I’ve taken thousands of telemarketing cold calls over the years. Many are deceptive, most are awful. And a few are good.
Here is a common deception. Many calls originate in call centers in India or the Philippines. Callers use IP phones and connect via the Internet to a system in the US, which generates a caller-ID in my local area code. When my phone rings, I see a caller ID that appears local, which makes me want to answer the phone because I think it might be a potential customer who wants to buy my goods and services.
The conversations generally start something like this:
Hello, this is Greg Scott. (I always answer my phone this way.)
(long pause, sometimes with a series of clicks)
Yes, hello, I am trying to contact Agreg a Scote, uhm, with Infrasupport-a-tech company?
Well, yes, this is Greg Scott
Ah, good morning, sir Greg. I am calling because… (and we’re into the script flowchart).
Why do I dread these calls? After all, the caller is courteous. And the company she represents is only trying to find customers. What’s not to like?
Well, plenty. First, the call is an interruption. I have to stop what I’m doing, switch gears, and make a decision whether to answer the phone. After I answer the phone, I have to focus on the caller’s message instead of what I was working on before the phone rang. I understand callers are trying to find customers and this is part of business. I’ve done cold calls myself. But since callers know they interrupted me, they should respect me and my time.
That leads to the next problem. From the very first ring, overseas callers with automated dialers and IP phones have already disrespected me and my time. Why is this company trying to fool me into believing it’s a local call? How am I supposed to trust a company that tries to deceive me with the very first contact? Why would I ever consider buying anything from such a company?
Focusing on the caller’s message is also challenging. I speak English as a native language, my hearing is not what it used to be, and I have a terrible time understanding the thick accent on the other end of the phone. And I am willing to bet, nobody in Bangalore, India is named Gary. Or Bob, John, Ted, Mary, or any other common English name.
Here are two questions I want to ask these telemarketing firms – not the callers trying to do their jobs, but the boneheads who manage the callers. If I tried to speak your native language and you heard my American accent, how much time would you need to figure out your language is not my first language? If I adopt a telephone name native to your language, would it make a difference? The obvious answers to those questions are about one second and no. So why do you think I will believe your caller speaks English as a native language simply because you gave him an American telephone name?
The problem is compounded by poor sound quality. After the packets containing the sound from these calls bounce around dozens of IP routers before flying across the public telephone network to my phone, the sound is often garbled, muffled, and distorted. Combined with a thick accent, it is always difficult and often impossible to figure out what callers are saying.
For companies using these services – if you have such a low regard for me as a potential customer, what kind of service can I expect if I buy your product or service?
And it gets worse.
Lately, I’ve taken dozens of calls from machines pretending to be people. Here is a typical call, synthesized from many:
The phone rings, showing a local caller ID.
Hello, this is Greg Scott
(Long pause – this is always the dead-giveaway.)
Why hello! This is Nancy and I have an exciting offer for you!
Really – wow, thanks Nancy. Are you a real person?
(Laughing) Well of course I’m real, why do you ask?
Well, Nancy, you sounded like a machine.
Oh no, I can assure you, I’m a real person. I’d like to talk to you about a great line of credit we offer. If you’re interested, I’ll connect you to my manager and he can cover details with you.
Ah – thanks Nancy. By the way, who won the baseball World Series last year?
I’m sorry, could you repeat that?
Yes – who won the World Series last year?
I’m sorry, but we’re not allowed to give out personal information.
What’s personal about that?
Thank you. Goodbye.
Let’s see, what was wrong with this call? After all, it solved the sound quality problem and the caller’s native language matches mine. I can visualize a team of misguided engineers, proud of their creative masterpiece, presenting the slideshow bullet items to a bunch of boneheaded executives in a boardroom and congratulating themselves on solving their telemarketing problem.
Here is my question for the clowns who dream up this stuff. If your time and money is too valuable to use a real person fluent with my language to make real phone calls, why do you think my time and money is any less valuable? Do you really think I will buy anything from you when you use a machine to waste my time and lie to me?
So after griping about bad calls, what about somebody who did it right? Well, it happened one day last year when a nice lady from a training company called me. Let’s call her Dee and her company, Training Inc. These are both fictional names. Dee did everything right. It was obvious she looked at my website before she made contact because she tailored her pitch to meet my unique circumstances. She asked me a bunch of questions about how I run my business. She asked me about my training goals. She was personable. She spoke the same native language as me. Instead of trying to fool me into thinking she was from this area, the caller-ID was from a different state.
I liked Dee. We connected. I don’t have any business for her right now, but when the time comes and I am able to send business her way, I will do so. In fact, I liked Dee so much, I spent most of a Saturday updating and fixing my broken Exchange Server indexing so I could find her contact information.
If you are a telemarketer and happen to read this blog entry, first, thanks for reading. If you’re spending money for overseas call centers with cheap IP phones, bad connections, and fake caller IDs, or if you’re trying to use machines pretending to be people, save your money. Nobody in their right mind will buy anything from you when you approach them this way. Instead, find somebody like Dee who will represent you properly.
Even in today’s high-tech, 24 hour, over stressed environment, the old-fashioned rules still apply.
(First published on my Infrasupport website, June 7, 2014. I backdated here to match the original posting date.)