Categories
Telephone Answering Service

A Lifetime of Industry Related Writing

Article Repository Consolidates Industry Resources  

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

I published my first article in 1982. It was about pagers. Remember them? 

It was also the hardest piece I’ve ever written, but it set me on a journey for a lifetime of writing. Over the years I authored a couple thousand articles, some of which have been forever lost, but most are still available online. And I’ve written even more blog posts. That’s millions of words.

I write a lot about the telephone answering service and call center industries. Each year I publish twelve columns for TAS Trader and another six each for Connections Magazine, AnswerStat, and Medical Call Center News. That’s thirty new pieces of industry related content each year, with over 500 in total. 

You can go to the respective publication websites to read these articles, but now they’re all compiled into one convenient repository at peterdehaanpublishing.com/peter-lyle-dehaan-articles for easy access. Please bookmark this page for future reference.

The articles are also grouped by category. This allows you to quickly drill down to your area of interest: answering service, call center, and healthcare call center. They are also cross indexed by specific topics. There are 100 articles about telephone answering service, 200 addressing the call center industry, and nearly 200 covering healthcare call centers. In addition, I have posted 130 business related articles and over 600 about writing and publishing

Now, for the first time ever, these are accessible for you at one location. Altogether I’ve posted more than 1,400 articles that I’ve written over the years.

In addition to them being online, I will compile and update the best, most relevant articles for upcoming books. With a dozen book title ideas in mind, I’m already working on the first one. The working title is Customer Service Success Stories. I’ll let you know when it’s available. 

My next title will cover the telephone answering service industry. I think I’ll call it The Best of TAS Trader. I can’t wait to share it with you.

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
Call Center Articles

Phone Failure Fiasco

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Last month I shared that our house took a minor lightning hit, resulting in the need to call our satellite television provider and telephone/Internet provider. The satellite provider understands how to provide great customer service; the phone company does not.

Though my business line was unaffected, our home phone had a loud hum and much static. We could make distorted calls, but no one could call us. The Internet was meandering at one-tenth its normal speed. (Our Internet is on our home line because the phone company insisted that DSL couldn’t be installed on the business line.)

I first reported the problem on Tuesday and was promised resolution by Saturday. My dismay over this delay was met with apathy and unwavering resolve.

Repairs were not made by Saturday, so I called again. After navigating the IVR maze, the agent happily informed me that I had canceled the service call. My insistence to the contrary was met with disbelief – until the agent realized the repair ticket had been filled out incorrectly. He issued a credit and promised repair by the following Friday.

Friday came and went. I called again and was assured everything was working – because the technician had “cleared a short.” When I pointed out that no one had stopped by or called to test the line, the agent reiterated that the repair was complete. I hit my phone’s conference button so the agent could hear the noise on my home phone. “That’s really bad,” she said in surprise. “We’ll have it repaired by Wednesday.” That was unacceptable; I insisted on talking with a supervisor. After holding for twenty-seven minutes, I was disconnected.

By that weekend, our 1.5 megabyte Internet connection had slowed to a mere .01 – even slower than dial-up. Now adept at navigating their inane IVR prompts, I called again. The agent comprehended my frustration, but the Wednesday date was absolute. I informed her that without the Internet, I could not work – but would have all day to call them. She then told me to report my Internet problems to a different number. I was issued another credit, and the trouble was finally escalated.

On Tuesday, the repairman arrived midmorning. He looked inside the interface box and said, “You’ve been hit by lightning!” Soon we were back in business.

How to provide poor customer service:

  • Fill out the report incorrectly
  • Be apathetic about lengthy delays
  • Irritate customers with irrelevant and time-consuming IRV options
  • Disbelieve or argue with the customer
  • Disconnect people waiting for a supervisor
  • Require a customer to call multiple numbers
  • Insist that things are fixed when they aren’t

Other items I didn’t mention:

  • Waste an hour making the customer reinstall and reprogram their modem
  • Threaten that there will be a $90 charge if it’s not the phone company’s problem
  • Warn that if no one is home with they come out – even though they can’t specify when that will be – they might not fix the problem
  • Take thirteen days to repair the issue

[From Connection Magazine October 2011]

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

Categories
Call Center Articles

The Trials and Triumphs of Telephone Support

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about customer service via the telephone, even more so than usual. There are some things that I am excited about, while others are a concern.

On the negative side, consider a large telecommunications company that provides cell phone, Internet, and long distance. Another is a large national banking institution. You know them both. They are notorious for their consistently abysmal record of poor customer service. If I were to name names, there’s a good chance that either you or someone you know has had a bad experience with them. Actually, saying “bad” would be kind. Uncaring, unconscionable, and unethical come to mind.

With these companies, it seems that once a problem occurs, there is a strong likelihood that it will never be resolved. This is not an overstatement. People have only so much patience, and then they give up. Excessive runaround, hours spent on hold, and limited energy to pursue a satisfactory resolution eventually overwhelm frustrated customers. Either they decide to accept the problem or they switch providers.

Although some of these companies’ frontline staff truly do care and try their best, others do not. Regardless, there seems to be cumbersome bureaucracy thwarting every move and complex support systems that make no allowances for nonroutine problems.

There is a real opportunity awaiting these two companies – and others like them – if they can just provide effective telephone support. With best-in-class phone support, I envision their cancelation rates dramatically decreasing, customer satisfaction levels skyrocketing, and a whole lot less negative press.

Maybe these companies are simply too big or offer too many services to be effective. Perhaps their call centers are mismanaged or bogged down by bureaucracy. But I suspect the underlying reason is that upper management treats telephone support as an expense item that needs to be minimized. The reality is that providing good customer service is good business – but one that requires an investment to fully realize.

I recently experienced the trials and triumphs of phone support after my house took a minor lightning hit, affecting our phone, Internet, and TV service. I called my satellite provider and spoke with a woman named Beth in the Oklahoma call center. The first time I encountered a call center agent telling me his location, I thought it was a bit hokey and an overreaction to the backlash against offshore call centers. But it actually helped me establish a personal connection with him. In the same way, I was positively predisposed towards Beth from Oklahoma. While waiting for various diagnostics to run, we had time to chat about call center stuff, which I greatly enjoyed. A service call was soon scheduled for the next day, when the problem was quickly fixed and service restored.

However, six days out and I’m still waiting for my phone and Internet to be repaired. Multiple phone calls, missed commitments, wrong instructions, and conflicting information: that’s no way to run a call center – or a business.

[From Connection Magazine September 2011]

Categories
Call Center Articles

Agent Headsets

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Headsets were an invention, born out of necessity, to prevent the fatigue and strain caused when agents worked all day on the phone. In order to free both hands for operating equipment, handwriting messages, and filing papers, operators of yesteryear could not hold a telephone handset with one hand, but would pinch the device between an upraised shoulder and sideways tilted head. Then, when the neck and shoulder became tired and sore, agents would switch the handset to their other side. Various means were used to position the receiver (speaker) near the ear and the transmitter (microphone) in proximity to the mouth, thereby eliminating this need for these contortions. The results of this effort were the first headsets. Some of the early implementations are laughable and quite heavy in comparison to today’s standards. Nevertheless, the headset was born.

With advances in technology, modern headsets are lightweight and durable. Virtually all feature noise-canceling properties and come in a variety of styles with different options. A mute switch is a common and handy feature. Volume controls allow users to adjust audio levels to their own liking and preference.

Headsets tend to be a personal thing as well, for which little neutrality of opinion exists. The model that one agent loves, another will hate, though it is often hard to find out precisely why. The model that one call center finds to be of high quality with low breakage rates, another operation may judge to be substandard and prone to failure. As such, headsets and headset use often become a management challenge.

Today, nearly all call centers require agents to use headsets. In fact, many do not even have a handset at their agent stations. The reasons for this are numerous. Headsets increase productivity, improve agent comfort, and reduce workplace injuries caused by long-term use of telephone handsets.

Many call centers provide a personal headset, at no charge, to each agent upon hire. Other centers require agents to buy their own headset, either one specified and provided by management or one of the employees’ choosing from an approved list.

One option is for the make and model of the amp to be determined as standard for all stations, allowing agents to select from two or three options of compatible headsets, according to their preference. This provides an option for an interesting economy, since headsets are comprised of two parts. The amplifier can be left at the agent station and be part of the standard equipment at that position, while the “top” portion, or actual headset, is needed for each agent. This means that only one third to one fourth as many amps need to be purchased as headsets, as three or four agents will generally use the same station over the course of a week.

Typically, the headsets become the responsibility of the agent to which they are assigned or owned. The employee is then responsible for repairs resulting from abuse and misuse, as well as replacement should the unit become lost.

There are many of headset manufacturers from which to choose. Headsets can often be bought directly from the vendor, as well as from a vast array of dealers, resellers, and retailers. Many distributors carry multiple lines, thereby offering greater options and more selections to consider.

When selecting a headset, especially if it will become the standard for your call center, there are several items to consider. Price is the least important of all. First, and foremost, there needs to be buy-in and acceptance from the staff. If the agents are not supportive of the headset model selected, the amount of grief generated can quickly escalate into a management nightmare. Often, when call centers select a new headset, team leaders and members are asked to test and evaluate various models (or at least the top two or three under consideration). Sometimes a committee or task force is convened to reach a consensus and make the selection. These steps not only result in a superior selection, but also enhance the likelihood of agent acceptance.

The second criterion is repairability. Regardless of the quality of the headset and amp selected, it will eventually break and require repair. What will be the process and turnaround time for repairs? A third and related issue is warranty and warranty replacement. Compare warranty time and coverage. Also, determine if an advanced replacement is sent out during the warranty period and whether the defective unit is repaired or replaced.

Fourthly, consider the support that will be provided. Determine what the process will be to address any issues, purchase additional units, and procure consumable items (such as ear pads, mic covers, and tubes) and accessories (such as clips, training adaptors, and in-line mute switches).

When all of this has been accomplished, then price can be considered for alternatives that are deemed comparable. Unfortunately, price is all too often the first criteria that is applied. This can summarily eliminate what may be the better options. Although saving $10, $20, or even $50 can quickly add up when buying 20, 50, or 100 units, it is often a false economy when the four main criteria are fully considered.

To research and purchase headsets, you can either select a distributor or go directly to the manufacturer (or their dealer network).

Headset Distributors

There are many headset distributors. One, in particular, focuses on the teleservices industry. This is RLY and Associates in Chico, CA. They sell Plantronics, ACS, GN Netcom, Unex, and VXI headsets and headset accessories. (RLY also sells monitors, keyboards, and other telemessaging equipment, such as T-1 channel banks, cards, operator consoles, and complete chassis for expansion or spares.)

RLY & Associates
Rick@rly.com
800-841-0841

Headset Manufacturers

Acoustical Innovations
800-747-9615
sales@aiheadsets.com

GN Netcom Inc
800-826-4656
salesna@gnnetcom.com

Hello Direct
800-435-5634
Xpressit@hellodirect.com

Plantronics
800-544-4660

Starkey Earborne
800-262-8611
dave_olson@starkey.com

[From Connection MagazineSeptember 2003]

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