A Plan for the Future

By Wayne Scaggs

These are my beliefs. Planning is what is needed to excel in the next few years. Our first vehicle, or tool, is information. Not messages or orders, but true information. Information is knowledge communicated. Data collected and then processed to add value becomes truly valuable information worth more than we are getting for the same amount of effort.

How do we use this vehicle? The telemessaging industry has more years of experience collecting and distributing information than any other industry, hands down. There are telemessaging businesses around today that started when the party line was the only means to have a telephone. Information is the lifeblood of our world. The correct information at the correct time is the difference between being on top of game and just getting by.

Are you offering “self-service” information? Maybe the question should be, “Do you believe that the demand for self-service information is here?” How are you going to take advantage of this trend? There are two tools that are in place today, waiting for you to use them: the Internet and Interactive Voice Response (IVR). Self-service puts information at your callers’ fingertips when they want it, whether that is 8:05 am or midnight. Both tools, the Internet and IVR, have very low labor input and very high returns. We need to understand the economic driver, which is lower costs. Let the machine do it.

When will you provide Web access to the information you have processed from raw data? When will you front end or integrate your business with a sophisticated decision-making IVR system? The answer is that you start when you decide to get your client to pay for the information (not for messages or orders, but information).

The technology is the easy part because the necessary hardware, software, and support are just bolt on additions. Upgrading your knowledge level and moving out of your comfort zone and your call center’s comfort zone, is the difficult task. Attracting the client that is demanding, that holds you accountable, and that pays top dollar for your services is difficult. Explaining to your staff that yesterday’s good enough is no longer good enough today, is difficult. Adjusting your pricing to the level of your worth is difficult. Knowing when to move and where to move is difficult but that’s how you get the big bucks.

The business of information is our business – the lifeblood of mainstream business is information. Our challenge is becoming an integral part of the mainstream business information environment. What can we do to be in the mainstream of business? I ask this question often because I am not satisfied with the answers I get. Maybe I need a better question; however, I like the one I have been asking. I believe one of many answers is that there has to be strong leadership with vision (my definition of leadership is, in one word, “accountability”). There has to be a cause, a motivating factor, for strong leadership to happen, such as becoming the nation’s information center, the first place business looks for information or the place commonly known as the place to go to be in the know. We are in the business of information and information is the lifeblood of business. If this were easy, someone else would be doing our business.

We have the technology, we have the experience, we have the locations, and we have the staff resources. As an industry, we are head and shoulders above everyone else when it comes to information. The dream is big and the rewards are enormous. As a unified, collective information machine, no job is too big. I end as I started: this is one man’s belief.

Wayne Scaggs is president of Alston Tascom in Chino, CA. Contact Wayne at 909-548-7300.

[From Connection Magazine Jan/Feb 2005]