Telemarketing Agency of the Year is MM Group, which is steadily
moving towards its goal of becoming one of the sector's biggest
Growth in the sector has taken a dive this year, with the severe
downturn in IT and telecoms causing particular problems. However, the
Bristol-based bureau, which ranked 10th in Marketing's League Tables
this year and increased its turnover by 80%, is more than holding its
"This has been another phenomenal year for us and despite the general
slowdown we are feeling very confident," comments operations director
Stephanie Rouse. The bureau has acquired a number of clients, including
TimeLife, ITV Digital, Capital One, and Floodline, a government
It is continuing to invest at the rate of around £4m per year,
doubling the capacity of the Ashby call centre it acquired from Omnicom
last year to 400 seats.
Its operation in Bangor, Northern Ireland, is being expanded to a
similar size, together with support services. And the company has
recently acquired a fourth call centre in Cardiff, in a particularly
neat solution for another new client, Western Power Distribution.
The utility, which provides energy for the west of England, recently
acquired its rival Hyder, which supplies Wales. Although it normally
prefers to outsource its marketing functions, it was aware that Hyder's
60-station call centre in Cardiff was a source of expertise that it
should ideally exploit. It was also reluctant to make the staff of the
centre redundant, a move that would bring damaging publicity.
The dilemma was resolved when MM Group suggested that it take over the
call centre and run it on Western's behalf. Because the lease was about
to expire, the centre was moved to a building nearby, together with all
its employees and much of the systems, with MM Group providing the
Western now enjoys the advantages of outsourcing, including the capacity
for an emergency overflow to MM's other call centres if the need
For its Welsh market it has specialist operators. "By retaining local
knowledge and language skills, the new set-up can handle many more calls
and provide better customer service in the area," comments Keith
Windsor, network services manager at Western Power Distribution.
Meanwhile MM Group has another resource which can be used for other
clients when not needed for Western.
Calls are made to make general enquiries, book an engineer to replace a
meter, to report major faults. "In an emergency caused by severe weather
conditions MM were able to answer more than 10,000 calls in a short
space of time," comments Windsor.
The solution provides total flexibility, Rouse says. "For many clients
having an in-house call centre can be difficult to run with expensive
overheads. What we are offering is to buy and manage the operation."
"This means the client has the very best in skills and expertise and the
latest technology," she continues. "We set up and link it into our own
nationwide network of multi-media contact centres and we are free to use
the operation for other clients as part of our network. What we are
saying is 'let us come and do it for you'."
Despite the slackening pace in the telemarketing sector Merchants has
just signed its largest ever client contract, a partnership with
National Australia Group to open an £80m contact centre in
Kilmarnock with capacity for 500 agents.
The bureau has also had continuing success with existing clients such as
Virgin Mobile, for whom it has created a fully integrated multichannel
contact centre, complete with 1300 workstations.
It provided the first 600 agents, integrated the technologies and
infrastructure, and advised on business and customer service
Calls to the centre range from requests for information through to
post-sales, technical, billing, and service issues. The communications
channels encompass phone, fax, e-mail, post and internet.
Virgin Mobile now includes SMS text messages for permission-based
It also offers a sophisticated voice-activated service, in which the
user talks to the phone to obtain services such as news, information or
Merchants also helped with the technical interface between front-end
logistics and distribution, to ensure that an order for a phone reaches
the warehouse and is properly fulfiled.
Many telemarketing agencies have been equipping themselves with
multi-channel capability. However, BroadSystem claims to be almost
unique in enabling operators to switch between e-mail and telephone
calls at will.
That is thanks to a £4m investment programme in data systems
carried out during the past two years.
The capability is coming into its own in the agency's work for the
government's Central Office of Information. One of its programmes is for
the Benefits Agency Publicity Register, whose 90,000 advisers offer
guidance on benefits to the general public. The service also sends out
regular mailings and newsletters giving information on new department
The agents work from a sophisticated contact centre platform which
enables them to make calls or send e-mails that relate to the needs of
the customer instead of conforming to a rigid script. Customer records
appear automatically on their screens, with a history of contacts with
the individual that can go back eight years.
At a recent telecoms conference Broadsystem emerged as one of very few
telemarketing bureaus to be genuinely handling multichannel data at this
level, according to deputy managing director Caroline Worboys.
"Technically we can all do it, but it normally requires a high volume,
whereas we can switch on e-mail for just a few at a time," she says.
IMS Response handles inbound customer calls for home-shopping company JD
Williams. It also services two ordering lines, Premier Man and Trading
Having provided interactive voice response (IVR) services for several
years, the agency added a service with live agents two years ago. It is
now able to offer a combined capability supporting TV ads and dealing
with brochure requests and direct sales.
As many calls as possible are taken by live operators during peak
periods, which coincide with advertising activity. The rest are picked
up by IVR and retrieved by when the pace slackens.
IMS accesses the company's mainframe database directly, in order to
provide it with real time information and feed-back. The service has so
far been taking up to 40,000 calls a week.
IMS response agents are trained to deal with a wide spectrum of service
needs, ensuring that the brand images are maintained throughout the
TOP 20 TELEMARKETING AGENCIES
Rank Agency Income 2000 Income 1999 %
(pounds) (pounds) change
1 Vertex 155,900,000 120,100,000 29.81
2 Ventura 123,300,000 106,500,000 15.77
3 Sitel Corporation 66,612,000 69,075,000 -3.57
4 Merchants 63,050,000 41,742,000 51.05
5 Thus 48,831,000 44,744,000 9.13
6 BroadSystem 38,674,000 33,544,000 15.29
7 7C 35,000,000 24,900,000 40.56
8 Brann Contact 22,500,000 20,000,000 12.50
9 CPM InTelMark 19,025,000 16,250,000 17.08
10 MM Group 17,500,000 9,700,000 80.41
11 Voice Media 15,922,000 9,273,000 71.70
12 Telecom Service Centres 15,171,000 6,198,000 144.77
13 Interactive Media Services 14,000,000 11,500,000 21.74
14 Serco Online Services 13,697,000 12,620,000 8.53
15 Telecom Express 11,664,000 6,135,000 90.12
16 BPS Teleperformance 11,000,000 7,278,000 51.14
17 McIntyre & King 9,839,000 6,108,000 61.08
18 Telecom Potential/iSky 9,300,000 7,210,000 28.99
19 Greenland Interactive 7,900,000 9,000,000 -12.22
20 Connections Plus 7,800,000 7,100,000 9.86
Source: Marketing League Tables.
Voice Media has provided telephone and fulfilment services for Granada
Television's programme The Biggest Game in Town. Each weekday, viewers
phone its call centre to activate a game-card placed in newspapers and
This enables them to play the game at home, while three studio
contestants compete for cash prizes. Each time a studio player answers a
question correctly a 'home ball' is revealed. If its number corresponds
to a number on their game-card, home players circle it for their chance
to win £5000.
As well as providing the telephony, Voice Media is also responsible for
the design and handling of the activation system.
Since CPM merged its field marketing services with telemarketing bureau
InTelMark two years ago, it has specialised in providing an integrated
One of its most successful activities has been for Kellogg, for whom it
handles consumer contacts via telephone, as well as mail and other
electronic channels. A team of ten, plus team leader, handles around
10,000 telephone calls per month.
Team members are highly-trained and specialised in their approach. The
aim is to answer all consumer contacts in a timely and informative
manner, and provide feedback to the marketing department on
Other tasks include dispatching point-of-sale material, data capture and
fulfilment of applications for promotional merchandise within an
Over 50 individual campaigns are live at any one time, each with
specific briefs and mechanics. CPM receives applications from on-pack
and press promotions and processes the applications, before uploading
details to the central Kellogg database.
"Kellogg is often voted the UK's most trusted brand, so it has to have
very high standards of customer care," says CPM InTelMark's managing
director Tom Preece. "We want to maintain that trust, so we devote a lot
of time effort and energy to getting the service right."
Milk supplier UD/DC currently delivers to around 1.8 million households
and shops, of which most are doorstep customers. The company, formed
from the merger of Unigate Dairies and Dairy Crest last year, needed to
stem the loss of revenue resulting from the industry's decline.
As well as acquiring new customers, it aimed to encourage loyalty by
creating an efficient service system. The initial requirement was for a
call centre to act as a central point for consumer contact, enabling it
to collect information that could influence further leads and
Thus was commissioned to set up and manage a dedicated seven-seat
outbound call centre. Agents were tasked with calling each customer that
had stopped using the home delivery service and persuading them to
return to it. This was achieved by finding out and addressing their
specific concerns, rather than making a sales pitch.
In the first month, the call centre made over 6000 calls to ex-customers
and is currently achieving a conversion rate of 25% - five points more
than its target. "Many ideas at the corporate level never leave the
drawing board, but in this case, theories have been put into practice
with tangible results," says Chris Munn, customer relations manager for
UD/DC. The call centre has been integrated into UD/DC's corporate
offering and plays a significant part in sales and marketing strategies.