EC to Fund FEDMA Call-Center Initiative

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BRUSSELS - The European Commission has agreed to fund a call-center training program developed and coordinated by the Federation of European Direct Marketing with the help of national European DMAs.

"Some countries, like the UK and the Netherlands, have some very sophisticated training programs," said Alastair Tempest, FEDMA's Director General for Public Affairs.

"We'd like to bring their experiences together so that their collective knowledge and the way they do things can be shared with countries that are not as developed, and to produce some guidelines on best practices for call-center education."

The initiative, Tempest added, came from major member companies like Sitel and Teleperformance.

"They came to us and said, 'look, we're seeing rather patchy development on call-center education. It's very good in some countries, and in others it hardly exists at all. Can't you get more going on this?'

"So we went to the EC and talked to that part of the commission that deals with training and employment. They were interested and thus came the proposal that FEDMA run this program."

The EC's interest was sparked by the call center industry's record of generating new jobs, a key issue in the European Union where jobless rates have been running above 10 percent in France and several other nations.

The project is being carried out in collaboration with the European trade union for telecom and communications, a federation of national unions. "That's good for us because we are not widely seen as a very unionized business," Tempest said.

He believes the contract is not only good for FEDMA and its image but for the DM industry as a whole.

FEDMA is to complete preliminary work on the project by the end of next year, but the EC has put some strings on the grant. One condition is that industry will pick up financing once EC money runs out. Tempest did not disclose the size of the grant.

The idea for the project came from FEDMA's teleservices council, a group chaired by Philip Cohen, a recognized pan-European authority on call-center management. The council staff in Brussels will do the spade work.

Much of the nitty gritty, and a good deal of the money, will be farmed out to national DMAs and other call center training enterprises in the more progressive EU member states, Tempest said.

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