This telemarketer says its calls are considerate

January 28, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

The telemarketing industry takes a bashing, earned largely by a minority of "scam artists" and zealous sales hustlers who populate the business, admits Columbia entrepreneur Malynda Hawes Madzel.

"It's like money or the weather. It's a universal topic," says Ms. Madzel, president of Custom Telemarketing Services Inc. "You always get some talk about how a call ruined dinner.

"Only the negative things about telemarketing get printed," she laments, clutching a recent newspaper column casting aspersions on those "rude and pushy" people who call strangers to sell something unwanted.

But Ms. Madzel offers her 5 1/2 -year-old business as a model to dispel that negative perception of the fast-growing industry. CTS offers a service that is an essential component of many small- and medium-size businesses' marketing plans, and it does so with well-trained and thoughtful communicators, she says.

"The main thing I do for businesses is provide a cost-effective solution for some of their marketing needs," says Ms. Madzel, 48, who worked in education, sales and personnel management jobs before taking a 10-year hiatus from her career to raise a family.

"People have to sell their products and services. The phone is a quick and less expensive way and you get immediate feedback," she says.

CTS, which employs about 30 part-time callers, does work ranging from soliciting blood donors and conducting customer-service and -satisfaction surveys to developing leads for businesses.

About 90 percent of CTS' work involves representing businesses to other businesses, which requires callers to have knowledge about the product or service being discussed, she says.

Ms. Madzel won't reveal her clients' names but says major ones include a university, auto dealerships, a large accounting firm and an electronic-security firm.

Her company increased its sales 73 percent in 1992, Ms. Madzel says.

She says she's proud that her employees stay with her firm longer than do those working for the typical telemarketing company. CTS employees have an average stay of about 15 months, compared with an industrywide average of several weeks.

She attributes the comparative loyalty to the flexible schedules she allows her employees, a management policy that she developed after working for large corporations that weren't as accommodating.

Columbia resident Diana Dickey, who manages national projects for CTS, completed work for an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Maryland about 27 years after leaving college. She did so while working part-time hours for two years.

Elaine Bloom of Silver Spring has worked part-time, flexible hours for three years, sandwiched between taking care of two school-age youngsters and helping look after an elderly mother and mother-in-law in Baltimore nursing homes.

"You can take care of what you have to -- home and family come first," Ms. Bloom says.

After teaching social studies in her native Indiana for two years, Ms. Madzel headed to New York, where she eventually ended up in a competitive Wall Street sales job with Xerox Corp.

She then worked as a personnel manager for two New Jersey pharmaceutical companies before leaving to care for her family in 1977.

She developed a plan for the telemarketing business in 1987 after her husband, Richard, a sales manager, told her about how one of his employees despised calling strangers for leads -- or cold-calling -- so much that he'd pay someone else to do it.

CTS donates about 10 percent of its time to community activities, such as membership drives for arts and business organizations.

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