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Cold calling - The stairway to hell

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9th Nov 2006
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I've got call centres on my mind. This is a not particularly pleasant position to be in, but events have rather conspired against me this week so it's perhaps inevitable.

I've been pretty lucky on the old cold calling front of late, but this week they all ganged up on me and decided that I really didn't want to watch Eastenders and I'd much rather talk to someone about insurance and mobile phones and stairlifts.

That last one was really the final straw! I mean cold calling is bad enough but ineptly targeted cold calling is the worst. "At this time of year, have you considered the need for a stairlift, something to help you up that long and winding road to bed?" intoned some muppet reading from her script.

I was so struck dumb that she clearly took it as encouragement and ploughed on with added enthusiasm, almost ramping up to indifferent in her delivery. "As the years creep by those steps upstairs can become a mountain to climb," she droned.

At this point I began to gather my wits a bit more. Realising that the computer had somehow confused me with the late Dame Thora Hird and decided that I needed the domestic equivalent of an Alton Towers theme ride in my house, I put the phone down.

She rang back!

Aaaargh!!!

Toughened by this experience I was ready for the next one. Morgan Stanley. Was now a good time to talk? No, I said. When would be a good time? The tenth of never, I replied. Morning or afternoon, said the caller... No, seriously - his auto pilot was set to maximum and wasn't about to risk interference from listening to what was being said to him.

It still astonishes me that call centres persist in this scattergun approach to customer contact and outreach. I don't know why, I should be used to it by now I suppose.

But somehow things still manage to disappoint me. But maybe I shouldn't be that surprised. This week I've sent three emails to an organisation using their "contact us" facility on their web site.

I have had no response to any of my emails.

I have had no acknowledgement of receipt of the emails.

I haven't even had an 'Out of the office' message.

The organisation? The Customer Contact Association. Mission: "the continuous professional development of contact centres, and the people employed within them" and the promotion of professional standards in customer contact management.

Best practice in action? I think not...

Stuart Lauchlan
News & Analysis Editor
[email protected]

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By Stuart Lauchlan
12th Nov 2006 14:45

....it's entirely likely that your emails were spam-filtered by my systems. I receive upwards of 100-150 emails a day from vendors/PR firms/marketing people/business development people all wanting us to write about their products/services. There simply isn't enough time in the day to go through them all let along reply to them all and get work done as well. There is so much 'noise' out there that you need to raise your voice above the crowd to get off-diary attention I'm afraid. Sorry - not trying to put you off, but those are just the facts of media/PR life I'm afraid.

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By rmusker
10th Nov 2006 14:48

A great article Stuart - but a while back I sent you several emails without hearing a squeak. No problem though - it is the norm these days. One thing, however, that no one has cottoned onto is the sales call when service providers, shops etc go out of your way not to sell anything. Let's face it, how often do you hear of a supplier of any product calling to check that the buyer is happy with the product - or service. Not selling anything, just a friendly call to check all is well. It has happened to me once. I bought a smart car last year and a couple of weeks later the garage (www.smarts4u.co.uk they deserve a plug) called to check if everything was OK. I was amazed and pleased. Big corporations could learn a lesson here as this sort of call attracts more customer loyalty than vast ad campaigns. Meantime - looking forward to hearing from you Stuart!

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By Susan Craig
06th Dec 2006 16:19

I very rarely get any cold calls these days.
I registered with the Telephone Preference Service as soon as I found out about it a few years ago. And if a call does slip they usually can't get off the line fast enough as soon as I mention it.
I also have Caller Display on my home phone and if the number is witheld or unavailable I simply don't answer it.
Problem solved.

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