Answering Services Should Seek to Diversify Their Service Offerings
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
I’ve often encouraged telephone answering services to expand their service offerings. One option is to become a multichannel provider. A wise approach that aligns with the core mission of facilitating client communications is to handle additional channels.
This can include email processing, text services, web-based chat interaction, and social media monitoring.
Some answering services have moved in this direction with varying degrees of success. Others have contemplated it but are yet to act.
Another camp is those that have resisted offering other communication channels. I get that. Pursuing what is different presents challenges and is scary.
Yet it’s important for any business—including answering services—to diversify their service offerings to better prepare for the future. Whatever your perspective of this multichannel strategy, here are some ideas to help you move forward and realize success.
Select One Channel
Don’t pursue a multichannel strategy by diving into every opportunity at once. Strategically select one option and resist the urge—no matter how tempting—to let another channel distract your attention.
Which channel are you most comfortable pursuing? Though this is a good place to start your deliberation, don’t stop at this point.
Next, evaluate the strength of your existing staff. Which channel best connects with their inherent skill set?
Third, check with your vendor to see which option they can best and most easily provide through your current system. You’ll want to integrate this new channel in with your existing answering service platform.
A last step, which could also be your first one, is to check with your existing client base and gauge their interest for each channel option.
Ideally, you should select the channel that your existing staff has the skills to address, will work on your current platform, and you can market to your established client base.
Proceed With Care
Once you’ve selected a second communication channel to pursue, plan carefully before you proceed. Don’t announce this new service and solicit customers expecting to figure it out as you go. Train your staff. Test your platform. Anticipate potential problems and adjust as needed.
Do all this before you sign your first client to this new channel.
Market the Channel
Once you’ve done all the needed preparation, now is the time to promote this new service. Start with your existing client base. Perhaps even handpick clients who will be predisposed to work with you and help you fine tune your offering.
After you’ve added the service to all your existing clients who are interested in it, begin a proactive sales and marketing campaign to solicit new business specifically for this channel. As a bonus, you can cross sell them on your voice channel.
Master This Channel
As you gain success in the second channel, resist the urge to add another one too quickly. Excel at this channel before you consider diversifying further into a third one. Don’t rush it. But don’t coast either.
Repeat When Ready
Once you’ve achieved operational and financial success on your second channel, you’re ready to replicate the process with a third one. You may desire to expand quickly and repeat your success.
But it may also be wise to take a strategic pause to settle into a new rhythm of offering two channels before you proceed to add a third. Just be sure not to remain there too long.
Keep moving forward to diversify your service offerings and become a multichannel provider. Your future will thank you.
Learn more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s book, How to Start a Telephone Answering Service.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his books How to Start a Telephone Answering Service and Sticky Customer Service.