How You Treat Your Answering Service Staff Matters More

In the post “ What You Call Your Answering Service Staff Matters a Great Deal” we ran through a list of possible names to call your answering service staff. These include operator, telephone receptionist, telephone secretary, agent, telephone service rep, TSR, customer service rep, CSR, customer service agent, and expert. While each name has its own implications, along with accompanying strengths and weaknesses, in the big picture it doesn’t really matter what you call your staff. What matters more is how you regard them. The perfect label means nothing if you treat them poorly, yet if you surround them with excellence their title becomes incidental. Don’t spend a lot of time devising the perfect label. Instead, invest in what they’ll actually appreciate. Consider these organizational traits that matter most to your staff: Thorough Training: Staff expected to provide quality service deserves quality training so they can learn how. Providing thorough instruction, both initially and incrementally, demonstrates respect, while minimal training—or no real training to speak of—sends a strong message that you don’t really care. Competitive Pay: Working at an answering service is hard. Many people can’t handle the pace of the calls or the intense need to focus for more than a couple hours. This means that it takes a special person to excel in an answering service environment. And when you find those people, they deserve compensation commiserate with the expectations. Pay them competitively or even a bit more. Good Working Conditions: When it comes to your operations room, good lighting is essential. Stable, high-end computers and technology tools are essential. Provide ergonomic workstations. Make sure everything functions as intended. The operations room should be neat, organized, and professional. The break room should be clean and inviting. Offer any amenities you can. Your staff deserves it. Constructive Feedback: Giving arbitrary annual raises not tied to performance discourages the best staff and has the opposite effect on lower performers. Today’s professional information worker deserves frequent feedback that is both constructive and helpful. Let them know what they do well, and they’ll do it better. Guide them in discovering how they can improve, and they will. Provide Skilled Management: Just as front line staff deserves thorough training to help them perform their jobs with excellence, so to with management. Supervisors, trainers, and managers also benefit from relevant instruction, in both initial education and advanced techniques. Employees who feel support from their bosses perform better and with greater confidence. Positive Work Environment: All of these traits come together to provide a positive work environment. When staff enjoys their work setting, they’ll look forward to coming into work, they’ll be happier while they’re there, and they’ll give better service to their clients. A positive work environment produces an upbeat atmosphere and quality interactions with clients, coworkers, and employers. And none of this hinges on the label you give them, just as long as you say it with respect and produce the actions to back it up. Janet Livingston is the president of Call Center Sales Pro, a premier call center consultancy, whose team possesses decades of telephone answering service and call center experience. Contact Janet at or 800-901-7706.Peter Lyle DeHaan is a freelance writer from Southwest Michigan.