THAT Glasgow is fast emerging as the city which is setting the agenda for the call centre business in the UK is no accident. A concerted campaign to attract, develop, and keep the business has been run for the past six years in a joint initiative by Glasgow Development Agency and Glasgow City Council.

''We embarked on a methodical and clearly thought-out campaign which has paid off,'' Stephen Running, head of business location for GDA said. We looked at Glasgow's strengths and weaknesses, saw there was strength in the business sector and identified key areas.

''We talked to businesses and became convinced there was a major change, a move to telephone business, coming. So we targeted the companies leading the way. We got together with them, we attended conferences and seminars, we aimed to gain credibility and we began to win call centre projects.

''We applied a straightforward marketing approach, listening to our customers, identifying their needs and applying ourselves to fulfiling them. We delivered regularly and demonstrated we wanted them and are now in the fortunate position of having new call centre business coming in. With the right kind of approach we are confident we can double the number of call centres in Glasgow in the next three to five years.''

When Glasgow started its campaign it was lagging four to five years behind the US in call centre development, according to Ian Macpherson, business location manager of Glasgow City Council. ''Now we have pulled back to just a year behind, and in some aspects we are ahead,'' he said. Other locations in the UK have been slow to catch on, Mr Macpherson said, only starting to market themselves in the past 18 months. ''It is not a concern. There is enough business to go around,'' he said. That Glasgow can rightly claim the title of call centre capital of the UK is confirmed by industrial market research by Mitial in its 1996/7 location research monitor. The city comes out a clear leader in popularity for locating a call centre, with Dublin just holding second place to Scotland in general. It says the GDA has the most rounded of all call centre packages in the UK and is perceived to offer the best

value for money offices in Europe by the Healey & Baker Europe Top City's Report.

Glasgow's continuing success in the call centre business will be due in no small part to its achievement of becoming a part of the industry that it is encouraging to develop. After the joint initiative GDA/GCC Inward Investment Team had spent two years attending call centre conferences in London, they decided they could do better. Thus Glasgow hosted the first Scottish Call Centre Conference in 1995. The date has been a regular fixture on the calendar since, with the third annual conference being held this year with Peter Wood of Direct Line, who is widely regarded as one of the leading figures of the industry, as guest speaker.

The formation of the Call Centre Association emerged from the first Glasgow conference when a dozen delegates decided to get together to form a processional body. The CCA now has more than 150 members throughout the UK. ''We wanted to put something back into the industry,'' Mr Running said.

Currently Glasgow has more than 60 of the 100 call centres located in Scotland, with some 8500 staff employed in the business in the city. All the big national and international companies are represented and indeed their testimony to the success of Glasgow as a location is used as a marketing tool to attract further business. Direct Line, for example, which is now the UK's largest ever private motor insurer after being the first to sell car and home insurance ''down the line'' chose Glasgow for its first regional office, has expanded in the city and promises further developments. Similarly, Excell Multimedia, an American-owned company which builds and manages call centres for clients, has made Glasgow not only its UK headquarters but also its European HQ.

Other major companies which have made Glasgow their base and are happy to advertise the fact in the GDA's promotion campaign include the BBC Radio Helpline, BT Direct Sales, the TSB PhoneBank and Geoconferences head office and European hub. ''Success attracts success,'' Mr Running said.

There is further call centre business in the pipeline for Glasgow, with the announcement of one more new call centre expected before Christmas and two more in the New Year.

''We can draw more confidence from the success of the companies involved in the call centre business, who are all showing highly profitable returns,'' said Mr Macpherson. ''They are finding it a more effective way of providing customer service.''

While Glasgow's success is such that ''it has a big share rather than a fair share'' of the call centre business according to recruitment specialist Alayne Clark of Pertemps Caledonian Recruitment Limited, the whole of the central belt is also taking advantage of the business phenomenon of the nineties. Pertemps Caledonian has specialist call centre agencies in both Glasgow and Edinburgh to meet the constant demand for permanent and temporary staff for the industry. ''The business is still so very new and young, you can't imagine how big it will get,'' Ms Clark said.