Never before in the history of call centers has it been so
extremely challenging to select and judiciously buy technologies and
teleservices for the CRM, call center, contact center and customer
What Should Be Going On In Senior Management's Mind?
The challenge for CEOs is to keep their call centers and CRM
centers up-to-date with new technology and make them globally competitive.
As always, every year, new and different variables enter the decision-making
process when making the right choices to purchase 'the right' technology or
to select 'the right' outsourcing partner.
Over the last 23 years, this publication has exclusively
helped the industry grow by providing authoritative articles on every aspect
of the call center, teleservices, CRM and customer interaction industries.
It is our paramount responsibility to continue to guide the industry to the
best of our ability regarding the savvy buying of technology, outsourcing
and all other products and services available to contact centers.
Compliance Is The Key
As we have covered the compliance topics, namely the FTC and FCC rulings, in
every issue since February 2003, it is extremely important for every call
center to become compliant to the extent that each violation would represent
an $11,000 fine. That is, 91 violations = a $1,000,000 fine. As such, no
company can ignore compliance with the latest FTC and FCC regulations.
Having said all of that, it becomes extremely apparent that the most
important topic to keep in mind when selecting technology or teleservices
partners is that of compliance. As I travel around the industry, it is
mind-boggling to realize that only about half of the companies visited are
fully compliant or intend to be compliant. This is practically impossible to
understand. Our best advice is, if you don't comply with the regulations, it
is only a matter of time before your company will vanish.
Every year at this time, it is our paramount responsibility
as the leading publication of this industry since 1982 to put ourselves in
the shoes of the CEOs of Corporate America and inform them as to what
important topics and functions they must keep in mind prior to making
judicious selections of products and services.
From our vantage point, the following represents the topics that CEOs and
other decision makers must consider. Before listing those items, I would
like to make it abundantly clear that if you do not have the core-competency
in call center management, and you do not fully and completely understand
all federal, state and local regulations, the best advice for you is to
outsource your call center and CRM functions to reliable and compliant
teleservices agencies. After all, it simply does not make sense to take a
chance and, God forbid, risk a huge fine. Having
said all of the above, we are now going to focus on some of the crucial
matters and topics that the CEOs and senior management must keep in mind
while preparing for a fully compliant call center/CRM/contact center within
your company or such services outsourced to others:
The CEO must ask the paramount and vitally important
question ' are my services compliant with new FTC and FCC regulations?
The CEO must adopt a judicious purchasing strategy.
Teleservices acquisition strategies,
New technology acquisition strategies,
Differentiation strategies, and
The prudent and progressive management of any CRM contact
center should be asking the following questions:
Should I buy or outsource in regard to contact center
products and services?
What do I need to buy or outsource ('rule of thumb, you
must outsource what is not your core competency')?
How do I select products and services?
How do I compare products and services?
What about compatibility?
What do I need to protect my market share?
What do I need to do to increase my market share?
Finally, given the ever-increasing global competition,
what should I do to remain competitive?
Fortunately, the economy is turning around and it is time
for a progressive contact center manager to acquire the latest technology
that will help to achieve the following:
Improve overall productivity,
Improve agent productivity,
Improve CRM, customer care and customer retention
Better control of agent training and monitoring,
Automatic compliance with all state, federal and local
As you can see in every issue of Customer Inter@ction Solutions' since
February 2003, this magazine has proudly and exclusively covered these vital
and important issues ' FTC and FCC regulations in regard to do-not-call
lists, predictive dialing, etc. We have clearly and decisively defended the
industry's position and uniquely took on the FTC and FCC with powerful,
As we said in the April 2003 Publisher's Outlook, three to
five million jobs are at risk of being lost because of the new Telemarketing
Sales Rule. This is a reminder of what is at risk if you do not comply with
new regulations. If you have not read it, we urge you to read 'A CALL FOR A
UNITED FRONT AGAINST THE UNFAIR TSR REGULATIONS' now (http://www.
We also warned in our October 2003 Publisher's Outlook ('91
Violations = $1 Million Fine') that given the astronomical fine of $11,000
to be levied by the FTC per violation, every call center must comply with
the regulations or they will vanish. Indeed, the FTC has levied a $780,000
fine on AT&T for violating do-not-call rules. Having said that, the reality
is you cannot have a purchase or acquisition take place without absolutely,
positively knowing if you are in compliance. We have exclusively covered
this matter in the past 10 months, and we urge you to read it religiously.
In addition to compliance, there is a paramount rule you
should adhere to. If you feel you do not have a full grasp of the industry
and the new regulations, you cannot possibly make a judicious purchasing
decision. You should outsource whatever it is that you cannot do yourself.
New Technology Acquisitions
You must always answer two questions when you are purchasing new technology:
Is it compliant with new FTC and FCC regulations, and can I justify the
purchase with the corresponding gains in productivity and return on
Keep in mind that given the current global competition and quality or lack
thereof with some existing global competition, it is vitally important to
differentiate your products and services so that customers and potential
customers will have a clear reason to buy from you.
The First Law Of Positioning
Another important matter that will enhance your market leadership is the
observance of the first law of positioning. The first law states that: 'It
is better to be first than to be better.' As I stated in the September 2002
Publisher's Outlook ('Every Company Wants To Be A Peacock In The Land Of
Penguins'), positioning must be adjusted to the rapidly changing market
conditions. It is crucial for any product to be positioned advantageously.
Seeking Several Industry Leaders' Opinions
To get a realistic and balanced view for judicious selection of products and
services in the post FTC/FCC rulings business world, I contacted several
industry leaders and have asked for their input on these extremely important
issues pertaining to the industry. Selected quotations from their comments
On Teleservices Outsourcing
Steve Brubaker, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at InfoCision
Management Corporation (www.infocision.com), provided the following
guidelines last year for selecting a teleservices outsourcing company:
' The rule for selecting a teleservices partner is to make them prove their
experience, commitment and quality to you.
' Experience: Ask for examples of success within your industry. Get case
studies and ask specific questions about how they've handled programs like
' Commitment: What resources will be available to you for your project? Do
they prove their commitment by investing in the right people, technology and
processes? Is the operation scalable?
' Quality: Visit the operation. Meet the people who will manage your
project; and, without exception, visit the call center. Determine whether or
not the environment and people emulate your culture and values. Are they the
people who will best represent your company to your customers?
' Keep these tips in mind, and always remember an operation's qual-
ity can't be found in a slick brochure or ad campaign, but in its people and
its call center.
This year Brubaker added the following important advice:
'When your teleservices partner understands your regulatory concerns, you
will certainly sleep better at night knowing you are protected.'
With the government fines, it is paramount that you make
sure your outsourcing partner has the technology and a corporate policy of
being fully compliant with all federal, state and local regulations.
To the best of my knowledge, most of the leading
teleservices companies seem to be compliant. However, it is the buyer's
responsibility to verify that the company they outsource to is indeed fully
Here is some other advice from industry leaders about
operating call centers/CRM centers in a post-do-not-call business world.
'In 2004, enterprises will need to optimize customer
interaction in a regulatory environment tightened through new do-not-call
rules,' stated Jim Smith, vice president, CRM Strategic Planning and
Product Management for Avaya Communications (www.avaya.com).
'Businesses will continue to embrace technologies that help them respect
customer privacy and reach out to customers at the right time. Enterprises
that can do this successfully will further enhance brand loyalty and
satisfaction among customers, an ongoing focus in 2004.'
Carl E. Mergele, chief executive officer of SER
Solutions Inc. (www.ser.com), believes
that 'unlike 2003 when contact centers were consumed with an onslaught of
regulatory compliance issues, 2004 will be a year when contact centers
recommit to serving the needs of their customers.'
Erik Hille, vice president of marketing (USA) for
Amacis (www.amacis.com), added that
licensed solutions will be pushed back into the proverbial picture because
the quick-fix solutions previously implemented were often short on
'As companies reevaluate these decisions moving forward,
they will increasingly be looking for additional functionality,' he noted.
Added Matthew Self, vice president of call center
development for Oracle Corp., effective CRM solutions in this new
world must not only ensure regulatory compliance, but actively take
advantage of contact opportunities that do exist.
'To do this, they must integrate customer information from
multiple business applications and across all channels, as well as providing
flexible tools to implement contact rules based on customer preferences and
local, national and international regulations,' Self commented.
And William E. Meade, Jr., president and CEO,
StarTek, Inc. (www.startek.com),
thinks that the new legislation will only make competition stronger.
'Do-not-call legislation will intensify competition as
excess capacity in facilities and people will lead outbound callers to
accelerate their efforts to enter the inbound arena to cover overhead
expenses,' Meade said. 'This will probably sharpen pricing, leading to
further financial pressure and continued industry consolidation.'
'Research all of the technology available, compare not only
the benefits provided by each to enhance operational efficiencies, but weigh
the compliance additions to their technology,' advises CJ Johnson,
senior vice president, CCC Interactive Corp. (www.cccinteractive.com).
'Once this is complete, two additional areas should be compared; how much do
they spend annually on R&D-related specifically to compliance, and talk to
their customers regarding their ease in utilizing their technology and
'Contact center managers are faced with several very
important considerations in order to be absolutely confident that the
solutions and services chosen not only meet all of their traditional needs,
but also are compliant with the new do-not-call regulations,' added Terry
Ryan, president and CEO, HigherGround, Inc. (www.highergroundinc.com).
Ryan noted companies must be certain that the systems they
choose provide four very important capabilities:
1. Upload do-not-call lists automatically,
2. Compare their call campaign lists automatically against the do-not-call
lists, and flag the numbers that are included in the do-not-call lists to
guarantee that they will not be called (proactive compliance assurance),
3. Conduct an automated search of their call campaign lists to verify the
absence of 'do-not-call' numbers, thus proving that they were not called
(reactive compliance verification),
4. Notify supervisors or managers immediately and automatically if a number
on the do-not-call list was called (damage control).
Oscar Alban, principal, global market consultant,
Witness Systems (www.witness.com),
said that in today's do-not-call business world, there are many important
factors to consider before making major purchase decisions.
'In the outbound world, you must ensure you have
capabilities on your auto-dialer that suppress those telephone numbers that
are protected under the Do-Not-Call Registry, as well as other requirements
' such as discounted rates and recordings,' Alban said. 'Further, if your
organization is purchasing 'call lists' for outbound marketing, you should
require proof from that vendor that the data have been cross-referenced and
checked against the Do-Not- Call Registry.'
Another topic Alban says falls into this area focuses on the
Telemarketing Sales Rule, which has become a forgotten piece of the puzzle.
'Very specific verbiage, as outlined by the FCC, must be
used, and those interactions must be recorded and stored for a minimum of
two years,' Alban noted. 'This is why it's even more important than ever
before to invest in a system that offers both quality monitoring
capabilities ' to ensure the correct verbiage was used and the outlined
procedures were followed ' as well as the ability to perform compliance
recording in order to meet the FCC's two-year storage requirement.'
Doug Berry, vice president and general manager for
Epicor's Clientele Group, added that there shouldn't be apprehension
about implementing CRM technologies.
'One thing to consider when evaluating CRM applications is
to look at applications that control opt-in and opt-out requests from within
the database, so that each outbound marketing campaign is executed with
clean data.' Berry said.
As always, I welcome your comments (email@example.com).
New Year's Wishes
Best wishes for a healthy, happy, prosperous and peaceful new year to all!
Executive Group Publisher
For information and subscriptions,
visit www.TMCnet.com or call 203-852-6800.
TMC Chairman, CEO and
Executive Group Publisher
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