Ink Well (penpusher) wrote in spaceagers,
Ink Well

How To Deal With Telemarketers and Have Both You and Them Feel Good About It!

Telemarketing. The word conjures up middle aged men in cheap suits and hairpieces, constantly dialing from their cubicles and trying to get you to part with your money for any number of illegitimate reasons! You simply wish these creeps would go away, forever!

They are not going away.

Telemarketing/telefundraising is a business that earns hundreds of millions of dollars a year. With that kind of success it shouldn't be difficult to believe that there are people that actually like and appreciate getting called in this way! But I don't want to get ahead of myself. Let's start at the beginning.

Telemarketers come in several varieties. The vast majority are not the stereotype I suggested above. Many are full time college students or at least college aged, some are semi-retired folks, others are people from sales backgrounds of varying kinds, yet others are performers and artists. In other words, they are a fairly representative cross section of the population.

These people were hired by a company for one (or more) of several reasons: they have a good speaking voice on the phone. They have a passion for what they do. They enjoy conversing with and helping people. They believe in the product. These are all crucial skills for a good telemarketer.

Now, there are any number of products and services that can and do get a telemarketer's care. Some of the most common ones are memberships to various organizations, such as museums, political campaigns and theatrical and artistic groups, and possibly subscriptions and/or single tickets to events related for all of the above.

The first question that most people ask is "Why do telemarketers call during dinner?" The answer is simple. A telemarketer needs to have someone pick up the phone to answer. You can’t converse with an answer machine. Typically, the best time to call is between 5pm and 9pm local time, because that is the most likely time to reach a live person. By law a telemarketer cannot call before 8am or after 9pm local time (unless you have previously spoken with them and you requested a callback at a special time). So the window to dial is a relatively small one. And calling in the morning, when many are typically going to work is usually not a good option for anyone. So, most telemarketers will restrict their calling from 10am to 9pm, with the main focus the final four hours.

Now, telemarketers know and understand that a lot of people eat dinner at some time between 5pm and 9pm. And no one is trying to interrupt anyone's dinner, despite the obvious choice of calling during "dinnertime." A telemarketer calling your home has no clue whatsoever as to when you actually eat dinner. Some people eat at 4:30. Others prefer dinner at 8. Or any minute before, between or after.

So, Rule #1. If a telemarketer calls you while you're having dinner, there are two reasonable options:

A) Let the answer machine pick it up.
I know a lot of people are too curious about who is calling them to avoid answering the phone during dinner; it might be something really important! But if it were something really important, the person calling would leave a message and number and you could call them back. Still, some just can't do that if they're in their home hearing the phone ring and will answer anyway. For those people I offer this alternate option:

B) In a regular conversational voice, tell the telemarketer you are having dinner.
Telemarketers have no dinner RADAR to know when you're enjoying some family time (or private time as the case may be), there's no knowledge of when the kids go to bed and there's no concept of any of your personal home life habits at all. So screaming (or even being indignant) because there was a call at just the wrong moment doesn't accomplish anything other than raising the blood pressure of at least two people for at least a few minutes.

Some people feel that by acting like a lunatic on the telephone, it will guarantee never receiving a call again. Actually, there are cases where that does happen. However that is only effective for the one organization that is calling you at that time. Any and all other groups that have your phone number can and will still call you at some point and you'll have to do your blood-curdling screams over and over and over again for their benefit.

So, don't freak out. Remember, these people calling you are basically just like you. They don't intend to disturb you and will very politely excuse themselves if you simply say you can't talk at this time.

Next, people often want to know why do telemarketers call at all? Doesn't everyone hate them? The answer, quite surprisingly, is no!

Really in this day of rising postage, bank fees for checks, and sending out expensive and glossy brochures that end up unseen in the recycling bin, companies are looking for ways to both save money and to be “more green.” And telemarketing actually accomplishes both for them. When you place an order with a telemarketer, and you use a credit/debit card, you are saving paper, processing fees and helping that organization garner even more money from the savings for not having to mail you something that you would have to mail back. And your money goes to work immediately to help that group, rather than being delayed with all of the issues that go with sending it in, which can sometimes delay it for weeks.

On the other side, patrons like the fact that they don’t have to hunt around, trying to find the information they need, when the caller is there to help them with every aspect.

Additionally, it’s actually a safer transaction. Many people are concerned that if they are called by a “scam artist” who is simply trying to get their credit card, they will be charged, and responsible for what the crooks might do with your numbers. But the credit card companies are quick to prevent those sorts of attempts and are working to stop any unauthorized charges. It is the absolutely most safe, secure and beneficial way to pay. And the organization that is responsible for your card can and will put a stop on unauthorized use of your card, and will make certain it does not come out of your personal finances, protecting your credit rating.

Compare that to sending a check through the mail: The possibility of anyone getting their hands on your envelope exists, and if they do, the check has all sorts of personal information, including your address, your phone number, your signature and your bank account routing number. Using a credit card minimizes the chances that any of your personal information will fall into the wrong hands, because telemarketing companies have secure servers that prevent that information from going anywhere.

The Federal Trade Commission put out a document titled ”Putting Telephone Scams on Hold” a useful bit of information to forewarn consumers about unscrupulous people out to steal your information. I would advise everyone to read this document; it is useful to help prevent thieves from grabbing your personal info.

But you should know the difference between scam artists and actual telemarketers/telefundraisers. Telemarketers won’t offer up free prizes, gifts, trips or suggest you have won money when they speak with you. Additionally, they won’t “pressure” you in a way that will force you to do something you don’t want to do. What they will do is talk to you about the company they represent, talk to you about your experiences with that organization, listen to what you have to say and offer you an opportunity to interact with that company again.

Legitimate telemarketers will obey all of the rules and laws set forth by the FTC, and will identify themselves clearly, explain exactly who they represent and why they are calling immediately. They will also allow you to speak to a manager if you wish, give you their phone number if you feel more comfortable having that information and if you request not to be called, will remove you from their lists.

On the positive side, a wonderful and unique element of the process is the level of customer care and service that a pamphlet or catalog simply can't provide – when you speak with a telemarketer, you are having a conversation with someone who is well versed in the subject and is willing to answer your questions, guide you through the website, help you decide what makes sense for your interests and budget and really wants to be helpful to you.

And people do respond to that level of service. Just think about the last time you had to contact your Cable or Satellite TV provider or your Cell Phone carrier when you had a problem. Think back to what it was like to deal with THOSE people for whatever reason.

It's a different world when you speak with a telemarketer because they really are there to be of service to you.

Now, it's quite possible that you either had been a member of an organization previously, or purchased tickets to an event previously, and because of that you are being called to either renew that membership or resubscribe for a new season or event. What do you do if you don’t want to deal with a call?

Many people do many different things. Some people simply don't answer the phone. They either let it ring or have the answer machine pick it up. This is a good short term fix because you don't have to speak to whomever it is at that moment. But, guess what? Your name and number remain on the call list and will be cycled back around in a couple of days or a week and you'll have to do it again at some point in the near future.

So, Rule #2: not answering the phone is not an effective way to prevent telemarketing calls.

In fact, it's the most effective way to guarantee you will continue to get calls. Because until a telemarketer hears the words either "yes" or "no," there is no stopping the calls, and there is no "yes" or "no" until you answer the phone.

Some people will answer the phone and upon introduction will say something like "I can't talk right now" or "I'm not interested" and hang up. This is not a "no."

Saying you can't talk right now only means you don't have time to speak at that moment. The telemarketer called at a bad time for you. So, they'll just call again at a different time and try to reach you then. And if you quickly say you're not interested, if the telemarketer hasn't told you anything about what they're discussing, you haven't demonstrated that you really are not interested. So, it's quite probable that someone will call again at a later time to attempt to fill you in.

Additionally, there is the spouse or other relative that says “no” for you. Typically there is a person’s name on the call list and that is the person that the telemarketer is looking to speak with directly. Usually, if someone else says that the person listed is not interested, that isn’t a no, because the person being contacted didn’t say it. So there will likely be more calls.

And don't think you can get away with recording a message on your voicemail saying "we don't accept solicitations, and please remove this number." That won't work at all! An answering machine doesn't definitively identify anything about the patron. The number would continually be called until the patron answers it, because telemarketers do not accept instruction from machines, only directly from the persons they are attempting to contact.

People who use these methods as a way of "ducking" telemarketers are really only getting more and more calls because of it, and that's where most of the annoyances people complain about are rooted. Really, telemarketers aren't trying to harass you. They just have to keep calling until you, as the patron, either say yes or no. And, of course, the hope is for yes.

But everyone is moody at times, and even when you say "no," it's understood that it could be because you had a difficult day, or were just a little short of cash that week, or some other temporary reason that might be a "yes" at some later time. So, depending upon the conversation you had with someone, you might still (STILL!) get another call in the not too distant future from someone about this same topic if you said “no.”

Again, the hope is you might be a bit more receptive at the next attempt and that you might need or want to be a part of the organization when that next call is placed.

If you have a little bit of time to spare (and I do mean a “little bit,” because most telemarketers who are well trained can inform you of what they’re calling about in under a minute, or less time than it takes to view a TV commercial), the simplest, easiest, most effective way to deal with telemarketers is to do two things.

1. Let them tell you why they're calling. Telemarketers are providing you with information and this conversation offers both them and you a unique opportunity. It's a chance to talk about something you have likely been a part of in the past (these call logs are usually taken from patron lists so they aren't "cold calls" - generated out of phone books or out of thin air!) and it might be, and likely is, about something that you have demonstrated you like and appreciate and have previously supported. Again, this is reliant on you having a moment to speak with them. If you don’t have time or interest, you can still have them try you at a better time.

If you did have a chance to listen to what was said, the next step is simply:

2. Be calm and be (somewhat) honest. If you listened carefully to what the telemarketer is telling you about, it's possible you will be interested in it and you might say yes to the offer. However, if you aren't interested, can't afford to participate, or some similar reason, it's perfectly reasonable to say so. There's no value judgment attached. It's a simple no. And really, when you're having a conversation with someone, and that's exactly what this is, it's a lot simpler to just say a yes and do it or a no and a brief why it's not for you. You don't have to spill your guts, wail about how you wish you could donate but simply can't, getting into the specifics of it, or other machinations that are for dramatic effect.

To put it in historic 1980s terms, it's either Nike or Nancy: "Just Do It" or "Just Say No."

So remember, bona fide telemarketers and telefundraisers are regular people, not trying to annoy you, but to remind you of things that you previously found interesting, to provide you with information and opportunities and to be of service to you!
Tags: telemarketers, telemarketing
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