AGENCY 2001: TELEMARKETING AGENCY OF THE YEAR - MMGroup. MM Group is set to join the upper echelon of UK agencies as it sees fantastic returns on its £4m per year investments

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.

Total flexibility

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

outbound campaigns.

It also offers a sophisticated voice-activated service, in which the

user talks to the phone to obtain services such as news, information or

entertainment listings.

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

by Post.

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

contact process.


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

brand-specific comments.

Other tasks include dispatching point-of-sale material, data capture and

fulfilment of applications for promotional merchandise within an

eight-day turnaround.

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.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer
Mumsnet admits users' emails and passwords accessed via Heartbleed bug backs 'rubbish' mobile app with TV ad
Powerade launches global World Cup campaign
Burberry's flagship Shanghai store facade responds to weather changes
Subway considers taking fast food to fast lane with F1 sponsorship
Ikea splurges 'grey' Belgium with colour
Grim outlook for Tesco boss Philip Clarke ahead of expected profits fall
Thomson to create first crowd-sourced wedding decided by Facebook fans
Currency wars meets origami in Alpari FX trading ad campaign
Amazon rumoured to launch 3D smartphone in September
Facebook to allow European users to store and transfer money on site, claims report
Unilever pilots multi-brand advertising with YouTube beauty channel
Lego, Coca-Cola, Net-a-Porter, Bitcoin and AOL: the digitally creative brands
Dove tries to tell women their beauty is innate through placebo patches
Wonga faces social media storm after forcing Twitter to remove satirical material