How to bring telemarketing in from the cold

Telemarketing is the annoying younger sibling in the direct marketing family seemingly loathed by most if not all consumers.

Nothing appears to rub people up the wrong way more than being interrupted at home even by companies with which they already have a relationship.

It is especially grating to receive so-called “cold calls” or the deadly “silent” call.

Don’t take my word for it, believe a recent Which? report that found that a whopping 75% of people (over 2,000 polled) want cold calls banned.

The consumer watchdog found that energy suppliers were among the most persistent cold calling “offenders”.

A finding that electricity regulator Ofgem might have sympathy with.

It launched a probe into four of the UK’s biggest energy suppliers – Npower, Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Energy and EDF Energy – last week over concerns that they are misleading customers when persuading them to switch suppliers by telephone or on the door step.

The reason for such vitriol appears to be in the attitude or more pointedly the unprofessionalism of the cold callers – Which? found that a fifth of people contacted reported feeling intimidated.

So what to do for the many financial services, energy, telecommunications and pay-TV firms that use telemarketing to contact their own customers?

Firstly, take a leaf out of the book of other direct marketing channels blighted by perception issues, such as mail, and improve targeting and suppression. The hotter the leads, the more receptive the customers and prospects.

Also, the Direct Marketing Association needs to continue to condemn inscrutable cold-callers but also do more to help promote the Telephone Preference Services, a device consumers can use to stop calls at home.

Government, via the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, also need to get tougher in weeding the bad apples out.

The three-pronged attack is necessary to avoid a channel that can be effectively measurable disappearing under an avalanche of negative perception.

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