*Teleservices Industry Must Improve Image, Exec Says

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SAN FRANCISCO--ATA conference attendees received a mix bag of news from James Taylor, executive vice president of Iomega Corp., Sioux City, Iowa, at a breakfast conference here Tuesday.

The good news: For every dollar spent on outbound sales calls, teleservices companies are realizing $7 dollars in return. The bad news: Consumers still have a negative image of the industry.

"This is an industry that provides services for business and people, but it is a business that is in trouble," Taylor said. "The house is a place where business develops, but people want protection in their homes."

The telemarketing concept has to change, he said, because traditional dinner time calls are only aggravating potential customers.

"When I was at Gateway computers, they would set up appointments over the phone so people would not be interrupted," he said. "The concept worked well, but there are other problems that were created."

One of those problems -- which Taylor admitted he didn't have the answer to -- was setting up the appointments without disturbing potential customers.

"[Teleservices] is challenged by the fact that consumers are becoming more self-confirmed about who they are and what they want for this industry to survive, " he said. "And to maintain its 7-to-1 advantage, it has to redefine progress."

To do this Taylor suggested that call center managers think of themselves as movie producers and treat the customers as if Jack Nicholson were in the starring role.

"When agents call, they should say 'Hi, my name is Carol and I am calling from South Dakota.' People in the city would think that this is exotic and will engage in a conversation with the agent," he said. "Call center reps have to teach people something they didn't know before or teach them something about themselves. If you can get them to say, 'Ah ha,' you are almost there."

To get this accomplished, companies need a mission. Many companies have mission statements, he said, but few have missions.

Telemarketing is part of an advertising blitz that will force a child to have seen 350,000 television ads by age 6. By the time that 6-year-old turns 40, he will have seen close to 2 million commercials. This doesn't include billboard, Internet and print ads.

"Consumers are becoming a lot more discerning at a younger age, and they want products that define who they are," Taylor said.

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