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
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
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
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
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
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
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."