Cold calling can improve the customer experience

The clamber to outlaw cold callers has claimed its first high-profile victim. Last week, one of the big six energy providers, SSE decided to put a stop to sales calls unless they are being made to existing customers or prospects that had at some point somewhere indicated they are interested in knowing more.

Russell Parsons

Explaining the decision, group managing director Will Morris said: “Nobody likes receiving a sales call out of the blue so we are stopping it”. He added: “”Cold calling is not something that a company like SSE – committed to providing an excellent customer experience – should be doing any longer”.

The negative noise around cold calling has been getting louder and louder of late with consumer groups and politicians calling for and promising tough action. SSE has heard this and acted.

It is difficult to argue that bombarding prospects with pitches of no relevance to them is a positive thing. Cold calling can be intrusive and annoying and a colossal waste of time. It can also, if targeted, empathetic and relevant, be positive for all.

Low levels of account switching in the energy sector have for a long time been highlighted as a barrier to creating competition and, in turn, driving innovation and better prices for customers. Marketing calls, even unsolicited ones, can open a customer’s minds to an alternative in the same way as a piece of unrequested direct mail or an email can.

The problem is not necessarily the mode of communication, it is the message and the messenger.

SSE, of course, is particularly sensitive to and open to accusations of unscrupulous behaviour. It was fined £10.5m by Ofgem in April for mis-selling on the door-step and on the phone. It jumped to make amends then, halting all door-step sales activity. Then and now, it might have been wiser to think hard about the scripts salesman were using and the approach they were taking rather than reacting in such a knee-jerk manner.

If telemarketing doesn’t work for customers or company, don’t do it. Otherwise do it better.

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