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Spring is Here!

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Beautiful-Nature-Spring-Flower-Wallpaper1We were starting to wonder if Spring would actually arrive in our higher altitude region of central PA, and I’m happy to say the hostas, tulips and budding apple trees did in fact survive the snow and ice a week or so ago.

Now that we are all getting serious Spring Fever, to open up some time for yourself, look into an answering service! For very reasonable rates, they can keep you from being fused to your phone 24/7, improve your customer service, and help you prioritize your life.

Start spring fresh, without the stress of having no one who has your back.

Technological Advances at Ace

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In the past year, ACE has made quite a few advancements in the technology department. In May of 2015, we decided to make the switch from a contracted IT consultant to a full-time IT director. Our new IT director, Lucas, provides us with 24/7 support and handles everything related to systems and network administration at ACE. Along with the addition of a full-time IT director came many new changes.

One of the biggest projects that was done this year was the moving of our servers from one room in our building to another. This server move required a complete and total rewiring of the building, but allowed us to update our hardware using the latest CAT6 wiring as well as to reduce our network infrastructure. This move was made because the server’s old location was unsuitable for proper and safe functioning. It was also loud and inconvenient, impeding on the agents’ work environment. The server was moved to a more suitable location, with new hardwood flooring and plenty of air to breath.

The implementation of a regular cleaning and update schedule followed closely behind the server move. The cleaning schedule would cover all IT hardware, including the servers and agent workstations, and would help to improve the longevity and performance of the machines. Scheduled updates help to ensure that we are always up-to-date to the latest and greatest software, allowing us to increase our security and better our overall function.

Active directory, a database used for account and password organization, was implemented to provide centralized management and configuration of our operating systems, applications, and user settings. The addition of active directory enabled ACE to have more security and accountability within the company.

Several other changes were made to advance our operations, including the implementation of virtual server backups, Google Docs, and electronic faxing. Virtual backups of our servers were employed to create redundancy within the system. This is especially substantial as it allows us to maintain our integrity if our system were to ever go down. We switched from Basecamp to Google Docs, which allows us to have similar web-based project management, but at a lower cost and with easier use. Our faxing system was updated to electronic faxing, a process that is more economical, more easily documented, and more efficient.

To make sure our systems are well understood and cared for, we sent Lucas to Startel training in September 2015 where he went through system specific training. In March 2016, both Lucas and Kristal attended the SNUG conference that covered the most current telecommunications practices. We are constantly looking for new ways to better our functioning here at ACE, and these few changes are just the beginning.

Cindy Krishak appointed Treasurer of ASTAA

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Shown are Tiffany Brought, Ace Answering Service Office Manager, and Cindy Krishak, Ace Answering Service Vice-President, with the firm's back-up generator system at their State College PA facility.

Shown are Tiffany Brought, Ace Answering Service Office Manager, and Cindy Krishak, Ace Answering Service Vice-President, with the firm’s back-up generator system at their State College PA facility.

Ace Answering Service is proud to announce that owner Cindy Krishak has been appointed Treasurer and Conference Committee member of the Atlantic States Telephone Answering Association. The association, ASTAA, is dedicated to the education and promotion of industry best practices for telephone answering services in the Atlantic and New England states.

Cindy is also an active member in SNUG, CBICC, Altoona and Blair County Chamber of Commerce, as well as InfoNet, PPMCSA and many other associations. In addition to co-founding Ace Answering Service 21 years ago, Cindy is a life-long active Girl Scouts supporter, working in various roles to help support the girls in our community. Currently she is the president of Friends of Bellefonte Little House, a non-profit created to operate and maintain a historic meeting place for Girl Scouts.

Some Thoughts for this Winter

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Andy Krishak, President of Ace Answering Service, is volunteering his time with SCORE to help new businesses get started.

Andy Krishak, President of Ace Answering Service, is volunteering his time with SCORE to help new businesses get started.

With the holiday season, and its dreaded ‘Weather’, upon us I’d like to take a few moments to discuss some of the people that make our lives a little better. I’m not talking about family and friends who are on our minds daily –  I’m talking about the unsung heroes in our society that are out and about doing their jobs at all hours while we are at home with our families.

Heating and Plumbing Services:

When your furnace is not working, you can typically have a tech arrive at any hour of the day. That is a pretty amazing, and often unappreciated, perk in our society. When you have a heating technician out to your house at 11PM on a Sunday night, please remember to have some compassion. Understand that it is very likely that the technician has been working all week and now all weekend with little sleep, in the cold and snow, while driving on terrible roads.

Plumbers have it no better.  Let’s say it’s been brutally cold for a week and you now have frozen or broken pipes. Plumbers can spend all day lying in water and ice on a bathroom floor making the repairs, so you and I don’t have to. Having done this myself in my first house, I can assure you it isn’t any fun.

There are a few things you can do to make these technicians’ lives a little easier.  Make sure that your driveway is shoveled or plowed so they don’t get stuck or have to haul tools and parts a long distance. If you are out of fuel, have a path cleared to your tank.  Next, make sure they have good access to the issue.  Move anything away from the location so they don’t have to squeeze around things to do their job.  Stay out of their way, but remain within ear shot in case they have any questions. And finally, offering a cup of coffee or cocoa is never a bad idea. Hopefully were able to fix your issue, but they don’t tell you that they may have 5 more service calls to manage before they can finally get home and spend what’s left of Christmas Day with their family.

Towing and Roadside Assistance Services

How about those 24 hour/7 day a week tow truck drivers? Driving a tow truck, not the best vehicle for driving on bad roads, is not for the faint of heart. But you are stuck, or in a wreck, and they make it to you and get you out of the snow bank, but not until they had to crawl around in the snow and under your car to get you hooked up.  Be appreciative and polite… it helps make their day.

These are just a couple examples and there are many, many more.   The bottom line is that you should do whatever you can to make the techs job as easy as possible.  They are out there working to help make sure you are safe and comfortable 24/7.

ACE and our Brethren Answering Services

OK – finally, there is the agent at the answering service (hopefully ACE) that answered the phone and dispatched the call to the tech.  We are staffed 24/7 and my folks get to the office in the same kind of weather. Our staff at Ace do not miss work. They are amazing, dedicated people and they are there, day in and day out, to take care of you and the technicians no matter what weather or disaster might bring. They sometimes end up pulling double shifts, even sleeping in the office or a nearby motel. In the early days when we started out 20 years ago, Cindy and I pulled our 16 hour shifts, sometimes for several days at a time, living at Ace to make sure our phones were answered.  Fortunately, some of our agents are now able to work from home, so that doesn’t happen as often nowadays, Our motto then, and still today, is that we are always there when you need us.

Have a safe and happy holiday season.

Andy Krishak

Owner, Ace Answering Service

Preparing for the winter

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Andy Krishak, President of Ace Answering Service, is volunteering his time with SCORE to help new businesses get started.

Andy Krishak, President of Ace Answering Service, is volunteering his time with SCORE to help new businesses get started.

Andy from ACE here. As some of you know, Cindy and I have several vintage VWs. I am sure that some of you have older cars or other similar “toys” that may spend the winter hibernating. There is a vast amount of information on how to properly store vehicles for several months and I have read through a lot of them… and I am totally amazed in the complexity of the process that some use. I swear they are just shy of completely dismantling the vehicle and wrapping each piece in a baggie.

Where I live I have several issues to contend with. The first is rodents making a winter home in our cars. I have a 24×32 storage garage that is bordered by woods and this is a chronic issue. I have read about mothballs, dryer sheets, peppermint oil and other solutions. What I have found effective is the use of ultrasonic pest repellers. You can get them online and I have seen them at Lowes and Walmart. What these things do is emit a loud high frequency noise that rodents can’t stand. BUT since they are a sound source, you need to use at least one for each room. And you want the sound to get into areas of possible infestation. I am not taking chances, so in my storage garage and have several at different heights and aiming different directions. Might be overkill, but it works. I also leave at least one window open in each car. I have found evidence of the start of nests and some acorn stashes, but never found any occupied nests. I do use a couple bait stations as well to play it safe but have never had any problems with our cars caused by critters. I also have 2 in our camper. 1 in the main space and 1 in the bathroom.

Second issue is storing the cars themselves. My procedure is geared toward a several month hibernation. Long term (6 months or longer) is a different matter and is not addressed right now. The first step is to fill the gas tank and use a fuel stabilizer, such as Stabil. Then I run the car long enough to get the oil nice and warm, which also gets the treated fuel throughout the fuel system. I will then change the oil, filter, grease what needs greased and do any other maintenance needed. Not a bad idea to check the tire pressure as well. Once the car is parked where its going to be for the winter, I disconnect the battery if there is anything in the car that will drain it, such as alarms, radio with memory, etc. If you have enough battery tenders (trickle chargers), plug them in and wait till spring. 

No, I don’t start the cars periodically. Yes, it’s better for various seals, but running the car without it getting up to normal temperature will load up your crankcase with water over time. I’ll take my chances on the seals.

 

Its that time of year

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Shown are Tiffany Brought, Ace Answering Service Office Manager, and Cindy Krishak, Ace Answering Service Vice-President, with the firm's back-up generator system at their State College PA facility.

Shown are Tiffany Brought, Ace Answering Service Office Manager, and Cindy Krishak, Ace Answering Service Vice-President, with the company’s back-up generator system at their State College PA facility.

The end of August signals that fall will be here soon.  In Central PA fall brings the beauty of the changing leaves and a reminder that winter is soon on its way. At Ace Answering Service we support a lot of heating and air conditioning businesses, as well as oil delivery companies. Starting in the cold months, we answer many calls for people with broken furnaces and it hurts all our hearts and we worry until a technician arrives to save the day.

To forestall this happening to you, now is a great time to have your furnace serviced and your filters changed. It is usually a very reasonable cost to have your furnace checked over to make sure it is in peak condition. Your local HVAC companies will clean your furnace, inspect parts to check for damage and wear and make sure your filters are clean so your furnace runs most efficiently, saving you costs on electricity and oil. Having a maintenance check for your furnace significantly lowers the risk that you will be without heat in the harsher months of winter.

Another situation that causes us worry are car wrecks during bad weather. While we dispatch tow companies we worry about you out there, cold and possibly hurt. To prevent our worrying, this is a great time of year to check your tires. Make sure the tread is up to the winter, ensure the air pressure is a good level for winter roads. These little measures keeps you safer, and lowers the risk of you getting stuck in a snow drift or ending up stranded along a highway in frigid weather.

Because we are used to the weather extremes Pennsylvania throws at us, we test our backup generator, and look over our Uninterrupted Power Source batteries weekly to make sure they are ready for whatever may arise. With our healthy generator and UPS systems we can answer your emergency calls no matter what mother nature throws at us; ice, flood or blizzard. If you have a generator or UPS systems, now is the time to check them over to prepare for those ice storms that shut power down.

Another piece of advice – put an extra loaf of bread in the freezer!  Don’t be one of those people mobbing the grocery after hearing a bad weather prediction.  We never know how accurate the weather man is, and always being ready is never a bad thing.

And, lastly, after you have prepared for your winter hibernation, make sure you take time to enjoy one of the loveliest seasons, our crisp, colorful fall.

Wishing you a warm and cozy fall and winter,

Cindy L. Krishak, CFO and Co-Owner

Small Businesses and Vacations

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6790972-free-beach-backgroundHave you avoided vacations for years because you worry about your customers when you are gone? Ace can help.

While we enjoy 20 year service relationships with our clients, sometimes you just need some support for a week, a month, or just a busy seasonal time. Ace can cover your phones so you can relax on the beach, take that trip to Alaska or Montana, or make sure you aren’t stressing about cell phone coverage while on a cruise.

Contact us to discuss seasonal and vacation coverage:

On line at aceansweringservice.comDesert High Mountain Wallpaper

Rain and your Garden

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Too much rain for you? In Centre County it seems as if it is never going to stop! Here is a helpful article for creating drainage for your garden so it doesn’t drown, courtesy of veggiegardner.com

http://www.veggiegardener.com/nine-gardening-tips-to-do-after-a-heavy-rain/

You missed the call, I called someone else…

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answering machineAndy at Ace here. I have a side project that I am working on right now – a new shop to restore and repair vintage VWs. As with any project, things tend to snowball and I decided that I wanted  to refinish the floor in two of the work bays. This can be an expensive job and I made a couple calls for estimates.

I called Company A and it sounded like I called somebody’s cell. I did leave a message, although I did not feel confident about a response. All I can think is, is the guy on vacation? Does he do this type of work for sure? When will someone get back to me? I have no clue, so I immediately called someone else.

Calling Company B was a vast improvement. I spoke with a receptionist. She confirmed that they restore garage floors and would have someone get back to me to schedule an appointment. She asked me several important questions; the anticipated start date the project, how is the shop being used and a square foot estimate.

Talking to a real person, who asked intelligent questions and gave me an assurance of follow up, I stop calling around. The salesman called me later in the day and we set up a meeting for the next afternoon to estimate the project and costs.

Company A lost a 3-4 thousand dollar project due to a voicemail program. Ace could have answered Company A’s phone, asked some qualification questions, and I probably would never have called Company B. As a side note, Company A did eventually call back, but my concern is that if I had any issues down the road, would I be able to reach the company? Company B may be a little more expensive, but the peace of mind and immediate contact with people are worth that extra.

If you are interested in moving your company to a customer friendly environment, give us a call at Ace. We have flexible plans to meet most of your needs. A 24 hour receptionist starting at 65.00 per month is a great way to instantly improve your company reputation.

Andy at Mtn Acres
814-364-1508

Finally it is Spring!

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Its almost summerveggiegarden and it really felt like it was never coming in the Centre County PA area! We and our families at Ace are spending as much time as we can outside to soak up the weather, plot our gardens and flowers and just enjoy the end of a long hibernation.

As summer approaches everyone is busier, in their personal lives and in most businesses. Why not jump-start your Spring with improving customer service, responsiveness, and also giving yourself a rest from hovering near the office phone so you don’t miss an important call.

Ace offers “virtual reception” as well as answering services. We can act as your secretary, disperse your calls as you need, and give you a break from manning the phones, all while keeping or exceeding your clients’ customer service expectations.

If you are interested in the “Ace difference” please give us a no obligation.

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