October 2010

Betty Bouchie

From the Editor
by Betty Bouchie

I was recently reading an article that explains that in the Chinese language, combining the characters representing crisis and change create the character which represents opportunity. Interesting, don’t you think?

Many times in life, a crisis or upheaval leaves us with choices. I have seen people choose to bathe themselves in the unfortunate side effects of the crisis and barely make it through. I have also seen people in very similar circumstances embrace the change as a new road. An opportunity to move in a different direction... Crisis, change – opportunity or disaster? The difference is often in perception, not in circumstance.

Enjoy the interesting articles in the links below.

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Be Inspired

"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

~ Thomas Edison

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Something to Smile About...
Bobby McFerrin Messes with Your Mind


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October IS Tip - Time of Day Answer Phrases
by Theran Mossholder, Newtown Answering Service

A simple and easy way to give the client the ability to have different answer phrases based on the time of day is to program a display field with an advanced expression. To do this we will be utilizing an If Statement, the TimeRange and Time functions.

If Statements take an expression and based upon if that expression is "True” or "False” performs one of two actions. In our example if that expression returns a "True” then the result will be the first string "Hello Office is Open.” If it returns a "False” then the result will be the second string "Hello Office is Closed.”

In this example we are using the "TimeRange” function as the expression for the If Statement. The "TimeRange” function requires three things: the start time, the end time, and where to pull the time from (in this case, the "Time” function; which pulls the current time from the op station). If the current time is within the start and end times then the If statement will return a "True,” but otherwise it will return a "False”

So, to wrap all this up, the function above simply says, if the current time is between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM display "Hello Office is Open," but if not, display "Hello Office is Closed."

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Fall Supervisor & Intelligent Series Workshop in Chicago!
by Gerald R. Brosseau, II, Education Committee Chair

The NAEO Education Committee will be offering a concurrent fall workshop designed specifically for Introductory Intelligent Series Programmers and Call Center Supervisors on October 27 and 28 in Chicago, Illinois.

"IS Scripting for Beginners” will be a slow, easy approach to learning IS, covering the most basic concepts through intermediate levels of programming. Topics that will be covered include learning how to create info pages, creating shared fields, implementing shared fields into info pages and scripts, exploring the different fields and field properties, and much more! If you are new to IS and are planning on attending the annual conference in March, don’t miss out on this opportunity!

"Using Infinity to Manage Your Staff & Customers" will be an informative and interactive workshop designed specifically for the Supervisor! Supervisors will learn to use Infinity to manage clients, staff, and the call center as a whole. We will discuss customer and staff relations, including those "not so perfect" situations we all face on a daily basis. This will be the workshop no Supervisor (or future Supervisor) should miss!

Attendance is filling up fast and is limited, so please register now!

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Nominations Open for NAEO Board of Directors!

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

NAEO is actively looking for candidates to run for the NAEO Board for terms beginning in March 2011. There are three openings for next year and the election will be held at the business meeting at the Annual NAEO Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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. Board Members 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 and hardworking. Both owners and key managers from hospitals and private TAS/Call Center 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 Members; 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. 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 Friday, December 10, 2010.

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

2011 Nominating Committee
Immediate Past President & Nominations Chair, Cori Bartlett, (407) 447-6000,
Past President, Jim Wagner, 217-443-4973,
President, Joe Adam, 860-523-3340,

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NAEO Educational Webinars
by Gerald R. Brosseau, II, Education Committee Chair

If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend any of the webinars offered this summer, you’ll now find them RECORDED online in the members section of the NAEO website!

Please check the events section of the NAEO website to register for more upcoming webinars that NAEO members have requested. Also, don’t miss out on the Disaster Recovery series of webinars designed to help you prepare your business continuity plan in the event of a disaster.

We certainly welcome your ideas for future webinars and feedback!

To become a member of the Education Committee or offer suggestions for future educational sessions, please e-mail:

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BL4 – Practical Tips for Planning Your Templates
by Mike Burkinshaw, Managing Director of Comm-Link

Following my document about using BL4 (available on the NAEO website), some people have asked me for more information about how I went about designing templates and setting prices. Thus, here is part two. Remember folks, BL4 isn’t the only billing package out there…

Rather than starting by looking at clients, I looked at the services we provided. For example, we broadly clump our clients into three categories:

  • Messaging
  • Patching
  • Call Out

Within each category, we have sub-categories depending on the complexity of the account (e.g. Messaging 1 through Messaging 3 = Simple Messaging through Horrendous Messaging). Although they differ on a call handling perspective, the billing is nearly identical. Clients have variations on pricing but the process is the same. All clients have:

  • Fixed charges
    • Service Fees, 800 rental, eResponse charges, portal access fees, etc.
  • Call Charges
    • Op Time, per call charges, patch time, 800 minutes
  • Delivery Charges
    • Email, SMS, CSV, Fax
  • Additional Variable Charges
    • Voice Logger
    • Message Storage Fee
  • Administration Time (currently 0.00 / min)
  • Hidden Scheme 24
    • Profitability

So, all our invoices look like this – same format for everything barring transfer masters.

Now, with regard to the rates, we decided to streamline our charges. I developed a price list for EVERYTHING we do. It took two double tall, skinny vanilla lattes (no foam, extra hot) and a lot of patience to do this. Everyone was going to be on this list by the end of this exercise so I needed to ensure that everything we were doing was on the list.

The first step is to look at what you are billing for. Does it match my invoice structure above? Do you have other standard items (e.g. Mike L’s infamous "FCC Access Charge”) that you could add? Things that would appear on each bill you produce, irrespective of what you’re doing for that client. For example, you could be doing messaging, or complex call out using your client’s service response system, and the above invoice structure would apply to either service.

Next look at how you charge. Do this bit in chunks – it’s far easier. Look for your largest group of similar clients/service. For example, do you have LOTS of medical where you’re doing the SAME thing (or thereabouts) for EVERY client? The service itself might vary BUT, in broad terms, they’re almost identical in terms of the service you deliver.

The scary bit will be when you check your billing for them – that WON’T be similar. So, assume you’re about to bag a new client in this large group. Draw up a pricing structure – as you’d like it to be – for that client. So, you’ll charge them that FCC Access Fee ($4.95), Voice Logger (thanks to Trish S for the billing structure), and Message Storage. Op rates will be $x per min, rounded (or not), with multipliers for day/evening/weekend/overnight/holiday as appropriate. All of a sudden, you have your new template.

Save this as LIST-1+ in BL4 (the "+” tells BL4 it’s a template) but call it something more meaningful. This is your base template for this type of client. Now, it’s likely you’ll have some billing variation for this client type/service. You might charge a flat fee for VL per month as an alternative to unit based. You might have a "per call” fee rather than op time for some clients, and it’s here that you can make your choice: are you going to have one big pot for this client type or are you going to split them up into smaller pots? By smaller pots I mean that you take the overall group (which is broadly similar) and split it into 2/3/4 smaller groups which each contains clients that are very similar. This will determine if you apply one template to all or one of 2/3/4 templates to all. It’s whatever works for you at this point - one template per pot is a good rule.

You now have your template and you have your current billing. Your next mission, should you decide to accept it, is to get this bunch of clients onto this template. For those clients whose structure is over and above your template (i.e. applying the template will LOSE you money), simply ignore them and leave them be. If there’s lots of them falling into this category - change your template: it’s too cheap! For those clients who will face a rise in charges by applying the template, you apply the salami strategy to their increases – a slice at a time.

Look to see which ones don’t have some of the charges you intend to apply (e.g. VL or Message Storage). For VL and Message Storage, for example, we used the book club tactic on one month’s notice: "We’re going to do this from next month. It’s a real benefit to you. If you don’t want this, write back and tell us.” Slap on the template (i.e. set the relevant client schemes to the Template Schemes). Wait for the call complaining about the charges. When we did this, only two clients didn’t want the charges. You then write out with a waiver form, explaining you’ll be happy to refund their fees BUT you won’t be recording their calls. Remind them of legal costs etc. etc. should someone try to sue – recording could save the day. And so on…

You can hand your sales team a list of your existing clients and the services (for which you intend to charge via the template) that they don’t have. Get ‘em sold. For the clients whose rates/fees need raising – it’s the standard rate rise letter.

Gradually (say 2/3 billing cycles) you’ll move everyone over to the template. ALL new sales are to the template pricing without your explicit say-so. Suddenly you have a whole bunch of clients on a stock pricing structure.

Now, have that double tall skinny vanilla latte (extra hot, no foam please), smile that "Time-to-buy-a-new-Sunseeker” smile, and then look for your next group of clients. I’d advise starting with the next largest group as you’ll see the best effect.

Don’t forget to define daytime, evening, weekend, and holiday in BL4. You may or may not want to use the multipliers but at least the definitions are there. It’s in System Time/Day Periods. Don’t forget to define holidays either.

Now… where did that latte go?

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IS Dispatch
by Theran J. Mossholder, Newtown Answering Service

So, you’ve decide to go to Intelligent Dispatching…Now what?

That’s exactly what I said when we decided to cut from Eve to Infinity and IS, just one year ago. We dove in head first and cut to Intelligent Series, including Intelligent Dispatch. Although we didn’t truly know what we were getting into, it had to be better than wondering whether our Eve system would survive another day.

The day finally came and off we went with a whole new system and exciting adventures ahead. The good old days of parking every call to a station, setting repeats, and inputting message adds to remember what was already done were finally gone. Say hello to Intelligent Dispatch.

The most significant change our operators faced was the fact that Intelligent Dispatch did all the work and the operators were off the hook. At first, the operators didn’t trust the system. They were stuck in their old ways and would send multiple messages to clients. The operators didn’t know if the messages were being sent to the dispatcher and were yelling to the dispatcher, "Hey do you have that message?” But once the operators started believing in the system, things changed and they truly appreciated the ease of Intelligent Dispatch.

So, what can Intelligent Dispatch really do? Intelligent Dispatch can do as much as your imagination can fathom. The reason for this is because Intelligent Dispatch uses scripting, which we all know can be customized by the programmer to do pretty much anything. The Intelligent Dispatch script has the same functionalities as a message script. The four features we regularly use are utilizing text boxes, creating display features, using "if” statements, and embedding dial strings within buttons. Text boxes help the operator know what questions to answer and the display fields give the dispatchers instructions as to how to handle the call. Embedding dial strings within buttons allows for multiple recipients to receive the message in one action. The programmer can also pull information from a database, but that is another topic for another day. Have fun programming!

At our site we try to make the dispatching scripts very similar to each other. Unfortunately, this can’t be for 100% of our accounts; however 90% of our accounts are programmed accordingly.

When a dispatcher pulls a message that needs to be dispatched, two things happen. First, a script is presented to the dispatcher. At the same time the info page, with the dispatching steps appears. Next, multiple display fields are located within the script. The display field at the top of the script informs the dispatcher as to which steps to follow on the info page. Another display field contains the actual message that is to be dispatched.

At the bottom of the screen there is a text box that adds a time stamp, to show when the attempt was made, which is automatically filled in by the named expression "Current Date Time.” Toward the bottom of the screen there are two buttons. The first button is "Message Was Not Delivered.” The second button is "Message Was Relayed.” If the message was delivered, the dispatcher presses button two and the script changes. The script asks for "Message Relayed To” which the operator then fills in the box. That information is seamlessly added to the message, all from within the script.

The script closes, marks the message as delivered, and updates the history with the delivered to information, all automatically through programming. If the Message Was Not Delivered, the operator presses button one and the message gets sent back to the dispatch queue for some programmed future time. The script also knows to move to the next step using screen modes, a feature that is part of the "Send to Dispatcher” action, which is the key to using Intelligent Dispatch.

In order to use Intelligent Dispatch, you have to understand the "Send to Dispatcher” action. The "Send to Dispatcher” action is what Intelligent Series uses to send a message to the dispatching queue. The two main areas to understand are under the "General” tab and the "Time Settings” tab. The "General” tab allows the user to set different priorities, different colors, and most importantly, what screen and which screen mode to resume at. First, start with creating a whole new screen for the dispatching script. For example, we designed a screen mode for each step of the dispatching process which allowed us to customize directions and multiple buttons. The "Time Settings” tab is used to set the time you want the message to be held before it needs to be dispatched. It is very similar to a repeat. In order to best utilize the Intelligent Dispatch a full understanding of the "Send to Dispatcher” is vital. My advice is to play around with the "Send to Dispatcher” feature and learn its capabilities to determine how it can best be integrated into your site.

Intelligent Dispatch has revolutionized the way we answer calls today. Making the move to Intelligent Dispatch right away worked out great for our site. Not only did it help us save in terms of labor costs, but it also drastically cut down on the errors made by our dispatchers, since dispatchers had the instructions and actions needed to dispatch the message right in front of them. I highly suggest switching to Intelligent Dispatch sooner then later, as it paid dividends for our company.

If you are interested in learning more about Intelligent Dispatch, the NAEO education committee is hosting an Intelligent Dispatch webinar at the beginning of the New Year. Good luck and I look forward to seeing everyone in New Orleans!

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Could You Have Opened the Candy Store?
by Nancy Friedman, the Telephone Doctor

Earlier this year, we were on family vacation in western Washington state, all eleven of us in tow. It was actually more of a trip than a vacation, if you know what I mean.

After a spectacular dinner we went for a stroll in the small town of Snoqualmie. It was just after 7 pm and, as they say, "they rolled up the sidewalks." Nothing was open. It was a beautiful night though and still light out, so we browsed through this quaint little town.

Across the street from us we noticed a candy store, which also advertised ice cream. Since we had skipped dessert at dinner, this place looked like it would hit the spot. Our group enthusiastically marched toward the candy store.

"Oh, too bad," someone said. "It's closed." The big red OPEN sign was off and the hours listed next to the door clearly showed we were about ten minutes too late.

We pushed on the door anyway and even though it didn't budge, we didn't want to believe it was closed. Eventually we admitted – of course it was closed.

The kids were disappointed. Okay, yes, so were the adults! Everyone muttered their own words at the store being closed. Imagine eleven adults and kids all pressed up against the glass of this shop.

Someone in our group noticed a man sweeping up. "Wait, there's some guy in the back of the store. But he's not looking this way."

As the others in our group walked away, I knocked on the door and waited. The man inside waved, but he didn't move towards me.

I knocked again. He waved again. I waved back, but this time I yelled, "We're from St. Louis and never had candy from Snoqualmie! There're 11 of us and we really have a hankering for some candy!"

The man walked over to the door and opened it. I explained a little more how this was our first trip to the area, and we hadn't ordered dessert at the restaurant. I told him we'd love to buy a lot of candy. He thought about things, shrugged his shoulders and said in a warm friendly voice, "Sure, okay, come on in!"

$68 worth of candy and ice cream later, we were all happy campers. And the candy shop had a nice final sale for that day.

Some lessons here:

#1 - Obviously a smart owner or manager. The store was closed, he heard the plea of his customers and decided to capitalize on the opportunity. Everyone wins.

#2 - Remember: In life (and in candy store retailing) just because a sign says CLOSED doesn't always mean it is closed!

#3 - Remember, there are three types of sales people in the world:

Passive: The sales person who said, "Oh, it's closed" and walked on past the store.

Average: The sales person who knocked once and when nothing happened, walked on past the store.

Proactive: The proactive sales person who made a second effort and didn't hear the first "no."

Also, congratulations to the proactive owner who recognized a few more minutes of his time would result in a nice extra sale and some very satisfied visitors.

Finally, I was obviously very happy because I knew I had material for another article!

Thought for the day: If you had passed the closed candy store, could you have opened it?

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