Telephone Answering Service

The System’s Down

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

On Monday I called a vendor about my invoice. “I’m sorry,” the rep said, “but we’re doing an update, and I can’t access your records.”

Given that they only operate sixty hours a week, doing an update in the middle of the day was strange timing. The evening would be a great time, and the weekend would be even better, but not in the midst of the busiest day of the week.

Then I realized the true meaning of her words: “The system’s down.”

I remember in the early 80s, switching from cardboards to a computerized TAS system. This was in the early days of computers, before many businesses had them and before many PCs existed.

On occasion, we needed to tell clients the system was down. They reacted strongly to that, especially given the relative stability of cardboards and the accessibility of handwritten messages. However, as more businesses installed computers and more people brought PCs into their home, the concept of a down computer became understood – and accepted.

I’ve heard the “doing an update” excuse a lot recently, but it’s been years since I heard “The system’s down.” I guess the euphemism of an “update” is less jarring than “We’re down.” An update sounds planned; a down system isn’t.

However, as much of the industry migrates to cloud-based solutions with monitored data centers, redundancy, backups, and controlled upgrades, the chance of being down or caught in the midst of an update decreases dramatically.

The new threat becomes a lost Internet connection. But I’m not sure what reason call centers will give for that problem, because if they also use VoIP, they won’t be able to tell callers anything.

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.