Don’t Yell At Telemarketers

I love telemarketing calls.   Few things make me happier than picking up the phone, hearing a few seconds of silence, only to get pitched some product or service that I don’t want.  It just makes my day.  It all makes me so happy that instead of the ‘DO NOT CALL’ list, I wish they would invent the ‘PLEASE CALL’ list.  I’d be the first one to sign up.

OK, absolutely none of that is true. 

Truth be told, I hate telemarketing calls just as much as well…everybody else.

But I won’t yell at them.  Or be mean to them.

Why is that?

Because a job experience many years ago taught me a few things about telemarketers.

I worked for a small IT company, and one day I was sent out to a new client that had come from a referral.  They needed us to help set up their network, a couple servers, about 25 desktops, and a few printers printers, stuff that was pretty routine.  I got the name of the company and the location, made an appointment, and headed out the day of the appointment.

The name of the company didn’t clue me in at all to what they did.  It’s not like they were named ‘TELEMARKETING CENTRAL’.  It’s been so long that the name escapes me, but it could have been any type of business.  So, when I got there and started finding out the details about the job, and that telemarketing was key, I was surprised and didn’t know what to expect.

From a systems perspective, it was a pretty routine install.  There were a few extra cards that got plugged into the server to handle the phone lines, and there was an extra card in each desktop machine that allowed the person to talk and type all from the PC.  Besides that, it was pretty straightforward.

After things went live, we went back now and then for general support issues or changes that came up.  By that time, the call center was in full effect. And, as I watched them work, I learned even more:

  1. The people making the calls did not make the decisions.  They did not sign the contracts on what products or services to represent.
  2. The people who made those decisions were nowhere to be found.  The call centers are kept separate from the corporate offices, so while there are floor managers, you don’t find the people that made the deals mixing with the people that had to do the deals.
  3. There’s a reason for the pause.  There’s a background system that auto-dials numbers and it will only transfer to a live agent if it hears a voice.  That explains why you will often pick up, say hello, and have a few seconds of silence before someone comes in to make their pitch.
  4. The script was right there.  People had to follow the script.  This included following up and making a second attempt even after the customer initially declines.
  5. If they don’t follow the script, they could get fired.  Part of the job of the floor manager was to spend a portion of his or her day listening into calls and ensuring that the script was being followed.
  6. The people making the calls got no pleasure out of it.  They knew what they were doing.  They knew that the people they were calling most likely didn’t want to hear from them.  But, they needed the work and were happy for the paycheck.  In talking with them, most were barely scraping by and needed the check.  Many had kids that the paycheck was providing food and clothing to.
  7. They got paid minimum wage.
  8. Turnover was high.  Nobody went into that field as a career goal.  The people in the corporate offices?  Maybe.  But, the people making the calls got out the second that they could.
  9. They let it roll off.  Mostly.  They get hung up on and yelled at a lot so much that they pretty much just let it slide off and move to the next call.  But, I can’t imagine that it doesn’t still get to them.

Essentially what I learned is that the people that made the calls are real people, and in all honesty, they hate making the calls just as much as you hate receiving them.  If you get mad at them or threaten them or belittle them, you’re accomplishing absolutely nothing.

The best strategy is to be polite but firm.  You might have to say “No thank you” (and you should say thank you at least once) more than once, but if you think you’re going to make a point by yelling at them, I can pretty much assure you that you’re barking up the wrong tree.  If nothing else, make sure you are actively participating on the ‘Do Not Call registry’.

Have you ever lost it with a telemarketer?  I’m sure there are some horror stories out there.

20 thoughts on “Don’t Yell At Telemarketers”

  1. I usually politely decline their services. If I’m in a bad mood when they call, I just hang up. I don’t want to take it out on them – it’s just a job, a way of making money, for them.

    • Agree, they probably expect to get treated poorly but I’m sure they’re ‘used to’ the hanging up and can deal with that.

  2. A reason to yell at them: Make their job as unpleasant as possible. This increases corporate inefficiency and increases corporate costs by making staff turnover as high as possible.

    The other way to waste the callers money is to extend the call as long as possible and THEN decline to buy. Have a nice long conversation, ask a lot of questions and then say no.

    • I value my time too much to work with the second option. I tend to disagree with the first choice as well simply because I don’t feel that’s really going to discourage future calls. With all the turnover, there are probably always going to be a large candidate pool available since the barriers to entry for that job are pretty low. So I don’t think yelling at them is going to dry up their pool or make it where they’re going to have to pay people more.

  3. I’ve put the phone down and just went about my business. A few times, I’ve come back a few minutes later to find that the person is so engrossed in their speech that they never realized I was gone.

    I really can’t feel bad for the callers, as they chose this profession, and if they don’t like cold-calling or pitching products, then they should go work in another field. I know it may seem callous or cold to say, but that’s the reality of the job.

    • I think I’ve set the phone down a few times too. That’s really funny.

      I also think that many callers would probably not choose to be in that profession if they had a choice. I’m not going to dig too deep and open up more cans of worms than necessary, but the fact is that many (not all) of the people in that profession aren’t qualified or don’t have the job experience to work elsewhere, so while it’s nice to say that they should just go find another job, the hard truth is that many probably don’t have that option without catching a few breaks, or going back to school, which without a paying job is a big catch-22.

  4. My first job was doing telephone surveys. We had one day where there wasn’t enough to do, so they had us go back over call lists and even call back the “bad” numbers (ie businesses instead of individuals).
    Every one of us was highschool to college age. We weren’t looking for a career, we were looking for a paycheck that wasn’t in fast food.
    Saying someone “chooses” to work telemarketing is like saying people “choose” to work at McDonalds. Sometimes you just need a job, any job, the first job that comes along, to support your family.
    I’m always polite- thank you, but I’m not interested. As they follow their scripted “but wait” I say “thank you” again and hang up the phone. I see no need to waste their time or tie up my phone line.

  5. I never have yelled, but I have hung up plenty. I only really get bothered when they seem to keep pushing and pushing. Great post though it is hard to sit and think that these people are just doing whatever pays the bills and they might not have that many options. No one wants a job like that especially for minimum wage.

    It does remind me of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry gets a call from a telemarketer and asks if he can call them back at their home number, the telemarketer declines and Jerry sarcastically says “oh cause you probably don’t want strangers calling you at home, now you know how I feel”.

    I always wanted to try that =)

    • Seinfeld is great. That was a hilarious bit when it came out. I’m sure it was done to death over the next few years. Still makes me laugh, though.

  6. I don’t yell at them, although I do get somewhat terse when they call either too early or too late. Usually if I say ‘hello’ and I have to wait for someone to come on the line, I just hang up.

    I know it has to be a terrible job. As a side note, I am so sick of ‘Mitt Romney’ calling me. I hang up on him too.

    • I just read an article about the robocalls. They must not call cell phones or I’ve gotten lucky because I haven’t gotten any calls that I can tell. It would definitely get annoying though.

  7. You know what, ever since I’ve had to cold call in my job, I’ve developed so much more empathy for telemarketers and salespeople. I am always polite, always firm, and always let them know that I am not there target audience so they don’t have to waste any time on me. There is NO reason to be rude to them, because I know they are just doing a job.

    • Well said. I would never advocate giving them business but let them move on with a firm no and let that be the end of it.

  8. OK. I have to admit I’m kind of evil. I jack with telemarketers. My goal- to get them to laugh or force them off their poorly written script.

    Hopefully, I don’t get anyone fired…but if they’re going to interrupt me, then I’m going to at least have a little fun.

    It’s like going to an IMPROV class…but without having to pay for it. BONUS!

    • They probably look at that as a highlight of their day if you’re actually entertaining them. Truth be told, unless they are required to close a certain number of sales (which I didn’t see) they probably could care less if they sell or don’t sell.

  9. I’m a telemarketer for a life insurance company, I took the job becuase if i didnt I would have lost my home.. I get paid minimum wage, and I know poeple hate to get calls from me..unless they actually need life insurance and then they are more than happy to speak with me..Im actually at work as I type. Im never rude to anyone..and we could be just as rude back to the people that are rude to us.. but whats good is it? You hang up and move on and see if you can’t help someone else out so they don’t leave their family with a financial burden when they pass.. we don’t try and sell anything..we just try to inform that we have this available and if they need our services we are hear to help. People could simply hangup or say no thank you..or at least listen.. Dont be rude..

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