Tips to Finding Qualified Staff for Your Telephone Answering Service
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Finding qualified staff for telephone answering services has always been challenging, but it may be more of a struggle now than ever before. Interestingly, we can gain insights from the food services industry.
Before you dismiss the idea, consider that the goal at both restaurants and answering services is to serve people. Also, both industries often tap the same labor pool. What applies to one, readily applies to the other.
My recent experience at restaurants is most illuminating. They fit into three categories.
1. The first are restaurants with quality staff that provide exceptional service.
2. Next are those restaurants whose hiring choices have noticeably slipped in recent years, and their service reflects it.
3. Third are those restaurants who can’t find enough employees and have scaled back their hours or streamlined their menu and options accordingly.
Which staffing scenario best describes your answering service situation?
1. Successful Models to Follow
Restaurants in the first category—those with quality staff who provide excellent service—have several things in common. First, they have modern, well-maintained facilities. Their pride in their operation shows.
Next, they have accomplished managers and supervisors backed by finely-honed procedures.
Third, they offer better compensation packages. These restaurants don’t have “help wanted” appeals hanging in their windows or on their signage. And they have not needed to lower their expectations or hiring criteria to find quality employees.
People want to work for them.
2. Lowered Expectations and Struggling
Restaurants in the second category—those who have lowered their staffing expectations—also have several things in common. Their facilities are acceptable but not much more. They’re not as clean as they once were; areas of neglect are apparent.
Management and supervision are also lacking, seemingly from decreased expectations and accountability. They have “help wanted” ads in their windows, door, and signage. And they don’t pay as much and offer fewer benefits.
3. Essentially Giving Up
Restaurants in the third category—those who scaled back to address their inability to hire staff—are harder to comprehend. The one thing I can identify them having in common is that they seem to have given up finding enough reliable staff.
They act as though being short-staffed is inevitable, and they expect their clientele to deal with it.
One quick serve restaurant I used to frequent will only open their dining room if enough people show up to work. Else they lock their doors and expect everyone to use their drive through. As for me, I just drive to the restaurant down the street.
Another area restaurant struggled for months in a downward spiral of being understaffed, having inconsistent hours, and providing inferior quality food and sub-par dining experiences.
They let all their staff and supervision go, starting over with all new employees. These new hires—who I suspect are being paid more—have restored the level of service that this restaurant once offered.
If you lament the poor-quality applicants you receive and struggle to staff as you once did, the problem may not be with the available workforce. As hard as it is to say, the problem may be an internal issue.
Don’t blame the worker pool when the problem may be internal.
Look at your facility, your management and supervision, and your processes. Once these are as good as you can make them, address your compensation package.
These elements all work together to bring in the workforce you need to best run your telephone answering service.
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.