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Welcome to the prospecting show. Today is June second, and we have Derek Davies on the show. How are you?

 

Doing great, thanks for having me. How about you?

 

I’m doing fantastic. So to kinda start things off, maybe kinda get the listeners a little bit background where you came from, where you started, and what company you run now… Sure, so my parents started a business back in 1999, it was a call center, and they’ve had it for about 31 years, and I’ve just grown up around it my entire life, it was next to the house that I grew up in, in an office like a garage, kind of renovated into it, and then it grew to other locations, just as time went on, and just growing up around it, being with my parents and going to being… Hearing how they run the business, I just kind of grew into it and grew a passion for myself, and now today I am running the business and my parents, they still are involved somewhat, but they kind of have gone off and done their own thing.

 

So yeah, I kind of stepped into it. I went off to college for three and a half years in Austin, Texas, we got a business degree, and I came back and tried to apply that degree to what I know and try to advance the business and also put some of… Together to make things more efficient, make the technology better. And try to incorporate as much as I could.

 

It’s interesting, right?

 

They talk about the degree, and one of the things we talk a lot about on this podcast is the need for education, we talk a little bit about formal education at the post-secondary level and what people have done there, and then also the application to the business so would you say that you have made some type of substantial change because you have the degree, or do you think that it’s more just that you kind of understand how to problem solve and you’ve kind of worked your way through improving the business… Yeah, I don’t necessarily think that you need a business degree to run a business or to necessarily even start one, but I think it definitely does help you see things in a different way. I know growing up, I’d always been around my parents and both of them didn’t go to college and they…

 

I have started a couple of successful businesses, so my dad’s philosophy was, you don’t need college, I can be successful without that, whereas I felt the same way in some aspects, but I still wanted that experience and wanted to see what it was all about, and I think that it definitely does help to have a different experience, I’ve always worked for my family growing up, but I also wanted to get another job with a different boss that was not related to me, to see how someone else runs a business. I think that’s important to get a diversified education and not just hear it from one person in your family, and so I think that also led me to great experiences for working for someone else and different ideas that my family didn’t have or that were foreign to them, and instead of just having the routine old car answering service, I was incorporating different ideas based on the human resources aspect of it and how to manage people, talking to people, communications, and the place that I worked at a restaurant, so I understood customer service, hospitality, and then when I went off to school, that made me also understand things, I went to schools a lot of different people from all different backgrounds, like anyone maybe in college, but I think my college, there was a lot more foreign people or people from different states rather than just all coming from a certain area, like a local college may have, and it helped me learn different ways, and especially having different professors who… Some of them have their own businesses or had worked in different areas that were different than what I was used to, it helped me to understand that and expand our client by understanding a little bit more about their business that maybe my parents would have if they had never connected with those kind of people.

 

Yeah, and that’s an interesting point too. At the end of the day, there’s a few different reasons that people go to school, some people think it’s just about the degree, some people say it’s about networking, some people say it’s like you’re talking about where its exposure to the other opportunities and the people that exist there, and I think the interesting thing for both you and I, as we both grew up in entrepreneurial families to work for the family company, and when you work for a family run company to start… Then go to school and then come back and work in the family company.

 

You realize how a complex a business actually is, when you see how smoothly things can run or how many different tasks are going on, it’s not something you can really teach somebody how to do it, a little bit of… Of that work is experiential, a little bit of it is mentorship-driven, and a little bit of it is just, Hey, you gotta do it yourself.

 

So what would you say in your mind, because you talk with a lot of other businesses and you guys have an answering call center service, what would you say the number one problem is that you see with your customers… The problem that I see with our customers… Yeah, so they come in to your right, they’re asking for the service that you have, they typically probably have some type of difficulty in their business, and since you get to talk to them and your team get to talk to them, what kind of problem are you guys solving for your customers.

 

Yeah, so I think that the biggest problem that I see is that people, especially now, like payroll costs are big, so is they hire someone up front to maybe answer their phones during the day, if they would use us for daylight hours. That is a cost.

 

It’s still not something that’s in the six figures, but it’s still something that cost a lot, especially if you’re paying the to health benefits, any other various benefits, it definitely does add up, so sometimes it’s nice to utilize a service that you’re paying a lot less for, and you can still get the same result, especially now that people are more remote or as the country is continuing to globalized and people expand their markets to not just be in the local community, it’s not that big of a deal sometimes to have someone… If you’re just making phone calls to divert that, especially with the technology these days, it’s sometimes hard to tell who you’re actually talking to and where they’re located, but for our after hours customers, some use us for both, for all hours or both, and are after hours customers it’s getting the call to the correct person, so people… Like the society we live in, everybody once things now, and they don’t like to wait for things and let’s just say if you have a medical account, for instance, everyone has a different definition of what’s an emergency, something may be super urgent to you, which is really not urgent to someone else.

 

So it’s kind of hard to determine that, so instead of doctors who may be very busy just working on call in a hospital and then their clients are calling them about things like, Oh, I need a routine prescription refill, or I need…

 

I have a question about something.

 

We kind of come in first where the middle man and ask them, Is this really an emergency and does it fit our emergency list, and then we determine that and send that out to the doctor to respond to at their leisure, and it’s the same with any clients for instance, property management is another one. Someone could have a toilet that’s not working, and then they call in and say, Hey, my toilet is not working, but for us, we kind of say, Okay, well, is you have one toilet in your house, do you have two toilets in your house… Can it wait until tomorrow?

 

So we’re kind of the middle man trying to help in that aspect to determine if it’s something that is really urgent and we need to bother that person for… Because really having an answering service is, it’s kind of a luxury to have someone take your calls for you, there’s a lot of problems that people are have… That’s a common right. Find that there’s very… For an answering service, a lot to our sales, I mean my brother’s business uses it, and I can’t tell you the amount of calls that he receives past store hours. A typical business works nine to five, but so do other people, so if they’re working in these other businesses and they need to call you after work is even had a chance to call, then you’re missing a sales sometimes, and how many times in your personal opinion, have you called somewhere, if you had an issue with your house and the company doesn’t answer, so you move on to the next one until someone answers, so that’s… You’re losing business as a customer, I… Yeah, you… So if someone picks up the phone and they might not even say that they’re that business, they could say I am with her answering service, but I will get this out to someone to give you a call back, that person may be less likely to call another company ’cause they know they’re gonna get a call back. And you can definitely see you saving customers and your sales increasing by doing that… Yeah, and that’s a really interesting point around the fact that there are certain businesses that have that 90 to 50 kind of style, but then there’s also that more of emergent kind of services where you’re talking about some of the owns properties and they have to attend to these people after hours.

 

But then there’s also the first point you made, which is, if you hire someone to answer the phone on your own, you’re probably gonna be paying substantial amount of money with potential over time with a paid time off with other health care benefits, and that really starts that up, so at the end of the day, if you can outsource that to a fraction, you can have one person on your team who’s able to take calls for four or five different businesses, then you rationalize that labor and ultimately drive down the cost for everybody else. And allowed you to make a profit in that business, so I think it’s really… We talk a lot about outsourcing in our business, and we have a bunch of people in the Philippines that help support our business, and it’s really for two reasons, One is total coverage, and two is a combination of cost, because the cost is a little bit lower, so with you guys is interesting ’cause you’re fractional zing the labor that you have, which ultimately makes you guys have a business that you can expand rapidly, where do you see phone services and answering services in going over the next five years with everybody now realizing like, Hey, maybe I don’t need a whole office in New York City or Pittsburgh or wherever they live.

 

What are the next steps?

 

Yeah, so lately, due to code, the cove pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in the calls, our sales calls, a lot of people are not in the office, and it’s a way for them to have their phones still answered, because some businesses haven’t stopped or they just can’t answer them in the office or someone’s not always there, so we can route them to the correct people, we don’t… We had to pivot from a traditional answering service, my parents started, it was mainly… We did 247, so we always were getting calls, but the majority were after hours, and then we kind of ventured into a call center to do billing and customer service for larger corporations and companies as well, and then I kind of help pivoted as well into doing many different things for offices, even just being someone at the front desk or route the calls to who they need to go to, and it seems like that’s gonna be more and more common because people who are trying to… If you see Facebook, they say they want people to work from home now and really not come back into the office, and they don’t know if they ever will, and people are saving so much money on rent and all the overhead costs for that they see it’s better for their business to do that.

 

So I think that’s why we all start seeing an increase because if we can be someone’s personal administrator to answer the phone and do certain other tasks, since we’re very customizable, I think this is the way forward where as people felt, Oh, the answering service industry calls an industry is kind of slowly going away because of AI, but I think people will still always want that personal touch, especially the local companies like to hear from local people, we do answer a nationwide, but I think that’s always in nice touch to have… Yeah, no, I think that’s definitely true. And some of the businesses are starting to open their eyes to the other options that exist out there, kinda like you were saying, some people look at call centers and think, Well, that’s not really something that we’re still using, and that’s kind of old school, but at the end of the day, if you have a custom product or custom service or custom solution that is maybe not something I can take care of, or maybe not something that you can outsource to a different country, it is sometimes good to have that local kinda touch on how that business like yourself that’s able to handle those calls, when you’re looking at the kinds of businesses that you’re serving on the sales arm, are you finding that they are using that service more or is it more in the operational side, what’s kind of the split between sales and marketing versus operations with you guys… Well, I think that I… So I wonder where a client’s coming from the war or in… Yeah, no, no, I’m asking more, a little bit more about the way that people are using your service, so there’s some people who are probably using your service or just a field operational support type calls were just like, Hey, we have a inbound calls, and it’s more of a support, but then you talked about examples where people are getting calls after hours and that could tee sales call. What proportion do you find that you guys are doing more operational calls versus more sales calls?

 

I think it’s very mixed, I’d say almost 50-50. it just depends because even clients that we have, let’s just say a contractor HVAC company, 50% of those calls or sales, but 50% are, Hey, the technician hasn’t shown up, or, Hey, there was a problem, I’m still having that problem, or Hey, I’m looking… Either question in regards to… Before you come out.

 

So I really got is this depends on the client. There are some that we just do incoming sales lease, we’ve answered for Shark Tank companies, like people that were on the show, short tank.

 

We do infomercial things on QVC or pledge lines with NPR, and as things come in, we handle those in their only inbound sales leads for the most part, but it just depends on what kind of client you’re talking about, because if I let’s just say a government authority like a housing authority, it’s not typically sales, so there are a lot of work orders in operational code, it’s just varies, but in the US, everything is about money in business, so I think that most of the calls are generating something… Yeah, and that’s true, I guess. It is somewhat industry-specific. Like you talked about with the GE fat guys, they’re gonna be having a good mix of sales and operation, but if you go to a housing authority or property management on a rental side, it’s probably not as much sales, it’s probably more operational just to get something fixed or operate that business.

 

Where do you see you guys going as a company going forward, you have all these remote workers, these people that have small companies, big companies, but they’re all kinda going remote, and sales and business still has to happen. So where do you see you guys fitting into the market or pivoting as time goes on here?

 

So at the moment, I think that we’re at a good spot currently, a lot of smaller Answering Services, they sell out sometimes to these larger businesses that are coming in and buying them, and they don’t just deal with answering services, they deal with all kinds of different technology fields, so people end up sometimes not liking them ’cause then they outsource outside of the US, where a lot of our customers, one, someone in the US answering the calls, and they like to know where you’re located, that you are maybe even met the… Especially with government contracts, a lot of the time they… They wanna work with the US, businesses are U-S-A in Pole.

 

So I think it’s just at the moment, everything selling her in that aspect, like it’s still needed it, we’re still always getting sales… A lot of people are going to move towards AI things and call routing in a lot of the stuff you can do online, it is pretty amazing what you can and can’t do, but at the moment, imitations and I don’t know how far away we really are from that everyone has their own ideas of when that’s coming, we have self-driving cars, but they’re not out to market yet, and people always are very hold, maybe they’ll be in a couple of years, maybe it’s…

 

When is it actually gonna come… The technologies there is just how to launch that.

 

So I know that a lot of other Answering Services, we kind of all work together.

 

We have an online online group that we all talk in about the technology changes and what’s needed in the market, and I like for instance, it just varies on every industry, if you’re in the medical industry, they really want hip, a secure technology and they wanna make it easier to contact each other. Doctors went from having deeper in the hospital and pagers because they don’t have a lot of reception in there, and it’s something easy they can carry around, to now they’re using it, the secured messaging apps that they can communicate with each other, and now it seems like the thing is, a lot of people were asking for the information that were to to go into a CRM software that they can implement on their end. So they’re not doing double the work. It’s all about efficiency and how we can create less work for their office so that more features and things we can offer the better… Yeah, and that will make you guys a more robust service to you, kinda like you’re talking about if you can create a solution like people typically don’t buy features, they buy benefits and then solutions as a whole, or they’re buying solutions, their problems.

 

And I think you’re right, there’s gonna be a lot of people, like you look at all the small healthcare offices, it chiropractors, physical therapists, even massage therapists, if they’re a single member practice, it might be useful for you guys to offer a scheduling service to them where it’s like lessen the patient calls in, want to schedule an appointment, that service can basically be done through an answering platform instead of that provider having to run back and forth between the patient and answering the phone, and they’re ultimately gonna be paying for a full-time in-house person to do that service anyway, so it probably makes sense to work in a… In… Yeah, exactly, and a lot of… Start about how I… Go ahead.

 

I was just saying a lot of people to… We have features that are available now that people still ready for yet, for instance, web chat. I myself love web cat because I can multi-task if I’m now in the middle of something, that I can do it on my computer without having to call and be disruptive and wait on hold forever, I can just go on and ask my question and get it sold.

 

And I think a lot of people do like that, but some older generations aren’t interested in that they’re used to picking up the phone, it’s easier for them, it’s something that’s kind of foreign to them or they don’t know that’s available. And that’s kind of where we’re at at the moment. There’s some people that are interested in things like what that… It’s just like, telehealth is a new thing that’s been out for a while, but no one’s really put that fully to market, or it’s not really become so popularized, but until coved happen and now it’s very popular, they’ve seen such an increase in tele health appointments, and I know that there’s a lot of limitations to it, but it’s still something that’s very efficient to people and they were kind of forced into it, but it’s just interesting to see what will happen and how the market will change.

 

Yeah, and so to kind of wrap up the podcast session here, if somebody was interested in learning more about the different kinds of services you have, the call center versus the answering service and all that… What’s the best way for them to reach you?

 

The best way to retest is they can go through our website and they can send an email through there, like an inquiring about their services, or they can call our main phone number, which is 412-369-4700, and they can just say that they’re interested in starting sales and they’ll connect you with one of our people from the sales team to discuss what their needs are, because everyone is different and how we can help them are integrated with their technology or office.

 

Yeah, well, I appreciate you taking time out of your day and it’s been super valuable here, and I think you guys are really still in the front edge of some of the opportunities that are gonna exist in this post-COBIT era. I think there’s a lot of people who are gonna be making some transitions and looking at their head count and figuring out how they can outsource some of these very specific skills that you guys have.

 

So I appreciate you coming on the show, thank you for your time and hopefully we get some awesome feedback here from the listeners.

 

Yeah, thank you so much for having me.

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