FOCUS: TELEMARKETING - A direct line to sales success/As companies recognise the power of call centres in developing one-to-one relationships between clients and customers they are also acknowledging the need to involve PR in communicating brand values th

Telemarketing is one of the fastest - if not the fastest - growing sectors in the marcomms mix. Around half the companies in the Marketing telemarketing league top 45 increased turnover by more than 40 per cent in 1997.

Telemarketing is one of the fastest - if not the fastest - growing

sectors in the marcomms mix. Around half the companies in the Marketing

telemarketing league top 45 increased turnover by more than 40 per cent

in 1997.

’Five call centres a week are being set up in the UK at the moment,’

says Natalie Calvert, managing director of telemarketing consultancy,

Calcom Group. ’There are now around 150 telemarketing agencies to choose

from and finding the right agency for a project is very difficult.’

So just how do you go about finding the telemarketing agency that can

best represent your clients and their values? One answer is to use a

consultancy like Calcom to identify suitable partners.

Calvert recommends searching for agencies that are members of the Direct

Marketing Association (DMA). ’This means they have to work under a code

of conduct and maintain certain standards.’

’There is increasing specialisation among agencies,’ says Neil Perring,

joint managing director of agency BPS Teleperformance. ’You really need

to find out if the agency has got experience of the kind of work you

want to do.’

David Walsh, managing director of Golley Slater Telephone Marketing,

part of the group that includes Golley Slater PR, believes that the

first step should be to draw up a shortlist of suitable agencies.

’Pick three agencies that gave you a feeling of reassurance when you

spoke to them on the telephone. A site visit is then essential to meet

the people who are going to work on your project. You need to see them

in action.’

Discussions with telemarketing agencies should centre on how they are

going to achieve your objectives and how results will be reported. ’You

particularly need to find out how committed they are to existing

business and what resources they will be able to give your project,’

says Walsh.

As outsourcing becomes more prevalent, perhaps the biggest issue in the

industry is whether telemarketing agencies can really represent a client

and their values. Andy Evans, outsourcing manager at BPS

Teleperformance, has no doubt that they can.

’How you represent a company or brand over the telephone is down to the

quality of people you employ on the telephone,’ he says.

Evans explains that callers now expect more spontaneity and


’This puts a premium on having staff on the telephone who don’t just

take a robotic approach but are independent and can interact with

callers in a manner that is congruent with the client company’s


Training is clearly the key to good telemarketing. ’If you’re setting up

a long-term contract and expect to keep staff working on it for two to

three years then you need to make a big investment. Training courses for

such projects are a minimum of one to two weeks long, may last up to

four weeks, and are generally very interactive,’ says Evans.

Calcom Group trained staff for the launch of Barclays’ new direct

financial services company, b2, that went live in mid-May. Telephone

staff were selected for their communication skills rather than their

financial expertise and undertook an intensive training course designed

by Calcom.

’We introduced role plays and outdoor activities to bring information

alive and create an exciting environment for the development of

committed, high achieving teams,’ says Calvert. ’The teams and their

managers have assimilated an enormous amount of knowledge and now have

the confidence to provide an exceptional level of service to customers,’

says Calcom client services director, Matthew Taylor.

While outsourcing may be becoming more widespread, clients still need to

be involved in the briefing and training process. ’The client is in a

position to get the flavour of a company across and they usually have a

big input on training. We encourage them to come down as often as

possible and interact with staff,’ says Evans.

Telemarketing agency InTelMark does a lot of work with FMCG brands on

care lines and consumer helplines.

’The telephone and how you employ it has to mirror the brands,’ says

InTelMark managing director Mark Osman. ’It is important to be

consistent from the welcoming message through to how you finish the

call, while at the same time meeting the needs of the consumer. It is

possible for bureaux to represent a client and its values but it needs

careful planning and continuous monitoring and management.’

As the telemarketing industry takes off, there is a feeling that PR is

missing the boat. Last year Calvert told PR Week ’there are enormous

branding opportunities being missed by PR agencies’. So has anything

changed in the last year?

’I really don’t know if PR agencies have picked up the mandate in terms

of using the telephone as a communications channel,’ admits Calvert.

Telemarketing agencies express similar doubts.

’We’ve made a conscious effort to target PR agencies over the years, but

there’s definitely not the same urgency in PR agencies to find out about

telemarketing as there is with direct marketing and sales promotions

agencies,’ says Perring. ’In my experience PR agencies don’t use us

strategically, but only when things go wrong, like crisis situations or

when they suddenly need to generate a lot more attendance at an


But many telemarketing campaigns today have some sort of PR purpose,

even if this may not be their primary purpose. ’The telephone is the hub

of the one-to-one relationship companies are trying to develop with


A lot of marketing disciplines are driving that and we’re finding the

blend between PR, direct marketing and marketing is blurring at the

edges,’ says Osman.

But perhaps the telemarketing area representing the greatest opportunity

for PR is care lines. ’This area grew by 100 per cent for us last year,’

says Osman. The healthcare market has been a primary user of care lines,

but now other sectors are realising the opportunities too. ’The travel

and leisure sector is starting to use care lines to sell directly, and

at the same time as a PR mechanic to answer and manage queries such as

problems involving travel,’ says Osman.

From crisis management to information lines, care lines, event

invitations, market research and customer surveys, there are numerous

opportunities for PR to accept the telemarketing industry’s invitation

to pick up the phone, and very sound reasons why they should.

’People generally prefer to use the telephone to gain information.

Consumer lifestyles demand an immediate response, and the telephone is a

primary tool that can be used in all businesses,’ says Osman.


According to the Call Centre Benchmarking Report produced by the

Merchants Group last year, ’Call centres remain very phone-centric. Only

20 per cent are able to deal with internet-based e-mail and three per

cent are linked directly to world wide web pages’.

Nevertheless, developments are taking place and are set to accelerate as

more consumers go online.

’In the last 12 months we’ve looked at developing a communications

centre, recognising that consumers do have a choice and not everyone

will want to use the telephone,’ says Mark Osman, managing director of

telemarketing agency InTelMark. The agency is currently exploring the

use of internet and e-mail campaigns and the best way to integrate these

with a number of clients.

BPS Teleperformance is another agency that is looking at total


’There is no problem for us setting up e-mail response handling from

scratch using our servers, but the question is how you link into the

client’s system,’ says Neil Perring, BPS managing director. ’The

internet and e-mail are still bedding down at the moment, and we haven’t

found a huge demand yet,’ says Perring. ’I think this approach is most

suitable for IT companies and they seem to be the ones pushing it.’

The ’hot button’ concept, whereby visitors to a web site can click on an

icon if they are interested in receiving more information via the

telephone, is one being pushed by many vendors.

’It’s certainly possible, but I’ve yet to see any applications,’ says

Jonathan Pearce, principle at telemarketing consultancy, TSC Europe.

’The problem is most people at home only have one telephone line, and

they would need to come off the internet to allow someone to call


Ian Daniels, sales and marketing director at telemarketing agency ADS

Telemarketing, is also looking at computer integrated telephony, but has

yet to see real applications. ’Soon you’ll be able to click on an icon

and the system will take you straight to a call centre to talk to a live

operator. But it’s early days, the penetration of PCs in the home is low

compared to the telephone, and people still view the telephone as the

tool to request information,’ he says.

Pearce thinks that on-line surveys and competitions could be developed

through the internet and e-mail.

’Orange is following up its TV campaign by inviting visitors to its web

site to send an e-mail about what they think the future will be like,’

he says.

However, Pearce definitely doesn’t see internet and e-mail response

replacing the telephone. ’It can be complementary, but it can’t replace

the telephone as a two-way communications technique because the

interactivity is not quite there. People buy on emotion not just logic

and the internet and e-mail aren’t good at generating emotion.’


If inbound calls are still the bread and butter of telemarketing, one of

the most significant recent developments is the resurgence in outbound


’Companies are definitely using telemarketing to build a relationship

and to get closer to customers. There’s a move away from quick lead

generation to a whole customer contact strategy where companies are

looking to build brand awareness through the telephone,’ says Emma

Taylor, Milton Keynes communications centre manager for the Merchants


Taylor says the company is currently working for a software company with

very low brand awareness on a year-long programme to build brand

awareness across Europe. ’The telephone is a much more acceptable way of

doing this than it used to be. Our telemarketers are calling to give

information and discuss developments in the software market,’ says


The telephone is being used as a first point of contact, to be followed

up by direct mail and a further telephone call later in the year. More

and more companies are using outbound telemarketing to build customer

loyalty. The ’welcome call’ to check customer satisfaction after a

purchase and to cross-sell or up-sell is becoming more commonplace. One

of the companies using this technique is Orange. ’We have developed

outbound campaigns for the key churn points at 14 days and nine months,’

says Jonathan Pearce, principle at telemarketing consultancy, TSC

Europe. Churn points are those times where customers are most likely to

cancel their business and switch to another supplier.

Orange uses welcome calls to check customers are happy with their mobile

phones and know how to use them, and the nine month calls to monitor

satisfaction and introduce additional services such as international

coverage. ’The calls have significantly reduced cancellations and made

customers’ experience of Orange much more positive,’ says Pearce.

The business-to-business sector is also using outbound calls more.

L’Oreal, for example, has mounted a campaign through InTelMark to

contact hair salons in order to maintain brand profile and product sales

and identify any potential issues. As well as increasing sales, feedback

has been provided that will be used in new sales initiatives.

Market research is another area where outbound telemarketing is being

increasingly used. ’We have a separate specialist division that does

market research and two particular PR agencies that we work for

regularly in this area,’ says Neil Perring, joint managing director of

BPS Teleperformance.

Perring makes a clear distinction between this kind of service and the

kind of telemarketing where the prime objective is to persuade. ’You

need market research trained interviewers and dedicated managers who

just do research. With research, interviews have to be neutral and

unbiased and the job is not to influence anyone.’


Late last year the Words Group, which includes the hi-tech PR agency

Words etc, bought telemarketing company Target IT. ’We had worked

alongside them on one or two projects and, like us, they are focused on

technology and have call handlers who can engage people in technology


If you go to a generalist telemarketing agency the call handlers can’t

get to grips with some of the issues,’ says the Words Group chairman,

Simon Quarendon.

Quarendon admits that part of the reason for buying Target IT was as a

’door opening strategy’. He explains: ’In the technology market having a

telemarketing agency gives us an opportunity to talk to smaller

start-ups whose definition of marketing is often helping salesmen get

leads. As we develop a good relationship with them and they start to

grow then they can start to embrace PR with us as well.’

The philosophy of the Words Group is to cross-sell its services, and

already it is seeing areas of synergy between the two operations. Words

etc called on Target IT to work on invitations to the launch of NEC’s

new monitor range recently. Around 1,400 invitations were sent out and

thanks to the work of Target IT, the response rate was 14 per cent, well

above the five per cent predicted.

’We needed a partner we could rely on to coordinate and manage the

entire event on our behalf. With its combined solution of in-house PR,

telemarketing and design the Words Group made our lives easier,’ says

John McGrath, general manager of NEC BED.

Golley Slater is another marcomms group that encompasses a telemarketing

agency as well as a PR agency. However, David Walsh, managing director

of Golley Slater Telephone Marketing, admits: ’We don’t get a lot of

work passed across from the PR agency, but we do have a relationship

with other PR agencies’.

GSTM specialises in outbound telemarketing, working on projects such as

event invitations, setting appointments and list cleaning. ’We’re

working on an appointment setting project for a PR agency client so

their staff can make sales presentations, and we’re doing research for a

quantity surveyor on the local business economy so that they can take a

view on their PR activity,’ says Walsh.

Quarendon can see all kinds of other opportunities for Target IT to

assist in the work of Words etc and other PR agencies, including

compiling and maintaining pan-European media lists, conducting surveys,

and brand building.

’In an era of relationship marketing companies want to engage their

customers in two-way dialogue, not monologue the telephone is one of the

most potent tools in the marketing mix,’ he says. ’I see telemarketing

and PR being very complementary and moving closer together.’

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