Acxiom Tailors UK Call Center for Australian Tourism

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LONDON - The Australian Tourist Commission (ATC)has outsourced a pan-European call center to Acxiom's telemarketing operation in the UK to coordinate information services and to gather prospect names for its database.


ATC is charged with promoting tourism to Australia in general and it works together with regional tourism bodies down under as well as with partners like airlines and hotels.


"What they wanted was a centralized information service to meet all tourist needs across the whole of Europe and the Middle East," Nicholas Turner, the business unit director for Axciom International Division Call Center, said.


The call center division has 170 agents and works for blue chip companies like Proctor & Gamble, Texaco, Toyota and Cable & Wireless. But it set up a dedicated corner for ATC with a total of 12 operators.


Most of them are native Australians who speak a second language. In all the center can handle 12 languages well and another 5 "partially," Turner said.


Calls to London are generated through advertising, public relations - "travel gets publicity," Turner explained - and from travel agencies seeking more information for their clients.


Like most pan-European campaigns local numbers are used in each country with calls then flipped to the call center in London. Calls coming into the system are then flagged to the most suitable agent for the caller country.


"Our customer think they are talking to an Australian who speaks their language," Turner said. "Using Australian nationals is seen by the consumer as an information service not just a line in a brochure.


"Callers want to talk to people who know Australia. Many of our agents are graduates in travel and tourism disciplines. Some have dual nationality and got their language that way."


Most of the agents are young and friendly, two qualities Australia is eager to boost. "The ATC wants to sell Australia as a dream destination and sees the phone as playing a key role in building that image."


Callers who simply want more information are sent a standard package but agents are equipped to handle more detailed conversation - for example helping would-be tourists interested in aboriginal art.


Special information packs are sent to those with special interests. The idea, Turner said, was "to prevent having to send them on to another number. They can get everything they need at one number."


But the call center's technology is designed to capture information as well as to give it. The system is automated so that callers' interests arerecorded in a central database.


The data is used to customize information packs and is passed on to the ATC's commercial partners so that they can "offer the right product to the right people quickly."


The database is also able to spot trends in travel destination or tourist interests, allowing rapid response and the tailoring of new campaigns to meet them.


Agents also contribute to the information flow by asking five basic questions that range from "have you ever been to Australia" to "have your booked your accommodation or flight."


That's of interest to airlines and hotels who can be harnessed into sharing various marketing costs - an important point for a government agency like ATC with a limited budget.


"We offer the integration of several components to make a very sophisticated whole," Turner said. "This is a very sophisticated call center linked to a database and a multi-variety fulfillment operation.


"Every information pack we send out can be different. We have 400 different information items that can be combined into a customized mailing."
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