TELEMARKETING: PHONE APPARATUS - A phone call is not just a phone call any more. Telemarketers have all sorts of ways to adapt the calling experience. Rachel Miller looks at six of the best

By RACHEL MILLER,, Friday, 18 June 1999 12:00AM



This is an internet freephone service available at the click of a mouse.

It’s an icon that customers can click on corporate websites if they want

to speak to someone from the company. Users can request an instant call

back or they can specify a delay and a number to be called back on,

including mobile numbers.

The PhoneMe button is useful for closing e-commerce sales and also

supports helpdesks and customer relationship services. It’s already

being used by companies such as the AA, Compaq, Dell, the Financial

Times, NatWest and others who have the call-centre capability to handle

the demand. PhoneMe works in 260 countries and claims to offer extremely

competitive call charges. You can give it a try at

PROS: PhoneMe provides a prompt and human service to customers who could

easily stray elsewhere on the internet.

CONS: Many people only have one phone line and could not take a call

until they were off line.

Interactive voice response (IVR)

It sometimes seems as if we spend more time on the telephone talking to

machines than we do to human beings. However, research from NOP shows

that, where appropriate, consumers welcome the speed and convenience of

an automated service. IVR is beneficial when the nature of the calls

coming in are specific, such as a brochure request. It can also be used

to cover busy periods, including the huge peaks of calls after a DRTV

ad. Using an automated service also ensures consistency, and services

can be an extension of a TV commercial in style.

In many cases, the smart move is to integrate an automated service with

live operators. Often, the majority of callers want the same basic

information and that can be provided quickly and accurately via an

automated service.

Customers with other queries can then select a live agent.

PROS: IVR is good at providing a response during peak calling times; it

can also handle certain requests quickly and efficiently; it can be used

in conjunction with live agents to provide a full service.

CONS: Callers may have a query that is not covered by the automated

service; some callers dislike dealing with a machine and prefer to speak

to a person.

PhoneSites Hot Buttons

Phone boxes are a relatively new advertising medium - new for

respectable advertisers, at least - and PhoneSites offers space in

96,000 boxes across the UK. Now the company has launched Hot Buttons,

which means the consumer can see the advert and then call the advertiser

by pressing one button.

The target market for Hot Buttons is young people. Seventy three per

cent of 16- to 24-year-olds use payphones every month and spend more

than six minutes in the phone box at a time. They are already taking a

good look at both A4 and A2 ads positioned inches from their noses.

Now, 41,000 call boxes that have the necessary technology allow them to

call up the advertiser at the touch of a button. And advertisers can

select phone boxes that are situated close to appropriate retailers.

Potential users of Hot Buttons include mortgage providers, who could use

phone boxes close to estate agents, or telephone banking companies, who

might target boxes near high street banks.

PROS: There’s no delay between the call to action and the opportunity to

respond. Phone boxes offer widespread coverage and many are positioned

near retailers.

CONS: Consumers have to pay to call the advertiser and will expect real


Computer telephony integration (CTI)

At its simplest, CTI enables phone operators to know which number a

customer has dialled, which in turn indicates why they may be calling.

The caller could be responding to an ad, calling a complaints line or

requesting a brochure.

The next step is DDI (direct dialling inward) and it means that

call-centre staff can identify who’s calling before the call is

connected. The computer matches the number of the caller to their

customer record and when the operator picks up the call, they have the

caller’s details on screen and can greet them by name.

PROS: CTI allows operators to provide a prompt and personalised


Callers do not have to waste time giving details about themselves.

CONS: Hearing ’Good morning, Mrs Jones’, as soon as your call has been

answered can be disturbing and smacks of Big Brother. Also, it only

works if customers call from their home phone.

Predictive dialling

A predictive dialling system makes multiple outbound calls from a call

centre, but only delivers calls to agents when the customer answers.

When the system gets through to a customer, it transfers the call to an

agent, who is alerted by a beep in their ear and the appearance of the

relevant details on-screen. Predictive dialling systems come with a

’volume control’ so that they match the pace of the operators. It is

claimed that predictive dialling increases agent productivity


PROS: Predictive dialling cuts out wasted calls to answering machines,

engaged signals and fax machines. It improves call-centre efficiency by

providing agents with a constant flow of calls.

CONS: Agents get no time to psych themselves up for the call. The system

hangs up on a customer if there is no agent free to talk to them.

Call-centre staff have to work extremely intensively.

BT Freetime

A new service from BT will give companies the opportunity to advertise

on the telephone. BT Freetime gives free calls to consumers who are

prepared to have their calls interrupted every two minutes by ten

seconds of commercials and to limit their total call time to ten

minutes. Customers complete lifestyle questionnaires to help advertisers

target them accurately.

Aimed at students and lower income households, trials have started in

Tyne & Wear and Bristol, and BT Freetime should go nationwide by the end

of this year. A rival service, Free2Talk from Freedom Telecom, is due to

launch soon.

PROS: Advertisers can reach targeted audiences with great frequency.

Callers may feel warm towards advertisers because they have indirectly

enabled them to make free telephone calls.

The service may be used heavily because of the free calls and the

novelty factor.

CONS: Callers may begin to resent the companies whose commercials

interrupt their calls.

This article was first published on


You must log in to use Clip & Save

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

Additional Information

Campaign Jobs