Just how much do first impressions count?

How not to telemarket your way to success

I don’t normally sound off but picture this:
It’s 8.30 in the evening, I’m socialising with friends at my local wine bar and I get a call on my mobile. I don’t recognise the number so I answer with a straightforward “hello”.
“Hi, how are you?” asks a female voice.
“Who is this?”
“I’m Charlotte” (or whatever her name was)
“Where are you from?”
She gave the name of a company I hadn’t heard of and certainly hadn’t done any business with.
“What’s this call about?”
“We wanted to try to (pause) see if we could (pause) interest you inâ” – (what turned out to be an airtime contract for my mobile phone.
“No thank you. I’m not interested.”

I had another call the following morning from the same company. I explained that I’d already been contacted by one of this guy’s colleagues and said that I wasnâ’t interested so please donâ’t call me again. He was very quick to apologise and assured me I’d be left alone.

That should have been the end of the story but over the next twenty-four hours the same company attempted to contact me a further four times. I missed the first three but by now I recognised the number so on the fourth try I was ready and, rather than just mildly irritated, mad!

So this time, after the “Hello, how are you?” from the caller I asked for the name of the company’s Managing Director and got a “can I help you?” from the caller. “Yes, by giving me the name of your Managing Director.” He claimed that he didn’t know the MD’s name, so I asked him to find someone who did. He came back a few moments later with a man’s name. “Is he the Managing Director?” “Er, no. He’s the complaints supervisor.” Am I speaking in a foreign language? I explain through slightly gritted teeth that I don’t want the name of the complaints supervisor; I want the name of the Managing Director.

At this point the guy decides he’s out of his depth and I’m passed over to one of the fastest talking women I’ve ever come across in my life. She can’t apologise enough. They don’t give out the Managing Director’s name over the phone (I wonder why?) but she completely understands my grievance and will personally not only remove my number from the calling system but will also go down and remove it from the main computer.

The main point I want to make about this incident is this:

I happen to be passionate about the ethical, professional use of telephone selling/telemarketing as part of the marketing communications mix and it’s companies like this that contribute to the appalling reputation the activity has increasingly earned itself.

That company could have one of the best airtime deals around but I’ll never know because I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.

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