Telemarketing is a form of direct marketing that attained popularity in the 1970s. Since then, consumer attitudes have changed, and regulations have been introduced. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set up a national Do Not Call registry. Telemarketing companies are required to respect this list. Calling those numbers can lead to complaints against the telemarketing company. The FCC oversees complaints, and has the authority to fine violators as much as $40,000 every time they contact individuals on the Do Not Call list. In order to reduce consumer frustration with telemarketing calls, telemarketing has evolved over the years to be less intrusive, and technology has helped telemarketing companies introduce these changes.
Initial Advantages of Telemarketing
When telemarketing was first introduced people were more accustomed to speaking on the telephone and some found that not needing to travel to a store to learn about a product was beneficial. Telemarketing had the benefit of giving individuals direct communication with a salesperson about products so that they can ask questions and get information from the comfort of their own home or office. This was revolutionary in the days before the Internet, because television commercials and newspapers offered one-sided presentations.
Change in Attitude
Although telemarketing had potential benefits that many consumers recognized, there were also issues. A consumer couldn’t guarantee they would receive calls about a product that interested them. Pushy salespeople were unwilling to relent, even when they made it clear they weren’t interested. Calls were also disruptive. When landlines were people’s primary phones a person would arrive home from a busy day at work, sit down to eat and relax, and the phone would ring. With cell phones today, most individuals can be contacted at almost any time. That hasn’t increased consumer patience with telemarketing calls. In fact, people are less likely to answer phone calls now than ever before, which makes the job that telemarketers have challenging.
Straight to Voicemail
Changes in technology have enabled telemarketers to bypass phone calls with consumers by using ringless voicemail. This allows a telemarketer to call and leave a message on the person’s voicemail instead. The person’s phone won’t ring and they will not be disrupted by the call; they can listen to the voicemail at their convenience and call back or follow a list of presented options if they would like more information. This approach eliminates intrusion for the consumer. It also restores consumer power, because they can simply delete the message instead of being forced to tell a telemarketer they aren’t interested. Consumers who enjoy personal contact can still appreciate the direct sales approach from a living person on the other end of the line, and have the option of responding if the product interests them.
In the early days of telemarketing, telemarketers faced physical limitations. They had to dial each number themselves. This meant that a mistake when dialing cost time, and there was a limit to how many potential calls they could make during a day. These factors had the potential to make telemarketers feel rushed, undermining one of the benefits of direct sales if the telemarketer felt pressured to push for a quick sale without taking time to answer consumer questions thoroughly. With the introduction of automatic dialers, telemarketers could contact more consumers with ease. Automatic dialers also ensured that telemarketers wouldn’t make a mistake when dialing, so they could always be certain to contact the right person.
Introducing Other Communication Platforms
Telemarketing is now just one of many communication channels that a business can open with consumers. As systems have evolved, telemarketers can make notes via computer to store with a number. They can schedule follow-up phone calls for those who are interested in more information or who make a purchase. They can also offer consumers the choice of further communication via email, text message or social media channels. The ability to extend options to consumers restores consumer power while still offering the personal touch of a direct sales call, helping telemarketing regain some of its original benefit.