Cisco System Outsources TeleServices Program

When executives at Internet networking company Cisco Systems Inc. decided to turn their inbound telemarketing leads into customers, they realized they needed a centralized marketing solution to help their 30-person inside sales department.

“They were inundated with a lot of calls from a variety of types of marketing programs that may or may not be sales leads, since this department is focused on sales,” said Scott Rayer, the response management programs manager of the San Jose, CA-based company. “However, they were the only division that was capable of handling these calls. We needed to realign their capacity and come up with a system that would allow them to pass along leads that they did not need to pursue.”

In general, the inside sales group was kind of a dumping ground for all responders and for all leads. To help redirect these leads, Cisco turned to Techmar Communications Inc., (TCI) a Canton, MA-based marketing services agency specializing in teleservices. TCI came up with the ideal solution – a response management system.

The key to the response management system is helping the company keep track of leads, said executives at Cisco. Here's how the system works: A customer calls Cisco's 800 number, and is connected to one of eight inbound telemarketing Techmar employees working for Cisco at Techmar's Canton offices. (Currently, there are about 40 Techmar employees working exclusively with Cisco there, including account managers, program managers, inbound telemarketers and outbound telemarketers.)

A telemarketer evaluates the call and decides whether it is a qualified, business-to-business prospect after learning if the prospect is a decision-maker and if there is a budget already approved, among other factors. Information such as name, address, e-mail, phone number and source code — such as what marketing piece drove them to respond — is collected also and sent electronically to a Cisco database housed in Raleigh, NC. Then the call is electronically transferred to Cisco's inside sales staff in Raleigh, in real time.

Afterward, information from the call is sent immediately back to Techmar's offices and input into Cisco's database. The information is also sent to San Jose so that the marketing department at Cisco can conduct data mining and data warehousing programs and prepare for direct mail campaigns.

According to Cisco, the system helps nurture leads, which ultimately build sales. “Cisco has to nurture relationships until prospects are ready to buy, and the best way to do this is by outbound telemarketing,” said Rayer.

“For example, a customer may call Cisco because he or she saw an ad for Cisco products, but they don't want to buy anything today. Techmar's system allows us to keep track of what we sent them, reminds us to call them three weeks from now to find out if they got the information, and then maybe invite them to a seminar. In addition, it allows us to tie marketing programs to the bottom-line.”

Tim Young, president and CEO, TCI, a two-year old company that had revenues of $12 million last year and currently has 180 employees, said: “The challenge that most business-to-business marketers face is that only a small percent age of responses are actually qualified, meaning they will buy in the next three months. Most of the responses are not qualified, they are people who want to buy information and they will buy sometime in the future. Our system lets Cisco salespeople focus only on qualified sales opportunities.”

The system is also important because it can track leads from a variety of sources, such as inbound responses, data entry from bingo cards or BRCs (????), seminar registrations, Cisco's Web page and outbound telemarketing.

“Cisco has a broader view of its customer base, and a better understanding of which customers to focus on,” Rayer said. The system, which was launched in November, has already contacted 3,600 leads and has already brought Cisco results.

“In the first two months, we have already gained revenue of a half million dollars on a less than 5 percent response,” said Rayer, who believes the system is so successful because it is outsourced.

“Outsourcing allows companies to not have to deal with the overhead costs associated with building a database, among othercosts,” said Rayer. “And the overhead is a very big part of it, because you want a dedicated team focused on your organization to make sure it runs correctly.”

And less expensively, adds Rayer. Though he didn't have exact figures, he said it probably is 20 percent to 30 percent cheaper to outsource this service.

TCI's Young, as expected, is a firm believer in outsourcing. “While putting together a relationship management system like ours is certainly something companies can do internally, they would have to make the same investments that we already have made,” he said. “Then they would have to dedicate staff and resources to it, which is a huge investment.”

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