June 2011

Regular Columns

From the Editor
by Betty Bouchie

Be Inspired
by Gary Blair

Something to Smile About...

The Telephone Doctor
by Nancy Friedman

Featured Articles

Stepping Up Your Game
by Gary Pudles

A Positive Look at Call Monitoring
by Michael Yaitanes

The SMS Server Is Down! The SMS Server Is Down!
by Franklin Anton

IS Tip: Rock Paper Silicon
by Kevin Procter

From the Editor

by Betty Bouchie

Staying Positive

It has been raining since the middle of February. There is mold on the mold. All around, people are struggling just to get through the day. Have you ever noticed that sometimes, even when it is sunny, some people carry their own personal rain clouds around with them? Staying positive in the rain may be more about the rain falling inside, than outside. I noticed that even with all the rain, the flowers and trees are still blooming, and the grass (and mold) are still very green. So, treat yourself to some good advice, a new brightly colored umbrella, and remember to think happy!

Please check out the article below for a few positive ways to stay positive!

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Be Inspired

Submitted by Gary Blair

"Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are."
~ Bernice Johnson Reagon

"You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity."
~ Barbara De Angelis

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Something to Smile About...


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Stepping Up Your Game

Business as usual, or business made better. It is always nice to have a few tips from others who make business their business, to help us all along. Beginning this month we are adding a business/marketing tip to Newslinks. Here is the first!

Presentation Tips

by Gary Pudles, AnswerNet

Many of us are required to give presentations of one kind or another. No matter how many presentations I do, I get myself crazy every time I speak in front of a group because I always want the audience to walk away from the presentation with a positive impression of me and with a greater understanding of the subject I am discussing.

For those of you who don't do lots of presentations, I thought you might like a few tips for the next presentation you have to give:

  • Be energetic
    • Show enthusiasm and passion in your voice

  • Practice, Practice, Practice
    • The more you practice the better your presentation will sound

  • Speak clearly and enunciate
    • Fast talkers, be aware of your pace
    • Slow talkers, don't put the audience to sleep

  • Modulate your volume
    • It is better to be too loud than too soft because people can't hear soft speakers

  • State your main points three times
    • Give your three main points in the opening
    • Explain those points in the body of your presentation
    • Sum up your main points at the end

  • Ask questions of the audience
    • Don't be afraid to get the audience involved

  • Have fun but always be professional.

Gary A. Pudles is President and CEO of AnswerNet. He founded AnswerNet in 1998 and has driven the growth of the organization through sales, acquisitions and partnerships. Gary has won the prestigious "Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year” award, the American Teleservices Association’s "Spirit of Philanthropy Award,” and has led AnswerNet to Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 500 List of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies and Customer Interaction Solutions magazine’s Top 50 Teleservices Firms on multiple occasions.

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A Positive Look at Call Monitoring

by Michael Yaitanes, MHA, Loma Linda University Health Care

The obvious driver in building our call monitoring form was to develop a tool to provide a balanced measure of call quality. The development process brought other opportunities as well: to increase accountability and to begin conversations with team members about their performance.

The form was initially conceived as a tool for our operations team to use in "grading” team member calls; basically a single-sided equation. Realizing that was inadequate, we decided to add a "self-grading” component as well. Each team member has participated in small group training on how to use the form, and the operations team works with each agent to ensure that performance expectations are understood. As the process stands today, a random call is pulled and saved in the agent’s folder, along with a copy of the Quality Call Monitoring form. After the agent has graded the call, our Coach/Trainer grades it too, and the agent is notified of the actual score. What we find is that most of our team members are too hard on themselves! Coaching sessions are driven by score results and agent input on the form.

Each team member is asked to set an improvement goal for the next month, and team goals are set as well. Agents scoring over 70% are given an Honorable Mention certificate; those scoring over 80% are given a "Hall of Fame” certificate. These are proudly displayed in cubicles, and have helped to foster a bit of healthy competition.

» Download the form here

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The SMS Server Is Down! The SMS Server Is Down!

by Franklin Anton, Health Care Answering Services

It is always easy to blame Amtelco for everything that goes wrong with our systems. But just like sometimes the phone company is at fault for phone line issues, your cellular network could be at fault for your Infinity SMS issues.

This is when good troubleshooting skills come in handy. One method for troubleshooting an issue is called "Black Box" troubleshooting. In this method, everything is a "black box." You have to keep breaking things up into "smaller black boxes" until you reach the source of your problems.

With Infinity’s SMS, your biggest "black boxes" are your Infinity system and your SMS server. When trying to figure out an SMS issue, whenever possible, I recommend taking the Infinity "box" right out of the equation by connecting your SMS server to a PC and running commands using HyperTerminal. If you get the same behavior from your SMS server, you can rule out Infinity as the source of your problem and start working with the SMS modem manufacturer and your cellular network provider to fix the issue.

Here is a set of basic SMS commands that you can run from HyperTerminal:

Note: Always contact service for advice when troubleshooting Infinity issues. Always read your equipment’s manual for more in-depth information.

Note: You need to install the modem’s driver and configure HyperTerminal in order to use it from a PC. Here are the default settings for a GSM/GPRS modem from the MultiTech’s AT Commands Reference Guide:

  • Autobaud
  • 8 bits data
  • 1 stop bit
  • no parity
  • RTS/CTS flow control

AT+CSQ - Check signal Quality
AT+CREG? - Check network registration
AT+CMEE=<0/1> - TURN MS Error Reports OFF/ON
AT+CMGL="ALL" - List all messages
AT+CMGR= - Read message at
AT+CMGD= - Delete message at
AT+CMGS="number" - Send text msg to number
CTRL+Z - End of text msg. No need to press Enter after this command.
A/ - Repeat last command

A Typical SMS Session would look like this:

Note: Anything between /* and */ are comments for documentation purposes only. DO NOT type them inside your HyperTerminal window.

AT+CREG? /* Check for network registration */
+CREG: 0,1

AT+CSQ /* Check for signal quality */
+CSQ: 31,0

AT+CMEE=1 /* Turn error reports on */

AT+CMGL="ALL" /* List all messages */

AT+CMGS="9876543210" /* Send message to number */
> TEST@10:24A /* Press CTRL+Z to send your message.*/
+CMGS: 76

AT+CSQ /* check for signal quality */
+CSQ: 31,0

A/ /* Repeat the last command. No need to press ENTER after the A/ command. */
+CSQ: 31,0

Note: The A/ command can be useful when checking for signal quality over a period of time. Just type AT+CSQ and then A/ at regular time intervals after that to get a signal quality reading over time. This helped me to determine that we were having a cellular network issue at the office and not an Infinity SMS issue.

Again, to find out more, please read MultiTech's AT Commands Reference Guide. It is packed with good and wholesome SMS stuff. Happy troubleshooting!

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IS Tip: Rock Paper Silicon

by Kevin Procter, Extend Communications Inc.

We human beings love paper. It's much lighter than a rock, and you don't require a hammer and chisel to record data on it. Give a man a rock and he's liable to throw it at you; but give him a piece of paper, he may write on it, wrap his food with it, or perhaps he'll smoke it. Those are just three of the reasons we need to move away from storing critical information on foolscap.

Whenever you take messages for any reason you will most certainly find paper used within the process. However, a most frustrating use of paper is people referencing paper-bound information that will then be used to dispatch a call.

Case in point: This writer was asked to reprogram an account where operators used a printed list of personnel. Not long after, the process had been moved from a human, tediously and carefully looking up information for however much time was required, to the computer doing the lookup within a billionth of a second -- with accuracy.

We can't just send all our paper up in smoke, however. There needs to be a replacement –- some other, more efficient way to store and easily retrieve critical information. Suggestion: some kind of database. Since Amtelco software is set and ready for MSSQL connectivity, why not make the leap and begin placing critical information on silicon and magnetic storage?

One of the inherent challenges to this goal is resistance from the customer who currently provides the pulp-based information to you. They may have resistance to changing their procedures OR, more likely, they won't have the technical capabilities to accomplish the necessary tasks. In either case, take this as an opportunity to become closer to your customer. Provide a value added service, assisting them with the necessary IT tasks, or source a service that can perform those functions for them.

The cornerstone to any of this is your own willingness to embrace technology as an investment for the future of your business, while letting go –- albeit slowly -- of cellulose.

Now, we we may never be fully rid of paper. We'll still need to scribble notes, doodle, etc. But those critical paper-bound procedures in your centre currently being handled by humans should be replaced as soon as possible with virtual procedures handled by computers. Your staff will love not having to waste time with the tedious lookups, while your customer will appreciate the increased speed and accuracy of dispatch. On the downside . . . with no rocks, and no paper, what ever will we throw at each other?

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"No Problem" is Apparently a Big Problem

by Nancy Friedman, The Telephone Doctor

We hear what bugs people a lot -- and often. One of the most common comments we've heard recently is being told "no problem" by those serving us on the phone or in person. Instead of a genuine "thank you" or something else that might be more appropriate, there are those who insist on saying "no problem."

When a customer is asking for something, we are hearing that the general public would rather hear, "I'll be happy to get that for you" instead of "no problem."

Did you ever wonder where the expression "no problem" came from?

Ever been on a cruise? Well if you have, you know that if you wanted six more desserts, the waiter will tell you, "No problem." In fact, everyone seems to be saying "no problem" everywhere on the ship for just about everything.

And when you come down to it, it's not a terrible thing to say to someone. And there are those who don't find it offensive; however, it seems as though there are many more who do! It's not a dirty word. It's not a swear word. It is, however, shall we say, an inappropriate word. It started in the islands and made its way to our country.

So today we will concentrate on eliminating "no problem" and share a few other phrases that are more "customer friendly." Let's try using words that turn people on instead of turning them off. Example: The other day in a restaurant I asked for some water without ice. And I got the old, "No problem." The person with me said, "Why would getting you water without ice be a problem?" I was used to the expression so I hadn't given it too much thought.

Yes, I thought a more appropriate answer to my request for water with no ice might have been, "Certainly. I will get that for you." Or even mirroring my request like, "Water no ice? My pleasure."

In our recent Friendly Voice newsletter, we asked for our readers' random thoughts. We received hundreds of emails offering random thoughts and "no problem" really bugged readers.

So when you are tempted to offer up a "no problem," it's best you remember the public would like a genuine and simple "thank you."

Now why is that a problem? LOL!

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