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Publisher's Outlook
July 2001


Nadji Tehrani

20 Years Of Exceptional Achievement


[ Go Right To: Congratulations To Our Second-Annual CRM Excellence Award Winners! ]

As we begin the celebration of 20 years of publishing excellence in the contact center industry, I would like to take the opportunity to reflect on our beginnings and how we got to where we are today. Although we were unaware of it at the time, TMC literally laid the foundation of the telemarketing, CRM and CIS industries with the launch in June 1982 of this pioneering publication, then called Telemarketing. TMC also launched the industry's first official conference and expo in April 1985, which was called TBT (Telemarketing And Business Telecommunications). Together, Telemarketing and TBT became the world's first and most preeminent sources of information on the industry and were responsible for training the first and second generations of telemarketing, CRM and call center practitioners. In fact, the Wall Street Journal called Telemarketing magazine "The Bible of the Industry." It was also referred to as "The Standard Industry Source" by Fortune magazine and "The Only Credible Source of Information" by Alex Fraser of Hewlett-Packard. We are indeed humbled by these great testimonials coming from the most prestigious sources.

However, we cannot dwell on our own accomplishments. The industry as a whole deserves the accolades. This is an industry that has grown from obscurity to world-class international prominence: From zero revenue to a multibillion-dollar industry, from zero employment to three percent of the American workforce, from the concept of telemarketing to the call center to the contact center to CRM to e-CRM and e-sales and e-service. It is remarkable that even the technologies that drive this industry are no longer unknown phenomena to the general public. Thanks to daily television advertisements by companies such as Siebel, PeopleSoft, EDS, Computer Associates, Oracle, Microsoft and Lucent, among others, CRM and its associated technologies are common household concepts.

In June 1982 when Telemarketing magazine was launched, I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that this industry would someday attract so much worldwide acceptance. I wouldn't have guessed that literally hundreds of billions of dollars would someday be transacted through the phone. I wouldn't have guessed that someday we would see regular advertising on major television stations for CRM products. I wouldn't have guessed that three percent of the U.S. workforce would eventually be employed by the industry, and I certainly wouldn't have thought that former Vice President Al Gore, "the next U.S. President for a short while," would keynote TMC's Communications Solutions EXPO in the spring of 2001. Mr. Gore's participation in an event centered around the world of call center, contact center, CRM and communications showed how far we've come as an industry. In my eyes, this event represented not only a culmination of two decades of growth for TMC and its hard-working employees, but for the call center, contact center and CRM industry as a whole.

In addition to a tradition of editorial excellence, another thing that TMC has been able to maintain is the first editor of TMC, Linda Driscoll, who joined our staff in 1981 and is still directing the editorial team of Customer [email protected] Solutions (formerly Telemarketing). Who could be better qualified to walk you through what happened yesterday, and how it has affected the current state of the industry? With that, I'd like to introduce Linda Driscoll, vice president of TMC and executive editorial director of Customer [email protected] Solutions magazine. Linda will share some experiences and information that show where we started and how far our industry has come.

"It's hard to believe I'm writing a recap of the telemarketing/call center/contact center industry for the magazine's 20th-year anniversary issue. When I joined TMC back in 1981, I was fresh out of college and could hardly fathom coming into an office five days a week, let alone for 20 years. I'm still not too keen on the five-day-a week thing, but I've developed a passion for the industry described by the man with the unusual name during a three-hour-long job interview back when I was just 21 years old. That man was, of course, Nadji Tehrani and I accepted his job offer mainly because of his enthusiasm for developing a first-of-its-kind magazine that would be devoted to a concept very few knew anything about, but which he was absolutely positive would evolve into something huge, with far-reaching impact. His vision was profound, and I am grateful for being drawn into this exciting journey.

"In what has become a job-hopping world, where longevity in a job is often viewed more as a curiosity than a virtue, I am frequently questioned about how I could have remained in the same company, with the same publication, for so many years. While there are many factors that have contributed to my tenacity, the most dominant is the fact that this industry is constantly evolving: it's never the same from year to year. And since this publication has built its reputation on being on the cutting-edge, of always anticipating the next trend and direction, of guiding its constituents to the next level, there has never been time to be bored.

"Chronicling all of the changes we have witnessed over the past 20 years is almost impossible, as they have been so numerous. On the other hand, some of the events have been so dramatic, they're impossible to overlook.

"Before this magazine debuted as Telemarketing magazine and laid the foundation for the industry, the following was true:

  • It was not unusual for telemarketing to be conducted using 3x5 index cards.
  • Companies could get an 800 number only from AT&T (MCI introduced its toll-free number service in 1987).
  • The only formal organization to serve the industry was called the Direct Mail Marketing Association (now the Direct Marketing Association).
  • Ergonomically designed call centers were not popular. Call centers located in basements and warehouses, furnished with rows of long tables with no partitions between the callers, who used rotary-dial black phones, were more the norm than the exception.
  • Marketing managers patted themselves on the back for getting a 1 percent return on their direct mail marketing campaigns.

"Despite its crude beginnings, the industry took shape quickly and rapidly embraced emerging technologies. The headlines from this magazine in the early 1980s clearly tell the story of the industry's remarkable technological development. Following is a sample of the more memorable headlines:

  • 1982: 'Telemarketing And The Micro Computer,' 'Considerations In Implementing A PBX System,' and 'Compatible Systems: Electronic Mail.'
  • 1983: 'Telemarketing & Ergonomics -- Synergy & Symbiosis,' 'Selecting Telemarketing Technology In A Deregulated Environment,' 'New Technology: Electronic Mail,' an article that contained the memorable line, 'Because of its time-saving, productivity features, this unique information processing tool is likely to become as permanent a part of business and industry as the typewriter,' and 'Telecommuting -- A New Frontier For Telemarketing.'
  • 1984: 'Selecting The Data Network That's Right For You,' 'Cutting Telecommunications Costs With Private Line Service,' 'The Manager's Guide To Automating The Outbound Phone Room,' 'Using Facsimile To Boost Telemarketing Productivity,' 'Telephone Cost Accounting For Operations Management,' 'Teleconferencing For The Small And Medium-Sized Company,' 'The Basic Components Of Network Planning And Development,' 'Voice Recognition And Response -- High-Tech Developments With Exciting Applications,' 'Cellular Mobile Communications And Its Impact On Metro Areas -- What is it? How does it work? And why do investors believe it will grow to a 10 billion-dollar industry in six years?'

Of course, as the years progressed, so did the technologies used to enhance the practices of the contact center. But it is amazing to see how long ago some of the technologies were introduced. Looking ahead, can we expect continued rapid growth? Here's what my colleague, editorial director Erik Lounsbury, thinks."

"The industry is on a path to provide lighter, more flexible systems that can be adapted with relative ease to fit the particular business needs of a company instead of forcing a company to adapt to the needs of the system. Flexible systems will also allow faster development and implementation of new services. This will be aided by the continuing converge of voice and data for richer interactions. Internet applications will allow for the provisioning of resources so that there will continue to be a decentralization of contact centers. Basing contact center applications on Internet Protocol will allow better communication between departments, partners and customers, allowing information to flow between all and not be trapped in silos. Thus, the right person with the right information is more likely to be put in touch with the customer, cutting down on wasted time in transferring a call or e-mail around an enterprise. Voice recognition and VXML will soon enjoy greater deployment and allow access to more Web-based applications from phones, thus providing more choices for interaction with a company and increased mobility.

Service Delivery Options
"Application service providers (ASPs) will be able to provide infrastructure in the same manner as turning on a tap, directing the great flow of data (and telephony enhancements) where and when needed. There will continue to be a focus on CRM and customer retention, which is becoming more evident in the slow economy of 2001. Going hand-in-hand with CRM will be better data mining and customer analytics so companies will be able to more easily identify who their most profitable customers are and market and respond to them better."

I agree with Erik. I, too, see continued evolution of the industry. I'd like to reinforce the fact that the future of our industry will be strongly centered around emerging technologies that will continue to streamline business processes. The Internet, e-commerce, business-to-business and business-to-consumer e-sales and e-service, and e-mail management will dominate our immediate future. I think the smart companies will learn from the traditional principles of telemarketing, where inbound fuels outbound, when it comes to e-mail management. Companies must view inbound e-mail as an incredible source of sales leads for cross-selling and upselling. If they do not, they are missing a vast opportunity.

In addition, teleservices agencies must pay close attention to the current trend of contact centers being located offshore. In today's market, things have certainly heated up with international competitors rapidly emerging and representing fierce competition for domestic teleservices. Many of these international threats are not only equipped with advanced technologies, but also have TSRs who are extremely well educated, many with Master's degrees and PhDs, who are working for a fraction of domestic TSR salaries.

This new breed of TSR in countries such as Canada, Mexico, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines can handle all forms of contact center matters with equal finesse to their U.S. counterparts. With international businesses offering this level of service, coupled with drastically lower prices, the solution is simple: do or die. Whether outsourcing teleservices or using private enterprise contact centers, domestic organizations must understand that their businesses are now faced with a serious business threat that could drastically impact their share of the market. The bright side is that it's not too late to out-think and out-market those international competitors.

In Conclusion
TMC staff and I are proud to have been the founding pioneers of this fabulous industry that has created and protected millions of jobs, not only in the U.S., but also around the globe. Together with thousands of readers, exhibitors, and managers and employees of contact centers, we have built a powerful industry that not only touches many lives, but is mission-critical to the survival and prosperity of each and every corporation around the globe, for without effective CIS and CRM, no company can exist.

I thank all of you who have helped our industry achieve so much. I know great days are ahead of us, maybe even greater than what we have already witnessed. I am enthusiastically looking forward to it!

As always, I welcome your comments.


Nadji Tehrani
Executive Group Publisher

[ Return To July 2001 Table Of Contents ]

Congratulations To Our Second-Annual CRM Excellence Award Winners!

In keeping with our reputation of bringing our readers the best coverage of the brightest companies in customer care, this month, the editors of Customer [email protected] Solutions have compiled a list of the winners of the second-annual CRM Excellence Awards. Companies were invited to show us how a particular implementation of their product or service helped one of their clients measurably improve life for customers. We've been telling you to take care of your customers for 20 years. But as you know, we still hear stories every day about nightmarish customer service fiascoes by companies who still don't get it. That's why we like to honor the companies that do understand first-rate customer service and what it ultimately means to the bottom line. Among the winners of the CRM Excellence Award are the best and the brightest of the leaders in customer relationship management. I would like to offer personal congratulations to all these companies.

[ Return To July 2001 Table Of Contents ]

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