TCPA Legal Action Thrown Out

Recently, I came across a blog post about a TCPA class action lawsuit that was thrown out for being frivolous to say the least.

Without getting into too much detail, a man recently tried to sue Citibank, claiming that its direct marketing efforts were a violation of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The man claimed that he contacted Citibank in May of 2011 to apply for a credit card. As part of the application process, he gave his cell phone number to the bank and a few days later he received a text message with a promotion for Citi Cards (Citibank’s credit card). That message said he had the opportunity to opt out of future text messages by simply replying with the word “stop.” He did this, and Citibank sent him a final text, confirming that he would no longer receive promotions through the text message program. The man then proceeded to file suit in the Southern District of California, where he argued that the final confirmation text message violated the TCPA.

Now, if the man had opted out of the text message program and continued to receive promotions, I could very easily understand why he would be upset. That would be a direct violation of the law and his rights would have been considered to be infringed upon, but this simply was not the case.  The ruling in this case helps set a precedent and protects the industry from frivolous lawsuits like this in the future.

New Technology in Contact Centers

The teleservice industry is continuing to evolve and as direct marketers, we must adapt to the way consumers choose to connect with us. The digital age is thriving and things like text messages, email and social media are becoming more and more popular mediums of communication with consumers. When I look at this particular case, I am encouraged to see the judge’s decision reflects a balance in protecting the rights of consumer privacy with that of legitimate business interests.

With all of this being said, I think it is important that call centers, like InfoCision, understand our role in all of this. We have to remain compliant and follow the regulations that are in place. Here at InfoCision, we have invested millions of dollars in technology and dedicated resources to ensure all of our campaigns comply fully with all applicable laws and regulations, including the TCPA and the Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR).  We also have to be aware that our industry is unfortunately often under scrutiny. Violations by a few bad actors could ultimately result in more restrictions on our business. The new advances in technology are enabling us to expand consumer choice and create a superior customer service experience.

Work and Life: A True Balancing Act

It’s important to help employees find a proper work-life balance; a healthy combination of what they do at work and what they do at home with their families

Last week, InfoCision held its annual Fall Festival, where employees bring their children, dressed in costumes, into work to collect candy at 22 stations we have set up around our corporate campus.  This is something we have been doing for several years now and the response from our employees has been great.  As I watched the children and their parents walking from station to station, collecting plenty of sweets along the way, I began to think about how proud I am to be part of a company that encourages work-life balance and what it means to our employees.

work-life-balanceHere at InfoCision, we have always tried to make sure that our employees have a proper work-life balance; a healthy combination of what they do at work and what they do at home with their families.  There’s no question, career is important and requires prioritizing all aspects of life so the family doesn’t suffer.  That’s why we implemented a robust work-life balance initiative here at InfoCision.  The bottom line is, when our employees have family or health concerns, it can be difficult coming to work every day and being productive.  We realize this, and that is why InfoCision provides innovative amenities like on-site doctors’ offices and fitness centers.

Having amenities like these available to our employees helps relieve some of the stress that life often brings, and promotes greater “presenteeism.”  Think about how much time is wasted when an employee has to visit an off-site doctor.  Depending on the travel time, it could take an entire half-day to just get a standard check-up.  Our InfoWellness clinics are a convenient alternative to visiting a doctor, plus if the employee is a member of InfoCision’s insurance plans, it’s free!  During flu season, helping to keep everyone healthy is a priority.  Especially when you have over 4,400 employees, many of whom work in very close proximity to one another.  Each year our on-site clinics provide low-cost flu shots for our employees.  This past flu season we administered close to 1,000 flu shots to help ensure that our people stayed healthy.  Our InfoFitness center helps promote a healthy lifestyle for our employees and we even hold an annual “Weight Loss War,” which is our version of “The Biggest Loser.”  This year employees lost over 2,950 pounds – one and a half TONS!  Our InfoKids Early Learning Center has helped make the decision between working and staying home easier for our employees, and has helped us retain many of our best female employees.  Our working parents can feel a sense of comfort, knowing that their child is in the care of a certified professional at our corporate campus.

When you look at the big picture of things, yes, our amenities are great for our employees and we love being able to provide them.  With that in mind, it also allows our company to be proactive instead of reactive.  Our innovative programs have helped our company lower the cost of insurance premiums, emergency room visits and productivity issues.  When employees are happy and healthy, they’re going to be willing to work harder.  And our clients benefit from the great results our dedicated employees are able to produce.  That is a situation where everybody wins!

InfoCision CFO Dave Hamrick wins CFO of the Year Award

On October 23, InfoCision CFO Dave Hamrick was honored as CFO of the Year in the large private company category, presented by Crain’s Cleveland Business.

Dave Hamrick CFO of the YearLast Tuesday, October 23,  InfoCision CFO Dave Hamrick was honored as CFO of the Year in the large private company category,  presented by Crain’s Cleveland Business. For Dave to have won in a field that included several other talented CFO’s from large local companies is quite an honor, and speaks to the high quality of his work.

I have had the opportunity to work with Dave since he joined our Executive Team here at InfoCision in 2007, and I can’t begin to tell you how much he has made a positive impact, and significantly enhanced our accounting department by fine-tuning accounting methods, expanding financial reporting and improving the budgeting process. The quantity and quality of the work done by Dave and his staff in our accounting department has greatly improved our business overall and his contributions have helped InfoCision maximize profits and reduce expense. He has helped our company to grow over the last few years despite difficult economic conditions.

In the highly complex environment of corporate finance, where more stringent regulations are continuously being enacted, it is essential to have a highly competent CFO like Dave to maintain InfoCision’s compliance leadership in the industry.  I’ve spoken often of the important role compliance plays in teleservices, and the same applies to every corporation’s financial practices.  No matter what your company does, a lack of sound financial leadership would lead to disastrous results.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Dave for being named CFO of the Year, as it is very well deserved!

InfoCision employee Ed Port’s battle to overcome NF-2 featured on TLC; and why helping employees in need is more than good business

InfoCision Communicator Ed Port is beating NF-2. Helping employees like Ed, who drive the company’s success, is simply the right thing to do. TCT9HV8R5QMM

Last week, The Learning Channel aired a program featuring the story of one of InfoCision’s outstanding Communicators, Ed Port.  Ed suffers from a condition called Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF-2) that produces benign but highly intrusive tumors on his face and head. Although his condition has been present since he was young, the tumor had continued to grow and began to significantly affect Ed’s daily life. The program, called “My Giant Face Tumor” tells Ed’s story of searching for a doctor and insurance company that would take on his case and help him to get the surgeries he needs to improve his quality of life.

After years of searching and meeting with doctors, Ed finally found the right doctor in Dr. McKay McKinnon with St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago, and also found an insurance company that would help pay for the surgeries. He is now on the path to realizing his dreams, and we couldn’t be happier for him.

I’m proud to say that back in 2010, InfoCision employees donated $10,000 to Ed’s cause, and the company matched for a total donation of $20,000. Our generous employees also donated roughly nine months of sick time for Ed to use as he recuperates from his surgeries.

Why helping employees in need is more than good business

I talk a lot on this blog about the importance of connecting with employees.  InfoCision employees and the company regularly come together to support co-workers in times of need such as illnesses and other personal tragedies.  From a business perspective, it makes sense because employees know that if they have a rough break the company is there to support them.  But more than that, it’s simply the right thing to do – because your employees are the ones taking care of your business every single day, and driving the success of your company.  It’s only right to reach out a helping hand when they need it.

Mobile Marketing in the Call Center

One of the technologies that is gaining interest among direct marketers and their audiences is mobile marketing. I sat down with our Chief Technical Officer Mike White for a short Q&A to talk about how mobile technologies are changing the way direct marketing works.

What factors drive the growth in text marketing?

InfoCision Chief Technical Officer Mike White

Definitely the rise in the number of mobile devices. And with the new generation, texting is how they communicate. It’s the new demographic. Also, there are some statistics out there that show that the age gap for people that do texting is widening. It’s not just the 18-to-29-year-olds now. It’s the 30-to-40-year-olds and the 50-to-60-year-olds that are starting to text as well. It’s becoming very commonplace.

How is the growth in mobile text marketing affecting the call center business?

We look at it from a service bureau perspective. We are handling calls on behalf of our clients, and what we’re seeing is that as we contact people through traditional channels, like the phone, we find individuals who request to be contacted via other channels.

Texting is becoming a type of marketing that is growing in popularity because a large percentage of the population has cell phones or mobile devices. I’ve seen statistics that show 90 percent of texts get opened and read within 15 minutes of being sent. As we see that proliferation, as a call center vendor, we need to be able to have that channel available to our clients so they can communicate with their customers.

What changes are call centers making to capitalize on text marketing?

The main thing is they need to have a provider or in-house platform that is capable of sending and receiving SMS messages. (SMS, or short message service, is a standardized communication protocol that enables the exchange of text messages between fixed line and mobile phone devices.) It’s basically a tool set and call centers need to have the right tools to provide the service.

Why has InfoCision chosen to make this investment?

It’s another option for how our clients can reach out to their customers. In addition, because it’s a very new and emerging space, we’re finding significantly higher response rates.

For more information on mobile marketing, contact Mike White at (330) 668-1400 or mike.white@infocision.com.

Mentoring programs pay dividends for professionals of all ages

For today’s young professionals, having a mentor can be a key to helping them feel engaged in their jobs and get the feedback they desire, that may not always get from their immediate supervisors. It’s also a great way for veteran business practitioners like me to have more informal conversations with younger workers, which helps me understand some of the nuances of the younger generation.

The Importance of Mentoring Today

If you have the privilege of mentoringmanaging others in your workplace, you no doubt have come to the realization that no two people are alike. In fact, depending upon any number of factors, two different people within the same department could be as different as night and day. If you embrace diversity and manage to each of the individual’s strengths, those two people can be equally effective despite their differences. But to do that, we must understand our employees; and sometimes as a veteran practitioner we can have trouble relating to the younger generation that is just entering the workforce.

I recently found a very interesting article written in Forbes entitled “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme – Millennials in the Workplace” where the author talks about what young professionals are looking for when starting their careers. I really found the article interesting and it made me think about the importance of mentoring in my career – both as a mentee when I was young and as a mentor in recent years. For today’s young professionals, having a mentor can be a key to helping them feel engaged in their jobs and get the feedback they desire, that may not always get from their immediate supervisors. It’s also a great way for veteran business practitioners like me to have more informal conversations with younger workers, which helps me understand some of the nuances of the younger generation.

Mentoring in the call center industry

In any industry, there are many facets of the business that can be extremely overwhelming to understand, and the call center is no exception. The call center industry can be very challenging at times, and it can be difficult to navigate if you have never had any first-hand experience. And remember the anxiety you felt when you finally landed that first job? I know I do, and when you make the choice to mentor a young professional, you are providing them with a resource they can use to help conquer the many challenges they are likely to encounter, especially in today’s ultra-competitive economic environment.

And personally, I can’t even begin to explain the sense of pride I have felt being a mentor.  Watching a younger professional struggle, then grow to excel and achieve their goals is really amazing. It’s even more fulfilling to know you helped them along the way and it’s an experience I think all those in leadership positions should embrace – because before we know it that younger generation will be leading our great nation into the future.

Diversity at home and in the workplace

For years, Holocaust survivor Betty Gold has traveled around the country telling her story about the horrific events she witnessed as a child. Typically her audiences are composed of school children, youth groups and other younger members of society, but earlier this week The InfoCision Diversity Council gave our employees the opportunity to hear Betty’s amazing story.

Along with other members of InfoCision’s diversity council and employees throughout the company, I personally heard Betty speak about the importance of diversity tolerance as she told her life-story as a person of Jewish heritage growing up in the Ukraine during the Nazi invasions of the 1940’s. I must say hearing her story was truly amazing. To hear the tragic events she witnessed and what she had to do to survive was not only astonishing, but inspiring as well.

Our diversity council is made up of employees who lead, monitor and advocate the strategic diversity management process within InfoCision. This group and its members help our company encourage proactive diversity initiatives and empower others to inspire change throughout the company by making events like our time with Betty possible.

My personal experience

Hearing Betty speak really made me think about how important diversity tolerance is in our lives. This idea of diversity is one that is personally very near and dear to my heart. For those of you who do not know, my wife and I have two daughters that we adopted from China.

When I think about diversity, I cannot help but think about my own family where we have many races represented through adoption in our sibling families…African American, Asian, Caucasian…all different races blended together! These differences have never mattered to us, rather we celebrate them! The bottom line is that we accept and – above all else – love each other.

I think this concept is extremely important in the workplace as well. Here at InfoCision we are one big family with the same overall goal: to be successful for our clients. For that to happen, we all have to work with and respect each other to the fullest extent. Part of being able to do this is having an understanding of the unique backgrounds and the many different experiences we have all encountered.  We have a very diverse team here at InfoCision, and by working together and embracing the things that make us truly individuals, we have and will continue to achieve great things.

DMA 2012 Conference in Las Vegas: Stop by InfoCision’s booth 425

As the year begins to wind down (I can’t believe how quickly 2012 has gone!) it is time once again for the annual Direct Marketing Association conference DMA 2012.

dma 2012Although I will not be personally attending this year’s conference, InfoCision will have a large presence there with a booth and four staff members. I know they are eager to hit the conference floor to say hi to some old friends, and make new ones.

We have something to offer businesses of all shapes and sizes, and we’re here to help your organization grow and succeed, so stop by booth 425 to meet with one of our experts, or give them a call to set up a meeting.

Curt Cramblett, vice president of new business development

Rob Sine, director of new business development

Dawn Keathley, director of new business development

Tom Hissong, manager of new business development

All four will be available to discuss InfoCision’s products and services, so if you’re going to be at the conference, stop by booth 425 and say hi! PLUS, We’ll also be giving away some special prizes throughout the conference so follow the DMA Conference on Twitter #DMA2012 and InfoCision on Twitter and LinkedIn and look for our Las Vegas trivia questions. You could win a Starbucks gift card in the morning to help you wake up, or a drink on us in the afternoon to help you relax after a long day in sessions.

I know our team is excited for this year’s event and I wish them and everyone attending a great conference and safe traveling!

Volunteer recruitment is a vital part of nonprofits achieving their missions

Volunteer Recruitment programs help to get more people involved with nonprofit organizations; spread the word about important causes and educate people about how they can live healthier.

volunteer recruitment kitYou’ve likely received a letter in the mail from a friend or neighbor that contains educational information such as tips for living healthier or ways to identify risks and prevent disease.  You may not have understood the full impact of these letters and the huge role volunteers have in furthering an organization’s mission.  I’ve been in the fundraising industry going on 30 years and have seen first-hand the importance of volunteer recruitment campaigns and I’d like to take a minute to share with you why they are so vital.

There’s no question this strategy aids in fundraising, because a person is more likely to give when the letter comes from someone they know.  However, the benefits extend far beyond dollars raised.  Volunteer recruitment programs help to get more people involved with nonprofit organizations; spread the word about important causes like fighting diabetes, cancer, autism, lung disease, stroke, etc. and educate people about how they can live healthier.

Here’s a short run down of the role a “family and friends” or “neighbor to neighbor” volunteer recruitment campaign has in advancing an organization’s mission:

1)      Engaging supporters on a deeper level – It’s one thing to give a nonprofit organization a donation, it’s another thing entirely to volunteer your time to send letters on their behalf.  For volunteers, making that commitment creates a deeper level of engagement.  Because there isn’t a financial commitment, nonprofits can involve supporters who can’t afford to write a check – giving everyone an opportunity to support the mission, regardless of financial means.

2)      Reaching people and creating new supporters – Another great benefit of a Friend and Neighbor campaign is enabling nonprofits to connect with many people they otherwise might not reach through traditional phone and mail efforts.  By having existing supporters reach out to neighbors and friends, it increases the likelihood they will receive the message and respond positively.

3)      Educating people about the cause – Fundraising is one small component of the work charities do.  Nonprofit organizations are dedicated to their cause.  Whether it’s finding a cure for a disease or providing better services for people facing challenges, every nonprofit is trying to do something to make the world a better place.  The information provided includes educational information like tips for living healthier or ways to identify risks for diseases.  By distributing this information, volunteers are helping to advance the nonprofit’s core mission.

4)      Spreading the word about the organization – Nonprofits utilize volunteer-based grassroots programs to spread their mission to millions of people that normally wouldn’t get that message.  Even if the individual does not send a donation, they may talk about the organization with a friend, decide to learn more about the cause, or even volunteer themselves to help in the future.

Involving people in volunteerism is a great way for nonprofits to engage more donors, and it creates stronger connections with the mission.  So next time you receive a letter in the mail from your neighbor on behalf of a nonprofit organization I hope you’ll take the time to read it and consider if helping that organization is the right choice for you.

InterAction 2012 at The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing is this Friday!

InterAction 2012, on Friday, September 28, will honor Direct Marketer of the Year Tom Richmond, President of Little Tikes and feature keynote speaker Dr. Andrew Thomas.

InterAction 2012I can’t believe it’s already here, but the time has come for the InterAction 2012 luncheon at The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing! Each year the Taylor Institute Board of Directors – of which I am proud to be part – recognizes an industry leader with The Direct Marketer of the Year Award during the luncheon attended by direct marketing professionals and academics from across the country.

This year’s event, on Friday, September 28, is looking great as we will have keynote speaker and Associate Professor of Marketing and International Business at The University of Akron, Dr. Andrew Thomas speak on The Distribution Trap, which is also the title of his recent book.  The book gives a great description of how current marketing and distribution concepts have convinced thousands of U.S. innovators that the sale and distribution of their products and services is better left in the hands of outside forces. By catering to the mass market, innovators are allowing mega-distributors to dilute the value of their products and services, imposing costs and changes in strategic direction and operational control. Dr. Thomas will discuss this topic and even explain what he feels is the solution to this business epidemic.

Direct Marketer of the Year: Tom Richmond

The highlight of InterAction 2012 will be when we honor our Direct Marketer of the Year: President of Little Tikes Worldwide, Tom Richmond. Tom has many attributes that made him a great candidate for Direct Marketer of the Year. His extensive knowledge of and dedication to finding meaningful ways to interact with clients and customers has enabled Little Tikes to boast steady growth since his arrival in 2008.  Tom has helped establish Little Tikes as the premier source of fun and educational experiential children’s products; enabling the company to flourish through difficult economic times.  He has always understood the importance of utilizing one to one marketing to drive the company’s success and since becoming President of Little Tikes, he has implemented direct marketing strategies that have allowed the company to adjust to the individual preferences and dynamics of today’s ever evolving consumers.

With all of this on the table, it’s easy to understand why I am so excited for InterAction 2012. I look forward to hearing Dr. Thomas speak and recognizing Tom for all of his achievements. I’d also like to thank our many sponsors and The University of Akron for hosting the event.