2008 ATSI Convention Summary by Donna West

This was a jam-packed conference and every session I attended was a huge success.  Here are some of my opinions and observations about this great conference.  These are from my meager notes not from the CDs.
I always buy the CDs even though I’m there, because that way I don’t have to take notes or worry about the sessions I couldn’t attend.  I share them with all of my senior employees and they always “hear” something I missed.  They are necessary to my company!  By the way we gave Scott Argo a plaque for his 28 years of service to ATSI!

The first Keynote Speaker was Tim Searcy of the ATA — now the American Teleservices Association rather than Telemarketing.  He gave some great statistics about our industry.  He also shared some information on lobbying that made me extremely glad that we have a man of Dave Wenhold’s integrity at the helm of our lobbying efforts.

Stats — in 2007 there were approximately 354,000 people working remotely in the Teleservices industry.  This included inbound and outbound.

68.4% of interactions are handles by people versus automation.  Easy access to a person from an automated menu was the top concern of 88% of consumers.

My own side note, which I will share — Don’t offer free programming as a new customer perk, offer programming “at cost.”  Programming is going to become a more and more important thing as we script more and more new accounts, or add reporting capabilities.

Casey Smit stated that this is the “Tear of the Leader” at CAM-X, and shared more information on the upcoming convention at Deerhurst in Huntsville, Ontario

Marty Weems spoke on remote agents and legal issues.  He was wonderful, as always, and we didn’t let him get to the end of his presentation — again!  I did note that we need to add to our own remote agreement that we must have a specific training session regarding working from home, (rather than just having an agreement — which is also a must).  We need to emphasis the remote employees equipment must face away from public areas so that no one can see the screens or overhear conversations.  I do not want to personally inspect my remote agent’s homes, so I am going to ask for photos of their work area and a signed statement that they understand the privacy and HIPAA requirements.  OSHA does not require home inspection of the remote agent’s worksite, but that may not stop the employee from making a workers comp claim.

We should also have our remote agents sign a statement that they are responsible for paying their electric and cable/phone bills on time so as not to chance interruption.  We can fire them if they do not.  If you don’t what to buy all the CDs — just be sure you buy this one if you have or are planning to have remote agents.
We also touched on sending bills by e-mail and fax and if you have your agreement printed on the back, be sure to send that also.

We can call our agreement a Contract and we can call money collected up front a non-interest bearing deposit rather than trying to collect first and last — which puts us at a disadvantage if a client is trying to get out of paying us.  Deposits are not taxed.

Beth Cooper and Ray Shaw did a yeoman’s job of talking about disaster planning and recovery, and site certification.  I did note that “Ray said, Go to the Public Insurance Adjuster prior to a disaster so they can review all of your insurance policies.  They will help you if you need to make a claim in the future — if you have a disaster call your insurance agent and call the public adjuster.  Your claims will be more likely to be paid properly without problems.

Finally, the first day we heard from Gary Pudles about the model contracts on the ATSI website.  There is terrific language in them that we should all be familiar with.  Please review them for yourself.  Some of what is listed under Marty above may actually have come from Gary, if so I apologize; I dropped my notes and may have mixed them up.

On Friday our keynote speaker was Doug Tatum who was absolutely fantastic.  His book, No Man’s Land, What to do when your company is Too Big to be small, but too Small to be Big — is recommended reading and should be required reading for us!  Again I recommend getting the CD because I didn’t take notes I simply sat and soaked it all in.  Many of us recognized ourselves in that in-between, and realized that we need to make some very smart decisions regarding our company growth.  This one session was worth the conference cost — and I for one wished he was an all day speaker.  (I believe he will be speaking at one of the regional meetings — get your reservation in early!)

The rest of the day consisted of break out sessions, and rather than describe the ones I went to, I’d encourage our membership to send in a brief synopsis of their presentation.

On Saturday our keynote speaker was Roger Pell of InMatrix who spoke on what we need to know about our financial data.  He explained the importance of being able to look ahead to see what effect our financial plans might have on our future growth.  From his examples it was clear that rapid growth could be devastating to your business, where as simple means — such as raising rates, lowering expenses, and collecting receivables even a few days sooner could easily net huge profit.  The key is knowing what to do.  Having a spreadsheet that will allow you to make assumptions and see how they will play out is essential to making good decisions in today’s high tech world.

Following Roger was an outstanding session on FUSF with Darlene Campbell, new Board member, Brian Gilmore, and Dave Wenhold, of Miller Wenhold, who gave clear insight into where we stand on the fight for a carve out for our industry, and who with other members, did some fantastic role playing that gave good ways to talk to our congressmen and women.  It was also a mini sales course in body language and making the sale.  Dave is a wonderful representative for us.

The Education Foundation Auction was a huge success and SO much fun.  Ryan Chinosky missed his calling he is a fabulous auctioneer!  The foundation event — a trip to the City museum was outstanding, I’m hoping someone who attended will share the highlights, there was a waiting list to attend and I did not get to go.
Your Board is going to execute a survey to members and non-members alike to find out what ATSI can do to earn more members and satisfy more members.

This is enough — did I mention that you really need to buy the CDs — there was SO much to learn and absorb, I know when I get them I’ll listen to them three times and still learn new things every time I hear them.

Donna G West
Focus Comm Centers

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