• January 1, 2006
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Calling the Cops on Telemarketers

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At home one night in November, my girlfriend, Galia, received a disturbing phone call from a survey company. She had already signed up for the Do Not Call registry (which helps minimize telemarketing calls, save those from politicos, charities, and survey firms), so the occasional telemarketing call doesn't bother her. But what follows is an example of how a simple market research campaign resulted in a call to the police. The phone rang and Galia answered. "Hello?" No response. "Hello?" Still no response. "Hello!" she said, raising her voice. "Hello," a man, who did not identify himself, replied flatly. "Is the man of the house available?" "Man of the house? I own this property." "So there's no man available?" "Well, I'm the owner. How can I help you?" "So there's no male in the house right now?" "Are you asking me if there's a man at home right now?" she asked, raising her voice again. "Is that what you're asking me? You're asking if I'm home alone? Is that it?" There was no answer. Now, thoroughly frightened and on guard, she snapped at him and threatened to call the police. To which he coldly replied, "Okay, have a good evening. Goodbye." The telephone agent and the market research company, Western Wats (we checked the number on her caller ID by using a reverse phone lookup on the Web), made a handful of critical mistakes. First, the company neglected to perform simple market research that would have yielded only those households where men live. Second, it took an exorbitant amount of time to respond to Galia's initial hello--undoubtedly the result of mismanaging a predictive or automatic dialer. Third, the agent never identified himself, and the company's name was blocked on Galia's caller ID. Last, when her frustration with the question became apparent, the agent did nothing to assuage her feelings. I realize that most of these missteps are consequences of corporate efficiency, but the entire experience resembled a call from a stalker. Because of the nature of this particular campaign, which seeks feedback from males, Western Wats could have first retrieved a list of only male-populated households with their corresponding names. Then it could use that list to call consumers with a script that reads something like this: "Hello, my name is John Doe from XYZ Company. Is Robert available?" My advice to organizations looking for a telemarketing company is to shadow its agents on calls to determine where problem areas may arise. Then, set minimum performance metrics before the partnership begins and continue to evaluate the partner to ensure those goals are being met. Simply satisfying the Telemarketing Sales Rule Bill of 1995 and subsequent amendments to it aimed at protecting consumers' privacy is not enough. Executives with a strong sense of ethics and integrity set a higher standard and they are rewarded for it. Customers appreciate this, too. In fact, a study released last year by Booz Allen Hamilton and the Aspen Institute claims companies that routinely list values as a top concern tend to report superior financial results. **** The new year brings a new look for CRM magazine. After restructuring the back of the magazine last year to include three new sections (Re:Tooling, The Tipping Point, and Pint of View), we turned our attention to the front and cleaned up the table of contents to make it more reader-friendly. We moved the Company Index to the back of the magazine, page 44 of this issue. In its place you will see our online table of contents, which highlights this month's Viewpoints and directs readers to this month's online poll, on www.destinationCRM.com. David Myron Editor-in-Chief dmyron@destinationCRM.com
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