Categories
Telephone Answering Service

What Does Your Website Do for You?

Make the Most of Your Online Presents to Better Serve Customers and Grow Your Business

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Does your telephone answering service have a website? I hope so. What does your website do for your business? Over the years, I’ve seen a wide range of TAS websites, from severely lacking to impressively professional.

They fall into some common categories. Consider which category yours fits into. Then determine if it’s the right one.

A Placeholder

Some websites are nothing more than a placeholder. It may say “coming soon” or have generic text that gives no specific information.

I suspect this is from companies that registered the domain name to use for email purposes. Or maybe it’s businesses that registered the name but never got around to setting up the site.

Either way, be aware that prospects and others looking to learn about your business will stumble upon it. The message a placeholder website sends is not a good one. You’d be better off if it didn’t exist.

An Online Brochure

Moving beyond a do-nothing placeholder website is turning it into an online brochure. Effectively this means taking what once would have been in printed marketing materials and putting them online.

Typically this begins as a one-page website. There’s nothing wrong with this. At a basic level, an online brochure provides visitors with some information about your operation. It’s a great start.

An Information Center

Building upon a website as an online brochure, add other content that prospects will find helpful. This means adding more pages. In addition to your marketing information, you’ll want a homepage, an about us page, and a contact page.

You may also want a blog to post news and content marketing pieces, but don’t jump into starting a blog without first thinking it through and making sure you or someone on your team has the commitment to produce content on a regular basis.

A Marketing Tool

You can expand your website beyond an information center and turn it into a marketing tool. You can add pages that cover services offered, specialties or industries served, testimonials or reviews, pricing, and a sign-up form.

Which ones you include will vary with your marketing strategy, so don’t think you need to pursue every suggestion. Just add what makes sense for your situation.

A Client Support Resource

Until now we covered website options from the perspective of a prospect. It should also have a section for clients. Provide client-specific information to help them get the most out of their experience with your answering service.

You can also include a client portal to allow them to access messages, submit a customer service request, and make on-call or employee directory changes. You can also allow them to pay their bill online.

Most or all these options should require a customer login, thereby blocking prospects from accessing this information or trolls intent on causing mischief.

Your Online Hub for All Interaction

The best websites are both a marketing tool and a customer support resource. It becomes your online hub for communication with both prospects and clients.

If your website is currently at this level, well done! But that doesn’t mean you’re finished. Look for ways to make it simpler to navigate and more user-friendly.

A website is never done and requires ongoing tweaking. The goal is that each change makes it better and more effective.

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.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Six Downsides of Self-Publishing

In my post “Five Reasons a Writer Should Self-Publish,” I listed several advantages of self-publishing. Although compelling, there are also downsides. Let’s also look at the downsides of self-publishing.

Consider These Six Downsides of Self-Publishing:

1. Quality is Often Lacking

Traditional publishers put their books through several rounds of editing to produce the best possible product. The temptation of self-publishing is to skip these steps. Even if a professional editor is hired, the chance of them catching everything a traditional publisher would in their multiple rounds of review is slim.

But too often, authors self-edit or tap a friend who, although well-intended, lacks the needed experience. From a production standpoint, there’s no reason for substandard output anymore. But it’s too easy and too tempting to cut corners.

2. Credibility May Be Illusive

Although self-publishing no longer carries the stigma it once did, some people still consider it a second-rate option.

3. Self-Promotion Is Required

Self-published authors are responsible for their own marketing, promotion, and sales. No one else will do it for you.

4. The Author Must Become an Entrepreneur

Self-publishing is a business, requiring an investment of time, effort, and money—all with no promise of a return. It’s risky, and you could lose money.

5. Limited Distribution

Although some distribution options are available, they don’t match the reach of a traditional publisher. Don’t plan on your book is in bookstores.

6. No Advances

Self-publishers must shell out money to publish; advances are not part of the equation. You must spend money ahead of time and then hope to earn it back later and make a profit.

These are the six downsides of self-publishing. Consider them carefully and if you opt to go this route, be sure to avoid them.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

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Categories
Writing and Publishing

Five Reasons a Writer Should Pursue a Traditional Publishing Deal

The Benefits of Going with a Traditional Publisher

In “Why Self-publishing vs Traditional Publishing Doesn’t Matter” I pointed out that both options have the potential to satisfy the core needs of a writer seeking publication. Writers must carefully consider the pros and cons of each option before pursuing either one. Future posts will consider some of these issues.

To start the discussion, here are five reasons why a writer should go with a traditional publisher:

1. Wider Distribution

Traditional publishers have distribution avenues that are effectively not available to self-published books. Sure, there are work-around solutions, but they’re limited and require much time and effort. Traditional publishers handle the distribution, easy peasy.

2. An Advance

Traditional publishers provide an advance. While the advances are getting smaller, they still exist. Self-publishers never receive an advance. In fact, self-publishing costs money, so it’s like a negative advance.

3. More Prestige

An author of a traditionally published book earns greater respect and garners more esteem.

4. Higher Quality

Traditional publishers generally produce a higher quality product. There are more eyes looking at it to catch errors and make it the best they can.

5. They Do the Heavy Lifting

What about e-books, hardcover and paperback, press releases, cover designs, ISBN, bar codes, back cover material, and author photos? A traditional publisher handles all these items. There’s nothing for the author to master or worry about; traditional publishers make it happen.

Traditional Publisher versus Self-Publishing

Given all this, why would anyone want to self-publish? Next week, we’ll consider why.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

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Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Call Center

Cross Channel Training

Consider the Optimum Strategy for Your Contact Center Staff

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

At one time call centers handled calls and nothing else. They had one channel. That was it. Now most call centers handle more than just telephone calls. They’ve become multichannel. Contact center is a better name for them.

Along with phone calls—which is still the predominant channel at many operations—we’re now seeing text chat, web support and assisted browsing, email response, and a multitude of social media platforms to monitor and engage. In addition to these is a possibility of handling two older channels: mail and fax.

Although there may be some overlap, each channel requires a separate set of skills, which means supplying channel-specific training. Do you want to cross train all contact center agents so that any employee can handle any contact, regardless of the channel and when needed? Or do you want specialists that excel in one area? Or is a mixture of both approaches the best strategy for your operation?

Here are some considerations about cross channel training:

Channel Specialists

Contact center specialists, such as telephone agents or text chat representatives, handle communications through one channel and one channel only. Because they specialize in that channel, they excel at it and can serve customers with greater effectiveness, proficiency, and speed. A specialist will be more efficient in their channel than a generalist.

This is ideal for some operations, and its ideal for some agents. These employees relish consistency and find comfort in knowing what they will do at work each day, each week, and each month. For them, they counter the repetition of their work by embracing the unexpected variety from one call to the next or one text to the next.

For agents who like a variety of tasks, specializing in one channel is a horrific prospect. If you don’t offer a way to counter their boredom, they’ll leave as soon as a more suitable job becomes available.

Channel Generalists

Contact center generalists receive instruction on how to handle communication on each channel your operation offers. This means that every employee receives cross channel training. They relish the opportunity to learn and master each channel. They have a flexible mindset and see benefits of enjoying a varied workday.

Having a contact center staffed with generalists provides the most responsive configuration, with any agent able to handle any channel at any time. This is ideal for time-critical communications that don’t tolerate interaction delays, such as the telephone, text chat, and web support. (Having a delayed response with email, social media, mail, and fax isn’t an issue, providing they’re handled in a reasonable time.)

Selective Cross Training

The discussion between contact center specialists and generalists, however, isn’t an exclusive one. You can have a mixture of both. You can even have partial cross channel training where an agent receives training on some channels but not all.

For agents who want to handle the same type of communication, let them specialize. Don’t force them away from something they like into something they don’t want to do by cross channel training them. All that will do is taking a successful agent who happily serves you well in one channel and turning them into a disillusioned employee who seeks a different job.

Other agents, however, will clamor for the opportunity to receive training on and handle every communication channel you offer. And they’ll be the first in line to explore opportunities with new channels.

There’s a middle ground, however, where agents may want to and benefit from receiving cross channel training on specific channels with similar skill sets. One example might be the text chat and email channels, which both need quick and accurate typing skills. But they may shudder at the idea of talking on the phone. Conversely a phone agent may also enjoy text chat, as both have back-and-forth interaction with the contact.

In these cases, let agents select which channels they want to receive training on. Be sure, however, that cross channel training is optional and not expected. Embrace those employees who want to remain one-channel experts.

Cross Channel Implementation

Regardless of the degree of cross channel training in your contact center, there are two implementation strategies for your cross-trained agents.

One possibility is with agents assigned to a particular channel for the day, with the understanding that you may reassign them to another channel as traffic warrants. This switch may be for an hour or two or for the rest of the day. Regardless, staff always begins the day on a scheduled channel.

The other approach is a universal distribution of contacts, with any customer communication going to any agent regardless of the channel. This makes scheduling the easiest and offers the most responsiveness to customers, but it may come at the cost of optimum efficiency.

Conclusion

If your call center handles other communication channels, or is thinking about it, consider how you want to approach it. You can adopt a specialist mindset, pursue a generalist tactic, or embrace a mixture of the two.

The point is to consider the cross channel training strategy that’s ideal for your operation, your customers, and your staff. Balance their needs to provide the best outcome for all stakeholders.

Check out Sticky Customer Service for practical insights into how to provide great customer service (and what to avoid).

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

WordPress Primer: Seven Tips to Get Started Right and Minimize Confusion

I recently posted a series on getting started using WordPress for your blog or website. In case you missed some of them, here are the seven posts:

  1. Using WordPress For Your Blog: Two Options to Consider
  2. Getting Started with WordPress
  3. What’s the Difference Between a WordPress Page and Post?
  4. What’s a WordPress Theme?
  5. What’s a Widget and Why Do I Want Them on My WordPress Blog?
  6. What’s the Difference Between a Category and a Tag on Your WordPress Blog?
  7. Essential WordPress Plugins

Setting up a blog is just the first step; the next one is coming up with great content and presenting it in the best way possible. Therefore, I just completed a series on blogging, where I shared ideas on how to best use a blog once it’s set up.

Happy blogging!

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Call Center

Is Your Management Style Hurting Your Call Center?

After Doing All You Can on the Hiring Side, Turn Your Attention to Retention

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

A college friend recently shared his experience working at his part-time job. Several of his coworkers had quit, and he planned to do so as well. His departure would move his employer from drastically short-staffed to critically understaffed.

She begged him to stay and offered him a significant pay bump, moving him to nearly three times minimum wage for his unskilled, entry-level position.

He accepted. But he quickly regretted his decision.

Three weeks later he quit for good. “She was just too hard to work for,” he said, “and no amount of money would get me to stay.”

He found another job right away. Though his new one doesn’t pay as well, he likes his boss and feels appreciated. He now enjoys going to work. As a bonus, the hours don’t interfere with his school schedule or studying.

Times Have Changed

In a different era, his first boss’s management style would have worked. Yes, she would have churned through employees, but hiring a replacement wouldn’t have been an issue.

Times have changed. It seems every business today is in a hiring mode. They’ve upped their pay, improved their compensation plan, and lowered their expectations. But they still have trouble filling open slots, as well as keeping the employees they do have.

And I hear rumblings—and have personally witnessed it—that some of the employees they do have fall short of expectations and are less than the caliber they once hired.

The common solutions to filling open positions in a tight labor market are to pay more, improve benefits, and be more accommodating. These are good solutions, but a better approach may be to re-examine your management style.

Management Style

Quite succinctly, is your management style hurting your call center?

In thinking back to past jobs, I’ve had managers who were patient, and others who were demanding; some were kind, and others were tyrants; some were complimentary, and others were condemning. I liked some and feared others. And when it came to compensation, some were fair, and others were cheap.

For the good jobs with great bosses, I stayed with those companies for a long time, working until my situation or their need for me changed. For the other jobs with less-than-ideal bosses, I moved on as quickly as I could.

Each one of these was a learning opportunity, teaching me what to do and not to do when it came to supervising staff and leading people.

Managerial Impact

When I moved into management, I strived to be a fair boss and treat employees well—to be the kind of employer I wanted to work for.

Though I didn’t always succeed at meeting my goal, I know that most of the time I did. Some employees noticed this and even thanked me for it. And a few told me I was the best boss they ever had.

I’m not sure how my focus on being a desirable boss and worthy employer affected our turnover, but I do know I felt good about myself and the effort I put forth to make the operation a better place to work.

Take Action

If your call center is short-staffed and you can’t find enough qualified employees, despite paying more and offering more, the long-term solution may be to focus on the retention side of the equation.

Look at your management style. Seek changes that will allow you to have a more positive impact on your staff and lead them in a more effective way.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his carer. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Common Submission Errors

Here are the three biggest mistakes people make when submitting content for publication. Avoid these common submission errors :

1. Not Following Submission Guidelines

The first submission error is not following directions.

Adhering to submission guidelines helps increase the chance of them publishing your work. Each deviation lessens the likelihood of success.

Common mistakes include missing deadlines (a huge no-no), submitting content not accepted by the publication, and having a piece that’s the wrong length. Too many writers ignore the directions for submissions.

2. Not Proofreading Their Work

The second submission mistake is not proofreading their submission.

Most editors will overlook an error or two, but when it’s clear that the author never even ran spellcheck, it’s obvious they haven’t bothered to send their best work, and they expect me to clean it up. Sometimes I don’t have the time, but it always irritates me,

3. Not Adhering to Writing Conventions

The third submission error is using non-standard formatting.

Some writers must think that creative formatting equals creative writing. It does not. They use odd fonts or switch fonts within the piece, various point sizes, multiple colors, and lots of bold, italics, underline, all three, and ALL CAPS.

All these things require work to clean up. Make it simple for editors by submitting a clean copy with no embellished formatting.

To have the best chance of success, avoid these common submission errors.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Write Every day or At Least Write Regularly

The one single most important thing I ever did was to make the commitment to write every day.

This principle to write every day, however, is shorthand to write regularly. At first, I wrote five days a week, Monday through Friday. Then I made it six days and eventually seven. Now I’m back to six. It’s a rhythm that works for me in this season of my life.

Through all these variations, the one constant is that I get up every weekday morning and shuffle off to my writing desk. Whether I feel like it or not, I sit down and write. I commit to at least an hour each day, but my goal is to write longer. Usually, I make it.

Until I began to write regularly, the writing was ancillary. Now it’s central, and that’s made all the difference.

Learn more about writing and publishing in Peter’s book: The Successful Author: Discover the Art of Writing and Business of Publishing. Get your copy today.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Go Beyond the Call  

Seek Ways to Solve Caller’s Pain Points

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

As a medical call center your job is to answer healthcare-related calls and respond to each one efficiently. Yet what if this isn’t what the patient needs? To paraphrase and old saying, sometimes we can win the battle but lose the war. That’s why we need to go beyond the call.

Being efficient sometimes gets in the way of truly winning. Call centers have a lot of metrics to track. These help us quantify results, but they may not measure outcomes. We need to find a balance between efficiency and patient-centric results.

Here are some ideas:

Offer Empathy

Sometimes callers need to know you heard them just as much as they need their issue addressed. This requires listening and offering empathy. Correcting a caller’s issue but doing so abruptly or without listening to them leaves the caller more frustrated than satisfied.

To you, they are one more call in a busy day. But to them you may be the most important call they’ll make all day.

Pursue Resolution

Other times what a patient asks for isn’t what they need—not really. Yet a passive-aggressive response results in answering the question, while not resolving the problem.

For example, a patient might ask for the web address of your online portal so they can check the results of a recent test. You give them the address because that’s what they asked for. Yet you know the results they want won’t be available for at least another day. Do you tell them that, even though it’s not what they asked? Can you suggest a different method for them to get the results quicker?

Anticipate Problems

Let’s say a patient calls to verify the location of where they need to go for an appointment with a specialist. You give them the address.

They didn’t ask about parking, but you know that’s an issue that frustrates many people. So, you can go the extra mile and let them know where they should park and how much time to allow themselves so they can arrive at the specialist’s office without being frazzled or out of breath.

Stay on the Line

Back to our caller who asked for the web address. You can give it to them and get off the call. Or you can give it to them and stay on the line to see if they have any more questions. Maybe they wrote it down wrong. If you’re still connected, you can clarify it, instead of making them call back a second time.

Or you can help them navigate the site, offering a quick tip that will save several minutes of frustration on their part. The point is, don’t end the call prematurely. If you think they’ll need help, the best approach may be to stick around.

Putting These Tips into Practice

You may acknowledge that while these are insightful ideas, they’re not practical for your busy call center and that you can’t afford to implement them. But recall the concept of winning the battle and losing the war.

That means the better perspective is that perhaps you can’t afford not to.

Think about it.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Healthcare Call Center Essentials, available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D., is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Get his book, Sticky Customer Service.

Categories
News

Startel Interviews Peter DeHaan

Earlier this year Vince Vitale, marketing director at Startel, interviewed Peter Lyle DeHaan about the future of the call center industry and learned about his best content marketing tips.

The result is a two-part series.

The first piece, titled “Peter Lyle DeHaan: Contact Center Futurist,” appeared online in March this year. In it, DeHaan looked at the industry’s past to get a feeling for where it’s headed. “I see a bright future for the industry, limited only by our imagination and creativity,” said DeHaan.

His advice to get there is to “Invest in people, for frontline staff is our essential difference and our future distinction. Then support them with the best technology tools possible.”

The second piece, titled “9 Contact Center Writing Tips for Content Writers from the Guy Who Literally Wrote the Book on the Call Center Industry” addresses promotion opportunities for call centers and telephone answering services. DeHaan’s mission is to “change the world one word at a time.”

He warns against posting content on social media which limits what your audience sees and can summarily shut you down at any moment, for any reason. Therefore, post on your website, which you own and control.

“Once you have a professional looking and visitor-friendly website, consider content marketing for engaging prospects and for search engine optimization (SEO),” added DeHaan. Yet he noted that “Writing is easy. Writing well is hard. It requires practice.”

Call centers can produce content internally. Their staff knows the industry but may struggle with writing. Or they can outsource the writing part, but those experts may struggle with understanding the industry. It’s a difficult balance to achieve.

Regardless, “Start by producing quality content with a visitor-first perspective. Don’t write for search engines because they can’t make a buying decision. Only after you’ve written it should you factor into the piece good SEO practices.”

With a lifetime of relevant experience, Peter Lyle DeHaan has written extensively about the call center industry. He owns and publishes Connections Magazine, along with launching and publishing AnswerStat, TAS Trader, and Medical Call Center News.

Healthcare Call Center Essentials: Optimize Your Medical Contact Center to Improve Patient Outcomes and Drive Organizational Success

His industry related books include Healthcare Call Center Essentials, Sticky Customer Service, and How To Start a Telephone Answering Service.

His next book, Sticky Sales and Marketing, is due out later this year.