Call Center

Will You Help Us?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

As we start a new year at Connections Magazine, I have a favor to ask you. I don’t do this lightly, and it is important. If you enjoy reading Connections, I know you’ll do whatever you can.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Here’s the background: Connections is an advertiser-supported magazine. That means the revenue from ads cover the costs to edit, layout, design, print, and mail the magazine. No advertiser support means no magazine. In the past ten years, a number of call center magazines have ceased publication, moved online, or morphed their content into a different area. This leaves Connections Magazine as the only remaining print magazine focused solely on the call center industry.

We have survived because of loyal advertisers, passionate readers, a dedicated team, low overhead, and streamlined procedures that few can match. We pledge to do whatever we can to continue to publish and print Connections, but we can’t do it alone.

Readers: If your call center vendors advertise in Connections Magazine (see the list on page 27), please email them, call them, or even jot them a quick note to say “thank you.” Let them know you really appreciate what they do to support us so we can support the industry. This may not seem like much, but I want to affirm them and let them feel the love.

If your call center vendors don’t advertise in Connections Magazine, please encourage them to do so. Be nice about it, but ask them to support Connections for you, for the industry, and ultimately for themselves, so that more people can learn about their products and services. As you contact them, realize that all vendors have limited funds, and some are small companies. But whatever they can afford to do will help. In addition to display ads, they can consider a Professional Directory listing (page 3), a Vendor Directory listing (page 28), or a Marketplace ad (page 29).

Outsource Call Centers: If you are an outsource call center, contact center, teleservice agency, or answering service, there is another way you can help. In most issues of Connections Magazine, we print a directory of outsource call centers (this issue covers text chat service providers).

We’d like to include your call center in our next listing. Check out Then click on “submit your listing.” We’ll add your call center to our online directories and then include you in future printed directories, as appropriate. Of course, there’s a small fee for this, but one sale will easily cover the cost.

Vendors: If you provide products, software, or services to the call center industry and don’t see your company advertised on these pages, you know what you need to do. Contact Valerie (see page 7 for her contact info) to do your part. Enough said.

Advertisers: I’m extremely grateful for you: “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” You make this magazine possible. Everyone who advertises here is part of the solution: our sponsors, display advertisers, and those listed in the Professional Directory, Vendor Directory, and Marketplace. Again, I say a heartfelt “thank you”!

Our Role: We’re doing our part, too. We continue to keep production costs low and are always looking for more effective ways to publish Connections Magazine. Starting this year, we have right-sized our number of issues back to six. This allows us to provide regular industry communication while not asking as much from our regular advertisers, some who have advertised every issue for the past twelve years (which is as far back as my records go).

We are poised to move forward in 2014. For the first time, all of our sponsorship spots are filled, and key advertisers have committed their support for the entire year. With your help we can move forward boldly and with confidence, both this year and beyond.

Thank you for your time to read this, and thank you for doing your part to support Connections Magazine.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky Series books: Sticky Leadership and Management, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

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.

Call Center

Your Call Center’s Marketing Future May Be Online

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

I have long been a proponent of the necessity for outsourcing call centers to have websites. In fact, I view a website as a veritable requirement for success in today’s market. To the point, call centers lacking a website are quickly viewed as second-rate providers and not worth the consideration of first-rate prospects.

With the current concerns over attracting and signing new call center clients, now is the time for site-less call centers to embrace the Internet as a means of marketing and validation.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I know that there are still call centers out there that are yet to fully embrace the Internet revolution. Sadly, I hear from them on a regular basis. As amazing as it sounds, we occasionally hear from call center owners who want to place a classified ad, but can’t because they don’t have Internet access. (Placing classified ads online is requisite for us to keep the ads affordable.)

In addition, when people subscribe to the magazine, we ask for their email address so that we can contact them if we have questions or to renew their subscription (again to keep costs down). Some people are adamant that they do not have an email address. As a result, they run the risk of being dropped at renewal time. We will soon get to a point where a working email address will be required to receive the magazine; that’s just the evolving nature of the magazine publishing business.

Now, back to the website issue. We currently list several hundreds of outsourcing call centers on the Connections Magazine website (and on When people submit their listing information, we require that they have a working website. The reason is simple. If a prospect is looking at online listings, they will likely make contact online as well, first by perusing the websites of potential vendors and then via email. The call centers that lack websites usually fall into the start-up category or are stuck in the past, seeing no value in the Internet.

Therefore, there is clear anecdotal evidence to confirm that there are still call centers without Internet access, an email address, or a website. How can they serve their clients, market to prospects, and stay in business? If you feel singled out and maligned by this, I urge you to take action today to embrace the Internet before it is too late, with your call center paying the price.

Website Basics: Although it can cost thousands of dollars to have a whiz-bang, high-tech, professional-looking website designed, there are less costly options. After all, we don’t all drive a MercedesBenz — sometimes a Chevy will do. You can make an inexpensive website yourself for under $100. The goal is for it to not look cheap. Most hosting companies offer do-it-yourself website templates that you – yes, you — can customize to provide a basic, yet professional-looking site. However, there are a few beginner mistakes that you will want to avoid:

  • Stay away from line art graphics or any artwork that looks like it was homemade.
  • If you need to resize a graphic, be sure to keep it proportional. Otherwise, it will become distorted, either being stretched or squished.
  • Take time to proofread the text, verify spelling, use correct grammar, and employ commonly accepted punctuation. Have others double- and triple-check your work.
  • Don’t get carried away with different fonts. Use one, or two at the most.
  • Uppercase text is strictly verboten; people will feel like you’re screaming at them. (The one possible exception might be listing your call center name at the top of the page.)
  • You might be tempted to insert a page counter or some other nifty gadget. Resist that urge. Just because those features are available doesn’t mean you should use them.
  • Although not available with predesigned website templates, you might think you need to have a flashy animation on your home page. Don’t go there; the only ones who will be impressed will be you and the person who designs it. Everyone else will be irritated, and the search companies will dismiss you.
  • Don’t piggyback off someone else’s domain name; get your own. This can be inexpensively obtained from your hosting company. While you’re at it, set up an email account using that domain name. Post that email address on your website. If need be, you can have this new address forwarded to an existing email account.

Search Engine Optimization: Now that you have a functioning website (which avoids all the beginner errors), you want people to find it. Aside from telling everyone you meet and listing it on every piece of literature and stationery that you have, you need to be noticed and appreciated by the search engines. This is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Although this is more of an art form than an exact science (since the search engine companies closely guard their methodologies), here’s some generally agreed upon SEO basics:

  • Each page of your site needs a title tag, and each page’s title should be different.
  • Each page also needs a description tag; again each one should be different from the other pages.
  • Adding reasonable and accurate keywords is recommended. Although it is generally accepted that Google ignores them, some search engines will use them, so it’s a good idea. Again, they should not be the same for each page.
  • Although some people still value reciprocal linking (that is, “I’ll link to your site if you link to mine”), the conventional wisdom is that this no longer helps and likely actually hurts your visibility with the search engines.
  • Most of the companies that guarantee you top search engine placement for a fee fail to deliver or can’t do so for the long-term. There are experts who can do this, but they are in a minority and often hard to substantiate.

Search Engine Marketing: If you want people finding your site and contacting you about your service, the next step to consider might be Search Engine Marketing (SEM). This is when you sign up with Internet advertising companies such as Google, Yahoo, or a host of others. Basically, you tell them how much you are willing to pay each time a person clicks on your ad, and they place your ad on websites where potential prospects frequent. If you go this route, proceed slowly and carefully until you have a good understanding of how this works. I have heard stories of novices spending hundreds of dollars in a couple of hours with not much to show for it. A key thing to remember is that just because they clicked on your website does not mean they will become a client – or even contact you.

Given the current concerns over the economy and finding new clients, call centers need to do everything they can to help their business succeed. The Internet is a cost-effective and increasingly popular method. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner in this area, have the experience, or are a veteran, there are always more opportunities waiting in the rapidly growing realm of cyberspace.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky Series books: Sticky Leadership and Management, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

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.

Call Center

Want More Sales? Check Your Email

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

If it’s your job to obtain clients for your call center, I have a secret technique to increase your closing ratio and success rate: check your email. Seriously.

I suspect that there’s a better than even chance that you are missing leads, spurning prospects, and losing sales – all because of email. If you don’t believe me, I have proof.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

On the Connections Magazine website, I list outsource call centers. There is an expanded version of the same information on the website Find a Call Center. All the data listed have been directly submitted by the call center themselves, be it the owners, marketing managers, or sales professionals. 

The one thing they have in common is that they are all eager to receive leads and make sales. Once the information is submitted, I review it, verify that the information is relevant, and then post it on both sites.

I verify listings annually and recently sent out the verification messages. The lack of response—and the slowness of response—was appalling.

Emailing sales contacts at 188 call centers, only 48 (25%) responded to my first email message, while 21 (11%) of the addresses generated a failure notice. The majority of those responding did so the first day, but many trickled in over the next week.

I sent a second email message to the remaining 119 non-responders. This time 16 (13%) responded, with 4 (3%) generating a “delayed” message, eventually “giving up.” One third of the responders did so within one day, with the rest taking up to five days. A third and final email was sent out to the remaining 103 call centers. This time only 5 (5%) responded.

Someone might assert that sales inquiries take precedence over my verification email, but does this somehow justify never responding? That is unacceptable. Remember, if my verification request is ignored, they lose their listing and all subsequent leads.

In summary, only 37% responded at all—only about half did so on the same business day; 13% had non-working email addresses (“failures” or “delayed”); an entire 50% were seemingly received but ignored.

If your call center marketing strategy and sales staff relies on email inquiries for lead generation, prospecting, and sales, then these are indeed sobering numbers.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky Series books: Sticky Leadership and Management, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

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.

Call Center

Check Your Email

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

How do you regard email? Is it something that you can’t live without, a necessary evil, or somewhere in between? At Connections Magazine, email is a critical tool that we use to communicate with readers, advertisers, and each other.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Without it, our ability to put out this magazine would come to an abrupt stop. However, even with it being such an indispensable tool, email is also an ongoing source of frustration, sometimes extremely so.

In the October issue of Connections Magazine, we published a list of outsourcing call centers. This list is compiled from submissions which are also posted on our website.

This has been an ongoing effort for several years and a service which we are happy to provide to the industry – and to your potential prospects. Since I am well aware that business listings and contact data change over time, I wanted to verify that all listing information was still current before being printed in our magazine’s outsourcing call center directory.

Starting with an initial 156 call centers in our listing, I sent an email to each one, asking them to verify their information prior to publication. Several of those messages bounced back immediately, with varying types of unresolvable error messages.

Several more came back after four days of trying. To their credit, some people responded immediately or the next day. After a week, I sent a follow-up email to those who I hadn’t heard from yet. A few additional addresses were undeliverable with this second round.

With both mailings, I received many “out-of-office” messages. Few of them were of the “out on a sales call” variety, but rather, they were the “on vacation for two weeks” type.

This would not be alarming, if not for the fact that I had sent my message to email addresses that had been posted for sales inquires.

The end result was that of 156 originally listed call centers, thirteen (8.3%) were bad email addresses, eighty (51.3%) were apparently good, working email addresses, but no one bothered to respond, and only sixty-three answered, either to confirm or update their listing.

Remember, this was not a list that I bought or harvested, but rather the result of self-submitted email addresses from people who wanted to be contacted. This was an astoundingly poor 40.4% response rate.

Can you imagine if someone were that apathetic about their telephone number?

The analogy would be that on 8% of call attempts the caller would receive a “nonworking number” recording or a busy signal, 51% would ring but never be answered, and only a scant 40% would be answered by a person and responded to.

With a track record like that, how long do you think a call center could stay in business?

Before you criticize me for implying that email is a comparably critical comparison to the telephone, I need to point out that email is the default communication channel for an increasing number of people – especially the younger generation, who are rapidly becoming the decision makers at your prospects’ offices.

Each month I hear from call centers (by the way, they generally email me) who wonder how they can obtain more clients. I have been hesitant to give them my ideas because that was not one of my strengths when I was in their shoes, but I’m starting to realize that perhaps I do have something to offer.

Start with Your Website: Firstly, you need a website. I’ve said it often and I’ll say it again, if your call center doesn’t have a website you won’t be taken seriously. Once you have a site, check it periodically to make sure it is still there and working.

Sites can go down (usually temporarily, sometimes permanently), pages can get deleted, links break, domain names become pointed to the wrong place – or to nowhere – and on and on. As I delved into this project, I removed all listings that didn’t have working websites. After all, if a prospect finds you online, they will likely want to contact you online.

Keep Track of Your Email Addresses: You need to assign an email administrator who keeps track of all email addresses that your call center uses. This includes both the ones to individuals, as well as general purpose ones, such as for a department.

When an employee leaves, don’t just deactivate their email address, but have it forwarded to the email administrator so that important messages can be received and routed to the proper person.

Test Your Email Addresses: Once you’ve accounted for all your email addresses, they must be periodically checked to make sure they are working. This is especially true of department and company-wide addresses.

Also, carefully test all of those email addresses that have an auto-response message or are forwarded to another mailbox. Both of these situations are prime areas for problems to occur – and can easily remain undetected for a long time.

The most critical email addresses to check are those that are published. This includes those listed on your website; printed in ads, directories, and listings; and posted online on other websites. These should be tested daily. (Incidentally, this is a service that you should be offering your clients.) 

This testing can be automated – just make sure someone is faithfully checking the logs to ensure the program is running and the errors are being addressed. Perhaps better still is to simply have an agent do the testing during a slow time of the day.

Develop a Vacation Policy: A policy needs to be established for staff email when they are on vacation. Short of having them check their email while gone (a requirement that I would discourage), an auto-response message is the minimal expectation.

This message must provide the name, number, and email address of a qualified alternate contact. A preferred approach would be to not inconvenience the client or prospect and simply have someone check the vacationing staff’s email account for time critical and urgent communiqués.

(This is an excellent reason to keep business and personal email separate. Just as you don’t want personal email encroaching on the business hours, it is wise to keep business email from detracting from personal time.)

Heighten the Importance of Email: If your call center switch, server, or telco connection goes down, it is a problem of the most critical nature; all else becomes subordinate until it is resolved.

There are backup options, contingency plans, notification procedures, and escalation steps. The same needs to occur with email.

Verify Your Sales Staff: Up until now, I have addressed the technical side of email. The human side, however, should not be discounted.

Left unchecked, salespeople can become lackadaisical, forget to check email, or merely delete any lead that doesn’t sound like a sure thing. This is only remedied through diligent monitoring and verification.

So the answer to my most commonly received query, “How can I get more sales?” may be as simple as “Check your email!”

Read more in Peter’s Sticky Series books: Sticky Leadership and Management, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

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.