Categories
Writing and Publishing

The Potential of Artisanal Publishing

The Potential of Artisanal Publishing

In Guy Kawasaki’s new book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book, he advances the term “artisanal publishing” as a new way of looking at self-publishing. The vanity publishing of yesteryear can be smartly rejuvenated with a fresh perspective of artistry, hence the concept of artisanal book publishing.

As the distinction between traditional publishing versus self-publishing fade, the evolving consideration morphs into mass-produced book publishing versus artisanal publishing. After all, who are writers, if not artists? So why not extend artistry to the production and dissemination of their work?

The concept of artisanal publishing opens new doors and opportunities for innovative writers who seek to share their writing with others.  Authors should begin to think like an artist and publish books like an artist.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Three Reasons Why Everyone Likes Anthologies

Three Reasons Why Everyone Likes Anthologies

An anthology is a collection of selected writings by various authors. It seems anthologies are popular. Why is that?

Readers Enjoy Bite-Sized Passages in Anthologies

Anthologies focus on a theme, but within that subject, each author’s work is usually independent of the other contributors. Each chapter or section contains an autonomous thought. There’s no storyline to remember and no lesson builds throughout the book. Readers can read an anthology as their schedule allows without concern over continuity, can skip chapters without consequence, and can read sections in a random order. Reading an anthology fits the lifestyle and preference of many of today’s readers.

Anthology Writers Share the Workload

Each writer’s contribution to an anthology is minimal; it’s quick to write and easy to manage. While a book may take a single author months or even years to complete, anthologies come together quickly, with the content assembled in a few weeks. Writing for an anthology benefits writers, with less work required, a quicker result, and a published work to add to their resume.

Anthologies Minimize Publisher Risk

Publishers like anthologies because each of the contributors will promote the book, sell the book, and buy the book. For example, assume an anthology has twenty contributors and each author facilitates the sale of 200 books through their personal network of contacts. That means 4,000 in total sales. With the majority of published books selling only a few hundred copies, several thousand is a good outcome. It doesn’t make the publisher rich, but they won’t lose money on the deal, either.

With anthologies offering benefits to readers, writers, and publishers, we can expect to see more of these compilations in the future.

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

Scheduling Answering Service Staff for Holidays

When Historical Data Can’t Predict Call Traffic, We Need to Guess

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Last week we celebrated Independence Day in the United States. With it happening on a Wednesday, it threw a lot of people off. I included. When July Fourth occurs on a weekend, there’s little impact on normal business activity. And when it falls on a Monday or Friday, it gives us a three-day weekend. Last year it was on Tuesday, which caused many companies to declare Monday as a day off, giving people a four-day weekend. I suppose the same could apply if it fell on a Thursday.

But what to do when it’s on a Wednesday? Some people viewed the whole week as a holiday week, while others viewed it as business as normal except for Wednesday when they took the day off. And I talked to many people who saw this as an opportunity for a five-day weekend.

These various interpretations trickled down to expectations placed on answering services and affected their call traffic. Many schedulers wondered what to do. Normally historical information can project future trends, but with the holiday falling on a Wednesday, there wasn’t a historical model to follow, since I believe the last time July 4 occurred on a Wednesday was in 2012. And even if you have historical data from 2012, how relevant is it six years later in 2018?

Though we like to use data to determine our scheduling needs, sometimes it’s not possible. The best we can do is guess. When this occurs we realize that scheduling staff for an answering service is sometimes more art than science.

This also reminds us to appreciate our staff, for when our traffic projections fail us, and we make our staff busier than we want, it falls on them to bail us out. And they almost always do.

If your staff worked harder than usual last week, remember to thank them, and recognize their efforts. And if your schedule was right on target and caused no surprises, thank them anyway. They deserve it.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

The Nine Errors of Self-Publishing

The Nine Errors of Self-Publishing

For the past two months, I’ve blogged about the nine self-publishing errors. My list isn’t comprehensive, but it’s a great starting point.

Nine Self-Publishing Errors

  1. Poor Content
  2. A Lousy Cover
  3. A Lackluster Title
  4. Poor Editing
  5. Poor File Conversion
  6. Font Abuse: Getting Carried Away With Fonts
  7. Having a Homemade Look
  8. Failure to Follow Conventions
  9. Publishing Too Soon

[bctt tweet=”When you self-publish your next book, be sure to avoid these nine errors. ” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

When you self-publish your next book, be sure to review these items. I know I will.

Categories
Call Center Articles

Chatbots Should Learn from the Errors of IVR


[sam_pro id=0_1 codes=”true”]


Chatbots could follow the path of IVR, a once-promising technology that earned customer ire through poor implementation

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

I don’t often use web chat because I find a phone call is faster and more thorough. Recently I made an exception and learned a valuable lesson.

The email said that my new statement was available online. I might be one of the few people who still download and review online statements, but that’s what I do. So I logged in and navigated to the right page. I clicked on the link for my most recent statement, but it brought up last month’s. With more navigation, I found a list of all my statements. Alas, my current statement wasn’t there.

About this time a chat invitation popped up. “I see you’ve been notified that your new statement is available. Can I help you?”

Without giving it enough thought, I typed in, “I can’t download my statement.”

Immediately I received a reply. “Here are two resources that might help you out.”

By the titles of these links, I knew they were pointing me in the wrong direction, telling me what I already knew. I tried again. “No, my current statement isn’t available.”

Again, the chatbot responded immediately. “Here are three links that might help you resolve the problem.”

Once again, the links wouldn’t help. What started as an amusing experience with technology was becoming exasperating. Then I typed, “Can I talk with a person?”

The bot responded immediately, “I can help you.”

Obviously the bot wasn’t interested in connecting me with a real person. I typed in what I thought: “You’re worthless.” (Though I’ve never said that to a person, I often say that to technology.)

But before I could close the chat window, I got another message. “Let me connect you with a representative.”

With a potential for help only seconds away, I stuck around. A half minute later, Lisa popped up in the chat window.

Unfortunately my failed chatbot experience agitated me, similar to what happens after a futile interaction with IVR. At this point, emotion, rather than logic, dictated my first question: “Are you a person or a bot?”

Lisa assured me she was a real person. We then worked to download my statement. She had me try a different method to get to my statement, but that didn’t work either. I pasted the error message into the chat window for her to see. Then she had me try a different browser. I got the same results.

As we continued, I noticed a subtle change on the statement page. First, the proper link appeared, but it still didn’t work. A little while later the link worked. Then I recalled a problem I had with my bank a few years ago. They would send out the email that my statement was available, even though the department responsible for putting it online hadn’t finished their work. The two groups weren’t communicating.

I realized that the same thing had happened with this company. Expecting the statement to be online by a certain time, the email group sent out a notice, not knowing the statement wasn’t available.[bctt tweet=” Chatbots are part of an exciting technology that can help call centers better serve customers, as well as help agents do their job better. ” username=”Connections_Mag”]

This, of course, brings up another all-too-common scenario: a company causes customer service activity by their own actions. But that’s a topic we’ve already covered.

The point today is that chatbots are part of an exciting technology that can help call centers better serve customers, as well as help agents do their job better. Yet the improper application of chatbot technology threatens its utility by alienating the customers it’s supposed to help.

This is exactly what happened with the introduction of IVR, and that technology never recovered. May chatbots have a different outcome. Both the call center and its customers need this one to be a win.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

The Work-At-Home Option for Medical Call Centers

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Some healthcare call centers embrace the work-at-home option, while others are categorically against it. Let’s explore the pros and cons of using home-based agents, along with the potential risks of embracing or dismissing this option.

Benefits of Home-Based Agents

There are two primary reasons to use home-based agents to staff your medical call center. The main reason is to tap into a larger labor pool of qualified employees. This is especially critical given the nationwide shrinkage of credentialed healthcare workers.

A secondary reason is the potential to attract lower-cost personnel. This is because they live in areas with a lower cost of living. Though reducing labor costs should never be the driving force in pursuing work-at-home staff, it may be an exciting side benefit.

Concerns About Home-Based Agents

Opponents to hiring work at home staff site management challenges and HIPAA concerns. This is certainly understandable. Employees who are physically present are easier to oversee. When do they work from home, who knows what they’re doing?

However, keep in mind that in the healthcare industry, on-site call center workers receive more scrutiny than most and are the easiest to manage. Whereas, off-site call center workers have a level of supervision comparable to most other healthcare workers.

The Risk of Using Home-Based Agents

This concern over management brings up the risk of hiring work-at-home staff for your call center. Call center managers fear a HIPAA breach and PHI being abused and misappropriated. The key, however, is not a location but employee ethics. An unethical employee is just as likely to misuse PHI on-site as off-site. It’s just that they must work harder to access and misuse the information if they’re on-site. By the same logic, an ethical employee will treat PHI appropriately whether on-site or off-site. The fear over hiring off-site call center staff is understandable, but hiring the right staff negates this concern.

The Risk of Not Using Home-Based Agents

The chief risk of not using work-at-home agents is the risk of not being able to fully staff your call center. That’s a disservice to callers and causes your existing staff to work even harder, which may result in burnout and resignations. Tapping home-based agents is a smart way to avoid this from happening.

When determining if work-at-home agents are the right solution for your call center, look at the pros and cons. Then factor in the risks. That will guide you to the right decision.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

The Ninth Error of Self-Publishing: Publishing Too Soon

In the Rush to Publish We Run the Risk of Sharing Our Words Before They’re Ready

publishing too soon

The final error of self-publishing for us to look at his publishing too soon. Too many authors frustrated over not being able to get a traditional book deal or find an agent make the mistake of jumping into self-publishing prematurely.

They finished their book and made every effort to produce the best possible one they can, but it may not be ready for the world to see. Even if they avoid the first eight errors of self-publishing, these don’t matter if the words aren’t ready for the world to read. Sometimes the better solution to self-publishing is to work on becoming a better writer, to hone our craft and write words people want to read.

But in a desire to get their book out into the real world, they publish it before they should. I know. I almost made that mistake.

Publishing Too Soon

My first serious book, which still sits on my computer hard drive, received much effort on my part to make it a truly great book. Multiple critique groups had given me feedback, most encouraging. Beta readers had read it and offered a few suggestions for improvement. I shopped it to agents, who all declined to represent me. I even sent it directly to a couple of publishers. There was no interest. Sometimes I received no response and other times a polite “no thank you.” A couple even gave me a little bit of feedback, but it wasn’t too helpful.

But no one said, your book isn’t ready for publishing. That’s what they should’ve told me because it wasn’t. Only now do I realize that. Had I self-published this book, a memoir, I would have embarrassed myself and hurt others. I also would have damaged my book writing career before it began.

I recently identified a half-dozen things I needed to do to fix the book’s problems. It would require major editing and a lot of time. I hired a developmental editor to give me feedback before I went to work.

She agreed with all the corrections I knew the book needed. Then she confirmed that even with these changes, the book would still fall short of what publishers look for and what readers expect. I’m glad she told me the truth before I spent too much time trying to make a book work that never would work, short of a total rewrite. [bctt tweet=”I’m so glad I didn’t self-publish that book because I would have been publishing too soon.” username=”Peter_DeHaan”]

I’m so glad I didn’t self-publish that book because I would have been publishing too soon.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

The Eighth Error of Self-Publishing: Failure to Follow Conventions

There are certain standards established publishers follow. Though these conventions may seem arbitrary, a failure to follow them could make your book stand out in a bad way.

The Eighth Error of Self-Publishing: Failure to Follow Conventions

For example:

  • On the cover, the author’s name stands alone without the word “By.”
  • Subtitles aren’t preceded by a colon but placed on a separate line from the title.
  • Chapters start on the right side, not the left.
  • The first paragraph of a chapter is not indented; the rest are.
  • Lines aren’t right justified.
  • Serif fonts are used; san serif fonts are not.
  • The page number, chapter title, and title appear on specific locations on each page.
  • It’s Acknowledgments not Acknowledgements.
  • The author writes the Preface.
  • The author does not write the Foreword (not Forward); someone else does.
  • It’s Prologue, not Prolog.

Aside from issues of spelling for the last two items, I don’t know why or how these things became expected—or who decided on them in the first place. While I’ve seen all these conventions broken on occasion by established publishers be aware that the less we adhere to these expectations, the more likely a book will just not “feel” right to a reader or potential buyer.

Personally, I’d like to break them all. But I won’t because I want my book to have the best chance of success. If I need to follow some arbitrary rules, I gladly will.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

The Seventh Error of Self-Publishing: Having a Homemade Look

A book that looks homemade: The 7th Error of Self-Publishing

To address the seventh of eight self-publishing errors, let’s take a step back. Let’s look at the bigger picture, that is, the book as a whole. Don’t self-published a book that looks homemade.

In years past, this may have included photocopied pages, a simplistic cover, spiral binding (or three-hole punched for a binder), 8 1/2 by 11 size, crooked pages, missing pages, or out of order pages. Some books suffered from all these production problems.

With advances in technology, these issues are in the past. However, we must still guard against producing a book that looks homemade. All of the prior six errors can point to a homemade look, but four, in particular, lead the way: a poor cover, lackluster editing, inadequate file conversion, and getting carried away with fonts. Other issues include simplistic graphics, low-resolution photos, and pixilated or distorted artwork.

Individually, each of these errors is bad enough. But when combined, the evidence quickly builds that the book is homemade: a second-rate effort and not worthy of serious attention.

Consider deliberating over a book and the cover looks the second rate. Then open it to find a typo on page one, be assaulted with different font types and sizes, and see a random paragraph start in midsentence. In all likelihood, we’ll dismiss the book—as well as the author—and proceed to another title.

Only if we want to support the author or have a deep interest in the topic will we condescend to buy a book that looks homemade.

Categories
Business Articles

Call Center 101

By Peter Lyle DeHaan , PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I receive calls and emails from people who want to start a call center or contact center. I used to spend quite a bit of time with them discussing the nuances, ramifications, and challenges of starting a contact center. (They would already be optimistically filled with the upside, so there was no point in covering the satisfaction of helping people, the variety of work, and the profit potential.) However, after numerous such calls, I grew weary of repeating myself, so I put the basics online and simply refer people to www.StartACallCenter.com.

In talking to these inquirers, I would ask two questions. This helps me could provide the information relevant to their goals. The first was, “Will your call center do inbound or outbound work?” This sometimes confused people. On inquirer, who claimed 15 years of contact center experience, responded with, “What do you mean? I don’t understand the difference.”

My second question was, “Will this be an in-house or an outsourcing call center?” This query generated even more confusion. One caller gasped; her nonsensical retort was, “We’re in the United States!”

In similar fashion, when people subscribe to my call center magazine, Connections Magazine, I ask if they are an in-house or an outsource call center. I’m surprised at how frequently this question is fumbled. In view of all this—and at substantial risk of offending knowledgeable contact center veterans—I offer the following:

[bctt tweet=”To be successful, the work must be done well.” username=””]

Inbound Call Centers

Inbound call centers answer calls. Their agents are in a reactive mode, waiting for the phone to ring or the next call in queue. Inbound call centers are equipped with ACDs (Automatic Call Distributors) to efficiently send calls to the “next available agent.” Many inbound operations are staffed 24 x 7, with their agents scheduled to work in anticipation of projected call volume based on historical data and marketing initiatives.

Outbound Call Centers

Outbound call centers make calls to customers and sales prospects. Their job is proactive. Even if agents work is not sales per se, they still need a sales mentality. They must engage the called party, lead them towards an objective, and deal with rejection; some of which may be personally directed. Outbound call centers rely on predictive dialers to place calls. Agents are scheduled as needed to complete a requisite number of calls within a certain window of time, as limited by law.

In-house Call Centers

An in-house call center is an internal department or division of a company; it provides services exclusively for their own company. The chief advantage of an in-house call center is that greater control and oversight can be given to the call center, its agents, and their activities. An in-house call center can be a cost-center or a profit-center. Cost-centers they do not generate enough revenue to cover their expenses. They need to be subsidized by the company, whereas profit-centers generate enough business to cover their expenses.

Outsourcing Call Centers

An outsource call center does work for other companies. Their business is making and receiving calls. They often enjoy an economy-of-scale that is not feasible for the in-house operation. As such, their margins allow client’s to save money, while they make money. Agents at an outsource contact center work for their clients, but work with their clients’ customers or prospects. Outsource call centers are increasing in number and importance as more companies look to outsourcing as a way to increase service levels and options, return to their core competencies, save money, or all three.

Offshore Call Centers

An offshore call center is simply any call center that is located in a different country, or “offshore.” Offshoring is often erroneously considered synonymous with outsourcing. Offshore call centers are a subset of the outsourcing call center industry. (An in-house call center can be moved “offshore” as well.) A recent trend has been moving call center activity to other countries that boast stable technological infrastructures and offer qualified workers who possess lower wage expectations. This is offshore outsourcing, which is too often incorrectly shortened to outsourcing.

Despite all these distinctions, the essential lesson of Call Center 101, is that to be successful, the work must be done well!