Answer Plus Spotlight in Hamilton Spectator Business Best Practices Article

Dialling customer service and reaching Singapore is a familiar experience these days, but a Hamilton call centre is fighting the exodus to Asia. AnswerPlus, started 45 years ago by Paul Lloyd’s mother, Dolly, in a janitor’s closet now has more than 100 employees and 600 customers at its Hamilton head office, plus a Toronto branch.

External factors played a part in the company’s advance. Some businesses are beginning to pull their call-centre operations out of Asia. But the real secret, said Lloyd’s daughter, Dana, who sits on the management team, is truly fabulous customer service. The whole mentality used to be about dealing with calls as quickly as possible. Now the calibre of service has to be much higher.

The AnswerPlus focus on callers seems to have paid off, with awards of excellence from the Canadian Call Management Association 12 years running and the Association of Tele- services International every year since its awards began. Due to the focus on emergency response calls that make up three-quarters of its business, the clients include nonprofit organizations such as the Sexual Assault/Rape Crisis Centre.

Employees are highly valued, coming before clients and callers.

For our callers to get the greatest experience, our employees have to be well trained and motivated, said Lloyd.

We listen to them and give them the tools to do a good job.

Employees get annual awards, profit sharing and performance bonuses. Some are still working there after 25 years.

Biggest challenge:
Paul: Finding the right people and motivating them.

Biggest surprise:
Dana: The number of calls we get after disasters like 9/11 or the 2004 tsunami. We help out our clients by bringing in extra staand diverting calls to our associate companies.

Best decision:
Dana: To create management teams so Paul could focus on the big picture.
Paul: To keep focused on the inbound call-centre business. This is what we do best.

Worst decision:
Dana: We brought in a specialist to train our customer service receptionists, but their experience with customers meant they knew absolutely everything. Now we give them more credit and brainstorm new ideas in focus groups.

Secret to success:
Dana: Passion. Paul exemplies it, then it trickles down so everyone has it.

At a glance
Who: AnswerPlus, owned by Paul Lloyd
Where: 122 Hughson St. S.
When:Since 1961
What: In-bound call centre specializing in emergency response
Employees:110

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