Our co-CEO Michael Shooster wrote a featured article in the June 2015 issue of TAS Trader.
Below is a reprint of the article, and it can also be found online here.
It’s Time to Go Back to Calling Ourselves an Answering Service
By Michael Shooster
Years ago, many warned that voicemail would replace telephone answering services. This did not happen; there is no technology that brought an end to what we do. But there is something we ourselves are doing that is detrimental to our industry. It is the terminology we use.
Our Own Worst Enemy: I see many answering services doing all they can to avoid using the term answering service. They use call center, teleservice provider, customer services, and other phrases that sound good but don’t reflect the work we do or the clients we serve.
Unfortunately, when we use the term answering service less frequently, the rest of the world does, too. In working hard to position ourselves as both relevant and cutting-edge, we have lost the essence of who we are. When we avoid saying “answering service,” we hurt ourselves as far as potential clients and new business.
Call Centers Are Great Businesses, Too: When answering services refer to themselves as teleservices companies or call centers, they are not doing anyone any good – not the industry or customers. Don’t get me wrong: Call centers are thriving. In fact, it’s a significant part of our family’s business.
But call centers and answering services are two different industries; it is up to us to make this distinction in the marketplace. Call centers provide customer life cycle services, which include customer service, sales, collections, and order taking. Telephone answering services take messages, primarily for service businesses, and relay them according to clients’ specifications.
If you provide both answering service and call center services, consider marketing them as distinct (but potentially complementary) offerings that have different client needs, employee training, and target markets.
If you are a telephone answering service, perhaps it’s time to update your marketing to include only services that relate to your core answering service. If you have bigger aspirations and wish to also promote call center services, then treating that part of your business as a separate entity may allow you to become more successful.
Are We Losing Our Identity? I keep hearing that answering services – both as a term and as an industry – are old-fashioned, throwbacks to a time with less advanced technology and more human-to-human contact. However, when it comes to serving our customers’ ever-evolving needs, we are actually at the forefront of industries that effectively combine technology and human touch. It’s important we promote ourselves in the most accurate, relevant, and powerful way possible.
Look at how you market your answering service. Might you be using the wrong term because that’s what your colleagues are doing? Have you considered going back to basics and calling your business an answering service? Be open to ways in which you can more accurately (and effectively) market your answering services to those who need them.
Michael Shooter is co-CEO of Answering Service Care division of Ding-A-Ling Answering Service LLC, a subsidiary of Global Response Corp, provider of call center services.