Two Tips to Streamline Your Answering Service’s Procedures
By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD
Last year I shared several articles about finetuning the processes in your telephone answering service. The three key areas are streamlining sales, streamlining client onboarding, and streamlining customer service. Beyond that, we looked at fine-tuning billing and collections, agent hiring, and agent training.
In all cases, the goal of optimizing these areas in your TAS is to achieve the same—or better—results more effectively. To realize this goal, however, doesn’t mean working harder. It means working smarter.
To optimize any of these processes, we look at two areas: the number of steps required and the time they take.
Reduce the Number of Steps
As time passes, any process becomes more complicated. The initial steps required in the process remain, while new ones join them. As a result, most of our processes become bloated over time. Even though some of these steps are no longer required to achieve the desired outcome, or have a negligible impact on the result, we and our staff persist in doing them because we always have.
We must scrutinize every process and ask if each step remains relevant. Too often what was once important no longer is. Identify those tasks and cull them. For each step consider the impact if you eliminate it. If it doesn’t warrant its continued existence, cut it out and show your staff why it’s no longer relevant. They may initially resist this change, but once they realize it will make their jobs easier, they’ll quickly embrace the streamlined process.
Shorten the Amount of Time
Removing the number of steps required to complete a task should automatically make it faster. Now look for other delays you can remove from the process. Does one person arbitrarily delay completing a task that’s part of an overall process? Since they must do it anyway, why not do it right away?
Another opportunity to shorten how long a process takes is to look for areas you can automate. Why wait for a person to do something that a computer can do automatically? Tap technology whenever possible.
Next realize that some things don’t have to proceed in a linear manner, with some tasks or even paths allowing simultaneous execution. For example, when a client signs up for service, one person will need to program the account, while another person will set up billing. It may seem orderly to do one and then the other, but both actions can occur at the same time.
Like any business, an answering service thrives on processes. This ensures that work proceeds in a smooth and organized manner, producing the desired outcome. However, these processes often swell over time, becoming inefficient and unwieldy.
Look for ways to remove steps and shorten the time it takes to complete them. This will result in achieving better outcomes and realizing the desired results faster.
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.