Categories
Writing and Publishing

ISBNs and Indie-Published Books

ISBNS and self-published books

Do you wonder about getting ISBNs for your indie-published books? It’s not too important to have an ISBN for e-books. I’ve heard of several successful indie authors who see no point in it.

However, having an ISBN does make a book seem more professional and part of mainstream book publishing. But aside from the image it conveys, I’m not aware of any tangible advantage for e-books.

You don’t need ISBNs for print books either, but I think they’re important. They facilitate ordering and tracking. Though bookstores typically don’t want to deal with self-published authors (unless you are local or have a connection with the manager), they will need the book to have an ISBN to order it and track it in their system.

In the United States, buy ISBNs from Bowker.

Note that you need one ISBN for each format your book is in hardcover, paperback, e-book, audiobook, and so forth. If an organization will provide an ISBN as part of its services, look carefully at what you may give up when you use their ISBN.

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

Streamline Your Answering Service Administration

Streamline Your Answering Service Administration

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

In past issues, we looked at streamlining various aspects of telephone answering services: sales, client onboarding, and customer service, agent hiring and training, billing and collections, and processes and procedures. Now we turn our attention to upper management: the admin function.

Every role in every business carries a bit of fluff, some more than others. This includes upper management, also known as administration. Here are three areas to look at when it comes to streamlining your answering service’s admin function:

1. What Can You Eliminate?

What admin tasks fall short in producing a tangible benefit for your service? These include activities that once held value but no longer do, as well as work that never did contribute to overall business success. Especially scrutinize projects which are done because they’re enjoyable, and duties pursued because they seem essential. Analyze each one.

Ask yourself, what’s the worst that could happen if no one did this chore? If the answer is nothing or if there’s a risk of investing in an inconsequential amount of time at some point in the future, then cut that activity.

2. What Can You Streamline?

Of the remaining tasks, consider how to make each one of them more efficient. This includes removing steps that don’t significantly contribute to the outcome, as well as cutting the number of people involved in the project. Each resource removed from the undertaking will serve to make it easier to do and less time-consuming. This frees up energy and staff for other activities of greater importance.

3. What Can You Delegate?

For those items that past the first screen—the ones considered essential to your service’s profitability, viability, or effectiveness— and are appropriately streamlined, consider who should handle them. You may not be the right person for the job. It could be you’re overqualified to manage it, that your time is too valuable to devote to it, or that someone else is better suited to the task.

Look to delegate what you can. This will not only lighten your load, but it will also empower people on your team. Most will jump at a chance to oversee a higher-level responsibility at your answering service. And if someone claims they’re too busy to do your delegated assignment, challenge them to look at what existing tasks they can eliminate or delegate to others.

Act Now

To realize the benefits of streamlining admin functions requires a bit of effort to get there. If you think you’re too busy to do this, you’ve just confirmed how essential this optimization project is.

Start with doing a time study of everything you do for at least a week. Yes, it’s a hassle, but the information is invaluable. And, as a bonus, many people who keep a time log find it automatically makes them more efficient because they don’t want to document their inefficiencies or poor time investments.

Summary

Once you determine how you spend your time, ask how important each task is to your answering service’s overall well-being. Look to cut non-essential work. Then streamline what remains. And last, delegate what you can.

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
Writing and Publishing

Introduction to WordPress

introduction to wordpress

WordPress has two versions: hosted and self-hosted. Serious writers recommend self-hosting. But beginners can opt for the hosted version. Here is a basic introduction to WordPress:

The hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.com) is easy to learn and use. It also has minimal features. The self-hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org) is highly flexible and rich in features. It has a steeper learning curve.

Like most people, I recommend that anyone serious about blogging use the self-hosted version, WordPress.org, and bypass the hosted version of WordPress, WordPress.com.

However, for a person not sure about blogging and interested in just trying it out, WordPress.com can accomplish that nicely and with minimal fuss and cost.

Moving content from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is not hard—for someone who has done it before. It does take a bit of effort, but transferring posts is mostly following a set of instructions. There are a lot of instructions online and this guide looks good.

However you proceed, I wish you the best. Happy blogging!

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Microsoft Word Alternatives

microsoft word alternatives

Writers often seek options for word processing software, either to save money, increase functionality, or both.

Many writers extol the virtues of Scrivener for content creation, especially novelists. It costs much less than Microsoft Word and, since Scrivener is designed for writers, it has powerful features that creatives crave.

Another option of increasing popularity is Google Docs. It’s free. And your files are online, so you can access them from any internet-connected computer.

Nonetheless, whatever alternative tool you use for writing, be sure it can output in Microsoft Word format (Scrivener can) because almost all publishers require a Word file submission. In addition, all editors I’ve worked within the past twenty years have used Word (except for one who edited a printout).

However, instead of buying Microsoft Word (or Microsoft Office) for hundreds of dollars, get Office 365 and pay a low monthly subscription fee—less than a coffee or two a month. As a bonus, you’ll always have the latest version.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Stand Out: Define Your Distinguishing Difference

Discover What Makes Your Call Center Unique 

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

What does your healthcare contact center stand for? How do you stand out in an industry with many options? Understanding who you are is the first step to determining your distinctive characteristics. But why does this matter? 

This is important because when you have a unique quality then your stakeholders have something to rally around. They have a reason to be proud. Short of that you offer nothing to draw them in and keep them close. They have nothing to celebrate. 

Though this most obviously applies to outsource call centers, it’s also applicable to in-house operations too. Here are some categories to consider.

Service 

The first place most call centers look at to distinguish themselves is their service level. They often focus on quality service. Though there are many ways to define this, some look at customer satisfaction (CSAT). Most every call center claims to offer quality service. However, saying it and doing it are two different things. To trumpet service quality with integrity requires that a third-party confirm it. Self-pronounced claims of quality service mean nothing.

Aside from quality, other service level considerations might be answering calls quickly (average speed to answer: ASA) or handling requests on one contact (first call resolution: FCR). Other ways to stand out include a low error rate or around-the-clock accessibility.

Staff 

A second area to consider is how you relate to your staff. Though few employees—if any—will say they’re overpaid or over appreciated, look at how you regard your staff. Employees who receive proper compensation and know how much they’re appreciated tend to work harder and produce better outcomes. The side effect of this is improved service to callers, as well as a healthier financial position.

In call centers, where margins are thin, leaders often struggle with their compensation packages. They know that a 5 percent increase in payroll can move a profitable (or cash-positive) operation into an unprofitable (or cash-negative) one. Yet others successfully apply the adage of “pay more and expect more.”

Not all approaches to enhancing the relationship with your staff, however, require a financial investment. Also consider intangible ways to stand out. This includes letting employees know how much you appreciate them, connecting with them on a personal level, and even taking a simple step of giving them a sincere “thank you” for their work.

Finances

A third area to consider is the financial aspect. Is your operation fiscally strong? A call center that produces consistent positive cash flow has long-term viability. This means they generate profits for their owners or are a profit center for their organization. They stand out. Having financial stability can permeate an entire operation with positivity.

Next, do you provide your staff with the best tools possible? Is their work environment something they’re proud to enter every day? Though these may not seem as relevant of a consideration to use to define your call center, they can be. Employees in a top-notch work environment will speak highly of their jobs and their employer to their families and friends. This can ripple through the local area, elevating the call center in the process.

Conclusion

Though it’s good to address all these areas and strive to make them as good as you can, it’s impossible to make everything a priority. Attempting to do so will cause all areas to suffer. 

Without neglecting any of these considerations, however, strive to elevate one above all others. Let this become the distinctive characteristic that your call center is known for and celebrated. This will help you stand out among all others and have a lasting impact for all stakeholders: your callers, your employees, and your organization.