Telemarketing can work, but not like this

It’s a hair before 9pm and my cell rings. It’s a toll free number that I don’t recognize. For reasons I can’t explain, I answer it.

Turns out it’s a telemarketer calling because “my records show that you’re not currently receiving the Daily Interlake”.

I say “That’s because your records aren’t up to date”, perhaps with a slightly annoyed tone, but definitely not any more growl-y than that. The guy responds “Well, I apologize that my records are out of order” in a seriously snotty tone, at which time I think we’re done talking.

Blogs are good for venting, but I’ll save that for another time:)

Telemarketing to your lapsed customers (at least those you think are lapsed) is actually a positive thing when you take the trouble to do these things:

  • choose a company with an impeccable reputation and well-trained operators
  • provide them with up-to-date data on the people they are calling so they don’t immediately look like fools when the caller answers (lost sale, waste of time, waste of money, annoy the customer, etc).
  • make your calls legally, at a respectful time of day (ie: not mealtime, not 11pm, not 630am, etc)

Perhaps most people would just be annoyed at the call. Not me, at least not this one.

I appreciate the fact that a local newspaper business (albeit owned by a conglomerate of others) is trying to get my business back and they are doing something smart by trying to get their lapsed clients to re-subscribe.

Except…I’m not lapsed and they aren’t doing it as wisely as they should.

This would be an easy mistake to make IF you didn’t have a customer database. However, I know the Interlake has one. They just don’t know how to use it.

So how should they use it?

  • They should know how long it has been since they last called me. Historical behavior shows that they don’t.
  • They should clean their “lapsed customers to call” database of all current subscribers.
  • They should merge accounts, or at the very least, flag duplicate addressed accounts as inactive (or “do not call”) if there is an active account at that same address.
  • They might even consider contacting me to see if the old accounts are valid, and clean up their mess. But of course, that costs too much. If they called to ask if they could merge the accounts with identical addresses, or ask which billing name is the correct one, I’d be impressed. But they don’t.

The biggest piece of these steps is also the easiest. It’s the database work. What they really need to do, or get someone to do, is simple database work to match up what is clearly a set of duplicate accounts in their database. That would reduce these silly issues substantially.

Before you say, but but but but…

  • It is easy enough to exclude commercial addresses with multiple suites when doing a merge.
  • It is easy enough to exclude residential addresses with multiple apartments, dorm room addresses and so on when doing a merge.
  • It is easy enough for a new account person to use properly designed software that warns them that someone with the same last name has an account at the same address they are presently entering.

But…they…don’t.

I don’t know if they don’t realize this can be done, or they are too cheap to do it, or if there is some other reason. What I do know is that calling active customers to tell them that they are not active customers is sloppy. When you do one thing sloppy, I wonder what else you do sloppy, and I start looking.

They already annoy me because they won’t offer a Sunday-only subscription. Doesn’t matter that the route driver is already on my street. Doesn’t matter if they charge retail for the paper. They just won’t do it. Isn’t Sunday-only better than nothing? Apparently not. I often read the Interlake at locations other than my home, so I rarely need it at home – except on Sunday.

So back to the specifics of the call…note that they called with a toll free caller id to a business number at night (or to my 800 number) at night.

Why waste money calling a business number at night? Sure, there are some businesses that will answer, but most are closed. Wasteful. These things happen because you choose a low-rent telemarketer (Google 866-327-3574 and you’ll find that it isn’t a reputable telemarketer).

I suspect that someone has decided to save 29 cents per call, not realizing that they are costing their business far more in lost clients. Frankly, I’d be surprised if it was the Interlake making these decisions. I suspect it originates from their corporate parent.

Either way, the Interlake has provided you with a lesson or two in what not to do when ordering telemarketing services to reach your (lapsed?) client list.

If you’re going to do it, do it smart.

2 thoughts on “Telemarketing can work, but not like this”

  1. Thank you for submitting this post to Carnival Of Tips.

    It makes me wonder if telemarketing is even a viable, worthy way of reaching out to customers anymore. I, for one, will not pick up any “No Caller ID” or 800/866 numbers. And usually the latter does not leave a message.

    What has worked for me, however, are promotional e-mails. I will read something if the subject line notes that it has a good deal for me.

  2. @Tip Diva,

    Only the bad ones are dumb enough to put an unknown 800 # on their caller id. The good ones actually have a way to put the business who they are calling for on the caller ID. IE: if they are calling for your local car dealer, that dealer’s local # is the number you see.

    Telemarketing definitely works, but you simply have to do it right.

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