Why phone cards need a better image

I read with a mixture of interest and dismay David Benady’s report on Camelot axing the National Lottery Anyphone card (MW July 3) following the problems it has encountered with its nominated supplier, CardCall. Interest, because Card Call is one of my competitors, and dismay as developments like this inevitably result in negative press – tarnishing the whole industry and damaging customer confidence.

In the US, calling cards, and other value-added telecoms services, form a $1bn industry – and many corporations are grabbing their share of the marketing-generated dollar by developing new sales promotion, loyalty and retail programmes based on telecoms products. I’m certain that the UK will take the same route – it’s just a matter of time.

It’s unfortunate that Camelot, which must be among those organisations in the best position to exploit a calling card service like Anyphone – a stable, recognisable brand; charity tie-in; ready-made route to market – has failed to bring the service to the public’s attention. Once the public is educated that there are viable, cost-effective alternatives to BT, many more corporations will feel confident that they can offer branded phone services – to staff, clients and the general public alike – building brand profile, and raising revenues.

We need to address these issues, and raise awareness of the opportunities, while reassuring potential clients that the burgeoning UK telecoms industry is not going to be infested by disreputable sharks.

My company, Technology Control Services, and other major players are currently establishing an open industry association, with the aim of providing an official stamp of approval to member organisations and setting standards of quality as well as good business practice. This body will also provide a common voice for lobbying Oftel, to ensure that the customer receives maximum benefits, as well as providing a forum for information sharing.

In the future, we shall all be able to benefit (with confidence) from the marketing opportunities afforded by deregulation of the telecoms market, both here and overseas.

Stephen Woods

General manager

Technology Control Services

London WC2

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