Is anyone there?

Is anyone there?

As computer technology has become ubiquitous in our lives, so has the capture and use of data related to our usage. The way we ‘use’ websites, where we talk on the phone, the competitions we enter, things we buy, questionnaires we complete, subscriptions we opt-in to, all provide data for use by marketers and others within corporate and government organisations. 

The term “privacy” as it relates to data use is now part of the vernacular of the general populace. People understand they have rights regarding data capture and usage, something they weren’t too savvy about only a decade ago.

And one of the main reasons they know about their rights is because of the appalling way they’ve been treated by marketers. The abuse of personal media such as the telephone, e-mail and mail has created so much angst that laws and lobby groups exist to counter marketing activity.

My parents are living proof. Thanks to marketers they had to change their lives – well at least the way they answered their telephone at home. Living in blissful retirement and despite being on the ‘do not call’ register they can receive between 5 and 12 calls a day from telemarketers trying to flog them something, donate to a cause, or request an opinion about politics, shampoo or credit cards.

Eventually they became so fed up with telemarketers they bought a new handset with caller-id. They programmed every phone number of friends, family and essential contacts into the phone and started a new routine for answering calls.

You see, they had been conditioned by telemarketers. They learned that most telemarketers hang up if the call is not answered after 6 rings. That’s because the answering service kicks at 6 rings, which means the telemarketer has to pay the call connection fee – which adds up substantially after a few thousand unanswered calls from Bangalore, or even from a rural Australian call centre, sorry “customer service centre”.

So now when the phone rings at my folk’s home, they check the caller id. If the call is from an “unknown” number they don’t answer it unless it goes to 7 calls, which in their experience means it’s less likely to be a telemarketer. They’ve had to change their phone answering habits thanks to telemarketers – either that or develop nervous ticks whenever the phone rings to interrupt their retirement.

I solve the telemarketing issue at home differently as I have young children. I let them answer all calls these days. Always fun to imagine the other side of a conversation between a youngster and a foreign-based salesperson. But my kids are growing quickly and this luxury won’t be available to me for much longer. Maybe I should train a budgie?

The same difficulties exist in B2B telemarketing. People now hide behind voicemail. Instead of answering the phone (at their desk or their mobile) people let the phone go to voicemail, then filter the messages before deciding if they’ll call back.

A colleague contracted a professional telemarketing company to ring a qualified list of 1,200 prospects. They made one appointment. The problem was the difficulty in getting people to answer the phone.

Executives have become so frustrated with unsolicited and irrelevant calls, they have changed their behaviour. They choose who they will speak to and when they will speak to them, using voicemail technology.

This has big implications for businesses trying to make appointments with prospects for their sales people.

People don’t get out of the bath to watch a television commercial, but they will to answer the phone – and if the call is unsolicited it can result in enormous damage to the related brand.

And now it’s the same in B2B sales – people are not interrupting their life to answer their phone – and it’s making it more difficult for businesses to generate leads via the telephone.

Mind you, try finding a telephone number to ring in a ‘contact us’ section of a website. Nowadays it’s all DIY search til your eyeballs pop if you want information or a problem solved. Or you can try sending an email to an automated ticketing service in the hope the company might get in touch with you. But don’t dare call, as someone may have to do some work or provide service – and that costs money.

Sorry gotta go, the phone’s ringing.