NAEO Newslinks-Dec08
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December 2008

Conference Earlybird Deadline EXTENDED to January 7, 2009.
Get signed up TODAY!




Betty Bouchie

From the Editor:
Travel – 'Tis the Season
by Betty Bouchie

The December holidays are fast approaching and with them come travel. I have always loved to travel. Given the opportunity, I would travel for a living. Seeing and learning new things, each trip an adventure of one kind or another. December brings with it lots of travel, as people visit relatives and return home from educational opportunities away. It is a time when travel becomes a bit more of a challenge. Flights are over-booked, delayed or cancelled due to bad weather, somewhere. December travel allows us to exercise our patience and understanding. It may also allow us to get to know our fellow traveler, very well. Safe travels and happy holidays.

For more thoughts on travel delays, please check out this interesting article.

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Be Inspired

"I've always been in the right place at the right time. Of course, I steered myself there."
~ Bob Hope

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Something to Smile About...

A first grade school teacher had 26 students in her class. She presented each child in her classroom the first half of a well-known proverb and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb. It's hard to believe these were actually done by first graders. Their insight may surprise you. While reading, keep in mind that these are first-graders, 6-year-olds, because the last one is a classic!

  1. Don't change horses until they stop running.
  2. Strike while the bug is close.
  3. It's always darkest before Daylight Saving Time.
  4. Never underestimate the power of termites.
  5. You can lead a horse to water but how?
  6. Don't bite the hand that looks dirty.
  7. No news is impossible
  8. A miss is as good as a Mr.
  9. You can't teach an old dog new math
  10. If you lie down with dogs, you'll stink in the morning.
  11. Love all, trust me.
  12. The pen is mightier than the pigs.
  13. An idle mind is the best way to relax.
  14. Where there's smoke there's pollution.
  15. Happy the bride who gets all the presents.
  16. A penny saved is not much.
  17. Two's company, three's the Musketeers.
  18. Don't put off till tomorrow what you put on to go to bed.
  19. Laugh and the whole world laughs with you, cry and you have to blow your nose.
  20. There are none so blind as Stevie Wonder.
  21. Children should be seen and not spanked or grounded.
  22. If at first you don't succeed get new batteries.
  23. You get out of something only what you see in the picture on the box
  24. When the blind lead the blind get out of the way.
  25. A bird in the hand is going to poop on you.

    And the WINNER and last one!

  26. Better late than pregnant

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Nominations Open for NAEO Board of Directors
by Ron Waine, NAEO Membership Chair

Inspired to contribute your efforts, creative ideas and passion to the smooth running and further development of our great association? If so, we strongly encourage you to let your name stand for election to the NAEO Board of Directors!

NAEO has begun to look for candidates to run for the NAEO Board for terms beginning in March 2009. There are three openings for next year and the election will be held at the business meeting at the Annual NAEO Conference in Cancún, Mexico.

Being a Board Member is an interesting and rewarding job. Besides meeting two or three times a year, you will share ideas and work with some of the best people in the industry.


2008-09 NAEO Board: (left to right)
Kelli Harrigan, Trisha Stenberg, Cori Bartlett, John Ratliff, Jim Wagner, Matt Crocker, Joe Adam, Andy Shelp, Ron Waine, Robin Bailey, Mike Burkinshaw

Directors gain special perspective on our industry and, of course, on the functioning of the very successful trade association that NAEO has become. However, it is also a three-year commitment to work to make a difference in our association and in the well-being of our members.

Candidates seeking election should be individuals who are action-oriented, enthusiastic, honest and hardworking. Both owners and key managers from hospitals and private TAS/Call Centre businesses are eligible to run. Required is some in-depth experience in an organization that utilizes Amtelco call processing equipment and some time and enthusiasm to take on organizational and industry issues.

Board members are typically the Committee Chairpersons. While we meet in person two or three times a year, between conferences, we also conduct a great deal of business by e-mail, telephone and conference calls. There is no monetary compensation for Board membership; however, in recognition of the efforts of the Board, members elected to the Board receive a 50% discount in conference fees. The NAEO Board made this decision to both recognize the Board for its hard work, and to help persuade NAEO members to consider Board service.

Additionally, all expenses that are incurred for travel to and from non-conference board meetings are paid by NAEO. Finally, you will also get the personal satisfaction that comes from doing your share of work for this wonderful association.

So, when the nominating committee calls on you, please consider running for the Board. Obviously we need people who love the industry and want to learn as much as possible and who are willing, ready and able to share their time and talents for the benefit of our industry. If you are not called, and you would like to be on the ballot, please contact one of us on the nominating committee. You can also nominate a fellow NAEO member or yourself (with two written seconds by current NAEO members) by filling out the nomination form. Please note that the nomination forms are due to the NAEO Office by Wednesday, December 17, 2008.

2009 Nominating Committee
For more specific information on the commitment of being a NAEO Board member, click here for the Board of Directors Job Description.

Nominations Chair, Ron Waine, (416) 202-8308, rwaine@tigertel.com
Cori Bartlett, (407) 447-6000, cori@alliancecommunications.com
John Ratliff, (302) 656-0630, jratliff@appletreeanswers.com


 

One Number Call Forwarding
by Randy J. Ripkey, Accurate Messages, Inc.

Yes, it works. Let me first post a disclaimer that I am not a former telephone company technician, so what follows is my layperson’s understanding as a reasonably experienced telephone answering service owner who knows enough about telephone lines to be dangerous… We are also on Infinity version 5.5.001, which is necessary for many of the features I’m about to discuss.

It all begins in the "Data Channel”
Most of us are now using either PRIs or T1s to bring call traffic into our offices. These digital products include a "data channel” that tells our switch, for example, that we have an inbound call on channel 12 which includes, among other things, the following information:

  • Number Dialed – this is the telephone number used to direct the call to your facility, typically the DID number you assigned to your customer to use when they forward their telephones to you.
  • Number Forwarded – This is the telephone number of the line at your customer’s facility (your customer’s telephone number) that was "forwarded” to the "Number Dialed.” It is also known as the "ANI,” Automatic Number Identification, a service that provides the receiver of a telephone call with the number of the calling phone.
  • Caller ID – This is the telephone number, and usually the associated name, of the person who placed the initial call to your customer. Basically, the ANI your customer received.

What you’re probably doing now:
You probably have hundreds of DID numbers, and every customer uses Call Forwarding to direct their call traffic to a unique number at your office. Your PRI or T1 is configured to send either the complete 10 digit DID number or (usually) the last four digits of the DID number on the data channel as the ANI of the incoming call. On the Infinity Supervisor window, Client Identity section, the Source ID is set to this number. As no two accounts can have the same Source ID, the Infinity uses this field to match the incoming call to your customer’s Client Setup.

One Number Setup:
I currently use One Number Call Forwarding "only” for my long distance customers. Let's say the number is 888-555-1111. I have a long distance T1 dedicated to this, and this T1 is programmed to send the ANI (the Number Forwarded) instead of the "Number Dialed” to the Infinity as the Source ID.

My local PRI circuits are programmed as "normal,” sending the last four digits of the number dialed to the Infinity as the Source ID.

There are three possible scenarios that can happen when a call comes into your switch:

  1. A wrong number
    Let's say someone from out of the blue calls my 888-555-1111 number. Their ANI isn’t programmed. This call is directed to an account that plays a recording; "You have reached a disconnected telephone number owned by Accurate Messages. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please press zero to speak with an operator.”

    The only problem is, perhaps your customer is calling his forwarding number, 888-555-1111 from his home phone, and that number wasn’t programmed in the Infinity. We try to make our customers aware of this, and to let us know ALL of the possible phone numbers we may need to recognize.

  2. Your customer is calling your office on 888-555-1111 from their office, most often when they are forwarding their phones for the day.

    In Infinity, System Forms & Lists, ANI Screening Setup, we have entered every customer phone number who may call our office. So, for example, our account number 1234, XYZ Company has 3 lines, 706-650-6500, 706-650-6501, and 706-650-6502. We have all three of those numbers listed in the ANI Screening Setup, with the Client number of 1234 for each number. This way, if XYZ Company calls our office on 888-555-1111 from any of their lines, the Infinity looks up the ANI, and routes the call to the operator screen with account number 1234’s Client Setup.

  3. Your customer has forwarded their phone(s) to you, and one of their customers is calling.

    In Infinity Supervisor, client Identity, Source ID for our sample account number 1234, XYZ Company, we list 706-650-6500, and also list 706-650-6501 and 706-650-6502 in the Secondary Sources fields. This way, when a caller calls XYZ Company, and XYZ Company’s number is forwarded to our 888-555-1111 "one number” call forwarding number, the Infinity picks up the ANI of (lets say) 706-650-6500 and knows to route the call to the operator and display account number 1234’s Client Setup. If your customer has more than three lines that can be forwarded, sub accounts must be used to include the additional numbers.

When one number call forwarding doesn’t work…
Some customers have sophisticated telephone systems that don’t use call forwarding; instead, they are in essence patching the caller to our office. These customers will need a dedicated DID number for now. I suspect in the near future, there will be software solutions for these customers.

Implementation
I was fortunate several years ago that I was bringing in a new dedicated long distance T1, and was able to migrate my long distance traffic from dedicated toll-free numbers to my one-number toll free number. We were able to move the customers at our own pace, testing and educating our customers as we went along. It was a lengthy process, but it saved me 200 DID numbers that I can now get rid of if the impending "number tax” becomes a reality.

I understand from Amtelco there are ways to have both individual DID traffic and one-number traffic on the same PRI or T1. I am not certain of this, and encourage you to contact Amtelco for more details. I would suspect this technology exists, and would make the transition much easier for those of us with limited PRI resources.

In closing, I would encourage you to at least begin some degree of one-number forwarding immediately, as it clearly is the most reasonable solution to the proposed number tax. Good luck!

Randy J. Ripkey has been in the answering service industry since 1995 as the owner of Accurate Messages, Inc. of Augusta, Georgia. Accurate Messages is a ten position TAS serving over 450 accounts on the Amtelco Infinity platform. He is a Past President of the Southern Telemessaging Association (STA) and has served on its Board of Directors. He is very active in the industry and frequently speaks to regional and user groups, sharing his experiences and methods of profitability analysis. Randy also markets his popular TASbiller billing and analysis software for the answering service industry. He has sold over 140 systems. His background includes computer programming and commercial real estate appraisal.

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March 1 – 4, 2009
Cancún Palace Resort
Cancún, Mexico

REGISTER TODAY!
Earlybird deadline has been extended to Jan. 7.

Scholarships Now Available:
NAEO has a limited number of need-based scholarships available that will cover conference registration for the 2009 Annual Conference. Click here for the application. The deadline is Friday, December 19.


The Countdown to NAEO Cancún has Begun!
by Kelli Harrigan, NAEO Conference Chair

Less than three months to go until NAEO’s annual conference in Cancún! I can’t believe the holidays are here and soon we’ll be ringing in 2009 and packing to go to the conference! (OK, I may be a little ahead of myself, but there’s already snow on the ground here in Wisconsin, so I’m ready to start packing.)

A few important reminders for you…

  • If you haven’t registered yet, it’s not too late - we want to see you in Cancun! Go to www.naeo.org to view the online conference brochure and you can register online or download the registration form and mail it in with your payment.
  • If you are looking for someone to share a room with you, use our "Roommate search” at www.naeo.org
  • Make sure you have a valid passport. Everyone, including children, needs a valid passport to travel to Mexico. If you need a new passport or need to renew your expired passport, now is the time to send in your application! You can pick up applications at your local post office, or visit the following links for the correct form and to complete it online:
  • Cancún is warm and dry in March and a conference like this is a great incentive or reward for your valued employees – a chance to get away, recharge the batteries and increase their knowledge and industry experience.

Our agenda is jam-packed with educational sessions sure to give you new ideas to take home and implement immediately. With our current economic woes, this year it is more important than ever to get together with our industry peers and learn how we can do things better, save money, raise revenue, create new niche markets, and keep growing our talented staff pools. And the NAEO Annual Conference is the place for all of this and more! See you in Cancun!

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IS Tip
Setting Cues Within IS scripts
by Caissy F. Roger, Dexcomm Answering Service

There are several instances in which it may be advantageous to have a message script set to automatically cue an account for a set amount of time. The process for setting a cue automatically within an I.S. script is explained with screen shots below.

This is a very basic script setup, the actions to cue the account automatically will be added to the "clType” list branch.

After creating the initial fields, a "hidden” screen was created to contain the message annotation and the amount of time the cue is to be set.

The final step is to set your "cueTime” field to the number of minutes the message should be cued and then use a "Dial” function to execute the cue by dialing the amount of minutes "ex: 15” followed by "<”.

This is the message summary for the script that was just created. Upon saving the message, it will be cued for the number of minutes that were entered as the "cueTime” in the I.S. script.

While setting cues this way will not prompt a "messagebox” to pop when the cue returns to an operator as it would if the cue were created manually, automatically setting a cue with a clear annotation may be beneficial in some instances.

We have a couple of accounts that currently use it. I find that at the very least it creates a redundancy which can be helpful for accounts in which extra precaution may need to be taken to ensure extra efficiency and accurate dispatching.

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Voicemail to Email
by Paul A. Alvarado, Professional Answering Service

One of the many features of eVoiceLink is the ability to send a voice message as a wav attachment to an email address. This feature can be completely automated and is easy to setup. A client calling in to check voicemail messages is a simple act, but one that does tie up voice ports, time and money. Automating this process also adds value in the eyes of your clients as they do not have to worry about calling in to check on messages. They can even receive the wav file on a compatible mobile phone or receive a wav file to their standard inbox and also a notification of a pending message to their cell phone via email. Below are the steps outlining the process.

For our example we will use a setup that involves a front end voicemail tree that will give the caller options to leave messages with different departments. In this case the caller has the following options:

0 – Speak to an Operator
1 – Voicemail for Customer Service Department
2 – Voicemail for Sales Department


These options are found in the Source Setup section of Supervisor. Option 1 and Option 2 are slightly different in that the instruction to change client allows you to have the caller hear another message on the sub-account before leaving a message. Option 2 will dump the caller straight into voicemail on that particular sub-account.

On the sub account where you just want to send the voicemail to an email on a desktop or a mobile phone with no further notifications it will look like this:


The 121 represents the system list dial string which designates the sender and sender’s domain. The next portion contains the email address; make sure to note that a + sign is used in place of any periods in the email address. The next set of quotations in this case is blank, but if you like you can put a custom subject line in those quotes. I normally leave this blank as it takes valuable space in the dial string and there is a standard subject line in the system list dial string. The 13L transmits the Infinity message to the user's email system, with both the Infinity Message Ticket header and the voice message attached; it also marks the message as Played in the Infinity message index. There are numerous other filter codes which can accomplish a number of things.

On the sub-account where you would like to send the voicemail to a desktop email address and send a separate notification email to a cell phone, the service list would look like this:

2s would look like:

And 3s would look like:


Note that 3s is either utilizing the Ultracomm or the TAP text to cell. This allows you to only send the message form to the cell phone and the message form can be customized to have a new message notification posted on it. If you used the evoicelink dial string it would attempt to send the voicemail message as well which could cause the outbound email to fail if the phone is not compatible.

This should set you on the path to automating some of these services for your clients and in turn generating a bit more revenue for your company.

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Telephone Doctor Finds Direct Link Between Low Consumer Confidence and Poor Customer Service
by Nancy Friedman, the Telephone Doctor

For years the Telephone Doctor saying has been: "We will pay more for better service." And today, during these "challenging" times, it means even more.

FACT: There is a direct correlation between consumer confidence and how you treat your customers.

True story. Picture this: We're in the St. Louis airport. Some stores have already closed. Vacant areas abound. We're hungry; there are a few restaurants available to us. None are terribly crowded.

We sit down in a bar/grill – hungry, thirsty and tired – although not necessarily in that order. It's not "that" busy. The waitress finally arrives after a 10-minute wait. And that was after we got up and asked the hostess if our table came with a waitress. (She didn't catch the humor.)

Finally. With water and menu she walks up to the table. "Take your order?" "Yes," we say. "Diet Dr. Pepper please." And I start to continue. She interrupts. "We don't have Dr. Pepper." "OK," I say. "What do you have?" "Diet Pepsi," she explains. "Ok, then. I'll have a Diet Pepsi." I continue, "And a grilled chicken sandwich please, on whole wheat bread." "We don't have whole wheat bread," she says in the same tone as the Dr. Pepper line. "Ok. Let me double check the menu." Quickly I tell her, "How about the burger, no bun and no chips." She asks: "How do you want that cooked?" "Medium rare please," I say. And in all seriousness she says to me, "We only cook them well done." (I didn't have the heart to say, "Then why the heck did you ask me?")

Normally we'd laugh our way through this type of situation, but neither Dick, my husband, or I felt like we wanted to spend any more time or money in this bar/grill which we have now named ‘The NO Restaurant.' Our eyes locked. We knew exactly what we were going to do. Yes, we went elsewhere.

Since I wrote this article, several other situations have happened to make me spend my money elsewhere. What about you?

Spank them with your wallet, we say. It's a better retaliation than getting angry and yelling.

I can pretty well guarantee you there had been no customer service training in that bar/grill. No alternatives were suggested. No apologies were made. And we felt as though the waitress was glad to see us leave. One less table to handle.

There is a definite correlation between consumer confidence and customer service training. No doubt about it. When we feel secure, helped, wanted, needed and appreciated, that is where we spend our money. Think Nordstrom. Disney. Your 5-star restaurants. These and many other companies place high value on customer service training.

FACT: When a consumer walks into a location or calls on the phone, they are looking for CONFIDENCE from the person they're talking with at that time. That confidence comes from product and customer service training.

  • Increasing consumer confidence will help the economy.
  • Increasing consumer confidence will help businesses both large and small.
  • Increasing consumer confidence will help the employee.
  • Increasingconsumer confidence is a benefit the business gives the consumer.

What are you doing to increase consumer confidence in your customers?

"Be nice" is not customer service training. Everyone thinks they're nice. And we know everyone isn't nice. Customer service training is tangible. Explainable. Useful. Understandable. Actionable.

Be nice is something your mother might tell you when you're 5 years old. It's not customer service training. Some folks, sadly, don't know how to "Be nice." If they did, everyone would be nice. And as said before, we know everyone isn't nice.

Here are five simple, helpful tips based on Telephone Doctor's Customer Service Training. Simple, yet effective techniques that will increase consumer confidence and help this economy.

  • Offer alternatives. Out-of-stock? Don't have what I need? Don't let me walk. Offer some alternatives. Give me choices. Keep me interested. Don't let me go. It's so easy just to hang up or walk out and go somewhere else. Give me a reason to stay with you.
  • Smile and be friendly. Yeah, if there was ever a time to do that, it's now. And for those of you who don't feel like smiling - do it anyway! Watch what happens. As for being friendly, that's more than just "can I help you?" It's saying something proactive. Something easy. Something simple. Maybe just a "Good to have you here today" or "Nice to talk with you." Or even that great phrase, "Thank you for your business."
  • Be a double checker. Most salespeople know NO is not forever. It gives a whole other meaning to consumer confidence when I'm told, "The last time I checked we were out of the widgets, but let me double check, just in case I missed them or new ones came in." Double-checking is a great confidence builder! Immediate "NO's" are deflators.
  • Ask questions. We don't need to answer a question as soon as it's asked. We can ask one to gain more information. The more information you have, the easier it becomes to increase consumer confidence. Determine the needs of your customer before trying to "sell" them. Besides, asking questions shows you're interested and that in itself can increase consumer confidence.
  • Do something different. Did you write a thank you note? Did you call to see how your customer is doing? Did you personally thank them for their business, or for coming to your location, even if there was no purchase?

There is a mass of gray average out there. Those are the people who do nothing to increase consumer confidence. Decide for yourself, and for your business, if you want to be in that mass of gray average or if you'd like to raise the bar and be an Island of Excellence in an Ocean of Mediocrity. The more we can increase consumer confidence the better off we will be!

Are you doing your part?

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© 2008 National Amtelco Equipment Owners. All Rights Reserved.
NewsLinks is distributed quarterly to NAEO members.

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