By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Although it’s not my intention to relabel the answering service industry, it is my goal to redefine it to better understand the potential that exists. Instead of calling yourself an answering service, let’s adopt the mindset that we are “information processors.” So stop thinking calls and start thinking communication.
Yes, we will still make and receive calls (after all, that is “processing information”), but we can do so much more. Consider the Internet, which affects all areas of business, life, and human existence. With email, social media, text chat, and online order assistance, do you know of any business that can keep up? How does this relate to being an answering service or more correctly, an information processor?
Quite simply, everything you can do with a call, you should apply to email. Screen email, prioritize email, redirect email, answer email, and send email; you can fax a form, mail a brochure, or even call that person back. Most every organization has at least one, probably more, general-purpose email addresses, such as sales@…, service@…, and info@… How quickly do they respond to these messages, if at all? Your answering service can handle these email addresses for your clients.
Your call center can become the centralized communication processor for all of your clients’ general text chat options: respond to questions, process information, forward requests, and so on. Staff at many organizations already have too much expected of them. It simply isn’t an option to pile on one more thing. Plus, there is no need to; you can handle this for them.
Online retailers fret over abandoned shopping carts. With the right interface, an answering service can offer a 24/7 response to visitors’ questions who are viewing clients’ websites.
How do you proceed? Visit each of your client’s websites. Send an email to their generic email address. Note how long it takes them to respond. Do they have an option for text chat and “call me?” By now you should have several ideas of how you can better serve your clients.
The future of the telephone answering service industry may reside with the Internet more than the telephone. The opportunities are limited only by imagination and creativity.
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.