ProTel Marketing brings new jobs to Midwest
Wallace, Jodi Meryl
Since the late 1960s, the U.S. economy has suffered a persistent loss of traditional manufacturing jobs, resulting. in a pressing need for employee retraining and job creation. In the Midwest, where job losses have been especially severe, ProTel Marketing, Inc., a direct marketing service agency, is creating employment opportunities, with the help of state-of-the-art call center technology.
The company’s growth has brought jobs to several Midwestern communities. This year, in a move that will generate roughly 250 new jobs in downtown Milwaukee, ProTel will expand its operations into a rehabilitated building that once housed a Schlitz brewery.
ProTel is a closely held family business run by Ruth Wolf, president, and Janice Katz, executive vice president. Allen Wolf, senior vice president, said the service agency’s customers typically are large marketing organizations looking for additional resources or improved service. ProTel specializes in outbound telephone campaigns for direct sales, lead generation, credit card solicitation, surveys and fund raising.
ProTel’s headquarters facility in Lansing, Illinois employs more than 250 agents, supervisors and management staff. In 1991, ProTel expanded its operations in Topeka, Kansas, where it established a 96-station facility equipped with outbound calling technology.
When ProTel moved into Topeka, the firm assured the local business community it would provide 97 jobs within nine months. By the time nine months had elapsed, ProTel had created 120 full-time positions. The Topeka facility currently provides job opportunities to more than 200 people.
Now, ProTel is opening its third facility, in Milwaukee’s Schlitz Park, again with 96 agent stations and call-processing systems.
Choosing The Right Site
Thanks to modern telecommunications, managing remote sites from ProTel’s Lansing headquarters is as easy as having all of the service agency workstations under one roof ProTel can allocate its clients’ work among all three facilities, running campaigns simultaneously from more than one site. Clients do not need to set foot in any of ProTel’s offices. The majority of scripts provided for telephone campaigns are downloaded to ProTel via modem.
Schlitz Park is a designated Development Zone, making ProTel and other tenants eligible for tax and investment credits through the state, county and city development offices. Tenants also qualify for government-funded assistance with recruitment and training, a feature ProTel found attractive.
However, according to Mr. Wolf, the incentives were not the deciding factors in choosing the site for the new facility. ProTel’s main consideration in choosing any site is the size and composition of the local labor pool.
“We like Schlitz Park because it’s in a centrally located downtown site near where our prospective employees live,” he said. He noted that the Schlitz Park enterprise zone already houses businesses employing roughly 5,000 people and attracts employees from Milwaukee and its suburbs.
“The telemarketing industry provides opportunities for people who may not have high-tech experience or education and allows them to make a good living,” he said. “And they can grow in the company, earning their qualifications for promotion on the job.
“Our experience in Lansing and Topeka has been that people in entry-level positions are often promoted to jobs as trainers or supervisors. Some of our employees have been with us for 10 to 15 years.”
In the outbound telemarketing business since 1969, ProTel has become a technically astute company.
In 1989, Ms. Wolf purchased two EIS International, Inc. call-processing systems and converted ProTel to call center automation. The systems call specific lists of numbers automatically and send only calls answered by human voice back to agents–screening out no answers, busy signals and answering machines.
The systems’ software can display scripts on agent’s computer screens, customized to guide them through specific calling campaigns, as well as on-screen data detailing buying histories, income bracket, and other pertinent information about the person being called.
ProTel was actually instrumental in the evolution of the system itself, working with the manufacturer to expand the call-processing system’s capacity to 96 seats.
“We had been using older automatic technology,” Ms. Wolf explained, “and we had developed our own method for providing our clients with on-the-spot progress reports. We wanted the advantages of predictive dialing, but we didn’t want to change the way we did our reporting.”
That required having access to every call station from a single call server. “At that time, we would have had to use two 48-station call-processing systems,” Ms. Wolf said, “But that would have divided the data we needed for our reports. The manufacturer redesigned its system to handle 96 stations so we could generate reports while our campaigns were in progress.”
Ms. Wolf began her 27-year career in telemarketing as an operator. She had no formal technical training and now, despite her depth of knowledge about telecommunications software, still considers herself a computer layperson. For that reason, she appreciates the increasingly user-friendly nature of all call-processing technology–from basic menu-driven utility functions to software features that streamline writing scripts and generating reports.
“The software lets me do everything I need–even for demanding clients, I can create my own scripts and reports quickly, without having to learn a programming language,” she said.
Ms. Wolf said their technology “has allowed us to attain maximum efficiency and grow in a very competitive business.”
As of this year, ProTel’s growth has translated into new jobs in three communities–jobs for people who would otherwise be stranded by the local economy’s shift away from a manufacturing base.
“If someone is good on the phone and can be trained to work with our technology,” Mr. Wolf said, “they can grow with ProTel. We have some very demanding clients, and the quality of our technology lets us meet their needs.”
Jodi Meryl Wallace is senior vice president, marketing for EIS International, Inc., a leading provider of outbound call center technology.
Copyright Technology Marketing Corporation Sep 1995
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