In July 2011, Sytel CEO Michael McKinlay won the Contact Center World 2011 UK Industry Champion Award, for his work on outbound regulation and compliance over the previous 15 years.

In the late 1990's, automated outbound dialing and the productivity gains it brought were on the brink of being outlawed. Michael has worked quietly, diligently and consistently to

  • secure a sustainable outbound industry in the UK, the US and worldwide
  • protect consumers from abusive industry practices

1. The move toward a regulated outbound industry

In the late 1990s, the outbound industry was under fire in a consumer backlash against abusive practices and nuisance calls caused by predictive dialers, auto dialers and other automated dialing systems, e.g.

  • abandoned calls (where a call is answered and the dialer hangs up)
  • predictive hang-ups (where the dialer hangs up before the called party has a chance to get to the phone)
  • silent calls (where the called party answers and hears dead air because no agent is available)

In 1998, the situation had escalated such that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) had proposed a bill effectively outlawing the use of automated dialing. The bill was eventually defeated but it had become obvious to the Federal authorities that something needed to be done.

But the true extent of bad practices and their possible remedy was little known. In the face of an uncertain future, near hysteria and knee jerk reactions, Michael McKinlay emerged as the voice of reason without which, there may have been no automated dialing allowed today. He became the leading industry representative to stand up and defend not only the rights of the industry to use productivity-boosting technology, but also the rights of the consumer not to be abused.

2. How Michael has earned this award

Since that time, Michael has worked extensively with industry bodies and regulators around the world to produce guidelines and regulations that are attainable, comprehensive and sustainable.

For instance, in the US, Michael defined the abandoned calls calculation used in the DMA guidelines and subsequently passed into legislation by the FTC; Michael clarified the problems of ring timeouts (how long a call should be left to ring before hanging up) and abandoned call delay (how long a consumer could be left with dead air before the call is abandoned) and defined the solutions. The Ofcom regulations subsequently adopted in the UK are substantially based on Michael's earlier definitions and recommendations.

To read an example of Michael's pioneering work in raising awareness, see this comment for Outbound Focus, published May 2000.  Michael was the sole industry representative at the FTC hearings.

To learn about Michael's activities related to regulation and compliance, see this comprehensive list (PDF, 600Kb).

To read magazine articles written by Michael, and the text of the various published regulations, see our section on Compliance.

3. The Contact Center World 2011 UK Industry Champion Award

Awards are presented each year to an industry champion in each country. This individual may be the leader of a company or someone working within a company who has contributed to the growth and/or image of the contact center industry in that country.

See the Contact Center World website for more details.


Michael McKinlay is the founder and CEO of Sytel Limited.

Originally from New Zealand, Michael spent his early computing years in IBM and Fujitsu where he held a number of senior management positions. He is a graduate in Mathematics and Economics from Victoria University, Wellington.