Seven Principles for Growth

Presented by Sam Carpenter to an industry forum of 60 Answering Service owners in Las Vegas, February 2000. The points can be adapted for any business or profession. Revised January 20, 2009 and then again, April 25, 2017

Information Systems Integration. At Centratel we moved from five separate databases to a single integrated information system that instantly provides accurate and comprehensive data to our staff. Some of the benefits: Once a customer complaint is logged into the system, it can’t be lost in the shuffle. A complaint from our “Critical” or “Super-Critical” classed accounts is instantly broadcast to all company managers. The manager assigned to solve the problem receives reminders in the days and weeks subsequent to the incident indicating the need for follow-up contacts to the customer. The entire record of the client’s customer service history is instantly available to customer service personnel. Several hundred documented systems and procedures are instantly available. Putting the system together was a massive undertaking but absolutely necessary for growth.

Truly understanding the “errors of Omission” theory of telecommunications. We built our systems and procedures, and the company structure itself, around the idea that most problems stem from things that don’t happen; details that are left out and moves that aren’t made. We call these “errors of omission.” We have perfected systems so there are never, for example, phone calls that aren’t returned, or incomplete explanations on billings, and never a lack of follow-up.

Ownership must trust the subjective. When contemplating investment in a new idea and/or equipment, or deciding on the next major move, empirical and objective information is not always available or reliable. For example: We provide a very high rate of pay for our people despite the large dollar figures that appear whenever we tally a payroll. On the other hand, there is no tangible, hard data that indicates this is a good investment (except, of course, the very general fact that we are the #1 answering service in the country). We have the courage to use nothing more than our subjective judgment as the basis for providing the high rate of pay.

Focusing on Prime Time. Each manager has a job description that lists particular duties. It’s “prime time” (PT) when the manager is spending time on these tasks, tasks that require their special skill. For example, our marketing manager’s PT includes training sales personnel and R&D on new products. Non-PT would be double-checking database entries for accuracy or any recurring tasks that can be performed by other administrative personnel. Employing a manager who spends the majority of his or her time performing administrative paperwork functions is an incredible waste of time, money and talent. It’s a matter of remembering Steven Covey’s message about spending the majority of time performing “important and non-urgent” tasks.

Bread and Butter Services. What are the products that have historically performed for the company? In the past, we have spent energy, time and money to investigate new services that sound oh-so-cutting-edge only to find that in the real world, no one really cared. And then we realized that while we were distracted with that, the simple services we had been quietly providing continued to sell month after month, year after year. Could the time spent with R&D on these new ideas be better spent bringing the company up to a higher level of internal communications, a really superior level of customer service, or developing a truly aggressive marketing strategy?

Constantly train and test TSRs while providing a generous monthly performance bonus This process won’t happen unless there is an independent quality control department.

Maintain an independent customer service department. If customer services are provided to clients by simply adding another item to a staff member’s existing job description, then those customer service tasks won’t happen. There will always be too many fires to put out; fires that will superseded any add-on tasks. Employ staff that do nothing but customer contact and service.