Telmetrics CEO: A Phone Call to a Business Is Really a ‘Data Call’

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Vintage telephones

When Andrew Osmak joined call tracking firm Telmetrics earlier this year as CEO, he told us that the company’s strength was in its analytical bent, and it’s ability to show businesses what kinds of ads drive phone calls to specific business. Now that he’s been on the job for six months, we checked back in to find out more about how the company is evolving under his leadership, where he sees the white spaces in call and data analytics, and why “a phone number is truth.”

You came on as Telmetrics’ CEO about six months ago.  How’s it going and what are you working on these days?
The reason I came was to really grow the business, and in order to grow the business there is so much to do beside, beneath, around, and on top of plain old call analytics. Call analytics is essentially data analytics, and I really consider ourselves really in that business rather than just calls. Calls are really just one form of communication. If you take a look at all of the forms and all of the analysis you can run aside from just calls, the sky’s the limit for what you can tell.

And it’s even beyond attribution. I think a lot of marketers think of call analytics firms as just “You have a phone number in your advertising, and therefore you need to do call analytics and it’s an input into what you do. But any phone call that comes in delivers a level of data, and when you’re processing tens of millions of calls a month, then there is a whole lot of data there to go in and mine and construct — and then offer back to your clients as insights so that they can run their businesses better.

Now that so much information about businesses is available online, are people still making phone calls to businesses with the same frequency that they used to? Are people communicating more these days via email and text messages?
It’s all going up. I don’t have the data in front of me, but at some point the total number of calls globally was declining. And with the influx of cellphones, feature phones and now smartphones, it’s turned again and the number of calls is now increasing rather than decreasing. I’d say the velocity of communications is increasing, and phone calls are a part of that. I have a special place in my heart for the small businesses that are being inundated with all of this messaging and are trying to figure out how to process it.

Another big piece of sympathy I have for small business owners is that they constantly have large marketers coming to them with a suite of solutions. And then pick a silo, and they have numerous silo vendors trying to tell them that they should buy X, Y or Z. It’s kind of like all of these small business owners either need to become an expert or find someone who is an expert that can help them filter through all of those agendas.

Is Telmetrics’ customer focus mostly on national brands and agencies? Is there any application for what you do with smaller businesses?
We’re really good at managing very, very large enterprises as clients. We’ve got all kinds of requests that come in to us from small businesses that want what we have, but we spend so much time and attention taking care of our very large enterprise clients that we don’t currently have a solution that is on par with the self-serve solutions out there.

It’s kind of an interesting space, because there’s a dream that you build something self-serve and then it just runs while customers use it. I like to emphasize our strengths, though, and I think we really excel at serving these enterprise businesses, but we have a lot of the things that these small businesses want.

So one of the things we’re thinking through is “how do we bottle what we do into smaller, snack-sized pieces, and make them readily available?” All of these things that we do for our large customers, how do we make it readily available for our medium-to-small ones?

Are there specific areas in call tracking that you think need attention?
I’m concerned that a lot of people think of phone calls as incremental to the advertising that they already do. We’ve got some brands that we work with directly where they have marketing departments that are about the same size as our company.  So when I sit with the CMO, what I’m told is: “We’re in every possible medium that anyone can find. We do it all. But the response back that we prefer is a phone call — and here’s what we do with that phone call, and here’s what happens and can go wrong after the phone call.”

But really the phone call isn’t a phone call; it’s a data call. And the data that can be derived from that phone call is often much richer than, for example, getting a form filled out on a website. The email address on a form could be wrong or misspelled or fake, but the phone number is truth. You can’t misspell it. And from the phone number we have the address, and from the address we have the name of the caller. And so from that you can get all kinds of data.

One thing we often hear from brands is that they are really excited about the implications of big data, and are collecting lots of stuff — but that they haven’t found enough useful ways to analyze and implement the findings from it. Is that starting to change?
I couldn’t agree more. But what’s interesting is that when I’m talking to someone who is waiting on this application or service that is going to tell him or her what they want from this data, I always ask them “Why?” What I mean by that is “How do you expect that someone is going to be able to build you software that is going to tell you what you need to know about your customers?”

Gathering the data and housing it appropriately and managing it appropriately is all importance science. But pulling answers from your data to find out insights is an exercise in creativity and domain expertise. So if you’ve been a car dealer for 30 years, you probably have a nose for when someone comes into your car dealership about whether you’re going to do business with them or not. To expect that some engineering group is going to take that wisdom and somehow code it into a box that they have sent to you is just unrealistic.

David Hirschman is a co-founder of Street Fight. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.