Today I present another written interview with Aaron S. Robertson. Aaron currently serves as both a trainer and the head of online marketing at Spectrum Communications, an award-winning and industry-recognized answering service and call center in the metro-Milwaukee area. Additionally, he is a freelance journalist primarily concentrating in the realm of music, and has interviewed a number of nationally-known artists from the classic rock and pop genres of the 1960s and 70s.
Check out the interview
1. What got you interested in pursuing work in the call center industry? Share your story.
Great question. Well, it goes back to the summer of 2012, just under two years ago. I was working as a freelance journalist and also serving as the president of Intrepid Innovations Inc., a small online marketing company consisting of myself and two old college buddies. Intrepid Innovations had a six-year run, from the end of 2007 to the end of 2013. Anyways, I had gotten to know Spectrum’s co-owner, Roy Osmon, pretty well. He owns the firm along with his wife, Mari. Roy and I were both members of a business networking group that met a couple of times per month. I had belonged to many business and community organizations through my work with Intrepid. At the time, the summer of 2012, Roy knew that I was looking for steadier work. He told me Spectrum was hiring, and that I should apply and see how it goes. The rest is history. I started out as a phone operator in either June or early July of that year, taking calls. And in February 2013, a position was created for me to handle the firm’s online marketing efforts. Management knew that I had come from an online marketing and writing background, and they knew that the firm needed to really ramp up its presence on the Web, so it was a great mutual fit. Up until that time, the company’s marketing efforts on the Web were fairly sporadic, for the most part.
So that pretty much sums up my entry into this industry. I’ve come to really love it, and I can see myself sticking around in the business for the long haul. I still take calls from time to time, and I really enjoy the customer service aspect of it all, helping people. Additionally, I recently became a trainer, training our operators on various client accounts, and I just earned a master’s degree in management this past December. My work with Spectrum has also given me the opportunity to learn a little bit more about many other types of businesses out there, which I really enjoy.
Finally, I would add that we have a phenomenal team and work environment, which really goes a long, long way. We have a great chemistry. We know how to have fun, but we also know how and when to get down to business.
2. What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced over the years in a call center environment?
I can’t think of anything that really stands out at the moment for me, but, like any business, there are always challenges. We have to be mindful of any laws and regulations, current or future, that may impact our industry. To that end, HIPAA and HITECH easily come to mind. Staying up to speed on new software programs and applications coming out is certainly important. We’ve been keeping an eye on the emergence and growing popularity of cloud computing. There’s growing competition, both domestically and internationally. It’s always been relatively affordable to start an answering service/call center, and it remains an attractive option for entrepreneurs and professionals of all backgrounds looking for the next business opportunity. In addition to competing with other answering services and call centers though, there are a number of alternative products and services to contend with, as well, such as interactive voice response (IVR) systems, e-mail, and even the old-fashioned answering machine and pager, among others.
Beyond all of that, our business is essentially customer service, so there is always the potential for challenging, higher-stress calls.
3. Has the internet been a good source for new business and clients using your services? If so, how have you gone about promoting your business online?
The Internet has been, and continues to be, a great source for us. We utilize a combination of online marketing tools largely consisting of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and our blog. From time to time, I’ll also make use of SlideShare.net, Animoto.com, and Scribd.com for publishing items like PowerPoint presentations, videos, and documents. As a result of all of these efforts, the contact form on our Web site consistently fields a good amount of traffic and inquiries. My overall online marketing strategy is to continue positioning the company as an authoritative expert in the industry by educating and informing readers and viewers of our content.
4. Seeing that the business has been around for over 30 years, what are some of the biggest changes you have seen over the years that have improved productivity and the work atmosphere in the company?
Overall advancements in technology definitely come to mind. We have enjoyed, since launching the business in 1983, a wonderful working relationship with AMTELCO (www.amtelco.com), a fellow Wisconsin-based company. AMTELCO manufactures software programs and other equipment for the answering service and call center industry and is a prominent leader in the marketplace. AMTELCO has always been great at innovating and providing top-notch service support. Its staff is always searching for ways to do things better, and that obviously trickles down to how we at Spectrum Communications handle the needs of our own clients, and, by extension, their callers.
Beyond significant technological advancements over the years though, I think our strong promote-from-within philosophy and dedication to continuous improvement are definitely worth mentioning here. Everyone at Spectrum starts out as a phone operator. That’s because we want every staff member to truly understand, firsthand, the nature of our business and what it is that we do here. From there, we look to promote staff to the supervisory and management ranks, as well as to other various support roles. We’re always keeping a look out to identify and further cultivate unique strengths and talents our phone operators have that may benefit the company. We have a lot of great talent in these various positions, and we work extremely well as a team. In addition to everyone possessing that firsthand, true understanding of our business that I just mentioned, we have a talent pool that, collectively, includes significant experience in areas like IT, marketing, sales, customer service, training, human resources, and leadership. With this combined experience, we as a team are able to overcome just about any obstacle that comes our way here.
5. What are your future plans for 2014 and beyond?
It’s an exciting time for us right now. We’re bringing new clients onboard and even expanding business with some of our long-time clients. Because of this increased demand, we’ve been doing a lot of hiring over the last few months. As far as future plans go, we just want to keep the momentum going – building our client list, strengthening our relationships with existing clients, hiring and promoting great staff, and providing our clients’ callers with amazing customer service. It’s been a fun journey. We’re truly blessed and grateful here. It’s just a matter of working hard to keep it all going.