In their fifth consecutive year, the Marketing Telemarketing Awards
have once again attracted an excellent calibre of entries from some of
the UK’s most respected companies. Companies are not only embracing
telemarketing in its different applications, but they are actively using
telemarketing to tackle customer service - which today has become their
most critical mission. Companies such as First Direct and Direct Line,
which have become the blueprint for customer service, are being emulated
by other companies in different sectors. The entries in this year’s
awards showcase the best practice in the industry.
Customer service is the practice of meeting and exceeding customer
expectations; and it is at the very heart of telemarketing. Today’s UK
directors frequently talk about ’owning customers’ and about being
’customer oriented’. One of the few mediums by which companies can truly
claim to achieve this cost-effectively and to a mass market is via the
telephone. Why? Simply because it is immediate and it makes companies
more accessible to their customers.
During 1997-98 one of the most important issues for businesses has been
accessibility. The widely publicised 24 Hour Society report by the
Future Foundation highlighted the fact that consumers not only want
extended hours of service but that in many cases would like 24-hour
access to a company’s products and services. Over 60% of respondents
wanted access by phone out of traditional working hours.
Already 92% of the UK population has used the telephone for ordering a
product or service and, unsurprisingly, 35% of the population claims to
make regular use of special telemarketing numbers. As a result, the
volume of calls to special numbers in the UK has grown from just 39
million in 1987 to over 1 billion in 1997. Part of this growth has been
caused by increased use of Freefone services by companies which realise
that offering their customers free access to them can engender trust and
Our own research has shown that Freefone 0800 services have an 83%
awareness and that 60% of consumers have a preference for doing business
over these numbers. So not only are consumers welcoming more direct
contact with companies than ever before, but they now expect this
contact to be free.
With consumer expectations higher than ever, more than half of the
respondents from the same survey agreed that they expected companies to
offer customers a free service.
Testimony to the popularity of the service is the introduction of a new
additional code. Freefone 0808, which has the same characteristics as a
Freefone 0800 number, is available to UK companies that want to provide
their customers with free access to their products and services. This
new code has been launched as a result of the growth in the use of the
Freefone service in the UK.
Forecasts suggest that calls to these numbers will increase to around
3.2 billion by 2002. It seems, as in the US, that companies have
embraced the business benefits of telemarketing. Likewise, customers
have woken up to the fact that they should demand free and flexible
access to companies.
BT research has shown that companies which are unable to answer customer
calls are in danger of not only losing potential customers but, more
importantly, could suffer from existing customers taking their business
With today’s call-handling technology, call-centre software and the
right planning, lost calls, and therefore lost business, should be a
thing of the past.