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Call Center Articles

WELCOME TO CONNECTIONS MAGAZINE 3.0

Read Connections Magazine Anywhere You Have Internet Access

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

As announced last year, the January 2021 issue of Connections Magazine marks an exciting turning point for us. Following a long-standing industry trend, Connections Magazine is now exclusively an online e-publication. We’ve gone all digital.

This means you can access all our content—articles, industry news, vendor intelligence, and association information—anytime, anywhere you have internet access. Read Connections on your computer, laptop, smart phone, tablet, or any other internet-connected device.

To get you started, here are some links to key sections on our website:

We’ve already successfully navigated this transition with our sister publication, AnswerStat, in becoming an e-publication in 2016. Since that time, AnswerStat has continued its mission of being the information hub for the healthcare contact center industry.

We now seek to build upon this history of accomplishment with Connections Magazine.

Advertiser Supported and Free to You

Throughout our 28-year history, Connections Magazine has been an advertiser supported publication. What’s this mean? Quite simply that our sponsors and advertisers provide the funds to produce each issue.

Thanks to them, you’ve always been able to read Connections Magazine for free and will be able to continue to do so. 

We will have no paid subscriptions, and we won’t hide the information you need behind a paywall. It’s readily available for you and all the industry to read. 

Every vendor and association listed on this website helps make Connections Magazine possible. Key among these are our valued sponsors:

Our other advertisers include TASbiller, CenturiSoft, Call Centre Hosting, Alliant, and Quality Contact Solutions

Please join me in thanking each one of them for doing their part to maintain Connections Magazine as a valued industry resource and to serve the call center industry.

A Milestone

Besides my excitement over transitioning Connections Magazine to a 100 percent e-publication, this year will see another landmark moment for me.

In August, I will have completed twenty years at the helm of this publication and as president of Peter DeHaan Publishing, Inc. It’s been a fun and invigorating, albeit at times challenging, adventure. I look forward to many more years of providing you with valuable, actionable, and helpful industry information.

In addition to Connections Magazine, I also produce TAS Trader for the telephone answering service industry and AnswerStat and Medical call Center News for healthcare call centers. These are also advertiser-supported publications, made free to readers.

A New Year

I can’t conclude this column without noting the passage of another year. Last year was indeed challenging for everyone. Lockdowns, restricted mobility, and social distancing shoved our world into an unprecedented time of confusion and perplexing thoughts.

The call center industry, however, found itself well-positioned to provide essential and safe communication between businesses and their customers. I’m proud to be part of such a resilient and indispensable industry that did much to help us navigate what last year threw at us.

Though turning the calendar to a new year does not return us to business as normal, it marks the opportunity to move forward and embrace a new future with new opportunities. I am confident that the call center industry will help our world successfully embrace what lies before us.

And Connections Magazine will be there every step of the way.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Update Your Employee Handbook or Department Manual

Make Sure Your Policies and Procedures Accurately Reflect Remote Work

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

In the past year, many healthcare call centers scrambled to adjust to ever-changing expectations and requirements to keep employees safe while continuing to work. Some call centers already had viable work-at-home protocols in place and a few were already 100 percent remote. Most phone centers, however, needed to accomplish a quick pivot to make working from home a viable reality.

By now, call centers have worked the technological and logistical bugs out of remotely answering phone calls from the security of a home office. Now is an ideal time to make sure your documentation matches reality and fully addresses the ramifications of people taking medical calls from home. Make sure your employee handbook, department manual, or written policies and procedures fully address staff who work remotely.

Though some managers have already brought employees back to the call center and others look toward doing it soon, this doesn’t mean they’re exempt from updating these critical documents. Why is that? 

We may again find ourselves in a situation to repeat working from home. In addition, even if working from a centralized location reemerges as a standard call center operating procedure, some employees will request to continue answering calls remotely. Make sure you have everything in place to allow them to remain in their home office. If you’re unwilling to accommodate their request, you could find them leaving your organization to join one that will.

Notably, having now experienced it, some call centers have embraced remote work as a preferable operational model. They’ve sent their employees home for good. Now they only need to make sure their internal documentation aligns with this new reality.

If you’ve experienced staff working from home, you already know what you must cover in your documentation. This will get you started. Next, check with an attorney to address legal concerns. Also consider contacting a consultant who is familiar with off-site employees working out of home-based offices.

With these documents in place, you’ll find yourself ready to deal with whatever happens next.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News, covering the healthcare call center industry.

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

Rethinking Remote Operators

What Was Once Optional Is Now Required

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

The potential to have remote operators work off-site from the main answering service location goes back to the 1990s, when I made a presentation about this topic at the ATSI convention. I covered the two key aspects of having a distributed workforce. One was the technology to make it happen and the other was managing a dispersed staff.

The technology aspect of remote work was, at best, convoluted, not nearly as stable as being on site, and it involved a great deal of planning. It required having a data connection and an audio connection. Both had to work well to answer calls. Technology has changed much since then, with remote access being as simple and as flexible as a good internet connection.

The management concerns, however, remain unchanged. It’s still challenging to manage and supervise remotely located employees. Yes, we now have more tools to tap into to do this, but the human difficulties of managing someone we can’t see is still fraught with problems.

Given the risks associated with not having staff conveniently working in one place has caused many answering service owners and managers to dismiss remote operators as an option. In other cases, the inability to find and retain a local workforce has driven other answering services to embrace remote operators as a requirement.

Until recently, most who have pursued off premise employees have done so out of necessity, not principle. This has changed.

With lockdowns, restrictions, and limitations placed on most people across the United States and around the world, allowing staff to work from home has become the only way for them to answer client calls. For many it was go remote or go out of business.

Some who have gone down this path have celebrated the flexibility and embraced it as a new business model, perhaps one even superior to what it replaced: a centralized answering service operation. Other industry leaders, however, look at remote operators as a necessary solution that they one day hope to retreat from. They long for the days of walking into their operation room and seeing all their staff in one place, busy working.

Though returning to a centralized operation may one day be possible, we must consider that we may never be able to fully revert to this traditional operational model. We should, therefore, learn to embrace having remote operators for the long-term, whether it’s our preference or our only option.

And even if this current crisis abates to where we can again safely gather in an office, with cubicles not quite six feet apart and staff unable to wear masks, history could repeat itself with another pandemic forcing us to send people home to work.

Though having remote operators was once optional, it’s now a necessity, both for the short-term and for future flexibility.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his book How to Start a Telephone Answering Service.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Finish Strong and Don’t Coast into the New Year

How We Conclude This Year Will Prepare Us for What Happens Next Year

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

This year continues to be a challenging one, more so than most others—perhaps any other. As we look forward to a new year in our healthcare call center, we turn the calendar with expectations of a better future, along with a wondering about how much things will change. Whether we find ourselves forced into a new normal or can return to an old normal looms as a huge question. But what we do know for sure is that what we do today in the remaining months of this year will influence what we encounter in the next.

Here are some things to consider.

Make Flexible Plans 

As you look forward to the new year, develop a strategy with contingencies. Do it now. Factor in options. This means developing a plan A and a plan B and even a plan C. It means considering tactics in how to do things in person and remotely. Look to implement technology that can adapt to accommodate expectations as needed, regardless of what path the future takes. Assume that what you’re doing today in your call center will change as you move throughout the year.

Don’t Coast

The understandable temptation, after an especially grueling year, is to relax. It might be you’re worn out and want a break. Another thought is that you’ve worked hard and deserve to take it easy. Though resting has its merits, that’s not justification to check out and coast through this year’s remaining days. 

Resist the temptation to tell yourself that you’ll make up for taking a break now by promising to hit the ground running on January 2. By then inertia will have set in, and it will take too long to get back up to speed. Breezing through work for a few weeks may seem like an attractive option, but the big-picture perspective is that you run the risk of not being able to embrace a new year.

Be Intentional

Instead, be deliberate in how you wind down the final days of December. This doesn’t mean accelerating at full speed, but don’t hit the brakes either. Look to wrap up projects so that you don’t have to carry them into a new year. Pursue small initiatives now to form a foundation you can build on to produce success faster when you return to work after the holidays.

Make Time for Family and Friends

Speaking of holidays, this year your celebrations may look different than in the past. Even so, seek safe ways to connect with family and friends. Don’t take unnecessary risks, but don’t be a hermit either. We need each other, we crave connection—whatever that looks like today, and we require interaction if we are to stay mentally fit and emotionally healthy.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News, covering the healthcare call center industry.

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

The TAS Industry Helps People Communicate

Move beyond a Mindset of Answering Calls to Facilitating Interactions

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

This year has been a challenging one no matter how we look at it. Our status quo as an industry—to whatever degree we ever had a status quo—has been shaken. Everything seems to have changed. Our response has been as it always has been, to adapt, to adjust, and to accelerate into a new tomorrow.

To do this, we re-examined our staffing, from hiring to training, from scheduling to supervising. We’ve sent people home to work, whether for the short-term or for the conceivable future. And we fine-tuned our sales and marketing efforts to redefine success in an unfamiliar environment where all the rules have changed. Coupled with this, of course, is morphing how we must manage our answering service and our staff in a way that’s consistent with these new ways of doing business.

It’s also an appropriate time to look at the why of telephone answering service.

It’s easy to think of ourselves as being in business to answer telephone calls for our clients. Though true, it’s also a limited perspective. A more insightful view is to think of ourselves as being in business to help people communicate. This may use the telephone, or it may tap other communication channels. Don’t lose sight of this. 

People today communicate through email, text messaging, and social media. They also increasingly visit websites to solve problems, place orders, and safely and securely connect. None of these involve the telephone, which is an essential and predominant channel in our industry and much of what we do.

Yet when we reimagine ourselves as facilitating interaction instead of just answering calls, we open a door to new possibilities. We then become a telephone answering service that processes emails, handles text messaging, and monitors social media for our clients. We’re connected to their websites for text chat and assisted browsing opportunities. And, yes, we also answer the telephone.

This is our future, and our future is here.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his book How to Start a Telephone Answering Service.