A reputation for quality Featured

7:00pm EDT January 31, 2007

Despite the popularity of state and national do-not-call lists, quality tele-services providers are thriving.

“The telephone is an essential tool for lead generation, customer service, customer care, sales and fund-raising,” says Carl Albright, president and CEO of InfoCision Management Corp. “It is the most effective mode of contact for nearly all industries, both for- and not-for-profit.”

Smart Business talked to Albright about the impact of do-not-call lists, the range of services that teleservices vendors provide and how these companies maintain their high standards and quality reputation.

How have various do-not-call lists affected the telemarketing industry?

Although the federal government established the National Do Not Call Registry in 2003, many teleservices companies, including ours, have always maintained client-specific do-not-call lists. However, to be compliant with the new laws, companies must invest significantly in call center technology upgrades.

The law prohibits companies from making cold prospecting calls to those households that are on a registry. The exception to this rule pertains to households with which a company has an established business relationship. In other words, federal law states that if a consumer has purchased a product from the company in the past 18 months, a teleservices provider is permitted to call him or her.

With respect to do-not-call legislation, why is it important to maintain a relationship with a high-quality telemarketing company?

Unfortunately, some teleservices companies don’t invest in the technology or expert staff necessary to uphold the laws. Additionally, those companies with overseas operations can’t closely monitor their call centers, which may also result in a violation.

On the other hand, a reputable company can be trusted to protect clients from a costly do-not-call violation. The fines are as high as $11,000 per attempt, for both the company and teleservices vendor, and the only way to avoid paying it is to be legally indemnified by a client. With a high-quality company, a client gets peace of mind.

What types of teleservices are unaffected by do-not-call legislation?

Ninety-five percent of all teleservices business is in commercial sales or marketing, and all inbound customer service calls are exempt from do-not-call legislation. Many companies rely on teleservices vendors to provide customer care services. For example, a television cable company might need a call center partner to answer customer questions about billing or schedule service calls.

Also, all of the nation’s largest and most recognized nonprofit organizations depend on teleservices providers to raise money for them over the telephone, and these calls are exempt from the do-not-call laws. In fact, our company raises more money over the phone for nonprofits than any other teleservices provider.

A variety of different nonprofit telephone fundraising strategies have proven to be extremely cost-effective for the organizations. Just one of these strategies is a volunteer recruitment campaign, in which donors are encouraged to volunteer their time to write letters to their neighbors, friends and family, who in turn send donations back to the nonprofit organizations.

Is any job too big or small for a reputable teleservices provider?

In many cases, a quality teleservices company will decide whether or not to partner with a large client based on staffing. While less reputable firms will just hire anyone to handle the extra work, other companies such as ours have different business models. In this case, there may be an adjustment period in which the call center company recruits, hires and trains the mature professionals necessary to have a successful teleservices program.

For example, last year our company made or took nearly 40 million telephone calls. Each individual program should consist of at least 5,000 phone calls, and our biggest accounts can consist of more than 1 million calls.

When it comes to very small accounts, we unfortunately must pass because the setup costs are so enormous. Three out of four jobs are too small for a company like ours, so we refer them to another teleser-vices vendor.

How does a high-quality teleservices provider balance scripting with the personality of its agents?

A truly sophisticated teleservices company will make sure every call is scripted in a way that is both conversational and professional. This ensures that communicators seamlessly represent the clients’ brand while still allowing them to interject relevant facts and add a personal touch to the conversation.

Most importantly, consistent monitoring and coaching are essential to balancing scripting and personality. Some less reputable companies might have a communicator-to-supervisor ratio of 30 to one. Others, such as ours, have ratios as low as eight to one, because they realize the importance of ongoing training and mentoring.

CARL ALBRIGHT is president and CEO of InfoCision Management Corp. Reach him at carla@infocision.com or (330) 668-1400.