Do Not Call Prospects

Customer service companies are using the legislation as a CRM springboard.

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Although caught up in legal battles, the Federal Trade Commissions National Do Not Call Registry is still looming over many enterprises marketing activities.

Courts have ruled the FTC has no grounds to enforce the list, which is designed to allow consumers to opt out of receiving calls from telemarketers. But legislation has since been passed to strengthen the FTC, while the Federal Communications Commission has pledged to enforce compliance with the list.

Many enterprises that rely on such outbound marketing activities are falling in step with Do Not Call no matter how the legal battles shake out. To some, Do Not Call presents an opportunity to practice real customer relationship management: building relationships—and business—with customers by presenting tailored marketing offers when those customers contact the companys call center representatives.

"Weve been migrating our business model towards ... increasing customer loyalty," said Matt Garrett, vice president of marketing at call center outsourcer Aegis Communications Group Inc., of Irving, Texas. Aegis handles call center operations primarily for financial services and telecommunications companies. "Its the true idea behind CRM: to build relationships between customers."

Aegis limits outbound marketing to just 20 percent of the work it does for clients, Garrett said, an initiative put in place before the Do Not Call legislation took effect. The company has nonetheless made sure its in compliance with Do Not Call—scrubbing its contact lists of those whove signed up as well as upgrading its predictive dialing equipment to ensure that customers who answer calls talk to a person or hear a recorded explanation of who is calling them and why.

"Given the high profile of the legislation, we just want to do the right thing by our customers," said Gaye Weinberger, senior vice president of business requirements at Aegis. "Fifty million people signed up for [Do Not Call]."

Aegis has deployed PeopleSoft Inc.s PeopleSoft CRM Version 8.8 to handle inbound call center marketing. The software can generate marketing offers for customers based on prior customer behavior or in response to the customer service or sales issue the customer is calling about.

PeopleSoft also added a new call tracking mechanism designed to ease compliance with Do Not Call in a PeopleSoft CRM 8.8 productivity pack released in August.

"We get an understanding of the customer prior to the call or dynamically as they call in," Garrett said. "If theres an upsell opportunity with that account, we try to find the right opportunity so that we can maximize the interaction."

Aegis plans to use new predictive capabilities that PeopleSoft introduced in its CRM applications in June that allow a call center rep to see what offer is likely to bring the best response.

"Were not really using the technology differently; were just maximizing our usage of it," Weinberger said. "This is an initiative thats been going on for the last two years, where were trying to understand the preferences of the customers were talking with, [and were trying to] understand the needs of the customer so that we can offer them services they can use."

PeopleSofts technology provides not only marketing offers but also call center scripts that agents can use to present those offers, Garrett said. "The application gives us talking points associated with the products and services to help determine which is the right one to offer the customer," he said.

"We can zero in on the right product or service faster," Weinberger said.

Weinberger said the Do Not Call legislation will have the greatest impact on small call center operations that are relying on outbound calling for 80 to 100 percent of their activities. System upgrades for predictive dialing and call monitoring technology needed to comply will be the biggest cash drain. "This will have a significant impact financially on small organizations," Weinberger said.

Aegis, meanwhile, can take comfort in its move to inbound marketing and increasing focus on building customer loyalty and retention in lieu of acquiring new customers via telemarketing.

But its still too early to tell in hard numbers what kind of effect those efforts and the technology deployed to achieve Aegis marketing goals are having.

"We dont have any [return on investment] numbers yet, but were getting very positive feedback from our field organization," Weinberger said.