nickeled and dimed every time I turn around and I don’t want to do it to my customers either,” said Ripkey.

Another part of Ripkey’s philosophy with TASbiller is to offer a complete package that doesn’t require any third party products for his customers to purchase and/or maintain. For example, TASbiller has its own built-in fax drivers so TASbiller customers can just click one button to instantly fax an invoice to a customer via any standard fax/modem. TASbiller is able to save invoices in either a Microsoft Word document (.doc) format or Adobe Acrobat (.PDF) format for easy attaching of invoices to an email.

TASbiller Complete: TASbiller customers have submitted many requests for enhancements and new features and Ripkey has had quite a few ideas of his own. Over the last two years TASbiller has grown to include full pager inventory control and billing, voice mailbox billing, a built-in word processor for custom letters to customers, and a reminder/contact management system. This is all in addition to the enhancements to TASbiller’s basic telemessaging billing and analysis functionality. Along with all of these features, TASbiller’s price has also grown to $2,995.

TASbiller Lite: With an introductory price of $995 ($1,495 after June 30), the Lite product is expected to be very popular. It will include all of the analysis features of TASbiller Complete including the ability to print, fax, or email invoices, or use TASbill.com. “I want a billing product that everyone can afford,” concluded Ripkey.

TASbiller and Randy Ripkey can be contacted either by phone at 706-860-0868 or email at Ripkey@aol.com for more information. The website is: www.TASbiller.com.

[From Connection MagazineMay 2004]

Vendor Profile: Amcom Software, Inc

Amcom Software, Inc. is a provider of PC/intelligent workstation-based attendant console and database solutions, computer telephony integration (CTI), speech recognition, paging management, messaging, Web-enabled applications, and event notification technologies. Amcom is headquartered in Minneapolis, MN and maintains a national network of sales representatives.

Amcom can streamline and centralize attendant call center services while improving service and efficiency. In addition the company provides development, customer support, implementation, training, and corporate sales functions.

History: Amcom was founded in 1984 to provide telephony software applications that complement the telecommunications and information systems of its customers. The company has a reputation for quality and innovation. Amcom is a leading developer of PBX-integrated applications running on redundant servers and integrating to communications networks via the existing corporate network.

Amcom has experienced ongoing corporate growth and market-share expansion through strategic acquisition, technological partnerships, and dialogue with customers. It has expanded its applications to address the needs of all types of organizations. This evolution has included the use of PCs, interfacing to local and wide-area paging systems, enhanced corporate directories, meet-me paging. More recently, this work has included speech recognition applications, call recording, and event notification/response.

Amcom strives to bring new products and technologies to market that complement the business objectives of its customers. This approach is carried through every aspect of Amcom’s solution offering. This dedication to fulfilling customer needs influences research and development, testing and quality assurance, project management and implementation as well as sales, marketing, and customer service.

Core Products: Amcom solutions unify existing telephone, paging, and computer information systems creating a comprehensive call center solution designed to cut operating costs and improve communications productivity.

Speech Recognition: Amcom Smart Speech applications enable call centers to process a majority of routine phone requests including directory assistance, messaging, and paging, independently of a live agent and with more ease of use than touchtone. Speech-enabled applications include:

  • Directory: Speech-enabled directory call processing.
  • Paging: Speech-enabled paging.
  • Auto-Attendant/IVR: Speech-enabled traditional auto attendant.
  • Meet-Me Paging: Speech-enabled meet-me paging.
  • Speaker Verification: Verifies caller’s identity via voiceprint.
  • On-Call Locator: Speech-enabled on-call locator capability.
  • Patient Information: Callers say the name of a patient and hear corresponding information.
  • Morale Call: Manages the connection process via voice prompts and caller’s spoken response.

PC Attendant Console: Smart console workstations automate agent tasks integrating caller and directory information in one PC-based application. Smart console applications provide efficient operations through screen-based interactive functions including automatic screen displays (screen pops) of incoming calls, single button call transfers, conferencing, speed dialing, and other telephony functions. This Windows-based application provides easy access to database information, messaging, and staff tracking options. Features and options include:

  • Directory Services: Fast, accurate directory look-ups for agents.
  • Operator Saver: Pre-recorded greetings answer calls in each agent’s own voice.
  • Voice-Assisted Transfer: Announces the number a caller is being transferred to.
  • Call Parking: Agents centrally park calls and can view who is holding for whom.
  • Park & Page: Single keystroke parking and paging of calls.
  • Call Recording: Saves recording of call in progress or any of previous 10 calls.
  • Operator Statistics: Real-time agent traffic monitoring package.
  • Messaging Options: Agents can send messages to pager, email, fax, Web-enabled cell phones, voice messaging, or printer.
  • Paging Options: Transparent front end to send pages to all paging devices including in-house and wide-area pagers, cell phones, and PDA’s.
  • On-Call Calendars: Paperwork reduction via centralized online calendar viewing and maintenance.
  • Group Messaging: Agents can send messages to multiple delivery points at the touch of a keystroke.

Event Notification and Response: This application initiates, monitors, and manages emergency notifications of all types, automatically delivering the message, collecting the responses, escalating if needed, and logging all activities for reporting and analysis. Features include:

  • Process Definition: Administrators build lists including people, devices, and sequence of notifications.
  • Message Delivery: Automated via templates; activate from Web, VRU, speech, or operator.
  • Response Collection: Prompts respondents for desired information, triggers actions when thresholds are met.
  • Escalation: Escalates unanswered notifications to further individuals, devices or groups.
  • Monitoring and Reports: Real-time and historical reports of all transactions and events.

Web-Based Applications: Amcom Smart Web applications enable employees and other authorized users to do directory searches, paging and on-call scheduling from their corporate Intranet or the Internet. Features include:

  • Web Directory: Users view/update directory information via the Web.
  • Web Paging: Users send pages to individuals or groups via the Web.
  • Web On-Call Scheduling: Users find people on-call, view daily on-call lists, or monthly calendars via the Web.
  • Web On-Call Calendar Maintenance: Users maintain monthly on-call calendars with proper permission.
  • Web Employee Registry: View scrolling rosters via the Web.
  • Web Status: Allows users to update their availability via the Web.
  • Wireless Web: Allows users to view pages, on-call, and directory information on their PDA, cell phone, or other hand-held device.

Paging Options: Comprehensive paging execution, monitoring, and archival documentation provide a transparent front end for paging management.  Agents, IVR, speech, and Web users can send pages to all paging devices in-house and wide-area pagers, cell phones and PDA’s. Options include:

  • Support of all major paging protocols including TAP, TNPP, SMTP, SNPP, WCTP, and SMPP/SMS.
  • Support of alpha-numeric, numeric, voice, tone, two-way pagers, and cell phones with paging built in.
  • Re-beep.
  • Priority Paging.
  • Two-Way Paging.
  • Paging Escalation/Event Notification and Response.
  • Group Paging.
  • Automatic Coverage allows users to cover for each other.
  • Park/Meet-Me Paging allows agents to park a call, page the intended party to the park number.
  • Meet-Me Paging does not require agent assistance, available via Amcom’s IVR or speech recognition applications.
  • Overhead Paging & Soft Keys: Pre-recorded, ad-hoc, and pre-scheduled messages or audio files can be activated automatically or with the touch of one key.
  • Device compatibility to receive and distribute pages from Amcom Smart Console, the Web (Intranet or Internet), IVR, and speech recognition; cell phones, Alphamates, or other input devices.
  • Logging of all pages including time, date, sender’s name, sender’s devices, IP address of sender, and information input for delivery.
  • Pager Inventory and Billing.
  • Database interfaces to paging terminals, enabling centralized pager administration.

IVR: Applications include auto attendant, page request, meet-me paging, status change, message storage, wake-up call, event notification, room and bed status, and morale call management.

Platform: Amcom’s open architecture, standards-based systems provide a secure, robust platform that customers use and build upon over the long term:

  • Oracle database serves as the foundation of all Amcom software applications, providing fast, dynamic access to call processing information.
  • Applications run on Microsoft, Unix, and Linux operating systems.
  • Integration with all switches including PBX, CO, and VoIP.
  • First and third party call control architecture options ensure compatibility with any phone system.
  • Certified/compliant with LDAP, ODBC, HL7, SIA, and others.
  • Partnership with Nuance Communications and ScanSoft, recognized leaders in speech recognition technology, for the speech engines at the core of Smart Speech applications.
  • Applications are modular, so customers pay only for what they need with the option to add new capabilities as desired.
  • Ongoing investment in research and development ensures new products, enhancements, and upgrades.

PBX Integration: Amcom integrates with telephone switches from virtually every manufacturer, including Avaya, Alcatel, Nortel, NEC, Lucent, Siemens, Intecom, and Mitel.

Development Environment

  • Linux, Unix, and Windows 2000 server environments
  • Oracle RDBMS
  • Windows NT, 2000, and XP workstation options
  • TCP/IP to Ethernet Network
  • C/ C++, Java, PLSQL

Customers: Amcom products are installed coast to coast with a prestigious client base including Oracle Corporation, Stanford University Medical Center, Duke University, the Cleveland Clinic, the White House Communications Agency, the U.S. Senate, Bloomingdale’s, the United States Army, and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange

Testimonials: “Amcom has more than met our expectations–both in terms of improvement in our call center’s quality and speed, and in the cost avoidance we’ve achieved by reducing headcount.” – Elisabeth Arslaner, Director, Corporate Services, Oracle Corporation

“Buying the Amcom system was the best decision we’ve ever made. We now have an enterprise-wide system that everybody is comfortable with. We can sleep at night again.” –Mike Spencer, Telecommunications Manager, Orlando Regional Healthcare

“I felt comfortable from day one that we were on the best system for any type of emergency we might face.” – Stephanie DeRieux, Call

“Smart Speech has helped us more than any call center technology we’ve ever deployed. Our operators used to be overloaded with directory calls. Now we’ve reduced their workload tremendously.” – Marvin Thomas, Manager of System Telecommunications and Mail, Sparks Health Center

“With the help of Amcom’s system, we’ve transformed operator services. We’ve combined independent call centers into one centralized center, improved efficiency, reduced operational expense, and enhanced customer service.” –Julie Barr, Call

“We believe the reliability and upgrade capabilities will make this system very viable for years to come.” – Captain Curtiss Bailey, U.S. Army


1984 –Entered the software solutions market – directory and messaging.

1988 – Introduced CTI-enabled directory application.

1993 – Delivered first client MS-DOS, Server Unix/Oracle dB system
Customer: The White House Communications Agency.

1994 – Installed several major centralized call centers (100+ agents).

1996 – Installed first client Windows 95, Server Unix/Oracle dB system.

1998 – Released Web applications (Smart Web).

1999 – Won and was awarded a certificate of achievement for U.S. Army contract. Installed 30 bases successfully within 6 weeks.

2000 – Released speech recognition applications and Compaq non-stop cluster solution.

2002 – Released Smart Web for wireless devices.

2002 – Migrated to Linux operating system and Oracle 9i.

2003 – Introduced Event Notification and Response with automated escalation.

[From Connection MagazineOctober 2003]

Vendor Profile: Axon Communications

In March 2003, Telescan, LLC acquired most of Axon Communications’ business, including the Axon 8000 product line. What prompted Telescan to make this move? To fully answer that question requires a look into Axon’s past. While there were valid business reasons for the company’s decision, the heritage that Axon created over its 20 years in business was also an important factor.

The Beginning: Axon Communications entered the telephone answering industry somewhat by chance. The company started in Irvine, Calif., when Frank D’Ascenzo and Gary Beeson, two veterans of the television broadcast industry, decided to join forces. Axon started with the merger of two small businesses, one engaged in software development, and the other involved in pioneering video teleconferencing technology.

The year was 1983, and it was apparent that although video teleconferencing was a great idea, its time had not yet arrived. This was because the available technology dictated that only the largest of corporations could afford video conferencing, and the concept of meeting virtually, on camera, was still difficult to sell. Looking for ways to generate some needed revenue, Axon entered into a cooperative engineering venture with a private mobile communications company that needed an automated interconnect terminal. This development work introduced Axon to telephone technology and interface requirements, and to the general telephone industry.

The Axon 4: In early 1984, during discussions with a Pacific Bell representative, mention was made of the telephone answering service industry. Over a period of nearly 45 days D’Ascenzo conducted a survey of telephone answering services in the greater Los Angeles area. The result of that survey was a product definition, and then in December of that year, the company installed the new product, the Axon/4, for the first time at a telephone answering service in Connecticut.

The Axon/4, although simple in concept, turned out to be the right product for the telephone answering industry at the right time. It was a small, relatively inexpensive, four-port, three-position, DID answering system.  Between 1985 and 1989 more than 600 answering services purchased more than 1,400 Axon/4 answering positions. Axon/4 systems were purchased by large, medium, and small cord-board-oriented telephone answering services in the United Stated and Canada. For these businesses the Axon/4 was a first step into what was then the newly emerging concept of DID, call-forward answering.

A simple to use system, the Axon/4 represented an easy migration for the cord-board operators of the day. This system was specifically designed to closely emulate cord-board operation, but to do it in a more modern way. The Axon/4 introduced several technical innovations including small size and true one-button call answering. The original concept for the Axon/4 was to replace a cord board position with a DID system that emulated, yet simplified, cord board answering procedures. The Axon/4, and its eventual video counterpart, the Axon/4V, packed a lot of features and performance into a small, one-piece package that was very inexpensive when compared to other alternatives.

The Axon 8000: In 1988 Axon introduced the Axon 8000 system platform. Like the Axon/4, the Axon 8000 was designed not for the largest telephone answering services, but rather for those emerging businesses that needed a feature-rich, reliable, yet reasonably priced system for their growing business. The development path for the Axon 8000 series went from paper to paperless, through integration with other vendors’ products – the Teledata FMDS, the Keyvoice voice mail systems, the Exacom voice logger, and the DB Masters billing software, to mention a few. Today, close to 200 services depend upon their Axon 8000 systems to help generate their monthly revenues.

Acquired by Telescan: Reliable equipment, plus a real dedication to customer service, helped Axon Communications build and maintain a loyal following of users over the years. Roger Young and Bobby Riggs, Telescan’s new owners, recognized these Axon qualities and saw how they mirrored those of the company they had recently acquired. Here was not only a good product fit, but also an almost perfect fit of business philosophy.

But merging two businesses is always a challenge, even if they seem a good business fit. First there is the challenge of integrating the different staffs, each with their own history of hierarchy and procedures, and then the challenge of integrating the different product lines. To help make this merger successful, Telescan has retained the services of several key Axon personnel. They are providing continuing technical service to Axon’s user base, and advice to Telescan personnel as they take over the production, repair, and upgrading of the Axon product line. The Telescan-Axon business combination not only represents a stronger industry presence, but also promises to benefit both Telescan and Axon customers.

[From Connection MagazineJul/Aug 2003]

Record/Play Tek: Voice Logging Specialists

“Seems like just yesterday that Ed Krepps, John Haines, and I started making voice loggers and recorders,” recalled Michael Stoll, president and chief technology officer of Record/Play Tek, Inc. of  Bristol, Ind.

On  May 1, 2003, Haines, Stoll, and Krepps celebrated their 26th anniversary in the logger/recorder manufacturing business, one they started “without the benefit of venture capitalists, banks, buy-outs or any of the other machinations of finance,” Stoll noted.

RPT had an auspicious beginning in 1977. Competitor Dictaphone Corp. had 97 percent of the $200 million U.S. voice logger market, and there were two other small market players on the West coast, but the RPT trio thought it would be a good niche market to enter.

Voice logging technology in the 1970s was built around reel-to-reel tape recorders. Therefore, making voice loggers in 1977 was not much like the process in today’s digital world, where companies simply buy pre-made computer voice logging cards and hire freshman computer science graduates to create the product.

Today, Danyel Casselman, one of the sales associates at RPT, works in a state of the art engineering area including tools such as AutoCAD (a unique drafting/design program), a full machine shop with lathes, vertical mills, and sheet metal equipment for hacking out the original reel-to-reel recorders, and the digital voice logger products of today.

But the mechanics of the product are only half the story. Also surrounding Casselman are the latest in electronic and computer programming tools to aid the RPT engineers in building functional voice logging products. Casselman and other associates sell these recorders to the TAS industry, police departments, burglar alarm central stations, and hundreds of other markets.

Occasionally RPT customers call for unusual installations. The largest order the company ever had for loggers was for backing up optical discs for the U.S. military. Optical disc technology lasted about three years before being replaced by DVD-ROMs, which RPT uses today for digital backup.

Management Team History: Haines, Stoll, and Krepps have been involved in recording for many years. Krepps made one of the first all-tube, direct-coupled recording studio audio consoles. It was for his brother’s high-end audio studio in New York City. That console made all the Coca-Cola audio commercials for many years.

Haines was national service manager for Crown International in Elkhart, Ind., a manufacturer of audio amplifiers and, in the 1960s, reel-to-reel professional recorders. Haines wanted to do mechanical design for RPT and was part of the founding team.

Mike, with a B.S. in electronics from Tri-State University and an M.B.A. from Indiana University, who startedout tinkering with his father’s disc and wire recorders, was anxious to “build something.”

And now, with 3,500 reel-to-reel recorders, cassette recorders, VHS digital recorders, and computer based voice recorders manufactured in Bristol, Indiana RPT has achieved a remarkable degree of success in serving customers’ recording needs.

Service: In the early days of reel-to-reel, Dictaphone had many sales and service offices across the U.S. and could tell its prospects, “We’ll be there in six hours no matter where you are, and have you operational in 24 hours!” By contrast, how could RPT, an entrepreneurial start-up in Indiana, manage to service a malfunctioning reel-to-reel machine as far off as Key-a-Kuck, Iowa? The same year that RPT began marketing voice loggers, United Parcel Service instituted next day, 24-hour delivery service all across the United States. This was great for RPT, but there was a catch. The UPS weight limit was 50 pounds.  How could RPT engineers build, in Bristol, a 50-pound machine that could be shipped by UPS? This led RPT to another opportunity:

Price: Dictaphone’s dual-tape machine was large and expensive. This machine had two tape transports, so one could record while the other was playing back a conversation.

Product Identification: In 1977, police departments and some TAS operators were among the few who knew how voice loggers could help them evaluate the quality of their service. Today banks, brokers, and teleservice companies all use such systems and understand their potential.

Sales: After attempting to combat Dictaphone’s massive marketing programs by setting up representative and dealer organizations, RPT decided to go it alone and set up a comprehensive, factory direct sales and service program, using modern outbound telemarketing for sales and service. Today, the sales and service database at RPT has tens of thousands of prospects and users.

Ultimately RPT made a 50-pound voice logger that sold factory direct for $6,500, with a free factory loaner available for service within 24 hours. The company’s engineers, management, production people, and sales personnel lugged a 50-pound recorder all over the country to help RPT become established as a voice logger company.

Issues confronting voice logging companies:

HIPAA: Most loggers use a form of audio compression to store audio on backup discs in a recognizable format. The problem with HIPAA is determining whether these backup discs can be put in a standard system and listened to and copied. RPT’s backup discs can only be used on RPT equipment, or over the network with a secure play USB pod under the direct control of supervisors.

The Internet: How public should a voice logging company make the recording and listening process that occurs over the Internet? And how much listening can be done via Internet access? Voice is very different from video or data. This is an unanswered legal and social question for users and manufacturers.

Data access and storage: Very cheap mass storage is now coming to the home consumer market. A RPT reel-to-reel machine held eight channels for 24 hours per reel and cost $45 in 1977. Today, one 80-cent DVD-Rom holds 10 days’ worth of continuous recording on nine channels.

Friendships: It is unique to be in business today with the relationships that have matured over the course of RPT’s business. Mike and his crew indicate they have “Refrigerator Rights” with many customers, which makes selling, installing and servicing Voice Loggers a pleasure-full experience. Here is what Mike feels relationships are all about, from Marie McGuire, AnswerTel of Athens, Alabama:

“I’m not sure if you have ever received a thanks for the RPT logger for this reason or not. My daddy normally called the office and myself every day around 9 am to say hello and chat with the staff. He passed away unexpectedly this year. I reached a point several days ago where I couldn’t remember the sound of his voice I was able to listen to his voice on the logger and make wave files and CD’s for his children and grandchildren. This is not with sorrow, but with joy, at being able to hear his laughter, his words of wisdom, and the care in his voice.” – Marie McGuire (used with permission)

For more information, contact Michael Stoll and Record/Play Tec at 574-848-5233.

[From Connection MagazineJune 2003]

Onvisource (formerly CadCom): Providing Telemessaging Solutions for Business Success

The Beginning: Now headquartered in Enid, Okla., CadCom Telesystems was founded in 1984 by a group of Lockheed Aerospace development engineers in Marietta, Ga. Building on the computer science background and business talents of its founders, company officials set out to develop products specifically for the telephone answering service market. Their idea was to supply a suite of products providing improved automation and integration to services of all sizes. CadCom went on to pioneer several technological advancements. The LineMaster system was the first digital integrated switch to be aimed specifically at answering services. FaxMaster was one of the first internal faxing devices to operate without the need for an external system.

The Transition: In an effort to become a leading supplier, CadCom looked to sales agents to supplement its direct sales efforts. One of those was Communication Services, owned by Jack Baldwin. Communication Services was formally established in 1985 as a sales distributorship for Axon answering service equipment throughout the U.S. and also operated its own answering service. The Axon 4V paper-based product line was ultimately purchased by Communication Services and moved from California to Oklahoma. By 1987, customers, including Baldwin’s own answering service, demanded advances in technology that resulted in Communication Services becoming a dealer for CadCom Telesystems. CadCom’s LineMaster series provided larger growth options, paperless messaging, automatic paging, and new faxing options.

In 1995, Communication Services had grown to 15 employees and become the main sales and service agent for CadCom. As a result, Baldwin was able to purchase CadCom and move it from Georgia to Oklahoma. Communication Services remained the answering service name while CadCom Telesystems became the name of the company’s manufacturing and equipment sales division. In becoming a one-stop-shop, CadCom had diversified its product offering to answering services including digital voice recorders, order processing software, voice mail systems, and phone systems. CadCom also began reselling Southwestern Bell services as an authorized agent. By 2000, CadCom had grown to become the third largest manufacturer of answering service equipment in North America.

By the spring of 2000, growth had caused a space problem and as a result CadCom moved from a 12,500 sq ft facility to a 70,000 sq ft building. This facility is state-of-the-art and allows for larger research and development efforts. A dedicated training room, two conference rooms, and a cafeteria ensures an enclosed campus environment that translates into an enjoyable work environment. There is even an independently owned answering service that is located in the building.

In October 2000, CadCom’s new product offering, AccuCall, was installed at its first beta site. In February 2001, AccuCall was formally introduced at the CadCom Equipment Owners (OEO) Conference in Las Vegas. AccuCall features a top-to-bottom call flow design that provides the ability to handle large volumes of calls with minimal staff. New automation tools include an on-call scheduler which takes over the message dispatch process from the time the message is saved, ensuring the correct person is paged every time. Other innovations include Web page screen-pops, internal voice logging, and alarm reports for managers. If an agent goes out of rotation early or a sudden spike of incoming calls occurs, the supervisor can be alerted to ensure that no calls are missed.

Onvisource Users Group: The Onvisource Owners Association, Inc. (OEO) is a volunteer organization comprised of telemessaging services and call centers that use Onvisource’s telemessaging equipment.

OEO was formed in 1991, with about 40 users attending the first meeting. Since that time OEO’s membership has expanded to more than 100 users. The national user group meeting occurs every February with regional meetings held in the fall.

OEO provides an excellent resource for gathering ideas on how to improve operations, get new accounts, and keep staff motivated. Today many services provide more than a messaging taking function.  Many take orders, handle order fulfillment, provide delivery services, or resell mobile phone and pagers. CadCom works to keep products at the forefront of the ever-changing face of business, relying heavily on feedback from members of OEO to guide product development and generate new ideas on how to help the end users to operate more profitably.

Other successes: The company’s Business Solutions division was initially created to help end the finger pointing between vendors during equipment installations. In November 2000, CadCom spun off its Southwestern Bell agency and started Business Solutions. By the end of 2001, Business Solutions was the second-largest reseller out of 495 agencies for Southwestern Bell Telephone in its five-state region. By January, Business Solutions grew to 74 employees and it now is the top “retention and acquisition agent” for Southwestern Bell, servicing more than 115,000 businesses in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and Missouri. In addition, with the recent consolidation of SBC, Business Solutions can place orders for service in nearly all SBC territories stretching from California to Connecticut.

The demand for voice logging in diverse industries gave the company an additional opportunity. In February 2001, CadCom spun off its “voice recording” product and formed VoiceLogger. Starting with four employees from CadCom and funding from an Enid Angel Investment Group, VoiceLogger has emerged as one of the top 15 call logging companies in the U.S. In less than two years, VoiceLogger grew to a base of more than 300 customers, which include USAF, the U.S. Postal Service, Conoco/Phillips, Time Warner, Bell South, Dell, and Northrop Grumman. VoiceLogger has been named “Innovator of the Year” in 2001 and 2003 by The Journal Record. It was also named to the “Million Dollar Hall of Fame” by the Oklahoma Technology Commercialization Center in 2001.

Both moves allowed CadCom to keep its core concentration on the telemessaging industry.

Today: Today, CadCom is focused on providing solutions for teleservice companies through a series of diversified product offerings: AccuCall, AccuScript, and VM3. AccuCall has evolved into an enhanced CTI telemessaging platform offering off-the-shelf hardware with a standard client server application in a traditional computer network environment. Customers can have the bulk of their hardware and computer network needs handled through local resources and the scalability provides enough flexibility to handle large service needs or start up configurations with tools to help end users successfully attract and retain customers.

At A Glance:

  • Founded 1987 Marietta Georgia
  • Presently located in Enid, Okla.
  • Industry: Telephone answering service equipment provider
  • Offers 24/7 service and support 365 days per year
  • Main contact number 800 4 CadCom (800-422-3266)
  • Products offered:

o AccuCall (answering service system)
o AccuScript (order entry / scripting)
o Portal (unified communications / voicemail)

  • Executive staff:

o Jack Baldwin: President & OEO
o Sherry Pippin: Vice President of Human Resources
o Jerry Hill: Vice President of Business Development
o J.R. Criner: Vice President of Sales and Marketing

The Future: CadCom understands that its customers’ businesses revolve around their clients, who expect first-rate service. CadCom is continuing to expand its research and development operations to provide new ways for its customers to create revenue from their existing customer base, along with targeting new customer bases. In the next year, CadCom plans to continue to provide a suite of products and services that will help customers continue to expand their revenue stream and grow their business. The first step in this direction will be to introduce Portal, a unified communication system that will incorporate traditional unified messaging functionality with customization options. Portal’s integration with AccuCall is expected to provide increased services offerings.

About Jack Baldwin: In 1985, Baldwin founded a telephone answering service called Communications Services to serve the needs of his Oklahoma-based insurance agency. He then began the purchase and consolidation of equipment manufacturers within the industry. His first product was the AXON 4V, which was purchased from AXON Corp. in 1990. In 1995 Baldwin purchased CadCom, which he then moved to Oklahoma. Baldwin was named by the Enid Chamber of Commerce in 2001 as the Enid Businessman of the Year and was appointed to the Oklahoma Governor’s Technology Committee in 2002.

Company History Timeline:

1987   Company introduces the LineMaster series
1989   Expanded paperless system introduced
1991   OEO group started by users
1995   Company purchased by Jack Baldwin
1996   ComMaster, providing batch paging and email message delivery introduced.
1998   VM3 Voice Messaging System with IVR, Auto Attendant, and Alpha Transcription  introduced.
1998   DigiVoice1 digital voice recorder introduced
2000   AccuCall released for beta testing
2000   AccuCall Windows 2000 server system released
2001   AccuScript Order Entry and Scripting software introduced
2002   On Call Scheduler for AccuCall released
2002   Internal VoiceLogger for AccuCall released
2002   Installed AccuCall at first hospital client
2002   Completed first overseas sale of AccuCall in Tanzania
2003   Released AccuCall Web server for remote access

For more information visit www.onvisource.com or call 800-422-3266. For more information on the OEO user group, call 800-311-3550 or visit www.onvisource.com/oeo.

[From Connection MagazineMay 2003]

Vendor Profile: Startel Corporation

Startel contact center software that delivers happiness to your customers

Startel Corporation, established in 1980, is a leading provider of integrated text, voice, fax, and networking solutions for call center facilities that specialize in messaging, paging, and call transferring. The company is located in Irvine, CA, about 35 miles south of Los Angeles.

Over 1,100 customers use Startel products in such key markets as healthcare, higher education, Utility and telemessaging. Incorporated in 1980, Startel entered the integrated telecommunications products market by introducing a paperless message system and Automatic Call Distribution (ACD). For the past eighteen years, Startel has pioneered other industry firsts, providing voice, data, database, and networking capabilities in a single platform for telemessaging and other applications.

Company Milestones:

1980 – First paperless system installed.

1982 – Developed Call Diverter and Call Forwarder (over 150,000 sold).

1983 – First internally designed switch and ACD installed.

1984 – Series 4000 Concentrators introduced.

1984 – System 2800 unveiled, the first true 32 agent paperless system.

1985 – Intelligent Console developed to replace the traditional PBX and Centrex consoles in the Healthcare industry.

1986 – System 2700 is announced.

1991 – Established a market relationship with Pacific Bell (now SBC).

1991 – Developed an all-digital switch.

1992 – First generation 5700 system designed.

1992 – Startel merged with Comverse Technology (NASDAQ: CMVT) and now operates as a separate, profitable division.

1996 – Windows 95 Workstation Module, ISDN PRI interface developed.

1998 – IVR and VoiceNet, a Windows NT, flexible, and easy-to-use IVR and voice messaging system released.

1998 – Internet Callback solution introduced.

1999 – SQL server, On Call Scheduling, Windows directories, Hyperlinks released.

2000 – Workstation Module 4.0 and Web-enabled features completed.

2001 – Startel Wizard, Text Chat, and Integrated Internet Gateway developed.

2004 – The rollout of Startel’s signature platform – Call Management Center (CMC)

2006 – Rollout of Central Processing System (CPS)

2007 – CMC Version Release 6.0 and 7.0

2008 – CMC Version Release 8.0

Key Products:

The Startel Digital Switch is the company’s original Call Center platforms.  It is a modular, Windows-based system that supports up to 128 agents in local or multiple remote bureaus. It uses an SQL server and a true digital switch which interfaces directly with T1, ISDN PRI, DID, two-way DID, loop start, ground start and E&M trunks.

The 5700 ACD is recognized as the most flexible and powerful Automatic Call Distributor in the industry. It distributes calls in the most efficient manner possible while it provides the desired priority among your clients. It also supports remote agents and multiple bureau consolidation.

The 5700 provides a very comprehensive set of software applications that integrate seamlessly with its powerful messaging application. These applications were specifically designed to boost agent efficiency, decrease agent errors, and increase customer satisfaction.

The Startel Call Management System (CMC) is the company’s flagship Call Center platform, and by far, the most advanced solution on the market today! Developed based upon the direct input of their customers, Startel’s CMC enables Call Centers to offer more robust services and solutions to their clients while more efficiently enabling agents to process calls. The Startel CMC can intelligently and automatically dispatch calls, easily walk agents and callers through calls, and quickly set-up the most complex client accounts. Startel’s CMC works off of the most powerful Call Center switching platform in the industry, Startel’s 5700 Switch.

Startel’s New Central Processing System (CPS) provides a full Windows based solution for smaller Call Centers that are looking for more advanced features. The CPS is a platform that expands to a maximum of 4 positions and comes in the same black tower as its big brother (Startel’s CMC).  It hosts a subset of functions similar to the fully robust CMC, such as multiple time and day sensitive forms, rotating Master Cards, Tip Text, and Intelligent Form Routing. It also features SMS Delivery, Hyperlink, Caller ID Directories and Reverse Save. These features allow call centers to reduce error and speed up call processing throughput in order to reduce overhead and add revenue to their bottom line.

When a call center finds the need to expand beyond the 4 positions of the CPS, the CPS Platform has the capacity to be upgraded to the CMC platform and expand with them. Startel’s Central Processing System is fully upgradeable and can easily accept add-on applications and peripherals such as OnCall Scheduling, Time Activated Alerts, Voice Logging and Voice Processing.

This platform also offers smaller call centers the ability to easily handle more complex accounts while alleviating agent stress in meeting these customers’ advanced requirements.  The New Central Processing System utilizes Startel’s Digital Switch, the most advanced ACD switching platform on the market. This New Central Processing Platform supports Alpha Paging, Digital Paging, SMS Paging, Faxing and Emailing dispatch methods. The New Central Processing Platform is a fully contained system requiring no additional external hardware when connecting to your LAN.

Startel Corporation can be reached at 949-863-8700 or info@startel.com.

[From Connection MagazineMay/June 2002]