ATA Convention ICE Cools the Arizona Desert

By Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections MagazineThe 2007 ATA Convention & Expo was held in Scottsdale, Arizona on September 30 through October 3 at the Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch. This year’s theme was “Creating ICE in the Desert.”  ICE, by the way, stands for the “Ideal Customer Experience,” building on last year’s theme.

Between the three keynote speakers, eighteen breakout sessions, more than fifty vendors (occupying 100 booths), and just over 600 attendees, a wealth of practical and germane information was shared. Noteworthy were the three keynote addresses by David Goldsmith, Jack Jones, and Tim Searcy. The overall results were a most informative, insightful, and enjoyable experience. Those who were there know that of which I speak; those who missed it would be well advised to add the 2008 convention to next year’s calendar (October 5-8 at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio).

The convention started in a relaxed manner with a shotgun-start at the 24th annual golf tournament, the first annual tennis tournament, and an opening reception on Sunday. On Monday, after opening remarks by ATA chair Lisa DeFalco, keynote speaker David Goldsmith of MetaMatrix Consulting Group captivated attendees in a standing room-only session with his thoughts on “The Future of the Nearly Perfect Customer Contact.” After being dismissed to select from a series of breakout sessions, attendees converged on the expo for lunch and time with the vendors before reconvening for the second keynote address. There, Jack Jones, global solutions executive at JPMorgan Chase, captured audience attention with his compelling account of planning and successfully transitioning to offshore call centers in his address, “Globalization and the Ideal Customer Experience.” The afternoon repeated the pattern of interesting breakout sessions and time with vendors.

Monday evening was an opportunity to have fun for a good cause. The ATA-PAC took attendees back to the seventies for a “Boogie Night Experience” featuring disco headliner The Boogie Knights. Many dressed for the occasion in their seventies costumes, dancing the night away in fun and frivolity; in all, more than $30,000 was raised for the ATA-PAC that night. Another impressive fundraiser has already been announced for the 2008 Washington Summit, which takes place April 27-30. In addition to fundraising events, ATA member call centers can help grow the PAC’s coffers through payroll deduction. At the modest amount of one dollar per agent per month, ATA has in its sights the very realistic goal of a one million dollar year for PAC.

Tuesday morning began with a commanding address by the third keynote speaker, ATA CEO Tim Searcy, entitled “State of the ATA, Future of the Industry.” In addition to a poignant word picture and compelling message, Tim reminded attendees of the critical importance of getting on board with ATA’s recently unveiled SRO (self-regulatory organization). The SRO’s goal is to do an end run around additional burdensome legislation by setting consumer-focused standards for members to agree to and follow. SRO certification will be the next step, allowing complying members to add the ATA-SRO seal to their marketing materials and promotions. The day then progressed with three more sets of breakout sessions, interspersed with food and exhibit hall time.

That evening was the much-anticipated awards gala, “Celebrating Another Year of Excellence.” Honorees were a veritable who’s who of call center notables. Following the awards ceremony, there was a reprise of last year’s popular casino night. The convention concluded on Wednesday morning with a tour of JPMorgan Chase’s nearby call center.

[From Connection Magazine November 2007]

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