Panel: Mobilize Teleservices Workers Against Unfriendly Legislation

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LAS VEGAS -- Teleservices employees are the industry's secret weapon in waging the war against unfriendly legislation that hampers telemarketers' ability to do business, a panel of American Teleservices Association said yesterday.

The industry needs to do a better job of showing legislators the economic benefits teleservices companies provide the nation by creating jobs, the panel told attendees of the ATA's 18th Annual Convention and Exhibition. State legislators routinely promise constituents that they will create jobs, so creating employment can provide a convincing argument against teleservices legislation.

"We have the most powerful weapon in this country possible," said Gary Cohen, president of ACI Telecentrics, who moderated the panel. "Are we using it? No."

One of the best ways to convince legislators of the value of the teleservices industry in creating employment is by calling them, Cohen said. Teleservices companies not only have access to lots of phones, but also have thousands of employees who can personally relate to legislators the value of teleservices jobs.

"You have the best army in the world," said panel member Nancy Korzeniewski, manager of inbound applications with InfoCision, Akron, OH. "They will rally to your defense."

Personal contact with legislators is important because of the frantic nature of state lawmaking, particularly toward the end of legislative sessions, panel members said. State lawmakers, many of whom are part time, are inundated with thousands of bills and, because of their limited time and staff, rarely have time to get familiar with more than a few of them.

"It's kind of like throwing spaghetti against a wall and seeing what sticks," said panel member Dennis McGarry, president of Personal Legal Plans Inc., Charlotte, NC. "Often they have no idea what the benefits of a bill are."

To help the industry react more swiftly to legislation, the ATA is developing a lobbying network of teleservices firms willing to spend time with state lawmakers and sell the industry's story, Cohen said. The ATA is looking to find a legislative coordinator for each state to act as a contact point for companies in that state, and would also have 10 regional coordinators to manage efforts on a broader scale.

Beyond reacting to legislation, teleservices industry members need to proactively form relationships with legislators prior to the introduction of undesirable legislation, panel members said. In particular, industry members need to get on personal terms with legislative leaders -- speakers of the house and senate presidents -- without whose support bills cannot go forward.

At stake is the industry's ability to do business, panel members said.

"It's a big deal, with major financial impacts," Cohen said. "What do you do about it? Fight back."

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