FIELD/TELEMARKETING: FACE TO FACE - Four of the industry's top players take stock of how telemarketing is shaping up in the technology-rich world of the 21st century. Interviews by Holly Acland

TOM DRURY, managing director, Vertex



Tom Drury sounds suspicious. "Is this interview for a feature on

telemarketing?" he asks, anxious to disassociate his company from the

grubby business of flogging products over the phone.



Drury is more aware than most of how far the telemarketing industry has

come in the past ten years. He is the managing director of Vertex, the

UK's largest customer management outsourcing company, employing more

than 8,000 people in 18 call centres around the country.



His company embodies the growing trend for companies ranging from npower

and North West Water to Volvo and JD Williams to outsource non-core

areas of business. In the arena of customer management this can include

anything from debt collection and billing services to online CRM and

phone-based customer service.



The future, he believes, will belong to those companies that can become

value-added partners. "Stand-alone bureaux will always be eroded on

price. They are very susceptible to off-shore threats from countries

such as India and Malaysia."



So while classic telemarketing bureaux may struggle in the long term, he

believes the future of Vertex is secure so long as it continues to

invest in technology and people.



And knowing which technology to back is critical for companies with a

clear eye on the future.



"It's easy to be sucked into spending billions," says Drury. "You have

to spend wisely and we favour investing in a large number of smaller

projects."



CRM, according to Drury, is dead and buried. VCRM, or value-added CRM,

is where it's at if you want another useless acronym to add to the

list.



IAN MCNUFF, managing director, northern Europe, Sitel



Sitel's Ian McNuff is refreshingly honest about the image the

telemarketing industry still labours under. "I was with a very senior

board person the other week and he started to talk about 'those dippy

girls with headsets' - unbelievable."



As the northern Europe managing director of a company that employs

around 24,000 people in 19 countries, staffing is an issue close to

McNuff's heart. "The skill levels of people working in contact centres

have risen dramatically. They are becoming true relationship advisers,

but there is some way to go before people understand that."



He believes that, in future, companies will have to invest significantly

more in the remuneration, motivation, and development of its people. In

an increasingly technology-rich, multi-channel environment, staff will

become a prized asset and holding on to them a key priority.



But despite rapid advances in technology, McNuff is bullish about that

much-touted phrase CRM.



Creating a "single view" of the customer by integrating all

communication channels, be it fax, phone, e-mail or post, is undoubtedly

where the industry is heading. "But we have not reached the nirvana of

full integration," admits McNuff. "Clients aren't ready for it and a lot

of the technology is not yet up to strength."



On a more fundamental level, McNuff believes that clients, and their

agencies, still have to wake up to the value of the information being

amassed via call centres. "The contact centre is where you get the

customer's expression of what an organisation has or has not done."



KATE CARR, chief executive, FMCG



Kate Carr is a field marketer and proud of it. So proud in fact that she

tells me without a trace of embarrassment about her first brush with the

industry as a student demonstrating ready-to-serve custard and

bake-in-the-box cakes in shopping centres to earn some extra money.



This early experience of face-to-face marketing sowed the seeds for an

18-year career in the industry spanning CPM, her own company Carr

Associates and now Mosaic-owned FMCG, where she is the chief

executive.



Carr believes that the successful field-marketing company of the future

will be able to combine excellence of execution with the flexibility to

keep innovating and adapting to the changing market. "You have to keep

adding more value, reinventing, building on a brief, being

creative."



But while clients in general are becoming more demanding, there are

plenty, Carr argues, who have yet to grasp the role of field marketing

in the mix. And the future growth of the industry will come from tapping

into the unconverted.



"Agencies will come up with a brilliant ad campaign but unless it is in

front of the consumer when they want to buy it, the campaign is wasted.

I describe us as doing the last 12 inches because that's when the buying

decision is made."



Much like any marketing services company, greater integration with the

other agencies involved in a campaign and direct involvement from the

outset are both high on Carr's wish list for the future.



Under the auspices of the Mosaic Group, this is beginning to happen on

some accounts. Carr points to the launch of Sainsbury's One, which

involved five Mosaic agencies, Mustard, eForce, Intelecom, Paradigm and

FMCG. "It's not just about cross-selling across a business but creating

something different. That's our ethos - you put the tiles together and

something different emerges."



TONY STRATTON, chairman and chief executive, CPM International



To call Tony Stratton, the chairman of Europe's largest field-marketing

company CPM, the granddaddy of the industry is no understatement.

Stratton not only lays claim to working with the first UK brand to

outsource its sales force, Johnson, but it was CPM that coined the

phrase "field marketing" in the 80s when he was a mere account

executive.



Stratton's progression up the career ladder mirrors the growing profile

of the industry as well as the changing fortunes of CPM itself. In 1986,

the company became part of a small advertising group, Davidson Pearce,

which was subsequently acquired by BMP which, one year later, was

snapped up by Omnicom.



"Field marketing was not understood by advertising at the time. I don't

think Omnicom even realised that CPM was part of the BMP group," admits

Stratton.



Although Omnicom came to realise that CPM's ability to make contact with

customers at the final point of sale made it a powerful addition to the

group, perception still remains a key issue for the industry. "The

problem comes from the fact that field marketing as a discipline tended

to be used by sales execs rather than marketing execs."



But the real challenge for the industry, he believes, is to take the

consultancy high ground. "If the industry is going to grow and develop,

it has to be regarded as much for its advice as for its execution." The

failure of some companies to offer top-level strategic advice will see a

shake out in the long term, says Stratton, especially as new players

with a broader offering enter the market.



"Ad agencies are starting to think about how they can help clients take

products from conception right through to the consumer. The greatest

threat will come from new entrants. And those with a bundle of solutions

will be able to secure the high ground."



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