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21 March 2013
By: Danny Singer
Nobody likes to have their evening interrupted by an unsolicited call from a complete stranger monotonously reciting a warmed up sales pitch for something they never wanted, needed or ever contemplated. It all seems rather random, futile and unnecessary. You know it and they know it, but somehow they don't give up.
As call centres come under increasing pressure to deliver good results from their outbound activities, the media is putting pressure on politicians and regulatory bodies to outlaw cold calling all together. For many years now, the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) has provided a way of avoiding these unwanted calls.
The negative side effect of the increasing popularity of TPS has been that the available pool of non-TPS numbers has diminished to the point where these numbers began to experience intolerable numbers of calls. In addition, over time, cold callers have managed to exploit loopholes in the rules surrounding TPS in order to make cold calls to TPS listed numbers anyway.
The attraction of making a quick profit out of what is perceived as a low-skill, labour intensive activity should not be underestimated. The double glazing merchants of yesteryear have been replaced by the PPI compensation peddlers of today. There will always be a wonder product to flog over the phone.
The main difficulty here is the definition of the term "cold call". In its pure sense, a cold call is a call to someone that your organisation has never spoken to or had any relationship with prior to the call. So, buying a random list of names and numbers and simply feeding into a dialler can easily be identified as cold calling.
However, only a small part of outbound calls are cold calls.
Most outbound call centre activity is not of this type but what may be classed as "warm calls" and distinguishing those from the pure cold calls is where the problem lies. Cold calls masquerading as warm calls are common.
You may have spoken to a charity worker on the street. The charity you may have shown a cursory interest in will try to call you in the hope you may be persuaded to become a regular donor. Your bank may call you to offer you a new type of account or ISA. The broadband provider you left a year ago will call you to try and tempt you back.
All these types of calls (and many others) are not cold calls.
Some of these calls are very useful. If your credit card company calls you to warn you that you are about to miss a payment (before they charge you a fortune for it), that is useful. When your local hospital calls you to tell you about a change to your outpatient appointment that is also useful. My point is that outbound calling should not be confused with cold calling.
Most statistics are showing that the outbound industry is in rude health and is forecast to grow over the next few years. Even if cold calling is to be banned completely (assuming a workable definition can be found), this does not in any way threaten the survival and growth of outbound calling in general.
The two should not be confused, let alone become synonymous. The fact that the outbound calling industry contains within it some unwelcome elements should not be held against an otherwise healthy, helpful and hi-tech industry which provides employment to thousands and is an essential tool in the mix of the ever increasing ways in which organisations are able to communicate with their customers.