2017 ATSI Award of Excellence

Answer Finger Lakes President, Gard McLean (right) receiving the 2017 TOP SCORE Award from ATSI President Doug Robbins

Answer Finger Lakes earned the distinction of the Award of Excellence for Outstanding Service at the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI) 2017 Annual Convention, held at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago, IL.  ATSI is the industry’s Trade Association for providers of telecommunications and call center services including telephone answering and message delivery across North America and the UK.

This year was unprecedented for the industry, as Answer Finger Lakes received TOP SCORE, marking its 8th consecutive year in the TOP FIVE.  The Auburn, NY team previously achieved the Top Score in 2013.  No other answering service has performed with this level of consistency.

“Our success comes from adherence to customer service protocols that are internally evaluated year round.  Our Customer Service Manager, Supervisors and Customer Service Representatives (CSR) evaluate 5 of the CSR’s calls each week, and together review each call to positively reinforce good behavior and to coach on areas for improvement.  It’s our requirement for continued employment that the minimum acceptable score is 90%.  Our staff is generally maintaining a score average in excess of 96%.  We take this seriously.”, says Gardner McLean, President of Answer Finger Lakes.

The competition consists of independent judges that are contracted by ATSI to evaluate message services over a six month period – a version of a “secret shopper” evaluation.  The scoring criteria include Response Time, Courteousness of Representative, Accuracy of Call, Knowledge of Account and Overall Impression of Call.  The award started 21 years ago as a means to improve the overall quality of the call center industry by setting expectations and measurements to ensure a successful call handling experience.

“The ATSI Award of Excellence Program recognizes that excellence requires a level of service that considers the caller first in every aspect of the call. ”  Says ATSI President Doug Robbins, ”Companies that earn this award are continuously focusing on delivering excellence in customer call handling.  It is truly an honor!”

McLean continues, “Our team embraces this competition with a kickoff event, luncheon, bulletin boards, and lots of recognition of a “job well done” throughout the year.  Our Customer Service Management team does a great job with training and coaching throughout the year.  Their leadership has a direct impact on our success. The company can only be successful with people that care and take pride in what they do.  We have it and I’m very thankful for that passion.”

 

Hurricane Irma

We were tracking Hurricane Irma for the week leading up to its landfall.  As weather models narrowed down her path, it became apparent our Tampa office was in for a big hit.  An answering service has to be there for its clients regardless of what’s happening outside and that includes category 5 hurricanes.  So here’s what we did:

(1) Safety was priority #1 and our Company President reinforced family first with the Tampa team.  It was their “call” when to wrap it up and get to safety.

(2) Our Tampa office reviewed account details with our Auburn team so we’d be prepared to handle questions and account changes while the office was down.

(3) Answer Finger Lakes lined up to cover extra shifts, including overnights as mandatory evacuation orders required some Tampa staff to leave early.

(4)  Our landlord notified us that the building would be evacuated, Friday at 5:00PM.  We were able to get an extension to Saturday evening so we could remain available to accept calls for as long as conditions would allow.

(5) We kept in contact with the Tampa team over the weekend with phone reception being sketchy at times.  We were grateful to know people were staying safe!

(6) We reopened the Tampa office after a 48 hour closure and were up and running without any technical difficulties.

Our Florida clients kept us busy as Irma approached with updates about closures and revised schedules.  No one in the company complained, but rather handled each request as they came in.  Our Auburn managers and supervisors shared responsibilities so our Tampa team could prepare themselves for what would be a long weekend.

Our Managers, Supervisors and Customer Service Representatives are remarkable professionals.  Our Tampa team has stepped up many times when Auburn has been facing record breaking snow storms.  It’s what we do.  Our customers are important but taking time to help each other within the company is just as important.  A big THANKS to all who contributed to making Irma a little more bearable.

2016 ATSI Award of Excellence

Our Outstanding Service Earns Diamond Plus Award of Excellence

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Answer Finger Lakes President, Gardner McLean receiving the 2016 ATSI Award of Excellence from Jeffrey Zindel, ATSI President

Answer Finger Lakes  of Auburn, NY has been honored with the exclusive ATSI  2016 Award of Excellence for the12th consecutive year. This award is presented annually by the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI), the industry’s Trade Association for providers of telecommunications and call center services including telephone answering and message delivery across North America and the UK.  Answer Finger Lakes   was presented with the award at ATSI’s 2016 Annual Convention held at Hilton Downtown, Tampa, FL.

“Our Auburn team continues to set ATSI records with their outstanding performance.”, said Gardner McLean, President of Answer Finger Lakes.  “In addition to earning the Top Ten recognition, we finished in the Top Three again for the 5th consecutive year and in the Top Five for the past 7 years.  No other answering service has achieved this in ATSI history.  Our Auburn Manager, Karen Goodman works incredibly hard throughout the year to ensure that her team of professionals maintains our high standards.  I’m extremely proud that they’ve earned their 12th consecutive award”.

Independent judges are contracted by ATSI to evaluate message services over a six month period.  The scoring criteria includes:

–  Response Time

–  Courteousness of Rep

–  Accuracy of Call

–  Knowledge of Account

–  Overall Impression of Call

“The ATSI Award of Excellence Program recognizes that excellence requires a level of service that considers the caller first in every aspect of the call.  The award is earned by a company by judging the handling of calls placed by mystery callers against specific, member-driven criteria.”  Says ATSI President Jeffrey W. Zindel,  “Companies that earn this award are continuously focusing on delivering first class service to their customers.  It is truly an honor!”

The award started 20 years ago as a means to improve the overall quality of the call centre industry by setting expectations and measurements to ensure a successful call handling experience.

Ray Schremp, VP of Operations says, “Our Auburn team continues to raise the bar in our industry, by setting new records of achievement for exceptional customer service year after year. We have high standards and this event reinforces the importance of achieving excellence with each call we handle.  Participating in the ATSI Award of Excellence program reinforces our team to work together and succeed together.  We all understand it’s about the customer and the outstanding service they deserve.  It requires constant effort by our employees to deliver this type of service consistently.”

Now a twelve-time winner Answer Finger Lakes  earned the Diamond Plus Award for twelve consecutive years. ATSI extends its congratulations to the staff of Answer Finger Lakes  on their proven TOP TEN quality service to their customers.

2015 Service Anniversary Awards

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2015 Service Anniversary Award Recipients. From Left: Debbie, Kelly, Karen, Jason, Ashley, Mary Pat. Absent – Suzanne

We would like to recognize and congratulate the members of our Auburn team who received our 2015 Service Anniversary Award.  They are an exceptional group of professionals and their dedication to their careers allows our company to be recognized year after year with ATSI Awards of Excellence for Outstanding Customer Service.  They are the only team that ATSI has ranked among the TOP FIVE for six consecutive years.

We applaud their leadership and mentoring of new Representatives as they come aboard.  It’s their expertise in understanding the sophisticated technology we use, being knowledgeable about thousands of accounts and being able to treat each caller and client with respect and professionalism that allows us to pass on our excellence to all members of the team.

Karen – Customer Service Manager with 20 years

Kelly – Customer Service Leader with 15 years

Debbie – Sr. Customer Service Representative with 12 years

Mary Pat – Customer Service Representative with 7 years

Jason – Customer Service Representative with 6 years

Ashley – Customer Service Representative with 5 years

Suzanne – Customer Care Manager with 5 years

Congratulations everyone!

2015 ATSI AWARD OF EXCELLENCE

Outstanding Service Earns Diamond Plus Award of Excellence – Eleven Time Award Winner

Finger Lakes Answering Service wins coveted ATSI Award of Excellence

FINGER LAKES ANSWERING SERVICE has been honored with the exclusive ATSI  2015 Award of Excellence for the 11th consecutive year. This award is presented annually by the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI), the industry’s Trade Association for providers of telecommunications and call center services including telephone answering and message delivery across North America and the UK.  Finger Lakes Answering Service  was presented with the award at ATSI’s 2015 Annual Convention held at Hilton Torrey Pines, La Jolla, CA.

“This year’s achievement of finishing in the top 5 for the past 6 years is unprecedented.  We boast a dedicated team of professionals, lead by Karen Goodman, that works very hard to ensure that we consistently deliver exceptional service to our clients and their callers, year after year.  As a result of their efforts we’ve earned ATSI’s Top 10 ranking again and we’re equally proud to have earned the Award of Excellence for the 11th straight year.”, shared Gardner McLean, President of Finger Lakes Business Services, Inc.

 Independent judges are contracted by ATSI to evaluate message services over a six month period.  The scoring criteria includes: Response Time, Courteousness of Rep, Accuracy of Call, Knowledge of Account, Overall Impression of Call.

“The ATSI Award of Excellence is the most prestigious recognition of exemplary customer service in our industry.  Award recipients demonstrated the highest level of service throughout every aspect of a caller’s experience – exceeding the award’s rigorous criteria and customer service standards.  It’s quite an honor,” says ATSI President Jeffrey W. Zindel.

The award started 19 years ago as a means to improve the overall quality of the call centre industry by setting expectations and measurements to ensure a successful call handling experience.

Now an eleven-time winner Finger Lakes Answering Service earned the Diamond Plus Award for eleven consecutive years. ATSI extends its congratulations to the staff of Finger Lakes Answering Service on their proven Top Ten quality service to their customers.

Ray Schremp, VP of Operations says, “We participate in the ATSI Award of Excellence program because it is a great way for us to reinforce the high standards we set for ourselves.  Excellence is something that you have to earn with each incoming call.  Our participation also encourages all of our employees to work toward a common goal – outstanding customer service.”

How Will I Be Billed By My Answering Service?

When evaluating Answering Services, it is important that you understand exactly how you will be billed for their services. In particular, be aware that, when it comes to pricing, you may be comparing apples to oranges. In general, Answering Services either bill on a per call or per minute basis, but they may also bill on a per message, per unit or fixed rate plan. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages depending upon the types of calls you receive, the types of messages you would like taken and delivered, and how you would like them delivered.

Per Call Plans Questions to Ask / Things to Consider What is my current call volume including hang-ups and wrong numbers? What is considered a call? Are both Inbound Calls and Outbound Calls included? Text Messages? Emails? Faxes? Pages? If you have a billing plan that includes a certain number of calls per billing period, how will you be charged for calls that exceed my plan?

Per Minute Plans Questions to Ask / Things to Consider How long is my typical call? Can the service screen incoming calls with prerecorded message so that I have the option to reduce the number of calls that are answered by an operator? How are minutes calculated? Are they rounded to the nearest minute? 15 seconds? 6 seconds? What activity is included in my billed minutes? Most services bill for Live Operator Time, but some bill for Wrap Time (time required to complete and double-check the message after the caller hangs up to complete and double check the message) and some bill for Screen Time (time unrelated to the call when the answering service staff have your account open on their screen for various reasons. How will I be billed for text messages, emails, pages, and faxes? If my billing plan includes a certain number of minutes for each period, how will I be billed for overage minutes?

Per Message Plans Questions to Ask / Things to Consider What is included as a message (Some create a message for every call, such as “no message” or “caller will call back”)? If my plan includes a certain number of messages, how will I be billed for overage messages?

Per Unit Plans (These are the most complicated and vary from answering service to answering service) Questions to Ask / Things to consider Do they provide documentation showing how the units will be calculated?  Sometimes a call = 1 unit, but perhaps some calls (outbound call??) might = 2 units. Sometimes an email, text, page, or fax might be a unit as well. Will the bills you receive show the details behind how the total units are calculated?

Fixed Rate Plans (There are a few answering services that will provide fixed rate plans) Questions to Ask / Things to consider Will my rate increase if my call/minute count exceeds a certain level, so be sure that you understand what will trigger a rate increase? If there are automatic triggers for increases, make sure you understand if there are automatic triggers for rate decreases as well, so that an unusually busy period won’t cause the fixed rate to increase forever?

9 Things to Consider when Choosing a Telephone Answering Service

Service

  • Are customer service representatives available 24/7, including holidays?   Does the company offer both live operator and automated response services? If appropriate for your business, the use of a personalized announcement to give office hours, etc. combined with an option to speak with a liver operator is an effective way to reduce expenses.

  • Can the handling of your calls and the dispatching of your messages be customized to meet your specific needs?

  • What other business support services do they offer?  Many services now have the capability to schedule appointments and makes reservations; provide help desk and dealer location services; track employee attendance, etc.

  • Do their customer service representatives have access to the internet if that is necessary for the handling of your calls?

Pricing

  • Make sure you understand how charges will be computed.  Charges can be based upon the calls or on time.  Be aware that the definition of “call” and “time” may differ from one answering service to another.  See post “How will I be billed by my Answering Service”)

  • Ask for a written proposal.  Ask whether the pricing plan you chose can be modified in the future? Does the company require you to commit to a contact?

Technology

  • Does the company provide a variety of message delivery options such as voice, text, email, fax, alpha page, or encrypted messaging?

  • How long does the company retain information?

  • Are all calls recorded and, if so, are the recordings available to you on request?

  • Does the company have system redundancy and power backup to ensure service in times of phone and power outages?

  • Can the company provide interfacing with my company’s information system or CRM if that is necessary for the handing of your calls?

Staffing

  • How does the company ensure there will be sufficient staff available to minimize long ring or hold times?

  • What type of notice will the company need from you if your call volume should increase due to special promotions, office hour changes, etc.?

Training

  • How is the staff trained?  Does the company conduct standardized training programs from the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI) or other industry associations?

  • Do all employees receive regular HIPAA training prepared by ATSI or other industry associations?

Pricing

  • Make sure you understand how charges will be computed.  Charges can be based upon the calls or on time.  Be aware that the definition of “call” and “time” may differ from one answering service to another.  See post “How will I be billed by my Answering Service”)

  • Ask for a written proposal.  Ask whether the pricing plan you chose can be modified in the future? Does the company require you to commit to a contact?

Technology

  • Does the company provide a variety of message delivery options such as voice, text, email, fax, alpha page, or encrypted messaging?

  • How long does the company retain information?

  • Are all calls recorded and, if so, are the recordings available to you on request?

  • Does the company have system redundancy and power backup to ensure service in times of phone and power outages?

  • Can the company provide interfacing with my company’s information system or CRM if that is necessary for the handing of your calls?

Staffing

  • How does the company ensure there will be sufficient staff available to minimize long ring or hold times?

  • What type of notice will the company need from you if your call volume should increase due to special promotions, office hour changes, etc.?

Training

  • How is the staff trained?  Does the company conduct standardized training programs from the Association of TeleServices International (ATSI) or other industry associations?

  • Do all employees receive regular HIPAA training prepared by ATSI or other industry associations?

Stability & Reliability

  • How long has the company been in business?  What is the average tenure of their staff?  Is the company active in the local business community?

  • Does the company have back-up power and redundancy of critical system components?

Compliance

  • Does the company comply with local, state, and federal regulations and carry business insurance, including Error and Omissions coverage?

  • Does the company comply with HIPAA and HITECT regulations?

  • Is the company active member of an organization that keeps its membership up to date with the latest laws, regulations, and industry trends?

References / Testimonials

  • Ask for references you can call to discuss the service.  Be sure to ask for references in your particular industry or locations.

  • Check the company’s website to see if they have a testimonial page

Awards

  • Has the company earned any awards or recognition in the industry or local business community?  Does the company participate in the ATSI Award of Excellence service award?  This program assesses a company’s service level through the evaluation of test or “mystery shop” calls.

The Cost of Missed Opportunities

It is easy to keep track of the dollars that go out the door each month when you pay our bills. More difficult to calculate, but just as important to the health of your company, is the cost of the opportunities missed when a customer or prospect calls and there is no one there to speak to them.

• Are your marketing campaigns generating more inbound call activity than your staff can handle?

• How many prospects did not bother to leave a voicemail message when they call and do not reach a live person? Statistics say that more than 50% of callers will not leave a message if they reach your voicemail. They simple hang up the phone and call someone else.

• How efficient is your sales staff? Are they tied up asking routine questions instead of concentrating their efforts on qualified prospects?

• Are your people spending too much time listening to their voicemails to find the business prospects your future depends on? How often do they have to listen to messages multiple times to gather all the message information? (An average American worker takes about 50 seconds to listen to a voicemail. An average American worker takes about 6 seconds to read a text message of that same call)

• What kind of impression does an endlessly ringing telephone or voicemail greeting make on the people trying to reach your company? Is it impression you would like to make on your callers? Nothing can replace the positive impact of a courteous and professional live operator answering your calls.

Consider letting an Answering Service assist you in capturing the sales leads and new business prospects that call you each day. Not only will the Answering Service save you time gathering the vital information necessary for you to do your job, but they will give your company the professional and friendly image that will set you apart from your competition.

How to Make the Most Out of Call Forwarding (Part II)

Here are some other common types of Call Forwarding:

Call Forwarding When Busy

This feature allows for your incoming calls to be automatically forwarded to another telephone number whenever your line is busy. This is great for an office where there are fewer numbers than there are simultaneous callers.

• This feature must be set up in advance through your local phone carrier.

• Once activated, this feature will forward calls to an answering service when your line is in use so that your customers never reach a busy signal and you never miss a call.

Call Forwarding if there is No Answer

Works similar to Call Forward When Busy, except this feature forwards calls whenever the call is not answered within a designated number of rings. This is great for those times when staff is away from their desk phones.

• This feature must be set up through the phone carrier. You determine how many rings you would like the caller to hear before the call is forwarded to the Call Forward telephone number

For more information on how you can best utilize Call Forwarding, please contact Lisa Anderson at 315-255-9125 ext 225.


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