NAEO Newslinks-April08
April 2008


Betty Bouchie
From the Editor:
March Winds and April Showers
by Betty Bouchie

Well, I don’t know about where you live – but where I live, spring has not sprung outside. However, it has sprung with a vengeance, inside. Spring is always filled with new projects, new committees, new accounts to set up, always lots of new things to keep us moving forward.

This month in Newslinks, we also have something new: A section for book reviews. We will feature books relevant to our industry and which others have found useful in learning new skills or growing their business.

If you have a book that has made a difference in your life or business, send an email along with some information. We just may ask you for a review.

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Committee Updates

Ron Waine

Membership Committee
by Ron Waine, TigerTel/UTR, Membership Chair

We have received some great survey feedback from First-timers attending the NAEO conference. Although the total response was limited, two statistics really stand out: All respondents stated that they would like to attend another conference, and 100% of those First-timers who were able to connect with their buddies identified that they found that the person "enhanced their experience!”

I would like to take this opportunity to introduce a new Membership Committee participant…we appreciate that Richard Titus from CMS Inc. has volunteered his time to our important work.

During our recent Committee conference call we had some good discussion about some of the comments made at the NAEO conference regarding efficient and effective use of the Listserv. These comments have inspired us to re-circulate the "Listserv Survival Guide” which was previously developed to provide tips and tricks on how to manage the many emails. A copy of the Survival Guide can be accesssed by clicking here.

Please keep in mind the new Errors & Omissions Insurance provider (Zutz Insurance) as your existing policies require renewal. More information about this program, which was initially announced at the Annual Conference, will be released and promoted to the Membership shortly. There are other potential NAEO benefits that are actively being discussed and considered. One that has generated some good interest at the Committee level is a Pre-employment testing program. We will keep you informed of our progress.

Please welcome three new 2008 members to NAEO:

  • Greenville Hospital – Rachael Edwards
  • Aurora Medical Centre – Heidi Skokut
  • Zutz Insurance – Matt Doyle (Associate Membership)

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Trisha Stenberg

Education Committee
by Trisha Stenberg, Education Committee Chair

Greetings members! It's that time of year when your Education Committee is hard at work preparing for the various learning opportunities for our members over the next year. We are currently working to prepar for upcoming Webinars, the next IS Training Seminar, the next Supervisor Training Seminar – and of course the next conference. We are also working on updating the Operator Training program so it is more compatible with the latest version of Infinity. Because we are working on so many different initiatives at this time, we are establishing various sub-committees so we can accomplish all these tasks in a timely manner. If anyone is interested in assisting with one of these sub-committees, please contact Education Chair; we would be honored to have you working with us.

  • Learning: Knowledge acquired by systematic study in any field of scholarly application. The act or process of acquiring knowledge or skill.
  • Education: The science or art of teaching. The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge. The result produced by instruction, training or study.
  • Teach: To impart knowledge of or skill in; give instruction in.

Learning, education and teaching are what NAEO is about, and your Education Committee is committed to finding as many ways as possible to help you gain knowledge in new areas. If there are areas where you would like to see more training opportunities, please email Education Chair and we will do whatever possible to make it happen. At the same time, if there are areas where you feel you are particularly strong, please consider hosting a Webinar, or presenting at a Supervisor Training Seminar or at the Conference, or perhaps helping to lead an IS Training Seminar. Remember, we are here to learn from each other. So learn all you can from your peers, and teach them all you can in return. If you are interested in helping out in this way, please email Education Chair.

Over the next weeks as we work to plan future training seminars, Webinars and the annual conference, please watch your email for requests for assistance in presenting and teaching. This will be your chance to give a little something back. We hope you are willing and able to do so. It is the reason NAEO is so strong.

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One of Those Days...

We decided to switch our music on hold from a radio station, which seems to always be just a bit off station, to a CD. As a hospital, we need to be careful about what type of music we play. The department manager picked out a CD he felt would be good, Frank Sinatra classics. Before making the change, we wanted to test the machine to make sure everything was in good working order. So we set it up and turned it on, to listen to the first song, "My Way.” The music came on, so did the words, "And now, the end is near; and so I face the final curtain.” We still have radio.

If you have an amusing story, please send it along so we can share a smile with others.

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Gerald Brosseau
Member Spotlight:
Gerald Brosseau, Always On Call Answering Service, LLC

Q. Could you tell us how and when your business began?
Always On Call Answering Service, LLC was founded by my mother, Ellen Brosseau in Littleton, New Hampshire in 1992 to provide answering service to local businesses. The first system we utilized was an Exacom Identifier, manufactured in Concord, New Hampshire. Within two years of opening, word of mouth had spread that additional DID lines were added and a foreign DID exchange was established over 75 miles away to provide local telephone answering service to nearly 100 new clients in the Mount Washington Valley. By 1995, the business grew once again, this time into a niche market of funeral homes. My father, Gerald R. Brosseau, LFD, joined my mother in operating the business by providing telephone answering service to funeral directors throughout the Granite State. Their reputation spread like wildfire and they began answering for clients throughout the Northeast and as far away as Florida and California.

In 1999, we moved our offices to Newport, Vermont, closer to our family dairy farm and where there seemed to be a demand for new businesses offering employment opportunities to the area. We moved our business back to New Hampshire in December 2006, after researching several areas, ultimately deciding on the state capitol of Concord. There were several reasons for the move; we needed a larger office for expansion, a greater employment pool, and (most importantly) Northeastern Vermont could not offer T-1 lines. Our Vermont location now serves as a redundant satellite office. Now with just over a year at our new Concord location with our Amtelco System, our growth is endless. Both our client base and family of Tele-receptionists continue to expand each day.

Q. What are your most common accounts?
While we answer for TAS clients in a variety of industries nationwide, including medical, veterinary, HVAC, etc., our most common accounts are in the funeral home industry, due to my father’s reputation and vast experience in the various aspects of funeral service. His knowledge is shared with our employees through in-house training seminars, actual experience in funeral homes, and attendance at CEU benefit seminars within our state association. This division of our business is assigned to operators specifically trained in handling calls for death, dying and bereavement, through call distribution.

Q. When did you start using Amtelco equipment and why?
The identifier system my parents were using was becoming obsolete. After writing a strategic plan, my father and I researched several different systems and their applications to the industry. I attended my first ATSI convention in Maine and came home with what I felt were, the best and the not-so-best systems. We made plans with these vendors to actually see their systems in use and were invited to visit several services within a day's drive from our facility.

Q. When did you join NAEO and why?
I joined NAEO several months prior to the installation of Infinity. Without a doubt, the Amtelco equipment owners provide a feeling of mutual camaraderie whether the service is a small business with only a few seats, to a major enterprise. NAEO members all strive to help each other with common goals in mind to promote and improve the TAS industry. Membership in NAEO has afforded me the opportunity to meet and make new friends. NAEO has opened doors for me personally to expand my knowledge and my love of teaching through the NAEO Education Committee.

Q. When did you begin in the business?
I actually started in my parents’ initial year. They opened with nine accounts, all doctors and my father’s funeral home, when I was only nine years old. Growth was immediate, including state agencies and several national accounts, all by word of mouth. I answered calls on a shift after school into the night, seven days a week, mostly for ski resorts. By the time I was twelve, my father had befriended a computer programmer who had just come back from Desert Storm. Together, the three of us designed a Windows application, based on a DOS program developed for the government, that managed messages and client information. Constantly, I would tweak this home-made program to fit our needs until we purchased the Amtelco system. Even for billing, we were still using a program I wrote when I was eleven until the cutover to Infinity.

Since our installation of Infinity, I have flown to Madison for an Amtelco Technical Seminar to continue my education as I learn more and more each day about our Infinity. I would say my overall strengths with Infinity are in client management, scripting, and programming IS.

Q. Tell us a little personal information about you, your family and your hobbies or interests.
I have several interests besides the love for my business, Always On Call, and the telecommunications industry as a whole. I have followed my grandfather's footsteps of being a chef and enjoy cooking. While I enjoy eating and preparing French, Italian, and Cuban cuisine, I especially enjoy southern smoked barbeque. When I am not in the office, I am often flying around New England in a private plane, boating on Lake Winnipesaukee, snowmobiling in Northern Vermont and New Hampshire, or traveling to an industry conference or educational seminar. I am a member of the Aircraft Owners’ and Pilots Association, the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association, and an avid member of several other local organizations.

I attended the University of Vermont, originally for pre-medical studies. However, I transferred to Lyndon State College to be closer to the family businesses, the telephone answering service and a 130-head dairy farm that was nominated for the Dairy of Distinction Award. In addition to having a radio show in college, receiving the Angelo Bona Entrepreneurial Scholarship, I attained Bachelor degrees in Business Administration and Small Business Management & Entrepreneurship, with a minor in marketing. I will be completing studies to become a 6th generation licensed funeral director in the near future and eventually will obtain an MBA.

Q. What is one thing about you or your business that is different or unique?
Being raised in the business, I have extensive experience in operating a telephone answering service in terms of "old school” methods and now the latest innovative technology and concepts. Being a family owned and operated business, the loyalty and respect that is expressed between our clients and our staff has created a company that has outstanding client retention. Our mission statement is, "You’ll never find another answering service that will care more about your business than we will!” There is an amazing difference among answering services that instill a philosophy of caring communications!

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John Ratliff

Forward Reading: E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gruber
A book review by John Ratliff

The E-Myth Revisited, in my opinion, is the greatest book ever written for small business. It describes, at great length, the "Entrepreneurial Myth” or E-Myth, which states: just because you know how to do the technical work of business does not mean you know how to run that business. The greatest curse of an entrepreneur is knowing how to do the technical work. If the entrepreneur is able, there is no pressing need to find someone else. Valuable time, that should be used to focus on running and building the business, is instead used for technical work that could be completed by someone else.

The book describes, in detail, how to get out of the rut of constantly doing working "IN” and never "ON” your business. It shows you how to think of your business as something that could be duplicated hundreds of times, and as something apart from you, something that could survive in your absence. It uses great examples, and in a sidebar story that unfolds throughout the book, it chronicles the life of an actual client. A client who is facing the same issues many of us face, doing it all and having no time left to move forward, all while struggling to make ends meet.

If you want an easy read, fast-paced business book that is loaded with valuable insights, I strongly recommend the "E-Myth Revisited”, by Michael Gerber. It is, by far, my all-time favorite and required reading for every manager in our company.

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Expanding the Worth of the Call Center in a Hospital Environment
by Thom Parrotti, Director, Call Center, Bassett Healthcare

I am sure that each of us has some tricks up our sleeves as to how we work on expanding the worth of our respective call centers.

Buy-in and acceptance of change is a wonderful thing – but for many of us it takes real hard work and constant attention to our services. I have found that through offering added services that are relatively simple, you build confidence in your call center's ability and overall worth to the institution that cuts your pay check.

A few of the added services we have taken on are:

Patient Support Services
Here, we serve as a dispatch service for the main campus clinic and hospital. Good examples of the needs are: the OR needs a STAT lab, a patient needs to be moved from the Emergency Department to a patient room, and a patient is to be taken to Radiology. The respective area will call into a main number that pops an account and a message is taken as to the exact need. The message is then paged to an available transporter. Our Communication Representative will monitor who is out on a page and the next available transporter will be paged for the next request. When the task is completed, the transporter will call back in and advise that the job is finished.

Providing this service has greatly increased our value to the hospital and provides a solid service with historical documentation on time of call and completion of call.

The Call Center piloted outbound Pre-Registration calls for Orthopedic Surgery. During these calls, demographic and insurance information is updated, and co-pay amounts confirmed. It also served as a reminder of the patient's appointment. When the call is complete the patient is considered "pre-registered." A special "fast pass" pre-registration line has been established at registration kiosks for these pre-registered patients.

This assists patients and the facility by cutting down wait times in the registration lines. This service was well received by patients, and Bassett anticipates expansion in 2008. The program also assists proper billing by verifying insurance information and verifying eligibility of Medicaid patients.

RX Renewal
A special Prime Care prescription renewal line has been established by the Call Center. Two representatives staff the renewal line during normal business hours. This service allows patients to call in when their prescription renewal has expired. This has offloaded 50% of Prime Care Secretaries' call volumes. An Intelligent Series message ticket takes Representatives step-by-step through the process, including an interface with a Drug Look-up Utility, to ensure accuracy of information taken. These messages then are transmitted through the UltraComm to the secretaries for processing.

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IS Tip of the Month – Using Expression Builder to Dictate Actions, Based on the Day of the Week
by Jon Paulsen, Customer Contact Services

About a year ago, we landed a very complex account that needed to be built in Intelligent Series (IS). We had not had a lot of experience with IS, so this account really stretched our limits. One of the most useful things we learned was how to dictate actions when an appointment is scheduled for the future. We wanted our operators to be able to use IS to schedule appointments, but we had to make sure that they did not schedule any on weekends. This led to the discovery of this very useful expression.

The first step in the Expression builder is to select the "DatePart” feature from under the "DateTime” Function.

After entering this into the expression, we need to change it so that the expression is based on the day of the week. This can be done by right-clicking on date and selecting WeekDay.

Next, we need to add in the field that is required to pull the starting date (in this instance, it’s today’s date) and the equal sign. This can either be entered manually, or taken from the Comparison Field.

Finally, put in the number that corresponds with the day of the week required, with 1=Sunday and 7=Saturday. By adding in extra parentheses and another phrase, we can make an expression that takes either a Saturday or a Sunday date. It would look like this:

This expression will identify whether a date is a Sunday (1) or Saturday (7) and direct the script as needed. We set up ours in the Unload of a screen and directed the script to another screen with a display note that stated, "You have scheduled this exam for a weekend, please press "back” to schedule it for a different date”.

With this expression, we have been able to effectively control the days of the week our operators schedule the exams. If you do not have EZ script Editor, you can also use variations of the expression to effectively do the job of the weekday branch option; this is especially useful if you are only splitting the script based on whether it’s a weekend or weekday.

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Effective Questioning Skills
by Nancy Friedman, Telephone Doctor

QUESTION: How important is it to ask good questions?
ANSWER: It’s very important.

It’s important you use questioning skills to help you completely understand the customer’s situation. Otherwise, you could be responding to what you guess the customer means, which may or may not be correct. Questioning goes beyond listening.

Effective questioning is a real complement to your skills. It shows that you have the ability to get real needs. It shows you’re looking for meaning that’s deeper than the spoken message. Effective questioning is a powerful, learned skill. It says to the customer...I’m interested in determining your needs.

Questioning can be put into two divisions – Open-ended Questions and Closed-ended Questions.

Let’s take open-ended questions first. Open-ended questions are questions without a fixed limit. They encourage continued conversation, and help you get more information. Plus, they often give insight into the other person’s feelings. Open-ended questions draw out more information. When you want the customer to open up, use open-ended questions that start with WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, WHEN and HOW. A few examples are:

"What are some of the things you look for in a hotel?"
"How do you feel government could be more responsive to your needs?"
"What are your concerns about this new program?"’s the 5 "Ws" – who, what, why, where and when and sometimes "HOW." Try it. It works!

Moving on to closed-ended questions, these questions have a fixed limit. They’re often answered with a yes or no, or with a simple statement of fact. Closed-ended questions are used to direct the conversation. They usually get brief specific information, or are used to confirm facts. Here are some examples.

"Do you have health insurance?"
"Do you want the new brochure?"
"Would you be interested in that?"
We use the open-ended questions to get more information, and the closed-ended questions to focus in on one area.

Additionally, there are several other types of questioning techniques. A few are:

  • Probing Questions
    Sometimes you ask an open-ended question to get more information and you only get part of what you need. Now it’s time for a probing question. A probing question is another open-ended question, but it’s a follow-up. It’s narrower. It asks about one area. Here’s an example:

    "What topic areas are you interested in?" would be better than reading off 50 topics to the customer. It’s a PROBING question.

    A few other examples are:
    "Are you able to tell me more about the form you received?"
    "What did you like best about Paris?"

    Probing questions are valuable in getting to the heart of the matter.

  • The Echo Question
    Here’s a good technique for getting more information. You can use this like a probing question. The idea is to use the last part of a phrase the customer said. Slightly raise the tone of your voice at the end of the phrase to convert it to a question. Then pause and use silence – like this:

    ......................The bill you received?

    An echo question repeats part of the phrase that the customer used, with voice inflection, converting it to a question. Some people call it mirroring. Some, reflecting. Others call it parroting. We call it echoing. Whatever you call it, it’s a valuable technique for your use. The echo question.

  • Leading Questions
    Many things can be good or bad. Take fire, for example. Fire warms our home, cooks our food, and does many useful things. Uncontrolled, it can burn down our houses.

    We use that example because leading questions can be good or bad. Leading questions, if used improperly, can be manipulative because you’re leading the person to give the answer you want. But when used properly, you’re helping that person. Some examples of proper leading questions are:

    "You understand what I’m saying, don’t you?"
    "You’ll want to know about our same day delivery service, right?"
    "You’ll want to go ahead with this, won’t you?"

    Leading questions often end with suggestive nudges toward the desired answer. Some ending phrases would be, "Don’t you?" "Shouldn’t you?" "Won’t you?" "Haven’t you?" "Right?"

    So where are leading questions useful? Well, they’re useful in helping someone who’s undecided make the right decision. A decision that’ll benefit them. You use a leading question ethically, when you help someone do the right thing. Some folks call this technique the "TIE DOWN" technique due to the fact that you’re actually trying to tie down the customer's needs.

Bottom line: Practice using a variety of questioning techniques. It’ll help you help your customers better. And, after all, you want to provide the very best customer service, don’t you?

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