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Customer Inter@ction Solutions
July 2007 - Volume 26 / Number 2
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Twenty-six years ago, this publication started as Telemarketing® magazine, a bi-monthly publication introduced in June/July of 1982.

By: Nadji Tehrani
Founder, Chairman & CEO, Editor-in-Chief, Technology Marketing Corporation


As you may know, the industry was practically non-existent at that time and we literally had to dig for information, finding very little to write about. In fact, we nearly ran out of things to write by the second issue because the industry, as we know it today, did not exist at all. But, since we had taken the plunge, we were in a sink or swim situation and we simply had to make it happen if, for nothing else, the survival of the magazine and laying the foundation for what is now a trillion dollar industry encompassing not only the traditional inbound and outbound telemarketing, but also covering CRM, customer loyalty, fund-raising, credit collection, etc.

________________________We invited the top 100 CEOs who had significantly contributed to the growth and prosperity of our industry during the last 25 years to receive lifetime achievement awards for which they were as deserving as anybody. Frankly, the industry could not have gown as fast as it did without the help of the honorees of that 25th anniversary gala in New York City.
Back in 1982, our positioning statement which appeared as a tagline for Telemarketing® magazine was: “The magazine of electronic marketing and communications.” It was our vision back then that marketing would be conducted electronically. Of course, our vision was at first ridiculed by the people who had no vision — and even those people are now believers because what they couldn't see 25 years ago has now become a reality. Indeed, it is a lot easier to see a trend after it happened, as opposed to 25 years prior to it happening. Having said that, I must admit that ignorance is an entrepreneur's best friend! Had I known back then that the industry did not exist and we could find nothing to write about, I probably would not have launched the magazine and only God knows when this industry would have taken off!!

Along the way we launched the first conference and exhibition called Telemarketing and Business Telecommunications® (TBT). Marketing professionals from around the globe (literally from every continent and every progressive country) attended the conference, learned from our seminars and purchased the seminar cassette tapes to take back home and train other people in their own countries. In plain English, this magazine and our capable staff here at TMC (News - Alert) were instrumental in pioneering and laying the foundation for this phenomenal new way of marketing.

In the mid 1980's, I called for the automation of the industry. Several visionary CEOs such as Gary Taylor, Steve Brubaker, Richard Brock, Jack Early, Joe Profelli, Steve and Sherry Idelman, Gary and Mary West, Robin Richards, Ted Schwartz, Ed Blank, Tom Cardella, Tim Searcy and many other outstanding individuals helped significantly to take the industry to the next level.

During our 25th anniversary celebration, which was held May 5, 2006, at the Marriott Hotel in New York City, we invited the top 100 CEOs who had significantly contributed to the growth and prosperity of our industry during the last 25 years to receive lifetime achievement awards for which they were as deserving as anybody. Frankly, the industry could not have gown as fast as it did without the help of the honorees of that 25th anniversary gala in New York City.

As such, the industry continued to grow thanks to the support of the many visionaries some of whom were mentioned above. And the industry kept growing, very conservatively, at an average of 80-100% per year in the 1980's, 30-35% per year in the 1990's and even now after 25 years, the industry is still growing at a highly significant rate. As I indicated in the May 2007 editorial under the title “the industry is alive and well,” some 42,000 net new jobs were created in the contact center/CRM centers in Q1 of 2007. Interestingly, only one call center went to India and by and large the majority of the growth took place in the United States. Please see Table 1 for specifics on where the jobs were created. (ALAN, please insert Table 1 from May 2007 issue)

As you will notice, amazingly, the growth of the industry has significantly accelerated in the last few years to a point which has gone far beyond the growth rate of the 1990's. Only a tremendous industry such as ours can create such phenomenal growth after nearly 26 years of existence. In fact, the job growth in the United States in Q1 of 2007 was precisely 39%. I know of no industry that has matched this growth after a quarter of a century! Obviously, we are very proud of the achievement of the many people who have been part of this unique and unusual success story.

How the Industry Has Changed
In the 1980's, which I call “the growing up period,” the application of telemarketing, which was the founding father of today's customer interaction/CRM centers, was limited to outbound calling, prospecting, sales and sales support. Indeed, the growth of outbound was far exceeding the growth of inbound in the 1980's and this trend continued throughout the 1990's regulations came about, i.e., do not call and others. The outbound growth gradually slowed and in fact as we know it the business-to-consumer section of the industry was practically eliminated. On the other hand, since there never was any objection about the inbound, frankly, I cannot see any condition where there could be any problem with the inbound, because the consumer and/or the end user usually initiates the call based on their own needs. Around the turn of the 19th century the growth of the industry reversed so that now the inbound sector was outperforming the outbound sector in terms of growth. However, outbound sectors such as fund-raising, credit collection and the like are still viable businesses and they continue to grow at a very healthy pace.

The Rapid Increase of Technological Advancements
Contact center technology which began in the mid 1980's as primarily contact management software to be followed by the advent of predictive dialers and preview dialers and eventually automatic call recordings followed by speech technology, workforce management and optimization, analytics and eventually IP Contact Centers were instrumental in call center growth. This enabled worldwide contact centers to call anywhere at reasonable prices and also opened the door to what is now the home agents which is growing at an extremely fast pace. Our industry, which was extremely low-tech in the early 1980's, now has developed into extremely high-tech. We have always observed that the application of technology was lagging far behind that of new technology developments. Part of the reason was that the technology providers were uninterested or did not realize that marketing is also as important as technology. As a result, they continued to create better mousetraps only to find out that the mouse died 15 or 20 years ago!! As facetious as this may sound, this is a reality among many technology providers which consider marketing more of an unnecessary nuisance as opposed to the most important part of any business, particularly the contact center business. The reason, in the 1980's the most effective way to generate sales leads was through outbound telemarketing and we all know that all sales begin with a sales lead. In other words, if there was no telemarketing back then, the only other way to generate leads would have been through highly inefficient and cost prohibitive direct mail which resulted at best in a half percent to 1 percent response. Later on the industry learned to combine direct mail with telemarketing and the synergy resulted in a 30% increase in the response rate and lead generation rate. Bottom line, the technology people who needed marketing the most were the ones who were doing the least amount of marketing. Believe it or not, this horrendous mistake is still continuing to this date.

I am reminded of that famous 50 year old McGraw-Hill advertisement which included a man sitting on a chair and asking the sales person:
“I don't know who you are;
I don't know your company;
I don't know your product;
I don't know what your company stands for;
I don't know how you differentiate yourself;
I don't know how you position yourself;
I don't know the benefits of your product;
And now what is it that you are trying to sell me?”

In my opinion, the above outstanding ad is true today as it was 50 years ago. In plain English, this advertisement is telling all vendors that if you don't market, you don't exist. If you don't exist, no one will buy your products.

Recently, the advent of online marketing has changed the paradigm: Mainly that if you are not on the first few pages of the leading search engines (preferably on page one or two or three), you really don't exist because customers today are more likely to go to Google (News - Alert) and look for the proper keywords and if your company is non-existent on the appropriate keywords, your business is not going anywhere.

In the next issue, I will be writing about the demise of off-shoring and poor quality contact centers.

As always, I welcome your comments. Please e-mail them to me at [email protected]. CIS

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