Categories
Telephone Answering Service

Get More Clients

Discover the Key Characteristics to Close More Sales

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

In the August issue of TAS Trader, we talked about identifying where your clients are located and adjusting your market strategy accordingly. But marketing is only half of a successful sales and marketing initiative. The other half is closing sales.

Though much has been written, and will continue to be written, about making sales, a few basic, yet key, characteristics are the foundation for sales success. Sadly, too many organizations fail to address these essential elements and can’t figure out why the latest can’t-miss initiative isn’t producing the results they want.

What follows are common sense characteristics, yet too many organizations overlook them as they pursue other strategies.

Respond Fast

The first key is to react quickly. Gone is the time when the next business day or within 24 hours is good enough. Though some services have a one-hour response goal, even this falls short in today’s market where perspective clients seek instant results. Studies abound about response rate efficacy, but the bottom line is the faster you respond to an inquiry, the more likely you are to close a sale.

And to be clear, I’m not talking about the time from when a sales rep gets the lead to when they make the first contact, I’m talking about from when a client clicks a link or submits a request to when they are interacting with a sales professional. 

Strive to make this as fast as possible. The goal is to close the sale before your competition responds.

Follow Up

The second key is ongoing interaction. Most people pursue easy solutions and desire to achieve the best results with the least amount of effort. Salespeople are no different in this regard.

It’s true that many sales close on the first interaction, which tapers off with each subsequent follow-up effort. Yet collectively contacts two through ten (or more) produce a substantial number of sales as well. 

It’s just that most salespeople don’t know this because they don’t follow up with their leads. They seek the low hanging fruit of that initial contact and write off the prospects who don’t readily say “yes.”

Be Intentional

The next key is to ensure each contact has a purpose. Don’t call a prospect to “touch base” or see if they’re ready to begin service. Instead, be deliberate with each contact, be it by phone, email, or text. Make sure each interaction moves the sales process forward.

Learn the steps they plan to take to make their decision. Do they need someone to sign-off on their recommendation? Do they need to research something? They might need to look at their budget. Ask them how you can help them move the process forward. 

Another option is to contact them with additional information. This might not even be material that relates to your answering service or them using it. If you find something that may relate to their business or could be of interest to them, that’s a great reason to contact them. 

The point is that each follow-up contact should move them closer to deciding to use your service.

Don’t Stop Until You Get a Decision

The fourth key is persistence. Too many salespeople give up too soon. Know that some people are deliberate in making changes and need time to process it. Don’t risk writing them off just as they’re getting ready to say “yes.”

Continue following up with prospects until there’s no more reason to do so. 

The most obvious reason is that they sign up to use your answering service. Another reason is that they tell you to stop contacting them; respect that. And if they’ve gone with one of your competitors, ask their permission to follow up with them at a certain point to see how things are going. 

A timely call could turn a “no” into a “yes.”

Summary

A foundation for sales success is to respond fast, follow-up, be intentional, and don’t stop. Few salespeople do this, so implementing these four basic skills will put you ahead of most people. And along the way you’ll close more sales.

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.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Look for Ways to Streamline Your Call Center Processes

Remove What’s Unnecessary and Retain What Is

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Although I’m not trained as an industrial engineer, I think I’d make a good one. I have a knack of looking at processes and streamlining them. It gives me great satisfaction to take something overly complex and reduce it to its essential elements.

It doesn’t matter what the task is, whether setting an appointment, doing a patient intake, or making a post-discharge phone call, there’s a process to assure it’s done correctly. 

Sometimes we view these steps as common sense and don’t feel a need to document them—that is until someone fails to follow common sense. Other times—be it through past failures or an overly complex process—we document the path to produce success.

Too often, however, these processes are more involved than they need to be. We need to look for ways to streamline them. Here are four considerations.

1. Remove Obsolete Elements: Any process that’s been around for a while, likely contains unnecessary steps. Though once required, they no longer are. 

One healthcare call center compiled data from every call for marketing. But marketing didn’t even know the report existed. The person who requested it had left the organization two years before.

2. Eliminate Redundant Tasks: When I started Medical Call Center News, I entered data into three spreadsheets for each issue. Some numbers went on multiple sheets. 

I reviewed the purpose I sought to accomplish and what I was doing. One section was a carryover from another publication and no longer applied. Another area contained information that was personally interesting but had no business relevance. 

By taking away what was not essential, it was easy to see how the remaining data could smartly fit on one simplified spreadsheet. Not only did I save time with each issue, but the result was easier to use information.

A corollary that applies in many large organizations is multiple departments that want the same data. Enter it in one place and allow everyone to access it there. Don’t do something twice when once will work.

3. Combine Steps: I once toured an apple farm and watched them make cider using an old-fashioned apple press. Though I admired the employee’s diligent work, the inefficiency appalled me. They could have combined five steps into two. And a simple adjustment to the press’s set up would have eliminated all five, which took about 20 percent of the time to make each batch.

4. Cull Historical Baggage: Processes that have been around for a while often include steps that are there because of one error that happened long ago. Yes, mistakes do occur, but it’s not wise to systematize preventing the possible reoccurrence of one long ago oversight.

Conclusion

Streamlining a process may seem like too much work, but once simplified your staff will save time, reduce errors, and be more efficient every time they use it. A little effort now will pay huge dividends for the long-term.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

Where Are Your Clients Located?

Align Sales and Marketing Strategy with Client Geographic Distribution

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Since you can target online ads to specific markets, conduct a geographic analysis of where your customers are located. Let the results inform future ad targeting. 

Here are some considerations:

Local Market

Though there’s no longer a technical reason to go with a local answering service, some businesses prefer to work with nearby vendors. Their reasons for doing so vary, but the main factor in your favor is that their preference to buy local gives you an automatic advantage over everyone else who’s marketing to them from a distant location. Use this fact to your advantage when targeting your local market.

Highly Reached Markets

Is there another state or city where you already have a lot of clients? Explore the reasons why this is the case. Look for ways to capitalize on these reasons in future online marketing initiatives. Another benefit is that when it comes to closing the sale, some prospects will be impressed if you can list other businesses in their area that you already serve.

Under Reached Markets

Now consider other states or regions where you have few customers or none. Is there a reason for this? Let this explanation inform your decision about targeting these areas. Maybe you never marketed to that area. Or perhaps you did, but the results disappointed you. If so, see the next item.

Conduct a Test

Your current geographic distribution of clients is a culmination of past factors. This may not be indicative of future success. Therefore, some periodic wide-scale testing is in order. 

Conduct an online ad campaign targeting your ideal client, but don’t specify any geographic area. Then look at the results. 

If you receive a greater click through rate in a particular geographic market, this area may be positively predisposed—for whatever reason—to be interested in switching answering services at this time. It doesn’t matter why; not really. The key is that your message resonates with them right now. So target that area. Continue to do so for as long as you see results.

Time Zone Targeting

I once mused about having an answering service with 25 percent of my client base in each major US time zone. This, I reasoned, would smooth out each day’s traffic peaks and valleys that occur when most all clients are on the same schedule. Now, with geographic online ad targeting its feasible and practical to pursue this specific time zone mix—assuming you see reason a to do so.

Conclusion 

Answering service sales and marketing tactics change over time. A current marketing favorite is online advertising. But this is only half of the equation. The other half is the sales part. More on that next time. Until then, happy marketing.

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.

Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Solicit Feedback from Your Frontline Staff

Verify Key Information and Don’t Assume You Know the Answer 

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

My first full-time job was repairing copy machines. One day, toward the end of my short tenure there, the new service manager shared his vision for the future of his department. The company had two product lines, each with its own technical staff. This was inefficient, as the paths of the respective service teams would often cross.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

His grand idea was to cross train us on both product lines so we would do less driving and be more efficient. Customers would receive quicker service, and the company would save money.

It was a clever idea, but I pointed out something he overlooked. Already jammed with copier machine parts, my service vehicle had no room left to carry additional supplies for another product line. In fact, I revealed that I had removed my spare tire to make room for the parts I needed to carry.

His once pleased smile evaporated. My revelation left him dismayed, shooting down his brilliant idea. I’m not sure if I were the first technician that he shared his plan with, but I was the first one to point out why it wouldn’t succeed.

I respected him as a leader, in part because he understood my job. In fact, he once did what I and my three dozen compatriots were doing now. But things changed over time with more models to service and more spare parts to carry. His assumption that his knowledge from years ago still applied left him vulnerable to making a miscalculation.

This error can happen in any organization, including medical call centers and answering services. Many people in management and leadership rose through the ranks, having once answered patient phone calls themselves. But things change over time, and what may have once made sense, no longer applies.

That’s why it’s important for leaders to keep in touch with what their frontline staff does each day. This doesn’t mean caring a vague comprehension, but instead possessing an in-depth understanding.

Short of periodically taking calls—which is a great idea—the solution is to talk with your telephone representatives. This will help you better understand what they do on a day-to-day basis and aid you in making informed decisions about the work they do and the policies that support them.

Don’t assume you know the answer. Ask the people who know. They’ll either confirm or correct your perspective. Either way it’s a win.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Read his latest book, Sticky Customer Service.

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

Is It Time to Rethink Your TAS for the Long Term?

Apply Your Experiences of the Past Year to Chart Your Future Course

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Throughout my career, at both the businesses I’ve managed and the ones I’ve owned, I’ve sought incremental improvements, making small ongoing tweaks on a regular basis. By fine-tuning processes and paradigms over time, I made the operation better without subjecting employees to deal with substantial change.

Yet there are times that require significant correction. As an industry, we are at one of those crossroads. Here are four areas that warrant strategic contemplation.

Location

Since its inception, nearly a century ago, the telephone answering service industry has operated out of a singular location. Although the concept of remote operator has been an option since the late 80s, only within the past decade has the promise of a distributed workforce become a viable consideration.

With few exceptions, answering service owners and managers hold a firm perspective on which setting—centrally located or geographically dispersed—is the best. Most, understandably, prefer a centralized workforce.

Now, however, is an ideal time to push aside this proven, preferred way of doing business to at least consider the alternative. This distributed model can work out of dispersed offices, from employ’s homes, or a combination of both. The centralized location, and all its associated cost, can become relegated to history.

Platform

For the past decade or so, answering services have had two platform configurations to choose from: on premise or offsite, also known as SaaS (software as a service). Both have their advantages, as well as their drawbacks. There is no one universally right answer, but there is a right answer for your service and what you want to accomplish.

Take a serious look at the strengths and weaknesses of your current platform configuration. Contrast this to the opposite situation and see which one is the better strategic move for the long-term. Consider stability, flexibility, cost, and future potential. There is much to contemplate.

Staffing

Relating to location and platform type is the staffing paradigm you want to pursue. Many managers desire to see their staff at work each day, or at least be able to work some of their shifts at the main answering service location. This requires all employees to live within driving distance of the service.

This requirement, however, limits your labor pool. What if agents could do all their work remotely? What if you could fully train them at a distance? Then your potential labor pool expands geographically, as well as allowing you to consider nontraditional workers, such as the homebound but otherwise qualified employee.

Management

Make no mistake, it’s hard for most to manage a distributed workforce. What worked well in person seldom translates to a dispersed team working from multiple locations. This may be the hardest transition of the four to make. It requires learning, implementing, and mastering the ability to manage from a distance. Most will find it challenging, but it may prove a necessary pursuit.

Conclusion

The last year has given us significant glimpses or actual experience that touches on each of these four areas. With this as the historical background and an unknown future ahead, now is the time to think strategically and make these wide-ranging, future-facilitating changes to your telephone answering service.

Prepare now to better deal with whatever the future throws at us. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, you’ll be glad you planned for it today.

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.