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Call Center Mailer Touts TeleZapper Immunity

Teleservices technology firm Castel claims in a direct mail campaign that its call management system gives outbound callers immunity to the TeleZapper, a home-privacy device that fools predictive dialers into thinking that a line is disconnected.

The technology is intended not to help telemarketers evade privacy safeguards to reach consumers, but to help collection agencies reach those in debt who use the TeleZapper to mask their phone lines, according to Castel, Beverly, MA.

The TeleZapper — marketed by Royal Appliance Manufacturing Co., which also makes the Dirt Devil — mimics the three-tone sound phones emit when a disconnected or out-of-service number is dialed.

Predictive dialers generally listen for that tone to remove disconnected numbers from a calling list. Castel's system, dubbed DirectQuest, works not by listening for tones but by looking for digital codes — sent by central offices in the telephone network — that accompany calls.

“We're not fooled by the TeleZapper,” said Walter Elicker, Castel's director of marketing. “We just plain old don't see it.”

Castel is not trying to aid telemarketers in circumventing a home-privacy device, Elicker said, as such consumers are unlikely to buy from telemarketers anyway.

But collection agencies and call center service agencies that work for them should be concerned that people could use the TeleZapper to stymie efforts to collect debts by telephone, he said. DirectQuest's method of weeding out disconnected lines would make the TeleZapper useless for that purpose.

A Royal Appliance spokeswoman said she was unaware of predictive-dialer technology that bypasses the TeleZapper. She acknowledged that if DirectQuest works the way Castel claims, the TeleZapper would not block calls made by it.

The spokeswoman also said she was unaware of consumers using TeleZapper to elude collection agencies, though she also acknowledged that the device would block collection agencies using predictive dialers the same as with telemarketers.

Castel's method of detecting digital signals also reduces dead air, Elicker said. Teleservices experts blame answering-machine detection for a majority of dead-air problems, but some connection delay is caused by dialers listening for disconnected lines, he said.

By detecting a live line instantly, DirectQuest can connect a call to a live agent in the time it takes for consumers to pick up the phone and bring the receiver to their ear, he said.

While the TeleZapper issue is mentioned only briefly in the Castel mailer, top billing on the piece went to DirectQuest's caller-ID capabilities. Call center operators have complained that telephone network technology prevents them from transmitting caller-ID information.

To ensure that a client's identity — rather than their own — appears on consumer caller-ID boxes, call centers must contact their telephone carrier each time they begin work on a new outbound campaign. Because call centers often switch between campaigns and clients several times a day, outbound callers would have to contact their carrier every few hours, an impractical and costly proposition even if the carrier were willing to do it, Elicker said.

Many call centers opt to transmit no caller-ID data instead. Because of this, calls from telemarketers often appear as “out of area” or “unavailable” on caller-ID boxes.

Castel solves this problem by letting call centers change outgoing caller-ID information on their own without going through their carrier, Elicker said. Other predictive-dialer makers, including SER Solutions Inc., are touting similar capabilities in their call center technology.

Elicker declined to disclose details about the mail campaign results. He said the mailer has had more success in the past two months, in which compliance issues have gained greater attention due to the Federal Trade Commission's announcement of sweeping new telemarketing rules.

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