The 2008 ATA Convention and Expo Report

By Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections MagazineThe 2008 ATA Convention and Expo began Sunday, October 5th, with a golf outing, preliminary meetings, and an opening reception. On Monday attendees were treated to opening remarks from Phil Grundzinski, chair of the ATA board of directors. Phil addressed the issue of privacy with some lighthearted sharing of what he found online about ATA CEO Tim Searcy – with Tim’s permission, of course.

Phil was followed by the convention’s first keynote address from Mickey Alam Khan, who shared his insights about the impact of mobile marketing on the contact center. Mobile marketing is not proactively calling or texting mobile phones, but is primarily responsive. Increasingly, websites that are optimized for mobile access have a “call me” button. “Call me” is popular for the mobile Web because it facilitates communication, while at the same time it decreases user scrolling and typing. Contact centers are ideally positioned to handle this communication, as they have the required staff, experience, and expertise.

Will Sowell, vice president of prepaid products at GE Money, gave the next keynote address. His presentation took on the feel of a case study, detailing the division’s transformation from a single product focus to a multiproduct one, thereby increasing both the amount of business and the growth rate.

There were also two breakout sessions (for a total of eight presentations) and ample time for browsing the exhibit hall. The day concluded with the ATA-PAC fundraiser, raising over $31,000.

On Tuesday, ATA CEO Tim Searcy gave his State of the ATA address, entitled “The Future of the Industry.” The ATA started twenty-five years ago with eight members and has grown to 517 corporate members, representing two million agents working in thousands of call centers. Tim reviewed the work of past members to make the association into what it is today and prepare it for the future. This work includes responding to the DNC regulations, developing the ATA PAC (Political Action Committee), launching the ATA-SRO (Self Regulatory Organization), and launching Call Centers Care, ATA’s new philanthropic initiative. With these programs gaining momentum, Tim is bullish about the future of the teleservices industry.

The final keynote address was presented by David James, VP of insurance and wealth management for GE Money. In response to increased worldwide regulatory pressures, GE Money has developed global standards for its call center operations that fit into four categories: customer transparency, a competitive offer, quality sales staff, and robust monitoring and control. The results of incorporating these values have increased agent confidence and implemented a compliance framework that has been welcomed by regulators. The impact of this initiative is enhanced customer experiences, enhanced shareholder value, and enhanced brand reputation.

Throughout Tuesday there were three breakout sessions (eight presentations) and more exhibit hall opportunities. The day concluded with the ATA Awards Gala. On Wednesday, instead of the usual call center tour, many attendees volunteered to work on a Habitat for Humanity project in San Antonio as part of ATA’s new Call Centers Care initiative.

[From Connection Magazine November 2008]

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