ITEXPO begins in:   New Coverage :  Asterisk  |  Fax Software  |  SIP Phones  |  Small Cells

The Teleservices Industry Steps Up For The Gulf Coast

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, Editorial Director, Customer Inter@ction Solutions


The mighty teleservices industry often takes a beating in the mainstream press. What few people in the general public ever realize is the enormity of the contributions this magnanimous industry regularly offers in times of crisis and need. We saw this generosity in the days, weeks and months following September 11th, and now we're seeing it again in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. We thought we'd share with Customer Inter@ction Solutions readers some stories of teleservices organizations and the relief efforts being offered.

The American Teleservices Association
The American Teleservices Association (ATA) has been encouraging all of its members and the teleservices industry to donate money and/or time to the disaster relief efforts. The ATA has raised money for the disaster relief effort by making it convenient for members to contribute to the fundraising efforts by placing a button on the ATA Web site that links to the American Red Cross donation page.'

Thus far, the ATA effort has raised thousands of dollars through individual employee contributions as well as large company contributions with many companies matching their employees' donations.

However, the ATA put forth not only money, but also time: the association was asked by the American Red Cross to help push for call center volunteers at its Indianapolis call center. The ATA contacted members in Indiana to volunteer.' ''

Thousands of ATA members' employees around the Gulf Coast have loaded trucks and vans with basic supplies which were driven into the area to support the relief effort.'

Many ATA member groups heeded the call.

Synergy Solutions
Synergy Solutions has what it calls 'Synovation Teams' throughout the company. At each of Synergy's five call center locations, as well as at its corporate headquarters, there is a cross-departmental group of volunteers who meet bimonthly to focus on expanding the company mission. One of the biggest priorities of the Synovation Team is the development of creative initiatives to give back to the communities in which it resides, through a variety of local and national fund-raising efforts.

In Hurricane Katrina's wake, the Synovation Team brought in a catered Cajun lunch to set the mood; it then rolled out the plan. Promotions ranged from using color-coded Mardi Gras beads based on the amount donated, to prize bidding based on accumulated bead value. Other promotions included 'dress-down' days, silent auctions, bake sales, raffles and a system wherein agents purchased tickets for extra breaks, with supervisors taking calls for them during those times. One center even rolled out a 'walking taco' promotion, taking to the streets in the nearby town and asking people to make donations.

Also, both the corporate headquarters and the Phoenix call center organized a collection for the local Salvation Army to provide clothes, toys and toiletries for displaced victims living in the Phoenix shelter. Synergy has further registered with job location sites for victims so qualified applicants can be offered employment in any of the company's call centers.

The Synovation Team daily tracked the progress by site and posted progress charts throughout the company to keep everyone involved. All funds collected will be donated to the American Red Cross through the American Teleservices Association so they can be combined with the efforts of others throughout the teleservices industry. Everyone at Synergy is proudly wearing beads in an effort to help those who are less fortunate.

The Heritage Company
The Heritage Company maintains corporate headquarters as well as a half dozen satellite centers throughout the state of Arkansas. The company reports that, because many of its 1,500 employees have family and friends who were affected by Katrina, there was a strong outpouring of emotion concerning the need to help its extended family as well as many of its clients in the Gulf States.

The company states, 'Within 24 hours, our employees staged a donation site for Katrina Relief in a suburb of Little Rock that to date has generated six 20-foot truckloads of water, supplies and clothing to the Salvation Army relief efforts. The site continues to be open 24 hours a day ' including the weekend ' and has been staffed by volunteers from our employee base. While the first loads were shipped to New Orleans directly, our contributions are now going to help the families that have been relocated to centers right here in Arkansas. A corporate truck sits proudly outside our headquarters with 'Katrina Relief' spray-painted across its side in a creative graffiti style.

'In one community center where 70 families have set up a temporary home, our Conway facility has provided food, water and supplies. Hundreds of evacuees have set up in the State Fairgrounds, and a number of employees went over the weekend and volunteered their time to barbecue a huge picnic sponsored by our company.

'As part of our involvement with Special Olympics in the Gulf States, we have launched a campaign around the nation to help them offset their losses so that they do not have to cut their programs and activities for the Special Olympians in their community. While the ongoing relief efforts need to stay focused on food, housing and medical care, it is essential to continue life as normal as possible, which is why these efforts have been undertaken. Any contributions for these special programs sent in by Customer Inter@ction Solutions readers will be matched as well.

'The state public television stations launched a telethon in which our employees volunteered to process all inbound calls and our company provided our facilities at no charge. The overall campaign brought in another $48,000 for the cause.

'All proceeds that are being sent in from all employees ' as well as those from the generosity of our clients ' will be matched by Heritage, and the grand total will be forwarded to the Salvation Army. We have continued to focus on how blessed we are and how unfortunate this catastrophe has been for so many'so these efforts represent a little that we can do to help in creating a better future for New Orleans and the Gulf States.'

TeleTech Holdings, Inc.
Have you ever watched a major telethon and wondered about the nightmare of coordination and the epic scale of operations behind the process? Well, wonder no more. Just ask TeleTech.

Englewood, Colo.-based TeleTech Holdings, Inc., which provides customer management and transaction-based BPO services on an outsourced basis, was proud to be part of a coalition of national businesses to support the American Red Cross efforts to aid the victims of Hurricane Katrina. TeleTech provided infrastructure, phone support and employees to take donations from callers during the Red Cross telethon that occurred on Friday, Sept. 2nd on NBC.

Teleservices agencies are strong candidates to help carry relief efforts: no organizations have more telecommunications infrastructure in place, and the companies have 'ready-trained' volunteers in the form of their existing call center agents.

TeleTech offered employees the opportunity to volunteer to take calls during the telethon, and also committed to match its employees' time in a cash donation to the Red Cross. The Red Cross anticipated more than half a million calls from donors to make pledges during the telethon. As a result, several hundred TeleTech employees joined other call center volunteers nationally to handle the volume.

'On behalf of our employees worldwide, we want to express our sincere sympathy to those impacted by this tragedy,' said Ken Tuchman, chairman and CEO of TeleTech. 'We are extremely proud to be able to play this role in supporting the American Red Cross and the victims of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. We are very grateful to our employees'taking calls as well as working behind the scenes in support of this effort. It is highly rewarding to be able to repurpose our global infrastructure, technology and applications to aid others during a crisis.'

Five existing TeleTech customer management operations were used, including Birmingham, AL; Deland, FL; Enfield, CT; Kalispell, MT; and Moundsville, WV. The company mobilized its headquarters in Englewood with special workstations to take calls and pledges for the American Red Cross.

InfoCision Management Corp.
Akron, Ohio-based InfoCision Management Corp. perhaps has an advantage over other teleservices agencies ' many of its clients are nonprofit charities, which gives the company something of an expert edge in a time of need.

Said Steve Brubaker, InfoCision's Senior VP of Corporate Affairs, 'InfoCision Management never misses the chance to help others in need. Some people say it's amazing how much our employees want to extend a hand, a prayer or their hard-earned money. It's not amazing to me because I know the people. It's one of the reasons InfoCision is successful ' a caring staff.'

Brubaker indicated that it's hard to accept the reality of the aftermath of the hurricane. 'Nobody wants to believe the images of devastation, homelessness and even death that we've seen the last few weeks are real, but they are,' he said.

'Everyone wants to do something. Attitudes like that start at the top but filter to every call center and every department in our company. As scores of our nearly 3,100 employees started asking how they can help victims of Hurricane Katrina, InfoCision Chairman of the Board Gary Taylor immediately offered a three-to-one match on top of every gift offered by a staff member. A $25 commitment was suggested, but any amount that an employee felt was appropriate was accepted with gratitude. Our accounting staff produced payroll deduction forms for people who wanted to spread out their donation. Proceeds benefit The Salvation Army or American Red Cross, whichever the employee chooses,' Brubaker said.

He continued, 'I'm proud that our employees cared enough to make InfoCision's total pledge $300,000. I'm also proud of every other group ' churches, schools, private businesses and others ' who did their part. Some donations are larger than InfoCision's and some are not, but we wanted to do what we could to help our neighbors to the south as they try to rebuild their homes and their lives.'

Brubaker concluded, 'If people could hear the stories that we hear as people call to offer financial gifts for individuals in such dire need, everyone would understand why our industry is so vitally important to the economy, the clients that are served and groups of all sizes that have a need.' CIS

If you are interested in purchasing reprints of this article (in either print or PDF format), please visit Reprint Management Services online at www.reprintbuyer.com or contact a representative via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 800-290-5460.

For information and subscriptions, visit www.TMCnet.com or call 203-852-6800.

[Return To The Table Of Contents ]

| More