Why Centratel?

A message from Centratel founder and president, Sam Carpenter

Updated April 20, 2017

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.

Over 95% of our 1,400+ clients came to us after using another answering service that was problematic.

You might also read my essay about the answering service industry. There you will find inside information about the business that you won’t find elsewhere.

What do we offer? Service quality that is consistently superb.

We’re trustworthy and steady, and our clients receive this near-flawless, terrific quality at a reasonable price.

Numbers don’t lie, so if you employ an answering service that is not meeting your expectations, here’s the crux of why you should consider Centratel: Statistically, we are the highest quality answering service in the United States. Our most recent Customer Reported Error Rate (April through June, 2017) was one error for every 15,373 message transactions processed. That’s a statistic far superior to any other answering service in the United States.

I don’t want you to waste your time so I’ll be up-front about this: We don’t take all-comers, and focus on just ten separate vertical business markets. Is your company or professional office one of our specialties? Go here to find out. We don’t attempt to handle businesses and professions in which we are not absolutely expert, so, because we limit who we serve, we are very, very good at handling those businesses that fall within one of our ten specialty categories.

One other limitation/requirement: Unless you have a medical or veterinary clinic, we don’t provide service to start-ups. You must have been in business a minimum of two years.

One of the reasons we qualify our accounts is because serving problematic customers would put a drain on our operational and customer service resources thus compromising our quality of service. Been there! Done that! Our clients are blue-ribbon, whatever their business category. This means a steady, smooth and reliable operation for everyone.

You’ll find this site unique in its approach. It’s designed to inform so is incredibly comprehensive and we update it constantly. The unique, primary goal of this site is to provide up-to-date and candid information about the telephone answering service industry and how Centratel operates. If you peruse other telephone answering service sites, you’ll find clever layouts, flashing lights and music, general sales-speak, photos of attractive operators with headsets, and general assertions that “we care more” (as if that inane proclamation would somehow translate into superior quality). Those sites are designed to sell you. This site is designed to inform you. Of course our ultimate aim is to convince you to use Centratel, but we think we can best accomplish that by giving you solid, valuable information.

In addition to an enormous battery of information regarding the answering service business, under the Resources section there’s much in the way of personal management information. For instance, there is an essay on “Getting the Job Done,” and another about “Your Command of the English Language.”

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

Are you at this site because you are not satisfied with your current service? Know that you are not alone: 96% of our clients were previously with another answering service, coming to us because of problems with accuracy, timeliness, customer service and/or telephone service representative (TSR) comportment. Our clients are people who want flawless performance from their answering service. They realize communication with their customers (and among their own staff) must be superb whether it is on-premise or off-premise; during office hours or after-hours.

We offer a 30-day free trial. We do this because, statistically, it makes sense for us: Those business owners/managers who 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” call traffic.

We have clients in all 50 states. Only 10% of our approximately 1,400 clients are located in Oregon (Bend, Oregon has been our center of operations for the past 33 years). You already know that the United States telephone network is incredibly reliable. And, your calls are handled toll-free. This makes Centratel as local to you as if our office was located right in your town, just down the street from your own office.

I’ve owned the majority share of this company since it was founded in 1984. My prior background was engineering and publishing, and my personal expertise is in system organizing and operational execution. In fact, I’ve written a book about the subject, Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less. The 5th printing of the third edition was released in January, 2017. It’s available in book stores, at Amazon or at workthesystem.com (for free: you can download the unabridged book in all electronic and audio formats). Or, call us about answering service and we’ll send you a copy of the hardcover version at no charge and no obligation.

In this site, we’ve included a search function for your convenience. It’s in the upper right-hand corner of each page.

When you’re ready to contact us about service, either call us at 1-800-664-7159 or fill out the “Price Quote” page.

As you search for an answering service, here are twelve basic questions that should be asked of any prospective service.

Answering Service Cost Considerations
Because you may be price shopping, and neither of us wants 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 that “we have 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 (TSR’s: the people who handle the calls and by far the largest operating 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 equate with high quality in a telephone answering service, where TSRs are sequentially handling calls for literally hundreds of different companies?

Processing incoming answering service calls is tough work, demanding a rare combination of brains, finesse, tenacity, mastery of the English language as well as an engaging and resilient comportment. Quality can’t happen when the people who take the calls and deliver the messages don’t stay in the position long-term.

So, Centratel doesn’t play the low cost/low pay game. Our quality is the highest available anywhere because we hire good people and then keep those people 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 by “we care more so we’re the best” promises that could not possibly be kept.

It’s true: One “gets what one pays for.” 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. If the service we provide is not adequate, or things change within the client’s business, the customer should be free to cease service quickly: We ask for only a seven day notice. There is a simple Terms of Service acknowledgment that we ask our new clients to sign. We don’t ask for an up-front security deposit.

Does Centratel handle professions/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 within one of these categories, 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.

Our Baseline for Quality
Our roots are in medical telephone answering service with some clinics using Centratel for over 30 years. By serving hundreds of medical answering service clients, super-high quality standards are automatically set for our other business categories. There is little room for error when handling medical emergencies. We also serve scores of veterinary offices across the nation, each requiring the same intense quality of message processing as medical accounts. In addition, we serve dozens of home health and hospice accounts. Funeral homes constitute a special market in which our telephone service representatives must handle calls with special empathy. Again, the high standard necessary to handle these critical calls naturally extends to all other business clients. We also serve a contingent of HVAC, property management, hi-tech and utility companies.

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 solid 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 that was based on our own bitter experience as telephone answering service customers: “Certainly there are business 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 fifteen hundred answering services nationwide, it’s a formula that has been a big part of placing Centratel within a very, very small circle of elite quality national telephone answering services.

The problem with Answering Services
Our growth has been due almost entirely to new accounts that come to us because they were searching for better service quality. 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’s easy to understand why: This is a complex business and there is much that can go wrong. In most services, owners and managers spend their days killing fires and not managing the systems that are creating those fires. Thus, there is poor service to clients.

This website is open to everyone, including other telephone answering services. But I’m 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 and requires substantial initial and ongoing investment.

Still with me? Here are the reasons why Centratel offers the highest quality anywhere:

  1. This telephone answering service business is an incredibly complex “system of systems,” and if there is to be exceptional quality of service, the systems of the business must be meticulously managed: Documented principles, precise protocol, thoughtful 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 high quality of service. There are too many things that can go wrong. I am passionate about our culture of “system improvement,” as described in my book Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less, now in its fifth printing of the third edition.
  2. As mentioned previously, we specialize in only certain categories of business. This allows us to become very experienced in just a few specialty vertical markets. Unlike 99% 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 double industry standards, with up to 35% 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 25 years. Full-time career people who are well compensated (and rewarded for their own personal performance) are people who are very serious about what they do. The Centratel TSR’s performance is consistently superb. As a side-thought, it is interesting to note that the people who answer the phones, TSR’s, are very seldom mentioned in competitor web site advertising. Why is that? TSRs 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 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 there is no 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, 96% of Centratel’s current clients were with another answering service before they came to us, and virtually all of these clients had quality problems with that former provider.
  5. Rigorous quality control: a distinct and independent department, with its own budget, is dedicated to Telephone Service Representative (TSR) quality control. On a weekly 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, up t0 35% of their previous month’s gross earnings..
  6. Another separate and independent department, Customer Service, is focused on answering questions from clients, handling the rare problem that might arise, and routinely contacting clients to update account information. 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 issue is handled NOW).
  7. 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. It’s incomprehensible to me, but most answering services do not drug test!
  8. 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 three career IT engineers.
  9. Each of our clients has a message taking/message delivery protocol designed to meet their company’s exact needs.
  10. If there is an error on our part, that error is a very big deal. We fix the problem immediately, analyze how the error occurred, and then do what we need to do so that error doesn’t happen again
  11. 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.
  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 99.999999%). Another advantage to our Northwest location is that our Oregon TSR’s are “accent neutral.” This means anyone, anywhere can understand our people clearly. (Yes, this is a challenge for answering services in certain other parts of the country!)

So, in this rather lengthy summary, you have an overview of Centratel and why we are able to offer you the best telephone answering service in the United States and Canada! Call us today at 1-800-664-7159, or reach us via the “Price Quote” page on this site. Our Account Specialists, Jesse Merickel and Amanda Davis will answer any questions you may have. Jesse’s email address is jessem@centratel.com, Amanda’s is amandad@centratel.com, or call at the above number Monday through Friday between the hours of 7:00am and 4:00pm PST.

Thanks again for your inquiry!

Sam Carpenter
Owner and President