Richard Culberson is a communications, retail, media, and technology executive (twenty years’ experience) with deep expertise in identifying, implementing, and scaling business opportunities.
He is currently the CEO of Moneypenny North America and VoiceNation. Moneypenny and VoiceNation are America’s best virtual receptionist & phone answering providers.
For more than 20 years, VoiceNation has specialized in custom-scripted call answering, with bilingual receptionists available to take calls 24 hours a day. VoiceNation is part of Moneypenny, a leading 24/7 provider of personalized answering services, live chat and customer contact solutions.
Collectively, the Moneypenny Group employs over 1,200 people handling over 20 million calls and chats for thousands of businesses of all shapes and sizes – from sole traders right up to multinational corporations – across the UK and the US.
Connect with Richard on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode
- Scaling a business for growth
- Tech and new services
- Changing firm’s needs
- The rise of outsourcing
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Brought to you by OnPay. Atlanta’s new standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:24] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Atlanta Business Radio, and this is going to be a good one. But before we get started, it’s important to recognize our sponsor, Onpay. Without them, we couldn’t be sharing these important stories. Today on Atlanta Business Radio, we have Richard Culberson. He is the CEO of North America at Moneypenny. Welcome.
Richard Culberson: [00:00:45] Hey Lee, thanks for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:47] I am so excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about Moneypenny. How are you serving folks?
Richard Culberson: [00:00:52] Sure. Moneypenny has been in the marketplace for over 20 years. We serve answering services, live receptionists, live chat, or small businesses all the way up to enterprises. We’re in the market under both the Moneypenny brand as well as you might see us under Voice Nation as well. We grew via acquisition, but are very proud to serve under both brands and have been doing so for quite a while in the United States.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:16] So now when the business started, was it primarily kind of the voice part of this, or was it always a vision for more than that? Like, can you tell us about the genesis of the concept?
Richard Culberson: [00:01:28] Sure. It’s interesting in both sides of the businesses, as we before we pulled them together, we’re caused a common need of entrepreneurs, came together and found an opportunity for our UK side, really from a brother and sister combination saying they had a small business, they didn’t have the infrastructure, they needed the support. They needed to have a receptionist to have an answering service, to have someone represent their business as the clients are calling in and talking with their customers. So there is a need to serve this opportunity. And it really did start from that as an answering service or a front door to their business. And since this, we’ve really been expanding to really just be a business services company. What are the needs of our clients? And we do serve multiple verticals, whether it’s legal home services, franchise businesses and health care, you can really name it. And we tailor those capabilities to that, whether that’s inbound phone calls, making outbound phone calls, live chat to make sure you’re represented well and engaging on your website as well as other services. We continue to stand up included dedicated services. So if you need 5 or 10 person call center to be outsourced, we continue to grow and it’s based on what we’ve seen to be our client needs, which we’re very proud to be representing over 4000 businesses. So we’re constantly working with them to see what else we could do for them so they can focus on their core business.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:46] Now, is this a situation where a lot of small businesses and I run across this? I’m dealing with it right now with somebody who’s doing work in my house. They’re a small business, and they’re the business and they do the work, but they also have to kind of have that customer success and the prospecting and the, you know, the answering the just general questions. And it’s hard for them to get kind of stretched thin with this. And they miss a lot of opportunities because they don’t have kind of that back office that can watch their back, that can answer a call, answer a question, you know, send out even a proposal or a just some sort of follow up. Is that really an opportunity or a place where you’re you can really help somebody?
Richard Culberson: [00:03:29] It really is. I think it’s and starting and kind of looking especially from a small business perspective, we’ve really seen that change in the past decade. Historically, they tried to do everything instead of focusing on their core business, how they’re adding value to their customers and what they can do. They would take all of that on, but increasingly, they’re seeing the benefit of outsourcing to a trusted partner who can be seen as, again, I use this analogy of a front door to their business, someone who’s trusted to represent them well so they can focus on delivering the core value. So then we can answer those phones, or we can make the outbound calls, or be that live chat person to be able to to respond to business opportunities. So historically, outsourced was seen as, oh, I can have operational efficiencies or I can save costs. But increasingly we’re partnering with businesses now because they see us helping make sure they’re they don’t miss a single opportunity. So, for example, we work with a lot of home services firms. Uh, if they miss that one phone call, that could be a $10,000 deal, which previously they thought of is just missing a phone call. So making sure we’re either building that out for them or supplementing their in-house people because if they have receptionists, they can only answer one phone call. So what happens to that other phone call or after hours? Uh, there’s lots of different models that we work with, but it’s been really satisfying to see how we can help businesses grow. And that’s applicable to small businesses, but also medium and larger businesses as well, because ultimately everybody is incredibly busy serving their customers kind of how can we lean in with them now?
Lee Kantor: [00:05:00] How do you kind of draw the lines in terms of where that service to that business, um, begins and ends like like the answering the call part? Okay. That’s clear. How do you kind of protect yourself from kind of maybe overextending in terms of deliverables, or is this something that you like, try lots of different things and see where you know, it falls off, or if it doesn’t, because, you know, okay, now I’m answering the phones. Now I’m answering a question, at what point are they, you know, becoming kind of a virtual assistant and not, uh, you know, my call center.
Richard Culberson: [00:05:36] Um, what we try to do, um, I think we’re a little bit unique in our space about this. Um, we really focus our time on what we call an onboarding session to understand what are their primary business needs and understanding where their gaps are right now, and how can we help them first. And then what we found is, once we’ve established that trust and we’ve proven that we can help serve that need, there’s so many different opportunities that can be distractions to them that we build on that. So we do try to take and kind of start with what their biggest business challenges or the business need and build off of that versus trying to come in and say, we can do everything for you. Um, we found it’s a better way to establish trust and to build up our understanding of their business so we can represent it the best.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:20] So are some of your services, you know, lean into this virtual assistant where they’re kind of the admin for the organization or or at some level, a virtual admin.
Richard Culberson: [00:06:33] Oh, absolutely. And we’ve kind of started off we’ve got great success stories of working with clients where we might start to just take a message, but then we develop deeper relationships where we will then input information into their CRM. Uh, we will do lead qualification for their sales. We do complex routing, um, overnight of for for think of on call doctors helping them route that through. Um we’re very pleased that we hire and develop our people to have that strength and flexibility. And then we’re very proud of our internal technology platform that allows to enable that very fluidly. Um, so we can handle multiple different call types. We can handle complex routing or different business needs, as well as tie in with integrations into other CRM systems, um, or other technology platforms that like us to work with on their side. So very pleased to be able to do that. And it’s a little bit different as we look at how we enable businesses, whether it’s tying back into their technicians on the back or taking payments, scheduling appointments, that’s what we see as a success. It’s a much deeper relationship. Um, and I think that’s when we’re doing on our best day. Those are the ones we continue to build into.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:45] Now, um, as the technology has shifted and expanded, really, um, is it evolving in that you’re not answering as many calls and now you’re kind of doing some virtual, like, chat and things like that? Or do you help with chat bots where there’s leaning on AI to gather a lot of intelligence, and then having that just show up when a person’s online or are your is your business primarily still uh, with phone answering?
Richard Culberson: [00:08:15] It’s constantly changing, I think. But what is not changed and what we don’t see moving away from is the need for interactions. We have not seen call volumes drop. Actually, it’s that human interaction. We still see that. Now the nature of that call might change. Um, but what we found is that’s still one of the best touchpoints with customers because they want that human interaction. But increasingly, not only we’re doing that over a telephone. We’re very proud to offer live chat. So there are bots out there and there’s peace. But we found once you establish a true human interaction that can be done digitally as well via live chat, it doesn’t necessarily have to be over a phone. So I think we’re increasing mediums and channels to talk to customers, but we have not seen any really decline in desire to have that interaction with business. And when people do try to move away from that, I’m a big believer in AI as an enhancement, but we have not seen it drive away from the interactions with our clients. Um, it’s still one of the best ways to get and maintain business.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:17] So are you. Um, so, like, how is AI playing into this? Do you help? Like, if a company says, look, we have a lot of questions we’ve answered. Um, you know, for dozens and dozens of years, we have a lot of this documented. Can you help us with an AI solution that creates a chat bot that, um, kind of is the first line of communication when somebody goes and finds us online or on their phone, and they can just answer some of the basic questions before it is rerouted to a human being, or if it needs to be escalated to a human being.
Richard Culberson: [00:09:51] Absolutely. And we think that’s you know, it’s one of those ways that everyone’s learning about AI together. But what we’ve built into our technology platforms and the on that onboarding session I spoke about earlier, we collect as much information as possible, and then we develop what we call an in-house scripting, so we can take whatever information is preexisting and make sure that’s fed in, because a big piece is if it doesn’t need to be distraction for the business, we want to be able to divert that away, meet the need of their customer, make sure they’re addressed. But it saves more time for the core part of the business that they need to address. Um, so we see it as a great enabler right now. It enables us to be more efficient on the back end. It allows us to address more questions before it needs to get to a human. Um, that’s something we’re constantly playing with and tweaking with. Um, but what we’re trying to avoid is lose that personal touch and that interaction, because I think that’s how we differentiate and that’s how our clients differentiate ultimately.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:49] Now, you mentioned one of the areas you serve are franchisors. Can you talk about maybe for franchisors who haven’t explored this solution, what are some of the benefits? By having a company like yours be that first line for anybody interested in the brand. So then you can filter that to the appropriate place.
Richard Culberson: [00:11:10] Sure. And that’s it just makes for a more robust offering, a more consistent brand experience from a franchisor of any time they launch a new branch or a new franchise. Really, they’re looking for that partnership. How do they get up to speed quickly? How do they be consistent with their brand? How can you enable them? And then how do you get that commonality and that learning that can be fed both to the franchise owner as well as the franchisor up? So they know and they have that data, that visibility, and they have the consistency that really is important as they represent from franchise to franchise. Um, what we’ve seen is it’s really welcome. A lot of them, we might be a preferred vendor or it might be the vendor of choice, even if it’s just a preferred vendor. We’ve seen that all all the franchise owners value a jump start in getting in and a trusted partner versus trying to have to vet somebody themselves. Um, so we’ve seen tremendous success and it’s happened multiple ways. We might work with the franchisor themselves. And then that kind of works down to the owners. But I think some of the best examples are where we do a very good job for a single franchise owner, and then they recommend us to a couple of others, and it starts to kind of snowball and work its way up. Um, we have several examples of that, uh, in the home services space, uh, where we’ve proven ourselves with 1 or 2 and then the word of mouth goes up. And that usually means that we’ve done something right.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:32] Now, is there a, um, an opportunity for franchisors to have you be instead of going from kind of the bottom up, but to go from the top down, is there a benefit from the franchisor standpoint to have you be the first line of of conversation and then you, um, share that lead with the franchisee? Uh, rather than going the other way where you’re handling multiple people’s, um, kind of answering and then it’s not helping, like the National. But I’m just trying to say if there’s a benefit from a national perspective, if there’s one place where all the calls go and there’s one consistent messaging, and then it just shared amongst the franchisees, wherever they are in the country is there, you know, can you share maybe some of the trade offs of going from top down versus from bottom up?
Richard Culberson: [00:13:29] Sure. Uh, the reason why Bottoms Up has been successful is it means we’re doing right. We are representing the business well and you can see it feed up. But what we have found is that there’s there’s such a span and different approach in running franchises. We respect both ways. Um, we love tops down relationship where someone says, hey, this is an opportunity. Uh, we recognize that the benefits of having a single provider, or even if it’s a couple, is a preferred vendor. Um, that gives that consistency. And and also it’s seen as a stronger partnership and another opportunity to be kind of a franchise in a box model versus simply applying a brand and a couple of other elements. It enriches that franchise relationship. Um, so they know that they can, again, get up to speed a little bit faster, but know how that works. And that does pay dividends to the owners, uh, to the franchise owners themselves. But really, we can provide reporting and data. What do calls look like? What are people complaining about? Uh, it gets visibility into how those businesses are running that we we operate in a lot of different models. Um, we’re very open to both. Um, but we love it. And we’ve got that parent relationship, and we’ll come to national sales meetings. Uh, we will come up to, to headquarters and start working with them to say, how do we have a deeper relationship? So rather than just taking a message like we were talking about earlier, if we can say that we can do a single integration with their CRM, that can then be passed down quicker and easier to all the franchise owners themselves.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:01] So now what is, um, kind of like, what’s the problem these people are having where they’re like, we should call these Moneypenny folks because they they’re going to solve this. Like, what is the pain they’re having? Is this something that just sneaks up on them that they don’t know they have a pain, and then all of a sudden they some some something happens, they have to triage and they have to find a problem solver like yourselves. Or is this something that they’re moving from one solution to you?
Richard Culberson: [00:15:30] It’s, uh, we see a little bit of both, um, because, you know, there are a lot of providers out there, and we’re very proud of how we differentiate what we represent. Um, for having a consistent call quality, for being 24 over seven, offering bilingual, um, offering all different forms of transfers and what we call dispatch on the back end of being able to on call management, sophisticated capabilities not all providers have. But can you look at what the need is? There is a range. Uh, one of the saddest pieces, I think, is really when they find that they’ve lost business. So you hear something like, well, we have one receptionist that doesn’t work after hours. So we missed a we missed a large opportunity that we would have received if we just answered that phone call and could represent ourselves. So unfortunately, we see that more than we would like to. But I’d say increasingly, um, across sectors, across size of business more and more what kind of seemed like a certain connotations of outsourcing, more and more people see that value and the opportunity, and it doesn’t have to replace people. It can be supplementing them. So where you have additional resources, we can supplement that during the day or after hours and be an additional team member. So I think we’ve seen a lot more traction. What used to be a way to reduce cost, which it does, or remove some of the operational complexity, which we do. But I think what we’re very proud is to create growth opportunities and revenue generators for businesses. And I think that’s seeing a little bit more in the marketplace now.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:03] And can you share a story of maybe the most rewarding success story you had where you’re like, hey, this business was struggling and maybe they were on the ropes, and then this really helped them get, you know, over the hump or to a new level. Obviously don’t name the name of the company, but maybe the challenge that they were having and how you were able to help them.
Richard Culberson: [00:17:24] Sir, um, when you get down to the businesses represent, we realize just how.
Richard Culberson: [00:17:29] Personal it is to be the person who is manning that front door, to be the person that when their customers call in, we have to represent that business. We have to empathize with what they’re going through. Um, we serve a good deal of health care clients across the sector. Um, both health care payers, health care providers, uh, single doctor shops. People really need help in this. So we have to have that empathy. So we’ve seen in those circumstances, very sensitive situations, we need to be able to give those customers answers and get it to the right place at the right time. Um, we have very sensitive calls where I was just listening to one of our receptionists talk. Um, one of the customers of our clients was calling in, um, and had her child. Um, we were they handled it excellently. They spoke with them, had great if you kind of from the health care side bedside manner empathized with them and the very expediently we work through the right channel to find the right person. And what we do is we stay on that line or we will maintain in that to make sure that we follow up. What we call dispatcher on call management means we don’t just drop that call, it’s just not just a mantra. Manage and send over a message. We stick with it and make sure we go to the next person and next person.
Richard Culberson: [00:18:49] We have that level of customization with our clients to fit their business. And this is one example where there was an urgent need with the child that needed health care. Um, you know, something that we could have. It basically comes down to saving a life at the end of the day, and that shows just how important it is that we answer the phone. We do it right. We represent our clients correctly because, um, whether it’s kind of a, well, a health care or life and death situation or it could be a business changing opportunity. I mentioned, uh, we use a lot in the home services. Um, if there’s a critical, uh, so, like, water damage comes up quite often and someone’s having a flooding home, they will go to the next provider if we miss their call. So it’s critical that we answer that phone, answer it quickly. And that can represent a quite often a ten, $50,000 job. So what someone thought of before of as a $2, $3 phone call actually is a massive upside opportunity. And those stories, the personal stories when we change a business, those are the ones that make me really proud to see what we do. And as we keep growing as a business and support more clients.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:55] Yeah. Um, like I said earlier about my home service issue at these, the people that are doing this without people like you helping them are missing, uh, tremendous opportunities that can really affect their whole life and their whole business growth. Because, like you said, it might cost them a couple of dollars, but one one extra client probably pays for you for years. So it just it’s silly not to invest in something like this if you’re in that kind of business.
Richard Culberson: [00:20:26] Absolutely. I get excited. It’s we were pleased.
Richard Culberson: [00:20:29] To have people come into the office and start understanding their business. But all I love listening to our onboarding calls. And it’s what generally happens is they call with one specific need in mind. But as soon as they start to think about ways that we can help their business, it’s fascinating to watch how we can build out that technology, how we can serve different needs. Um, it’s a great thing to see as we continue to have deeper relationships. I think that’s how we’re evolving as a business, where we used to be more of a kind of a message taking service. There’s we have the tools and the people now to meet a lot of these business service needs of our clients.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:03] Yeah. And especially like you mentioned, it’s a new client. It’s not easy to have conversations with prospective clients. So if you’re just being cavalier that you’re like, oh, well I’m working now, so I’ll get him when I get him that that’s not going to cut it. Um, there’s going to be somebody else that’s going to take that person and it’ll be their client. And you missed out.
Richard Culberson: [00:21:26] Absolutely. And it does. It’s a range we might sort of best as an answering service, as live chat. Um, increasingly we’re getting a lot of traction for for call center outsourcing as a premium contact center that needs to work in their dedicated tools and software, we can be even closer to a business. Um, partnering with them in that capacity as well. So we’re seeing a lot more traction in that side as well. Um, representing business and dedicating receptionists to their business specifically so they can work on their own tools in addition to representing and passing those through or more of an integration type model.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:58] Right. It sounds like you have solutions for businesses of all sizes.
Richard Culberson: [00:22:04] Really, the way I’ve always.
Richard Culberson: [00:22:06] Said it is we.
Richard Culberson: [00:22:07] Help.
Richard Culberson: [00:22:07] Small businesses look large, so they have that infrastructure and all the all the strengths that large typically was limited to larger customers. And we also help very large clients look small. So you keep that personalization, you keep that touch. We’re very proud to be able to span up. We’re not the massive call center that’s 100, 200, 300 people. Um, but there’s a niche in there that’s really underserved that it could be you need, uh, five FTE, five people, 50 people. That’s a market that typically and I’ve been on the other side of that as having running businesses that needed contact centers of that size. That’s just really underserved. And it’s hard to find where you need quality answering for that scale of business or line of business. Um, I’ve always found it’s hard to find that because there’s people that want very, very large kind of what you would call BPO. Uh, in the past, those 100, 200 seats. Um, I think we’re really fitting a need that hasn’t been served historically. Um, and we’re seeing that pretty consistently as more and more people are coming to us for that type of need.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:12] Well, if somebody wants to learn more, have a more substantive conversation with you or somebody on the team, what’s the coordinates? What’s the website?
Richard Culberson: [00:23:21] Um, so.
Richard Culberson: [00:23:22] You can find us on moneypenny.com, as well as voice nation.com. Uh, we’re proud to be in the market with both brands I mentioned. Uh, please. You can also contact directly our phone numbers on the website. We have 24, seven sales, uh, people ready to talk about what the opportunities are, as well as as I am sitting in on our contact center right now with a pool of receptionists ready to serve your business. So always eager to learn about more verticals, more clients we can serve. Uh, I think we’re pretty differentiated and bring a different approach, um, to really investing in our people and the technology behind them. Um, and love talking with people, running businesses, looking to help get more support. So eager to do that at any point. So please hit up our website, give us a call. Um, you can also see our live chat is on our own website so you can see how we live our own values.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:09] Good stuff. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing such important work. We appreciate you.
Richard Culberson: [00:24:15] Thanks, Lee. I enjoyed your.
Richard Culberson: [00:24:16] Conversation.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:16] All right, this is Lee canter. We’ll see you all next time on Atlanta Business Radio.