What is an Answering Service?

A Telephone Answering Service (TAS) is a company that responds to and serves customers for other businesses.  They are sometimes also referred to as Call Centres or Message Centres. In the traditional sense, an Answering Service refers to a group of trained professionals who answer phone calls, take detailed messages and relays the information directly to a client (via phone, email, SMS or fax). However now with technology, we are able to respond to emails, make appointments, monitor GPS systems. monitor your webchat, provide tech support for your clients and much more!

We cater to businesses of all sizes and types, including oil and gas companies, plumbing companies, dentist offices, realtors, construction, retail, insurance companies, doctors offices, law firms, etc. Businesses of all sizes often find that utilizing a service like ours, is a cost effective alternative to hiring a dedicated receptionist, dispatcher or support team.

Humanity at its finest

When the floods hit southern Alberta June 2013, my son sent a text “Sure glad our house is on a hill…and mom, how are we going to help?”  I text back “You work and send money son; I will go to Calgary and help.”

I wanted to help at the Stampede Grounds.  My son makes a living in Rodeo and the Stampede brings around 300 million dollars a year to the Calgary economy.  The saying “the Stampede will go on come hell or high water” took root and people got to work! The Calgary Stampede association hired equipment and people to work and pump water 24/7. They also utilized the volunteers who were already signed up to work at the stampede to lessen the toll on the volunteer pool that was needed to help the residents in need.  Within a few short days they were putting up the giant Ferris wheel!

I found YYC Helps and headed over to the Bowness Community Association Monday afternoon in my rubber boots, windows down in the truck wind blown hair and grubby clothes.  I walked in the office and said “YYC Helps says you have volunteer opportunities for me.”  Christina looks into my eyes and says, “You come back tomorrow morning and answer the phones in this office.” I walked out laughing and text my girlfriend, “Do I have telephones tattooed on my forehead?”  I thought I was grubby enough they’d send me to do some manual labor somewhere!

Michelle Dice, the Executive director had the clean-up running like a well-oiled machine.  As residents called in their requests for help, we dispatched the requested number of volunteers who were willing and able to fulfill the request. The Bowness Community Association complex was full of food, cleaning supplies, paramedics, EMT’s, EMR’s, firemen, City of Calgary flood relief personnel and a host of volunteers.  The police were in and out suggesting we send people in car pools, not each in their own vehicle; the number of vehicles were creating congestion issues and slowing down the movement of essential service personnel like sewer fixers, power fixers and garbage removal trucks.

During my time volunteering, over and over I was reminded of the value of answering the phone.  It adds dignity, elegance, compassion and assurance in the face of a disaster.

I also volunteered at Siksika Nation and in High River. While there I witnessed people working very hard to help others pick up the pieces of their lives and get moving forward again; humanity at its finest!


The Human Touch

In June 2013 the rains came, the rivers rose and kept rising.  Based on my interpretation of what I heard on the news the headwaters of Cougar Creek, the Elbow River, the Sheep River, the Highwood River, and the Kananaskis River which all empty into the Bow River, were in the eye of the storm.  

To view an image of the Bow River Basin click here.

My first job out of NAIT, was in Hydrology, right next to our neighbors River Engineering. We were jointly responsible for flood forecasting in 1974.  We had a “computer” (a funny looking gadget that sat by the facsimile machine) and a word processor.  That summer I was introduced to 100 year floods, a “Model” for prediction of inches of rainfall = runoff = rising rivers. 

I remember having telephones, rain gauges, passion and dedication.  The boys over in River Engineering had a “river engineering model” they used calculate runoff and predict flow rates.  Based on this information they said the river will peak at this time at this elevation.  They needed accurate rainfall measurements.  They had an adjustment for extra snow melt with the rainfall that they had previously built into the model basin acres at each elevation.

One of my jobs was to call the people who had weather stations every hour.  I got updated reports on how many inches of water their rain gauge measure since we had last spoke. I then passed that information along to the engineer utilizing the “Model”. I also took my turn receiving inbound calls and reporting our calculations to Alberta Disaster Services every hour.

The Oldman river system flooded the summer of 1974. I’ll never forget the lady who said “It is rainin’ BUCKETS, I can’t even empty that gauge quick enough - every 15 minutes isn’t quick enough!”  Another lady said “It’s just rainin’ cats and dogs.”  Their voices set off a sense of urgency.  The human touch was alive and well.

I was part of a team that was pretty pleased we had predicted (with accuracy) the time and height of the flood to hit Lethbridge within a couple hours and within a couple inches. I remember the guys telling the engineer who had built the “Model” not to get a swelled head because it was pretty simple to calculate potential runoff when water hit rock.  I was young and naïve back then but I was pretty impressed with our accuracy. 

I think in the 2013 storm, the river levels, the timing of the arrival and quantity of water in Medicine Hat was very accurate.  Sitting back and looking at the differences between 1974 to today, I ask if we’ve automated ourselves out of “urgency”?

I have family that has farmed land in a bend on the Peace River at Carcajou and it is a flood plain.  To get there, there is an ice bridge at Tompkins landing and in my lifetime that flood plain has been under water a few times caused by ice jams.  After every flood, my uncle who loved the river, rebuilt on a little higher ground.  In one way, he benefited from the flood because the silt left after the waters receded brought new nutrients and replenished his soil.  Although there were some years he had no crop, because it took the water so long to go away.  I learned a bit about floods.  When the level of the river drops, the water doesn’t always go away.  Every time it flooded the water got trapped and stayed, requiring a newly engineered drainage system and time.  The water seldom goes away as fast as it comes.  The last time I was home during a flood we moved 20,000 bushels of grain in 3 days.  We had to shovel the bottoms of the bins out by hand.  Every time a truck was full we’d go outside of the bin for a break and see the stick we’d stuck in the edge of the water submerged and the water another foot higher on the flat.  The fast rising waters renewed our resolve to keep on shoveling. Ice jams present a different kind of river engineering challenge.

When the floods hit southern Alberta, June 2013, my son sent a text “Sure glad our house is on a hill…and mom, how are we going to help?”  I text back “You work and send money son; I will go to Calgary and help.”

I Love Myself, I Love My Life…

One day my girlfriend said “You know, I am not changing; I like myself.” 

That was a game changer comment in my world.  I reflected… Could I honestly say that?  Honestly?  I looked in the mirror and asked…”Do I love myself’?“ Well maybe not. So I asked “Do I like myself?”  Yes…kind of. The next question was “What would it take for me to ask the question…Do I love myself? And without hesitation or but; but; but; say “YES.” ”

Skip Downing, in his well-designed personal growth work, On Course, talks about our inner critic: I beat myself up, our inner defender: I beat others up, and our inner guide: I am kind to myself; and about the conversations we have with ourselves in our heads. 

I attended a conference and heard of this tale from the Keynote Speaker:

"Two Wolves" A Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Here is the same story, but it is called "Grandfather Tells" which is also known as "The Wolves Within"

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, "Let me tell you a story.

I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.

But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times." He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.

Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, "The one I feed.”

Note: this story can also be found at: http://www.firstpeople.us

My challenge certainly was deciding which voice to listen; to or which wolf to feed.  AND getting to a place of saying “Well, either stop doing that - or stop beating myself up.”  What might I be beating myself up for? Eating too much; not getting up in the morning to exercise; not calling my mother enough; not handling things right at work; or having an extra glass of wine.  I am sure it would be easy for each person to make their own list.

I’ve invested the time in my life to make small course corrections.  Over the last few years I’ve worked continuously and consciously to teach myself to have nicer conversations with myself, about myself in my head. Now I am able to say “I love my life” and mean it! And each and every day I am getting closer to saying, authentically, “I love myself!”

The CAM-X 48th Annual Trade Show and Convention

Wow - thank you team! Can't say enough about how proud I am!!

On Friday October 19th, as the awards ceremony unfolded at the CAM-X 48th Annual Trade Show and Convention in Victoria, I had many thoughts running through my mind.  We’ve won the Award of Excellence (AOE) for 11 straight years; will we do it again?  We’ve won the Award of Distinction (AOD) for 10 out of the last 12 years; will we do it again?  We usually rate the calls ourselves and have a reasonable idea.  But, this year, we knew we had one very bad call and could find records for only five more; we had 4 wild cards.  We wondered why agents did not tell us they’d received another CAM-X call…was no news good news, or bad news?

Lil Lyle and Linda Osip did the order of presentation differently this year and the longer they went without calling our name the more I trembled in my seat.

Our history is 14 years in the AOE program with 12 consecutive wins.  Eleven years in the AOD with 10 wins, the last 9 consecutive. In 1999, three years after purchasing Valley Communications, we entered our first AOE.  The AOE is an industry-benchmarking program that began 23 years ago. One Member Company, @liveconx has 23 consecutive awards!  Unfortunately, we did not achieve the required 80% in 1999 or 2000.  In 2001, we entered both the AOE and AOD. With encouragement and coaching from Lil Lyle, continual educational opportunities and sheer determination, we won both awards! In 2002 we won AOE only. In 2003 we focused our energy on AOE only and brought home the award. In 2004 after winning the AOD, Intercon Messaging was awarded a huge contract due to the awards we have won through CAM-X!

I am very privileged and pleased with the dedication, commitment and education of our people, which is vital in achieving the score necessary to win these esteemed industry awards. 

I am extremely grateful to my people for their hard work, their commitment to education, their persistence and all that they do, all day every day, to provide an outstanding level of service to our clients and their callers.

Thank you to each and every person who works for Intercon Messaging.