It’s 10 a.m. The phone rings. You put down your cup of coffee, set aside the paperwork you were reviewing and grab the phone. Silence. No one is there.
In my office, the above scenario happens several times a day. Everyone I talk to is experiencing similar phone activity.
Enter, stage left, the telemarketers and their latest ploy to interrupt your day and get you to buy something. But, you say, how do you know those non-phone calls are telemarketers? Because, I just read an article about their new technology that is taking the company by storm. It’s called: Predictive Dialing.
How does predictive dialing work?
Through the power of computers, telemarketers set this powerful software into action and the computer calls several people at once. Busy signals and answering machines are automatically disconnected. The first real person is connected to the telemarketer immediately and all other calls are disconnected. Your silent phone call was probably one of those disconnects.
Frustrating? Yes, but even worse than that is the impact of telemarketing on other kinds of valuable telephone sales tools.
Even Andrew Wetzler, the president of his own call-center consulting and training service recognizes how this new tool is impacting telemarketing:
“The days of receiving a warm reception on an unexpected call to a consumer are over. In order to thrive in an environment that ranges from indifferent to intolerant, an exceedingly well-designed program is essential.” And that’s his explanation of why Predictive Dialing is better in the telemarketing world. In other words, the telemarketing world believes this new approach is better because it bothers you less!
Understandably, from an efficiency standpoint, the machines eliminate down-time for telemarketing staff. You only pay them for productive, live telephone sales calls, not for busy signals or answering machines.
Predictably this kind of invasion from telemarketers is getting the attention of regulators. Wetzler’s comments about the possibility of regulation? “I chuckle when I hear that legislators and the public are zeroing in on predictive dialing as the new scourge of the industry. What, they’d rather suffer through a long-winded presentation by an ill-prepared telemarketer than deal with a momentary period of silence that leads to the call being disconnected when there isn’t a rep available? There’s no hypocrisy here!”
My contacts tell me that their response is more like, “I’m fed up with all of these unwanted interruptions from people who are not interested in reaching me in less invasive more relationship-oriented ways.”
There is no question that telemarketing is having a serious negative impact on how people are receiving phone calls. It continues to have a negative impact on legitimate research and, worse yet, a serious negative impact on our culture of philanthropy.
Oops! I’ve got to go, my phone is ringing…
Originally published in the Kennebec Business Monthly in January 2001 as part of a monthly guest series on public relations and marketing.