Will UK consumers sign telemarketing's death warrant?

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on September 2, 2005

A continuing surge in Telephone Preference Service (TPS) registrations could mean that, by St. Valentine's day in 2007, three-quarters of the UK's households will have joined the anti-telemarketing list, according to new research from marketing consultancy Marketing Improvement Ltd.

Although it's not a realistic extrapolation of the current trend, the company predicts that if the current trend were to continue unabated, all of the domestic residences in UK would have joined the TPS list - indicating that they do not wish to receive telemarketing calls at all - by Autumn 2007.

Tim Beadle, CEO for Marketing Improvement, said: "In 2000 just over 1 million homes were on TPS. By the end of 2003 that figure had grown to 5 million, and today it is 10 million. When it reaches 21 million - or 75% of all homes -telemarketing will effectively cease to be economically viable. That will happen, according to our analysis, on 14th February 2007."

TPS drivers
The rapid increase in registrations is being driven, according to MI's consumer research, by three factors:

  1. The off-shoring of telemarketing: Poor call quality infuriates people, Beadle points out.
  2. Silent calls: Some of the big telemarketing operations are generating upward of 30,000 'silent calls' a day (when a predictive dialler autodials a phone number and, when the recipient answers the phone, an agent isn't available to handle the call). It is estimated by the DTI that there are 164,000 outbound agents who make, on average, 50 outbound calls per day. That's over 7 billion per annum, which means 394 million silent calls, based on the 5% silent calls permitted by the official communications watchdog Ofcom.
  3. The 'Breakfast News' effect: With silent calls and telemarketing getting frequent mentions on breakfast-time television news, millions of people have been made more aware of how to sign up for TPS, and they are recommending it to everyone they know.

Action needed
"The recent action by the DMA to recommend a recorded advisory message to be played when there is no agent available will not help the situation," Beadle said. "While it is welcome because it provides peace of mind for the consumer, it still remains an unwelcome intrusion for no purpose."

Marketing Improvement warns that the telemarketing industry must act quickly to address the problem. To improve matters, telemarketers should set predictive diallers to a zero silent call threshold (which is entirely feasible, Beadle says), and then ensure that outbound calls are of high quality (both in terns of line quality and agent quality), and finally start using targeting more carefully (The Wise Marketer recently heard of a third-floor flat's occupant being repeatedly called by a conservatory sales representative).

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