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Telephone Answering Service

Dealing with Answering Service Technology

Technology Tools Can Be Our Friend

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Most all telephone answering services (TAS) use a lot of technology to supplement the work of their agents. Yet technological advances aren’t always readily embraced.

Yes, a few visionaries will grasp the application and move forward right away. The other extreme is those who are the last to implement it.

Most people fall in the middle ground of being neither the first nor the last. They are the cautious middle.

Waiting for others to go before them, they only feel comfortable moving forward once they have studied and understand the answering service technology. This takes time.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Regardless of where you are on the implementation curve, here are some tips to consider as you evaluate implementing a new technology in your TAS.

Be Aware that Technology Changes

More than once, I’ve looked at an emerging technology and dismissed it for its lack of utility. My perspective became frozen at that point, and I missed the exciting developments as it evolved.

If you’ve studied promising answering service technology and written it off, it may warrant a repeat look.

Ask for a Succinct Explanation

Many people want to fully understand how an answering service technology works before they’ll introduce it into their operation. Though understandable, this is not necessary.

When talking with a company about their new product offering, ask for a succinct explanation of what it’ll accomplish. Though it may take some effort on their part, its essence should be able to be summarized in one or two cogent sentences.

Few people understand how a computer works, yet we all use them. The same should apply to our answering service technologies (keeping in mind the next two items on our list).

Know Its Function

Often, marketing people use grand proclamations in promoting their newest product. As we wade through their exuberance, we’re challenged to understand the essence of their offering.

In this case, the goal is to distill into ordinary language what it will do—and what it won’t do. Don’t accept generalities. Insist on specifics.

Understand the Downside

Along with knowing the product’s function is to understand its downside. What risk do you open yourself to through this technology? This is often difficult to ascertain, and vendors are slow to acknowledge it.

As you consider the negatives, don’t give in to unwarranted fear over the unknown. Instead, ask others what they think. This includes those who have already implemented the answering service technology, as well as knowledgeable industry technologists.

The reason for this isn’t to persuade yourself from moving forward with the technology but merely to be fully informed before proceeding.

Implement and Use

Armed with this information, weigh the anticipated benefits and expected outcomes against the acquisition cost and operational downsides to make an informed decision.

If you give yourself the green light, go forth and install the answering service technology in your operation. Don’t delay, for this will only minimize its positive impact on your 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.

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Telephone Answering Service

Match AI Technology with Answering Service Strategy

Embrace Artificial Intelligence to Help You Meet Your Goals More Effectively

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Many people worry about how artificial intelligence (AI) might impact our world, including their telephone answering service (TAS) business. They fear AI will emerge as a disruptive force that fundamentally changes their day-to-day operations. It probably will.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

But there’s no need to fear AI. Instead embrace it. The key is to align the promise of AI with your business strategy. Tap this burgeoning technology to better accomplish your goals for your TAS operation.

Here are some scenarios to consider.

Basic Service

Some clients are on a budget. They know voicemail won’t cut it, but they only need the basics of name, number, and message. They view anything more as frivolous. AI can come to the rescue. This will first be in supplementing the work of your staff, with an eventual potential to replace much of their work, but not all.

Low-Cost Service

If your answering service strategy is to be a low-cost provider, AI will be a great tool to help you save on labor costs, while still providing the level of service your clients want and expect and pay for.

But don’t expect AI to replace your staff. Instead view it as a tool to help your agents do more in less time and to do it better with greater ease.

The result is that AI will help you maintain your low-cost paradigm and maximize it for your clients’ benefit.

Premium Service

A third consideration is the value-added approach. Your goal is to offer more than your competition. In the past, the premium service strategy drove up payroll, not only in needing more staff but also in paying them more.

In offering premium service, however, there comes a point of diminishing returns. At some level, clients will balk at paying more for the extra value. They’ll decide it’s not worth a higher bill, no matter how much better your service is.

In this instance, you can tap AI to handle supplemental activities that increase the value of your service without growing your payroll. This can be on both the front end and the back end. Use your imagination. Get creative.

Summary

These three examples show how AI can help you achieve your answering service strategy in a cost-effective way. But these are just the starting points. Develop your ideal service strategy, and then look at how AI can help you better achieve it, not the other way around.

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.

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Telephone Answering Service

The Allure of a Hosted System

Now May Be the Time to Say Goodbye to Your Premise-Based System and Move into the Future

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Hosted telephone answering service systems have been around for a long time. Though many operations have praised the benefits of using a hosted system and switched to them, other services have been resistant to make the change.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

In contrast to a premise-based system, which you buy, install, and maintain in your office, a hosted system lives off site that you access remotely via the internet. This requires a mental mind shift from how things have always been to a new way of doing business, but it may be time to embrace that change.

Here are some benefits to consider when looking at a hosted platform to replace your premise-based system.

Financial Advantages

With a premise-based system you have a sizable capital investment to make, which is a balance sheet item. You must deal with financing and depreciation. A hosted system is a monthly expense, which occurs on your income statement. Check with your tax consultant for details, but most services realize a financial advantage by going with a hosted system.

Always Up to Date

When you buy an answering service system, it’s expensive to keep it current, running on the latest version. Though some upgrades come at no cost, others may carry an expense. And even with a maintenance agreement, some upgrades may not be covered. Contrast this to a hosted system, which is always up to date and running the latest software.

Save on Maintenance Costs

System maintenance on a hosted system is covered by your monthly service fee. There is no need for a maintenance contract or to hire expensive IT personnel. Though you will still have operator terminals to deal with, the room full of equipment and the need to keep it running at all times is gone.

Improve Reliability

With real time backup systems and the fault-tolerant infrastructure inherent with the hosted system, the threat of downtime is greatly reduced compared to an on-site system. This isn’t to say downtime will never occur, because it’s a reality with any technology, but it’s much less likely than with a premise-based system.

Free Up Facility Space

How large is your equipment room? Imagine freeing up that space for other uses. Yes, you will still have some equipment in your office, but it’s more likely to fit on a shelf in the closet than take up a full room.

Eliminate Parts Inventory

To minimize downtime with your on-site system, you must maintain an inventory of all critical spare parts. This is a costly investment that offers no benefit other than to give you peace of mind, with the potential to decrease the length of system downtime.

Slash Telco Costs

With a hosted TAS system, you also cut your telephone costs, as most of that shifts to your provider and is covered by your monthly invoice. Yes, you may still have some office phone lines or an emergency backup landline, but that’s minimal compared to your current telephone answering service expenses.

Reduce Utility Expenses

A premise-based system consumes a lot of electricity to run 24/7. When you remove that equipment from your office you also eliminate that expense. A parallel issue is backup power in the form of a UPS system and generator. With a hosted system, these can be much smaller and may not be needed at all.

Something that’s often overlooked, however, is that your premise-based system generates a lot of heat. This carries with it an air conditioning cost to dissipate that heat. If you don’t keep your equipment room cool, your system will overheat, causing increased downtime and reducing system life expectancy.

Conclusion

For all these many benefits, a hosted system deserves thoughtful consideration for your telephone answering service. If you’re still not sure about this, just ask someone who’s already made the switch.

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.

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Telephone Answering Service

Applying Artificial Intelligence in Telephone Answering Services

Consider the Role that AI Could Play in Your TAS Operation

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

You may be tired of hearing about artificial intelligence (AI), but get used to it. It’s here to stay, and it will change everything. Not only will it revolutionize business and the answering service industry along with it, but it will reach into and touch every aspect of our lives. In fact, it’s already doing just that, whether we know it or not.

Here are some ways you may want to consider applying AI to your telephone answering service.

Use AI to Supplement Management and Support

AI can function in a support role, assisting the functions and departments that surround your telephone answering service operation. Already, AI is great at producing the first draft of an email or suggesting attention-grabbing subject lines. The same applies for marketing materials and ad copy. But don’t expect AI to make a perfect final draft—at least not yet—but those days are coming, and they’ll likely arrive sooner than you expect.

Look for other ways that AI can assist nonoperation departments, such as accounting, sales, marketing, and technical. These AI tools are either ready today or are close to being ready. All you need to do is find them and implement them.

Use AI to Enhance Customer Service

The same applies for customer service functions. If a concern arrives via email, AI can often make the first draft of a cogent response. All you need to do is verify and tweak.

Chatbots are another area. You’ve likely had experience with them, albeit on the user side. Imagine what AI chatbots can do for your customer service. But before you get carried away, trying to implement a comprehensive system that will cover everything, start simply and address the basics. Once that’s working fine, expand it.

Another area related to customer service is tapping AI to perform agent evaluations. This isn’t just for select calls or random calls but every call. Only outlier results that need attention—either to correct an error or celebrate a success—need to be forwarded to the agent or management.

Use AI to Better Handle Calls

Most of the work—and most of the labor—at an answering service occurs in the operations room and revolves around answering calls or handling communication for clients. This is where AI can have the biggest impact.

Start by considering how AI can better support your telephone agents to allow them to do their job more effectively, quicker, or both. But don’t stop there. Also consider service activities that you can move to AI, with agent oversight and the ability to overrule. And, of course, there are areas you can completely outsource to AI.

But Don’t Avoid It

Some people are technologically adverse. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s who they are. They just need to realize that ignoring it won’t make it go away, and it will one day put their TAS at a disadvantage.

Consider the last services to switch from cord boards to computerized systems. Or the last providers to stop handwriting messages and start entering them into a database. Though there were holdouts—sometimes for quite a while—they eventually realized they had to embrace the technology. So, too, will be the case with AI.

Artificial Intelligence Conclusion

When it comes to artificial intelligence, the opportunities abound, almost limitless. If you can dream it, it can likely be done—or someone has already done it.

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.

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Telephone Answering Service

How Should You View Answering Service AI?

Determine the Role Artificial Intelligence Will Play in Your Telephone Answering Service

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Unless you’re intentionally ignoring it, talk of artificial intelligence (AI) is all around us. It’s hard to miss. AI is not a fad that will soon fade, a hype that will soon die down. AI is a trend that will continue to grow and become more pervasive in our everyday lives.

It’s infiltrating every industry, including telephone answering services. Given this, you may wonder how you should view answering service AI.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Let’s set aside the doomsday prognosticators who foresee a future where artificial intelligence will take over our world and deem human life as inadequate and worthy of eradication.

Though some futurists view this as a slim possibility, there’s little you or I can do to stop it. And the degree to which we embrace or dismiss AI will have no bearing on the technology’s overall impact.

Therefore, instead of fearing the concept of AI on a macro level, we should consider the potential of AI on the micro level, such as on telephone answering services. Given this, the question we must ask is how should we view answering service AI?

Answering Service AI is Not Something to Fear

First, there’s no need to be afraid of using artificial intelligence in your answering service. Though we don’t understand how AI works to do what it does, we don’t need to. What we need to focus on is the results, the outcome the technology provides. The how doesn’t matter.

Answering Service AI is a Tool

Next, we should view AI as a tool. Just as a computer is a tool, the internet is a tool, and VoIP is a tool, so is AI. In the same way we evaluate the cost, the effectiveness, and the outcome of any tool we provide to our answering service, we should do the same with AI.

Can we afford AI? Will AI be effective? What results will AI provide? If the answers to this deliberation are positive, then we should look at adding this tool to our tool chest.

Note that AI is not one application, but a means to empower every application. This means we could end up with multiple AI powered tools in our answering service.

Answering Service AI Should be a Strategic Consideration

Just as with every other business decision we make, tapping AI for our answering service should be a strategic choice.

Don’t jump on the AI bandwagon without first considering its merits. Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) rush you into making a rash decision.

Instead, make an informed judgment based on the available facts and a careful cost-benefit analysis.

Don’t Ignore Answering Service AI

Using artificial intelligence in your answering service may be ideal for your operation and goals. Conversely it might not be the right solution for you at this time. But don’t dismiss it without first considering it.

The only wrong approach is to ignore it.

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.

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Telephone Answering Service

TAS Staffing Lessons from Restaurants

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.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

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.

Three Categories

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.

Action Step

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.

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Telephone Answering Service

How to Have a Faster Website

Speed and Responsiveness Matter for Your Online Presence

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Having a website is the first step in creating your online presence. Then you need to keep it up to date and add content to stay relevant. But there’s a third element, one which many businesses overlook. It’s the speed of your website. Do your pages take too long to load? Is your site sluggish?

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Know that in today’s I-want-it-now world, impatient people won’t wait for a slow site to display its content. They’ll bounce. When they do, they’ll go to your competitor. Each tenth of a second of delay increases the likelihood of someone leaving your site in frustration.

Yet this is a problem you can solve. Here are some items to consider.

Hosting

The biggest factor influencing a website speed is the hosting. Shared hosting is the cheapest option and the slowest. This is because hundreds, likely thousands, of websites all run through one server. If anyone of them has problems or encounters traffic spikes, every site on that server will suffer.

The key is to move away from shared hosting. Making this change is the quickest way to increase the speed of your website. Though there are many options once you move past shared hosting, all of them will provide a faster, more responsive website. And all of them will cost more.

Though you’ll pay more for faster website hosting, this is not a place to skimp.

Graphics

The images on your website also impact its operation. A site with no pictures will be faster than one with images, but today’s users expect visuals on a website. A straight-text site will be off putting. It will also look quite dated.

The first consideration is image format. Though PNG files have a higher quality, JPG files are perfect for online, and they’re also much smaller. Though exceptions exist, converting PNG files to JPG results in a much smaller file size. And smaller loads faster.

For pages with several graphics, using JPG files over PNG will result in quicker load times.

Another consideration is the dimensions of the graphic. Though websites will resize large graphics to fit smaller spaces, the better solution is to upload the right sized image to begin with. Don’t weigh your sight down with large images that you’ll never display as full-size graphics.

Feature Bloat

A third consideration is bogging down your website with features you don’t use or don’t need. For WordPress, which accounts for over 40 percent of all websites, these extra options are called plugins and widgets. Other platforms use names such as apps, extensions, or add-ons.

Only install the features you need and delete everything you don’t use. Also consider the utility of each feature. Does it truly add value to your site, or does it just look cool?

The fewer things running in the background of your website, the faster it will load and the less problems you will encounter. It’s an ideal example of the saying that “less is more.”

Summary

Don’t accept a slow website, as it will cause you to lose business and frustrate users. Instead take steps to make your website faster. This will cost some money and take time, but it’s an investment worth making.

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.

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Telephone Answering Service

3 Keys to SEO Success

Discover the Keys to Search Engine Optimization  

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

You have a website for your telephone answering service. That’s the first step to establishing your online presence. But is your website doing all that you want it to do? Is it living up to your expectations?

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

If you’re not enjoying the traffic you want to have, the answer may be search engine optimization (SEO). As the name suggests, SEO makes your website more attractive to search engines.

If you impress them, they’ll show your content to more people who are searching for answering service solutions or the expert content you’ve posted.

Here are three keys to SEO success.

1. Content is Key

Good SEO starts with great content. But don’t produce content for search engines. Instead write for people. Put your visitors first and the search engines second.

If you pursue the opposite strategy and produce content with an SEO-first mentality, you may see a quick bump in traffic, but visitors will quickly bounce once they discover your content is substandard or not what they expected. It’s a prime example of the adage of winning the battle but losing the war.

2. Avoid Shortcuts

Successful SEO is an investment in the future. Adapt a long-term perspective when it comes to optimizing your website for search engines, and you’ll enjoy lasting results with traffic that matters.

Yes, there are ways to game the system and garner a short-term spike in traffic. But it isn’t sustainable. And most of these get-traffic-quick schemes hurt your site in the long term and end up working against you.

These are called black-hat SEO strategies. Basically, it’s cheating. Though nefarious SEO practitioners will continue to develop new ways to avoid doing the hard work of search engine optimization, the search engines strive just as hard to negate these cheats.

This means that to stay ahead, they need to continually develop new strategies to trick search engines.

Don’t go this route. Instead take the high road. When you do so, you’ll enjoy better, long-term results.

3. Outsource with Care

Though it’s possible to learn SEO and successfully implement it, many opt to outsource it instead. It seems either too daunting or the learning curve is too steep, or they lack the time, so they seek SEO professionals to do the work for them.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to assess the abilities and effectiveness of individuals and companies that offer SEO services. Most talk a good game, but not all can produce. Too many of them will perform basic steps you can easily do yourself.

Sometimes they haven’t kept up with the industry and recommend techniques that once worked but no longer do. Other times they unknowingly—or knowingly—use black-hat tactics that will cause problems in the end and damage your website’s search engine reputation.

There’s no effective way the vet an SEO professional, but referrals from happy, long-term clients are key. You should expect quantifiable, measurable results. If an SEO vendor can’t provide that, then they don’t deserve your business.

This isn’t to disparage all SEO providers. There are good ones out there who are worth every dollar they charge. The challenge is finding them and distinguishing the good ones from the not-so good ones.

SEO Success Action Steps

When it comes to SEO success, put visitor-focused content first, avoid damaging shortcuts, and select your SEO vendor with care—or do it yourself.

But the worst thing you can do is nothing. That’s the most ineffective SEO strategy of all.

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.

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Telephone Answering Service

How Do You Use Social Media at Your TAS?

Use Social Media as the Spokes of the Wheel and Your Website as the Hub

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Most telephone answering services (TASs) have a website. That’s great! But not all do. They don’t think it’s worth the modest investment and feel social media serves them quite well.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

I’ve even heard from services that are thinking about ditching their website in favor of using social instead. That would be a bad move.

Here’s why:

Just Because Social Media Is Easy Doesn’t Make It Ideal

Social media is simple to use. Most of your staff is already adept at using the major platforms. And you likely have a platform-specific expert on staff who could help with any up-and-coming provider you might consider.

This is not the case with websites, which require a bit of expertise to manage and have a cost component, even though it may be small. But just because social platforms are easy doesn’t mean it’s the best solution.

With social media come significant risks, which you can smartly avoid by having your own website. Read on to learn more.

The Narrative is Harder to Manage on Social Media

The messaging on social media is challenging to manage—not yours, but everyone else’s. Anyone can say about anything in response to any one of your messages.

On some platforms you can block these offending messages, but on others you can’t. And too often these contrary messages spark an online war between your supporters and your detractors. No one wins.

Nowadays few websites allow for visitor interaction. And for those that still do, you—as the website owner—can delete the offending message. Your website is a safe place with relevant information about your business. Its free from trolls and malcontents.

You Can’t Control How the Platform Looks or Works

The wonderful thing about social media is it has a predetermined format for you to follow. Though you can control what you add, you have little say over where it goes or what it looks like. It offers little flexibility or customization capabilities.

Though some website providers follow this same philosophy, a self-hosted website offers a blank canvas for you or your design team to configure the way you want it and make it function however you wish.

You Don’t Own Your Presence on Social

I’ve saved the most compelling reason for last. You don’t own your page on any social media platform. Your provider does. They can limit who sees your messages. More infuriatingly, they can charge you so that the people who want to see your information actually can.

Even worse, they can summarily shut your account down at any time, leaving you with little recourse. When this happens you’ve lost all the traffic and the audience that you took years to build.

Owning your own website smartly avoids these problems and you falling victim to the whims of the social media overlords.

Conclusion

If you like social media, go ahead, and use it for your TAS. But don’t put all your eggs in one proverbial basket. Instead use social media to point people to your website, the one online destination that you can own and control.

And if you don’t like social media, don’t use it. Focus on your website. That’s what matters most.

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.

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Telephone Answering Service

What Does Your Website Do for You?

Make the Most of Your Online Presence 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.