Company Offers Telcos Do-Not-Call Blocking Service

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Tackling the increasingly complicated Federal and state rules affecting telemarketing, a new company, Call Compliance.com Inc., Glen Cove, NY, is partnering with telephone companies to offer a service that automatically blocks telemarketers from calling people whose names are on various state and in-house do-not-call lists.


The main cost for the service, called Teleblock, is intended to be paid by telephone companies that want to court their high-volume telemarketing clients by offering them a value-added service that will solidify their loyalty.


The service, along with Acxiom's InfoBase TeleSource version 4.0, which includes no-solicitation flags, is among the first products to address the issue of complying with the buildup in regulations for outbound telemarketing.


In its first partnership with a phone company, Call Compliance.com has begun working with Telco Communications Group, Chantilly, VA, to convert the company's existing telemarketing clients to the new product. The partnership builds on a sales agent, or reseller-type relationship that one of the creators of Teleblock, Dean Garfinkel, had established with Telco Communications Group from a previous company. Through the partnership, Telco Communications Group is focusing initially on inviting the customers and clients Garfinkel had brought to Telco to use the product, said John Leach, senior vice president, alternate channels for Telco Communications Group.


One Telco client, New York brokerage Joseph Stevens and Company, is using Teleblock to block numbers on state-run do-not-call lists in Florida, Georgia, Arizona and Oregon as well as numbers on its own 8,000-name, in-house do not call list.


"I can't quantify time or money that it saves but it helps by preventing us from being at risk," said Rick Suppa, chief operating officer of Joseph Stevens and Company. "I've seen it and I'm confident that it works. You can't call a number that has been blocked."


The brokerage, which makes up to 10,000 calls a day across the country and worldwide, had previously used a semi-automated system to coordinate state and in-house do not call requests.


"I used to get disks from different states and it was a lot of work," Suppa said. "There is a requirement that we block lists and the only alternative is to give lists to sales people and hope that they look them up prior to dialing."


Joseph Stevens currently makes all its calls from one location, but is considering an expansion to another center. Once it expands, both centers will be able to work from the same Teleblock database, Suppa said.


Through the program, when a telephone company has an agreement with Call Compliance.com, outbound telemarketing calls made by the phone company's clients who have opted to use the service are automatically matched with the phone numbers in Teleblock's do-not-call database before the number is dialed, said David Mortman, executive vice president of operations for Call Compliance.com. Any number on the list is automatically blocked.


Teleblock's DNC database includes the four state-run do-not-call lists as well as the list of consumers who have subscribed to Telestop, Call Compliance.com's subscription service that allows consumers and businesses to add their numbers to the company's do-not-call list for a fee. The list of subscribers to Telestop will be segmented by industry, so subscribers could block out banking calls, but not book, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, for example.


"The product understands the legislative problems and is user friendly. It is a product at no cost to the teleservices company that will satisfy disparate legislation," said Mortman. "It's not adversarial, it's meant to help telemarketers decrease costs, increase compliance and have a better image."


Each telemarketing company using Teleblock has its own account, which includes its own do-not-call list along with Teleblock's database. Because the program is Web-based, telemarketing clients can modify DNC lists by adding or subtracting names from the list in real time.


"We have been able to unblock numbers if someone is on a general do-not-call list but wants to accept calls from Joseph Stevens, and I can add numbers to the list myself," said Suppa. "Also, I like that we can conduct queries, so that if we are not sure whether someone is on a list, we can find out from the system instead of having to call the person and ask them, which could be illegal."


So far, all of the telemarketing clients contacted at Telco Communications Group have been interested in using the product, Leach said. The group of marketers that are using the product currently includes approximately 15 to 20 companies, mainly brokerage firms located in the New York or Washington, DC, market. The phone company started with a small test group so that it could test out its own internal system of checks and balances for administering the program.


"It gives brokerage firms the ability to automate the do-not-call process by placing blocks in the phone system," Leach said. "It saves telemarketers the effort of getting different do-not-call lists, it saves them a lot of potential heat from calling people who don't want to be called, and it doesn't really cost them anything."


Telco Communications Group sees the product as a competitive advantage to offer to prospective telemarketing clients.


"If you are in the long distance environment with competitive rates, a rock solid network and an automatic solution for do-not-calls, that might be the extra bargaining chip," Leach said.


Call Compliance.com has trained Telco's sales staff on the competitive advantage of Teleblock and also plans to approach top telemarketing firms.
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