Society of Telecommunications Consultants:  Pioneer Call Center Consultant Mitchell Lieber Named 2003 Chicago Direct Marketer of the Year  


Energy, Enthusiasm, Encouragement Make A Difference For Industry And Association

Mitchell A. Lieber, who has gen-erated ideas, innovated procedures, and specified equipment for making call centers and contact centers more effective, efficient, and ethical for nearly 20 years, has been named the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing’s (CADM) 2003 Charles S. Downs Chicago Direct Marketer of the Year. Lieber, 49, will receive the Downs Award at Chicago’s Navy Pier on April 15th, during a luncheon on the second day of CADM’s 49th annual Chicago DM Days & Expo.

     Lieber is president of the Chicago-based consultancy Lieber & Associates, which he founded in 1989. Providing call center audits and development plans, the firm’s roster includes current and former clients such as TTC Marketing Solutions, American Bar Endowment, GMAC Residential Finance Corp., ManorCare, R.L. Polk City Directory, and SunTrust Bank. Lieber & Associates’ recommendations for substantial productivity, sales, service, and profitability gains have been tied to better metrics, coaching, training, regulatory compliance, service, use of technology, CRM and direct marketing integration.

     As a president of CADM and a long-time member of its board of directors, special interest groups, and program committees, Lieber is a member of the recent generation of association leaders who grappled with difficult management issues in light of the association’s changing needs. He developed the blueprint of transition from outsourcing management services to self-management, keeping CADM independent and renewing its vitality.

     The 2003 award will be presented by David McSweeney, immediate past president of CADM, chair of the Downs Award committee, and vice president, World Marketing Information Services. McSweeney followed Lieber as CADM president, and the two served on CADM committees and the board of directors for many years. McSweeney said, “Working with Mitch Lieber in strengthening the Chicago Association of Direct Marketing, I had the great pleasure of observing a man who demonstrates what is perhaps the highest sense of responsibility I have ever encountered in business. During his leadership, his boundless energy never flags. Mitch understood that there is not just one way to look at a problem. When members of his team disagreed—inevitable, especially when facing highly sensitive and challenging issues—he went back to the drawing board and presented another strong, workable compromise position. Certain that the distinguished judges recognized that the importance of Mitch’s contributions to the association match his contributions to the industry, I am pleased and honored that he is the recipient of the 2003 Downs Award.”


Award Honors CADM Founder
The Downs Award is named in honor of Charles S. Downs, the late advertising director of Abbott Laboratories, who was a founder of CADM and served as its first president, in 1955-56. The award is the association’s most prestigious honor and is judged on a number of criteria. Winners must be current or former CADM members who have contributed innovations and new concepts to the practice of direct marketing; provided guidance and advice to colleagues and given his or her talents to civic and charitable works.

     Previous recipients of the Downs Award were Aaron Adler, Virgil Angerman, George Collins, Richard Cremer, Howard Draft, Alan Drey, Al Dyon, Alvin Eicoff, Bob Enlow, John Flieder, David Hefter, Ron Jacobs, Susan K. Jones, Kate Kestnbaum,
Robert Kestnbaum, Jim Kobs, Vachel Pennebaker, Ron Perrella, Jerry Reitman, Ted Spiegel and Bob Stone.

 


The Unique Development of a Unique Career
Lieber’s early career built a multi-media foundation that contributed to his direct marketing career. It involved positions in publishing and radio, the latter including Chicago’s WGLD-FM and WNIB-FM. Later he was marketing manager at Chicago’s WFMT-FM. “Radio,” said Lieber, “like the call center, relies on the disembodied voice, scripts, and technology.” These experiences—plus those as a Chicago-based telephone marketing research interviewer for Marcor Marketing Corporation and Young & Rubicam—sparked an interest in the central importance of the telephone as a marketing, sales and service tool.

     In 1984, Lieber embarked on his career in telephone marketing when he joined Winnetka, Illinois-based Associated Telemarketing Corporation, providing data management and reporting expertise for the business’s entry into marketing research. While there, he managed a number of client programs, including the American Medical Association’s American Medical Directory. Using a pioneering telephone segmentation strategy, coupled with an innovative conditional close, Lieber generated 400 percent of the client-projected response for the directory.

     One year later, Lieber joined Mount Prospect, Illinois-based Business Services, Inc. (BSI) as telemarketing manager and telecommunications director. During his three years with BSI, Lieber pioneered a number of methods and practices not only for the company, but also for the industry. They include: blended, or universal agents, telephone representatives who handle both inbound and outbound calls; an early form of skill-based routing, which directs inbound calls to specific telephone representatives based on their skills and capabilities; hot transfer, enabling qualified leads, received at an inbound call center firm, to be transferred to the point-of-sale or to technical experts; the forerunner of Lieber & Associates’ enhanced service level metric, a three-tiered system to manage the speed of answer for 100% rather than the usual 80% of calls, enhancing the lifetime value of customers.

     Since founding Lieber & Associates in 1989, Lieber has developed more effective client-vendor contracts that have become industry models. He also is a recognized pioneer in integrating telemarketing with other direct marketing media.

     With regard to his industry’s sensitive privacy issues, Lieber has worked to reduce cold calling by automated machines, as well as broadcast faxes sent without consent. He has cautioned clients to consider consumer privacy in their use of ANI/Caller ID information to compile list.

Despite Challenges, Still A Strong Industry
Commenting on how the call center business and internal telemarketing operations will be affected by the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Do-Not-Call List, Lieber said, “This and associated regulations will have a huge impact on the call center business. Some firms may go out of business, while others will contract. The cost of regulatory compliance will rise due to high government fees and predictive dialer regulations that control abandoned calls.

     “On the other hand, although our industry might not like them, do-not-call regulations enable customers to limit just how long they are a prospect—or if they are a prospect at all. This may be good news for response rates, lengthening customer lifetimes and for getting through to existing customers about additional purchases – if approached in a customer-focused and friendly manner.

    Lieber predicts “off-shore and trans-national call centers will continue to grow for cost-sensitive calls, taking advantage of less expensive off-shore wages and low

   


cost telecommunications. In addition, the handling of e-mails in call centers,now called contact centers, will continue to grow. In the years to come, it will no longer be innovative that call center management and technology integrate voice calls, e-mails, and web chat. It will come to be expected and required.”

     Could Lieber and his peers enter the industry today and enjoy the same level of reward? Lieber believes the channels for opportunity have changed. “There are many more call center consultants than there were 10 or 15 years ago. It’s an exciting occupation for veteran call center executives with excellent analytical, written, and oral communications skills. However, those considering this career should realize that there are few positions available at firms and that setting up a firm of one’s own requires a commitment to building a business. The best opportunities for new businesses may be in consulting niches, such as managing, monitoring, and training off-shore call centers.”


Giving Back To the Industry
Lieber has been involved with CADM since 1984, and served as its president in 2000-01. Prior to that he served as the Association’s vice president and, for two years, treasurer. In all these positions, we worked towards transitioning the association’s management resources from outsourcing to self-management. A humanitarian and loyal colleague, Lieber helped initiate and implement the Jay Gondelman Interactive Award, the Pat Wheelless Mentoring Award, and last year’s Chicago-wide tribute to association and industry guru Bob Stone. He currently is a trustee of the CADM Educational Foundation and chair of its 2002-03 annual campaign.

     A member of the Direct Marketing Association since the ’90s, Lieber is a member of the DMA International Echo Awards committee, currently serving as its judging chair. He also is on the National Legislative Task Force of the American Teleservices Association.

     Lieber has advised the Illinois Attorney General’s Office on telephone fraud issues, written numerous articles and given numerous speeches focused on encouraging direct marketers to raise call center standards. Lieber also has given seminars and other presentations to direct marketing associations, business organizations, and direct marketing colleges and universities throughout the country.


Giving Back: To the Community
Lieber provides pro bono leadership to a number of community and religious organizations, including Chicago Classroom TV, Am Yisrael Congregation, Telephone Access Project, www.Rumbula.org, and the Life-Saving Gift Foundation.
He and his wife, Julie, and their daughter, Hana, live on North Lake Shore Drive, in Chicago’s Lake View community.


Chicago Association of Direct Marketing
Founded in 1955 and currently with more than 1,600 professional members, CADM is one of the oldest regional direct marketing associations in the country and the largest organization of its kind. For 48 years, the association has served its members by pioneering the development of educational programs, special interest groups, government and postal advocacy activities, public relations programs, Internet services and other significant endeavors on behalf of its members and the industry.