A message from Centratel President and majority stockholder, Sam Carpenter

Updated December 20, 2013

Overview
Thank you for your interest in Centratel. There is a LOT of information in this site but it’s my guess that if you are serious about finding the very highest quality answering service, you understand that taking a few minutes for fact-finding is time well-spent. It’s also my guess that if you take the time to really investigate, starting with the ten minutes it takes to read this summary letter, Centratel will be your choice. My staff and I have a single, primary goal: To provide you the highest quality telephone answering service in the United States. In this summary I will explain how we achieved that goal. You might also read my essay about the answering service industry. There you will find inside information about the industry that you won’t find elsewhere.

Here’s the crux of why you should use Centratel if you have been with an answering service that has made errors: Centratel is, statistically, the highest quality answering service in the United States. Our most recent customer reported error rate (January through March, 2017) was one reported error for every 13,988 message transactions processed. That’s a statistic that changes little year after year and is far superior to any service statistics you will find elsewhere.

I don’t want you to waste your time so I will be up-front about a couple of things. First, we don’t take all-comers, and limit our answering service to just ten separate vertical business markets. Is your company or professional office one of our specialties? Go here to find out. Unlike most answering services, we don’t attempt to handle businesses and professions in which we are not absolutely expert. Because we limit who we serve, we are very, very good at serving our ten specific categories. One other limitation/requirement: We don’t provide service to start-ups. You must have been in business a minimum of two years.

Except for our testimonial page, I’ve personally written every word in this website and you will find it unique in its approach. It is designed to inform so it is incredibly comprehensive and we update it constantly. Our goal is to provide up-to-date, comprehensive and candid information about the telephone answering service industry and how Centratel operates. If you peruse other telephone answering service web sites, you’ll find clever layouts, flashing banners, general sales-speak, photos of attractive women with headsets and general assertions that “we care more” (as if that inane proclamation could somehow translate into superior quality). Those sites are designed to sell you. This site is designed to inform you, and although our ultimate aim is to convince you to use Centratel, we think we can best accomplish that by giving you solid information that is valuable. Make sense?

In addition to an enormous battery of information regarding the answering service business, there’s much in the way of business management information under the Resources section. For instance, there is an essay on “Getting the Job Done,” and another about “Your Command of the English Language.” (There is much more regarding management at www.workthesystem.com, too. More about that in a minute)

So, in your research, I recommend that at a minimum you finish reading this letter in which I have encapsulated who we are and why we’re different, and especially, the tangible reasons why we provide a quality of service that is unmatched anywhere.

Are you at this site because you are not satisfied with the quality of your current service? Know that you are not alone: 95% of Centratel clients were previously with another answering service, coming to us because of problems with accuracy, timeliness or service representative comportment. Our clients are people who don’t want problems with their answering service. They realize communication with their clients, and among their own staff, must be superb, whether it is on-premise or off-premise; during office hours or during after-hours.

We provide a 30-day free trial for our service. We do this because, statistically, it makes sense: Businesses that try our answering service invariably stay with us.

For the record, every single call that we handle is processed here in our Bend, Oregon offices. We don’t “offshore” any call traffic outside the United States.

We have clients in all 50 states. Only 20% of our approximately 1,000 clients are located in Oregon (Bend, Oregon has been our center of operations since the beginning, 30 years ago). Consider that the United States telephone switched network is awesomely reliable and your calls are handled toll-free: This makes Centratel as local to you as if our offices were right in your town, just down the street from your business or professional office.

I’ve owned the majority share of this company since 1984. My previous background was engineering and publishing and my personal expertise is in system organizing and operational execution. In fact, I have written a book about this subject, Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less, first published May 2009 and now in its third edition, it’s available in book stores at Amazon or www.workthesystem.com. As a potential client of Centratel, contact us and we’ll send you a copy of the hard cover edition at no charge and with no obligation.

In this website, we’ve included a search function for your convenience.

When you are ready to contact us about service for your company or professional office, either call us at 1-800-664-7159 or reach us via the “Price Quote” page on this site.

Within this site you will find twelve basic questions that should be asked of a prospective telephone answering service.

“The Best in the U.S.”
Again: Evidence of our “highest quality anywhere” claim includes Our most recent customer reported error rate (January through March, 2017) was one reported error for every 13,988 message transactions processed. Here’s another interesting statistic: Centratel’s average small business account stays with the company for over six years. Not bad considering that 80% of all small businesses fold within five years. What better indicator of quality than our individual customer’s long-term patronage?

Answering Service Cost Considerations
Because you may be price shopping, and neither of us wants you to waste your time, it is important that you know that our rates are sometimes higher than some other answering services. I can’t imagine advertising “the lowest rates and the highest quality.” That’s simply impossible. A telephone answering service that is charging low rates can’t possibly pay Telephone Service Representatives — the people who handle the calls and the largest cost of any telephone answering service — much more than minimum wage. In any business, minimum wage pay equals less qualified people and chronic staff turnover. How could low pay possibly allow high quality in a telephone answering service, where representatives are handling calls from the customers of literally hundreds of different companies? Processing these calls is tough work, demanding a rare combination of brains, finesse, tenacity, mastery of the English language and an engaging personality: Quality can’t happen when the people who take the calls and deliver the messages don’t stay in their positions long-term.

Centratel doesn’t play this no-win game. Our quality is the highest available anywhere largely because we do what we have to do to employ good people and then keep them long-term. This means we can’t, and won’t, be part of the endemic telephone answering service industry price-war game. By being up-front about our sometimes higher rates (emphasis on sometimes), I offer you a congruent message: Our high quality is supported by believable, tangible evidence, not “we care more so we’re the best” promises that could not possibly be kept.

It’s true: One “gets what one pays for.” As discussed above, I don’t promise the lowest service rates but I personally guarantee a level of quality that is unsurpassed: We are “The best answering service in the United States.” At Centratel, our market is the telephone answering service customer who is truly interested in quality first. We do more than pay our people well: We also have independent quality control and customer service departments; our documented system protocols mean zero-defect efficiency, and we use the most sophisticated and reliable equipment available.

No long-term contract
We don’t ask for a long-term commitment from our clients. If the service we provide is not adequate, or things change within the client’s business, that client should be free to cease service quickly: We ask for only seven days notice. There is a simple Terms of Service acknowledgment that we ask our new clients to sign.

Does Centratel handle businesses like yours?
Unlike most telephone answering services, Centratel limits service to a small and specific group of businesses and professions. Focused and knowledgeable, we’re expert in specific categories of business. If your business or profession is among the select categories in which we specialize, our expertise will allow us to seamlessly fit into your operation, providing no-nonsense, high quality telephone answering service that precisely meets your needs. And what exactly do we do for our clients? Here are some case studies. Note that we have approximately 1,000 answering service accounts and every one is handled in a unique way, according to the desires of the client.

Background
In the early 1980’s I managed a family run publishing business here in Bend, Oregon. Over those four years we used all three local answering services twice each, unsuccessfully searching for real quality. We needed both regular office hours answering service and after hours answering service…and the quality we received was terrible. In December of 1984, in frustration, and simultaneously seeing an opportunity, I bought one of the smaller local services and proceeded with a single premise, based on our own bitter experience as telephone answering service customers: “Certainly there are company owners who will be willing to pay more for truly superb answering service quality. This will provide Centratel a higher income. The higher income will be routed directly back to answering staff who will be paid according to their individual and group performance. All this will be supported within an organization that is near flawless in its efficiency.” It’s a simple formula and we’ve stuck with it since the beginning, and within our industry of over two thousand answering services nationwide, it is a formula that has been a big part of placing Centratel within a very, very small circle of elite quality telephone answering services.

The problem with Answering Services
As mentioned earlier, our growth has been due almost entirely to new accounts that came to us because they were searching for better service quality than what they were experiencing with their former telephone answering service provider. At the risk of denigrating my own industry, it is my opinion that quality problems have always been, and continue to be, chronic to the telephone answering service industry. It is easy to understand why: This is a very complex business and there is much that can go wrong. In most services, owners and managers spend their days killing fires and therefore the basic organizational details are not managed. Thus, poor service to clients.

Of course this website and my personal Blog are open to all, including other telephone answering services. I am not concerned about revealing secrets of our success to answering service competitors because the principles we use take substantial additional monetary and elbow-grease investment. For example, Centratel TSR wages are much higher than industry standards. Also, we use a meticulously organized and executed management process including two distinctly independent departments: One geared exclusively to answering quality and the other focusing on customer services. It’s not easy! How we do what we do is difficult to put into practice.

Still with me? Following are the fundamental tenets of Centratel quality:

  1. This telephone answering service business is an incredibly complex “system of systems” and meticulous organization and point-of-sale execution is absolutely mandatory if there is to be exceptional quality of service: Documented principles, protocol, methodology and honest self-evaluation are at the heart of what we do. I list this point first because without thoroughly documented and systematic operational protocols, no matter what else a telephone answering service owner does right, there can’t be really high quality of service. There are too many things that can go wrong. I am passionate about “systems methodology,” as evidenced in my book Work The System.
  2. As mentioned previously, we specialize in certain categories of business. This allows us to become very familiar with just a few specialty vertical markets . Unlike 98% of competing telephone answering services, we don’t attempt to “be all things to all people.”
  3. Our Telephone Service Representative (TSR) and customer service personnel are very well paid earning almost 100% over industry standards, with up to 30% of their individual compensation keyed directly to their own personal performance. Every one of our staff members is a full-time, career professional. We don’t employ part-time staff as is common with most telephone answering services. There is very little staff turnover, with some TSR tenures exceeding 20 years. These are full-time career people who are well compensated and are very serious about what they do. Their output is superb. It is interesting to note that the people who answer the phones, TSRs, are very seldom mentioned in competitor web site advertising. Why is that? TSRs are the people who process incoming customer calls and are clearly the heart of any telephone answering service’s quality. Whatever telephone answering service you employ, these are the individuals who talk to your customers or patients, often in urgent situations. Here is a link to our staff page.
  4. Our principles of operation, procedures and system protocols are meticulously created, exactly documented and rigorously applied. Our staff knows what is expected and our clients know what to expect. There are no surprises and no on-going fire-killing. The end result of this attention to detail: very few errors in an industry that is by nature, profoundly error-prone. As mentioned previously, 98% of Centratel’s newest clients have been with another answering service before, and virtually all of these clients came to us because of quality problems with their former provider.
  5. A distinct and independent department of Centratel, with its own budget, is dedicated to Telephone Service Representative (TSR) quality control. On a regular basis, a random sampling of each TSR’s calls are reviewed in detail. Every two weeks, each TSR meets with our Quality Team to review sampled messages, one-on-one. The review is tough, thorough and complex. These reviews are scored and, with a high enough score, TSRs receive a significant monthly bonus. Another separate and independent department, customer services, is dedicated to answering questions from clients as well as facilitating the immediate resolution of any problems that might arise. As with the rest of Centratel’s operation, key commonalities of these two departments are independence, intensity, documentation and point-of sale response (in which any customer issue is handled NOW). Each of the managers of these two departments reports directly to the President/General Manager/majority owner of the company: me.
  6. Drug testing is frequent and thorough. Centratel has a zero-tolerance policy on drug abuse. Without going into detail, trust that for a variety of reasons this is a very important issue for any telephone answering service.
  7. Our telecom and internal communications equipment and systems are cutting edge, offering the highest level of reliability and the widest selection of service options available anywhere. We employ two full time, career CMSE qualified IT engineers.
  8. Each of our clients has a message taking/message delivery protocol designed to meet their company’s exact needs.
  9. If there is an error on our part, that error is a very big deal. All details of a complaint, and all details of that complaint’s resolution, are shared real-time via email with all answering service operations personnel.
    For your information, Board members are Sam Kirkaldie (minority owner, Customer Service Manager), Cheryl Trindle (in-house CPA), Andi Freeman (New Account Specialist), and me.
  10. Every call is recorded via Centratel’s integrated digital voice recording system. Any question about a particular call can be answered by a simple review of the caller-TSR dialog. Any message, including both sides of the conversation, can be delivered to the client via internet WAV file. Calls are kept on file for three years.
  11. My co-owner, Sam Kirkaldie, and I, are intimately involved in day-to-day operations.
  12. We are located in Bend, Oregon. Unlike the South, East and Midwest our region seldom suffers violent weather patterns that cause long-term electrical and telephone outages. This means reliability and consistency in service (Centratel’s “uptime” exceeds 99.999%). Another advantage to our Northwest location is that our native Oregon TSR’s are “accent neutral.” This means anyone, anywhere can understand them clearly. Yes, this can be a problem for answering services in other parts of the country. So, in this rather lengthy summary, you have an overview of Centratel and why we are proud to be the best telephone answering service in the U.S.! Call us today at 1-800-664-7159, or reach us via the “Price Quote” page on this site. Our New Accounts Manager, Jesse Merickel, will answer any questions you may have.

Thanks again for your inquiry!

Sam Carpenter
President, CEO