Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Telemarketing Woes

In high school one of my first jobs was acting as an "account associate" for small businesses. I was contracted to call consumers and inquire about their interest in purchasing the services of third-party companies I represented. In simpler words, classic telemarketing.

After a few discussions about the topic of telemarketing, I thought back to my days as a marketer and decided to write out some of the more frustrating facts or pet peeves that anyone on this end of the line might feel as a result of what the other person does. I will use consumer and customer interchangeably to describe the person on the receiving end of a call, and marketer as the person initiating the call.

1. Hang ups
Often time the dialing system works in such a way that when a customer picks up the phone there is a few seconds delay. This is because although the system has already dialed a house and the person picked up, the marketer is still being connected so that after the third "hello" the marketer is connected to the person. If a person hangs up, it is reasonable to understand that the person didn't have the patience to wait the extra second (especially with a delicious meal waiting on the table, already getting cold).

The issue comes when, after the connection has been made, an appropriate introduction by the marketer has been made and the customer hangs up slams the phone down. Don't they know this will only result in a call back disposition that will likely repeat itself in future, and anger them even more? It is even worse when the hang-up was preceded by an expletive or two.

2. Not Identifying Yourself
Depending on your client, there can be scenarios in which sensitive and private information known. In order to prevent volunteering information to unknown parties, it's important that a marketer identifies the right person as soon as possible. This is usually accomplished in the introduction after, "Can I speak with Mr/Mrs So-and-So?" A peeve is when their response is a series of filtering questions: "Who are you?" followed by "What do you want?" and ending with "Why?" This leaves the marketer vulnerable to divulging personal information to someone who may not be the right person.

This also sets a bad tone for the rest of the call. When a consumer responds to the introduction with a positive expression, the marketer is more comfortable in the conversation and then more likely to even offer a better product or service. But, if a customer is rude right away then a marketer's defenses go up and all pleasantries go out the window at that point as a more primal instinct takes over.

3. "My [spouse] Makes the Decisions"
I understand if a consumer would like to talk it over and discuss an offer with their partner; it should even be encouraged by the marketer that they do this. Depending on what the offer is it could be something that benefits the both of them or burdens one of them, both of which needs to be considered rationally.

The issue comes when the spouse has to ask the spouse for permission instead of information. This is a spouse who makes all of the financial decisions on behalf of the other, when the other wouldn't know how to make the decision for themselves. I've seen this played out when my first calls were to widows who would be on the edge of tears because their husbands looked after a particular service and they did not know what to do. With respect to the widows and widowers, informational incompetence could have been avoided if their partner filled them in with the little day-to-day things.

4. Swearing
The professional marketer understands the importance of emotional management; not bringing in any bad feelings from a previous conversation into a new one. The flip side is not so evident, as anger that a customer feels is often expressed towards the marketer. Simple etiquette and courtesy can go a long way for the customer to ensure that future calls are eliminated (requesting to be put on their Do Not Call list after a rapport has been built by the marketer can easily ensure this welcomed transition).

A marketer is not calling for any personal vendetta against a consumer. If consumers thought the way a marketer did, treat each new call as a new conversation, there will be a reduction in strong emotions. Often times the customer who is polite, listens, and explains (elaborates on the ever-popular "not interested" response) will most always be removed from further call backs.

I'm sure there are more pet peeves. I'll add them as they come to mind. Until then, I will also think how to mend the negative experiences by both customer and marketer.


5. "If I'm Interested, I'll Call You"
How do you know you're interested if you haven't heard what I have to say? Better yet, you wouldn't even know about this particular service if it wasn't for this phone call.

6. Fake-out Answering Machines
You have already started a courteous introduction, about to highlight the benefits of a product/service, when you discover that the person on the other end is merely a voice recording. You feel like a fool and, if you're caught on their answering machine, sound a like fool too.

7. Children on Answering Machines
Sure it's cute, at first, but after a while it's not. Maybe it's just because it's not something I would do with my own children

One way to mend negative experiences is to practice grace. A marketer should never bring strong emotions to another call, and likewise a customer should not bring all of their anger onto a marketer who calls halfway through supper.


  1. This blog is good and points out many issues that play out in a normal telemarketing call. I have also done telemarketing while at Carleton and have experienced at least one of these things more than once.

    The problem I have with what you said though was with point #3, specifically: "With respect to the widows and widowers, informational incompetence could have been avoided if their partner filled them in with the little day-to-day things." - You cannot fault widows or widowers for not knowing certain pieces of information, such as making financial decisions. The people you are calling who are widows and widowers grew up in a different time where generally the men made the financial decisions for the household and the women took care of more of the practical side (i.e. cooking, cleaning, laundry). I have known widowers who have to learn how to do laundry have their wife of 50 years dies, do you also think that this is incompetence on their part? I realize today that a man can do everything a woman can and vise versa, but you can't apply that to people who are 60+ your senior. It was a different time. I think that a little understanding and compassion on the part of the telemarketer could go a long way in that situation, instead of discrediting it and calling it a pet peeve.

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      I think "incompetence" was too strong and too poor a word to use. Ignorance was more the word I was thinking of, but I think you're absolutely right that this must be coupled with understanding and compassion.

      The loss of a loved one is never easy, especially for those who has lost someone after fifty or so years of marriage; it really is like a part of you has died. It is important for the marketer to remain empathetic, considering that the widow(er) is still battling through any stage of grief. Even a reminder ("oh, he/she took care of that") can evoke a sad memory, and of course it is up to the marketer to practice emotional intelligence.

      The idea behind the 'decisions' is that while roles between genders are complemented, they are not to be dominated. It's fine if a wife takes on the role of cooking and cleaning and finances; but if a man is unable to feed himself, clothe himself, or pay bills for himself when the wife is away (even if for a weekend) then that is a problem. I know of an incident where a man's reply was, "oh my girlfriend looks after my money, I have no say in it." It is this form of dominance I'm referring to.

    2. Yes I can understand the dominance factor, but part of that I think is a person's passiveness in not asserting themselves to be more involved or gain a knowledge or understanding of their finances or other areas. They allow the excuse of "my girlfriend looks after my money, I have no say in it" to be the reason why they don't know. That being said, I think that the two are connected in today's culture and unfortunately it tends to be the man is passive and the woman is dominate.
      I trust that this won't be the case for you in the future! :)