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Northern Ireland Call Center Brings a Decade of Inbound/Outbound Service to International Clients

1 Jun, 2004 By: Response Contributor Response

When it comes to selecting a call center in Europe, Northern Ireland may not enter the minds of U.S. companies at first. However, recent studies have ranked Belfast as the top European location for customer contact centers. In 1994, Stuart Anderson and Julie Manning formed Anderson Manning Associates (AMA), a full-service call center. Response talked one-on-one with Fintan Bradley, AMA's marketing director, to discuss the company's services and the overall call-center business in Northern Ireland.

Response: Tell me about Anderson Manning Associates.

Fintan Bradley: We'll be celebrating our 10th anniversary this year. We're [located] right outside of Belfast in a seaside town called Bangor. And just in the last few years, we've also taken over a second site in the northwest of Ireland in a place, called Derry, which is on the border of the Republic of Ireland. So, we have two centers with a 180-person staff split between the two [locations]. We operate two distinct markets. One is DRTV - the home shopping channel - and the other is for not-for-profit clients such as charities. Our largest client is Vector Direct, and basically we've been handling all their telemarketing and fulfillment in the U.K. As a strong marketing company, they are a good example of a client where we've really provided all of their services - from organizing the telephone numbers to answering the calls, cross-selling, upselling, credit-card processing, warehousing the products, and then dispatching across the U.K. and Ireland.

Response: How competitive is the call-center business in Ireland?

Bradley: In Northern Ireland, what we've seen in the past is an economic black spot - partially because all of the troubles in Northern Ireland and because we weren't looked after as much as other parts of the United Kingdom, especially England. However, in the last four or five years, there have been a lot of inward investments from the government in providing incentives for companies to come over to Northern Ireland and actually set up their own call centers. A lot of the large financial institutions in the U.K. have set up their call centers here now. And, our cost of living is a lot lower too in Northern Ireland, which means that salaries are lower than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. [This] means we can afford to be a lot more competitive without compromising standards. I think that's why we attract a lot more of our clients.

Response: What other benefits would U.S. companies have for selecting a call center in Northern Ireland?

Bradley: Research shows that the Irish accent is one of the most readily acceptable across the U.K. Because of this, the two most popular places to set up a call center would be in Ireland and Scotland. So, we sell the Irish accent quite a bit when we're selling [product] to clients. A lot of the research would suggest that Irish accents are very popular. And that's one of the reasons why we were also looking at the American market because of the appeal of the Irish accent and the cultural affinity. The time difference wouldn't be a problem - especially receiving calls from America - because we operate 24 hours, 365 days a year.

Response: If you had to give advice to a U.S. direct marketer who might approach you to contract your call-center services, what advice would you give them?

Bradley: Make sure you get the best service for your money. Cost isn't the be all and end all. It's really about the service that your customers are going to receive at the end of the day. Look for an agency where the staff is professional and highly motivated. Go with an agency that is professional and courteous, can answer the calls proficiently, can upsell and basically make it so that the customer will want to call back again because he [or she] has had an enjoyable experience.

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