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Telephone Answering Service

Is Your Answering Service Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

As I talk with owners and operators in the telephone answering service industry, some have concerns and others share the excitement. I understand those who are pessimistic. After all, there is much to worry about. I also understand those who are optimistic. They see ongoing changes to the industry, as well as threats from within and without, as occasions to celebrate.

These folks have figured out how to market and to sell, not just to offset attrition but to grow organically. Others embrace acquisition, either for the art of the deal or as a means to pick up new clients from acquisitions who fail their newly acquired clients. Still, others have figured out how to manage staff successfully across multiple locations or to truly scale their business in a way that works in actual practice. Last are those who manage what they have with excellence: maximizing value, thrilling clients, engaging staff, and making a nice profit in the process.

Regardless of which camp you are in, the half-full contingent or the half-empty group, now is a great time to begin preparing for next year. Don’t wait until December 31 to begin your strategic plan for the new year. And whatever you do, don’t confront the upcoming year without a plan.

  • Look at what you do well and ask how you can do it better. Every TAS has at least one thing they do with excellence. Don’t lose sight of that.
  • Then look at where you struggle and seek ways to turn it into a strength. Every TAS also has at least one thing they can do better. Don’t think otherwise.
  • Last look at your biggest pain point and make a plan so it hurts a little less. You can do that.

Do these three things and make next year your best one yet. Start preparing today.

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

The Dark Side of Acquisitions

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Having bought more than a dozen answering services in my day, I understand the allure of chasing the sale, negotiating fair terms, closing the deal, and taking control of the acquisition. Yet the real value comes after the sale when the acquired accounts are optimized.

Yes, you inevitably lose some, no matter how careful the transition, but the ones that remain are profitable and grow your bottom line. Even though this post-sale optimization is a critical final step, it’s not nearly as exciting as pursuing the deal. But it is more important. Critically so. Maximizing the value of a newly acquired property requires hard work, takes time, and receives little recognition. But when successful, the results pay off month after month.

Some answering services excel in deal-making but flounder at exploiting the potential of their purchase. As a result, they churn the accounts they just bought. While a few of those clients will stop using answering services altogether, a majority will move on to another answering service. And that’s good news for everyone else in the industry.

Each acquisition prompts some clients to look for a new service. In some cases, many accounts will want to jump ship. This means an opportunity for the rest of the industry. Look for ways to make it easy for these businesses to switch to your answering service. Speed and ease of transition is critical. They are in pain and want to move. Make it effortless, and they will choose you.

This is the upside to the dark side of acquisitions.

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

Why I’m Excited About the TAS Industry

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

A couple of years ago I started offering freelance commercial writing services. Not surprisingly, much of the work I do is in the answering service industry: commercial marketing, blog posts, website content, and marketing materials.

As I research and write for my clients in the TAS industry, one theme reoccurs. I am struck with the realization that there is a great opportunity ahead of us. Though these opportunities aren’t readily apparent, they do exist. It takes visionary leaders willing to try new things. Some initiatives fail and some succeed. We learn from failure and build upon success.

These opportunities often mix great staff with exciting technology to spark creative service offerings. And of course, promotion and marketing are now more critical than ever.

Ours is a resilient industry. Yes, it is changing. Consolidation continues. Our vendors innovate like never before, producing technology that provides us the means to offer exciting new services. Clients expect more and that helps us get better. The bad players are being bought out or go out of business. The good players compete and grow and make money.

While there may be less answering services to do the work, I believe there is more business awaiting us than ever before.

I am so excited about the future of the TAS industry, and I hope you are, too.

Categories
Telephone Answering Service

Looking for Good Ideas among Well-intended Misfires

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Many years ago in another industry, my boss shared his grand suggestion to save money and boost productivity. It was insightful but had a critical flaw that would render it unworkable. He was enough removed from the day-to-day workings of our operation that he was unaware of the hole in his logic.

As the TAS industry continues to consolidate, investment comes from the outside. These folks have their own grand ideas of how they will save money and boost productivity. Most of the time they are wrong. Their ideas are not realistic and may not even be feasible, but they lack the intimate, practical, day-to-day knowledge to realize that.

Notice I said “most of the time.” This means that occasionally outsiders bring a truly innovative idea into the TAS industry. But if we’re not careful we will dismiss it as being ill-conceived, despite their good intentions.

The key is to keep an open mind, to not hold our time-proven SOP (standard operating procedure) as sacrosanct. This is easier to say than to do. But just because we’ve always done something a certain way, doesn’t mean we can’t find a better method to do it, a means to save money or boost productivity. So we must respectfully consider an outsider’s plan to change our ways – they just may be right.

However, those on the outside looking in must balance their great ideas with the seasoned pragmatism of insiders. After all, most of the time we will be right.

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Telephone Answering Service

Celebrating Subscription Services

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

It seems that subscription services surround us: from Dollar Shave Club to HP Instant Ink, to Microsoft 365. For the record, I’ve passed on all three, though I recently questioned that decision as I made another trip to the office supply store to purchase printer ink. Nonprofits also embrace this approach, preferring ongoing, automatic monthly donations, in lieu of chasing larger annual contributions. Rather than fight their paradigm, I have acquiesced to their new method of fund-raising.

The telephone answering service industry may have been the first to stumble unto this idea of monthly reoccurring revenue when it emerged some ninety years ago. I understand they followed a flat-rate billing model then, which fully exemplifies this concept. (I discount magazine subscriptions from this discussion because they bill annually, not monthly.)

Ten years ago, I first heard about the subscription model being offered by a TAS vendor. I immediately saw the brilliance of their plan. Assuming their cash flow could tolerate a transition from large system sales to reoccurring monthly revenue, they would position themselves well for the future, helping to ensure their ongoing viability.

This software subscription service is commonly called hosted solutions or SaaS (software as a service). While some claim distinctions between the two, they are essentially the same model. The concept also once went by ASP (application service provider), though that acronym now means something else.

As I said, this plan is brilliant – for the vendors. What took me longer to comprehend was that this makes sense for the answering services, too. As one firmly entrenched in the buy-once-and-use-it-forever perspective, I dislike the idea of paying a small fee every month.

Yet as I learn more about the TAS platform subscription model, I see it makes sense for answering services, too. This is especially true for startups and small to medium answering services, as well as larger ones.

Although I’ll stop short of saying that the subscription service model is right for all answering services to acquire their technology, I do assert that all answering services should look into it. The possible benefits are too big to ignore.