Tales from telemarketing hell

14 Feb
Drag Me To Hell poster woman

Press 1 NOW!

This morning my mobile rang and identified an Alberta caller.

I said hello. After about 5 seconds, a commanding woman’s voice – the sort that auditions well for parts in movies entitled The Devil’s Spawn – cut in hard.

Attention! You have been chosen by Expedia to receive 2,000 travel dollars. To accept, press 1 now!

The aggressive tone completely caught me out. I hung up.

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This telemarketing attempt was a waste of time and money. Perhaps I’m wrong though. Maybe people are compelled by that frighteningly authoritative voice to press 1.

Here’s what might have worked.

  1. A very nice voice, one that stays the natural, sceptic urge to hang up.
  2. Not starting with Attention! This is not army recruitment, nor is my house on fire.
  3. Set a mood. Rather than barking at me to listen and bullshitting me with an offer of thousands of free dollars, ask me to imagine myself on a sundeck at a villa in the Caribbean. I’m hearing some waves in the background…
  4. Explain. There is no information given here about what will really happen when I press 1. “Press 1 to speak to our Winners’ Ambassador.”
  5. Be honest. Only the truly gullible believe $2,000 worth of travel dollars is coming their way no-strings-attached. So spell out the caveats up front. At least then I know there is honesty in the pitch. “By planning your next trip with Expedia, you could get 2,000 bonus travel dollars.”

I’m sure I would have wanted to hear more.

Back to hell you go, evil telemarketing automated voice demon!


9 Responses to “Tales from telemarketing hell”

  1. Terrance Lam (@kinematicdigit) February 14, 2013 at 8:34 am #

    Not to sound sexist, but studies have indicated that people respond better to a low, soft male voice. Respondents in the various studies find more authority when a male voice is used over a woman’s voice.

    It kind of surprises me that telemarkerters have not latched onto this. In the decade of going to direct marketing conferences, almost everyone confirmed or agreed with this finding.

    However I’m finding more and more people ignore telemarketers these days, and even choose not to answer their phones if they don’t recognize names on their caller displays.

    • Doug Brown February 14, 2013 at 9:06 am #

      I don’t question the findings at all Terry, but I wonder if authority is what’s required in this telemarketing example. Could it be that supposition that led the Expedia team to bring Demon Woman up from the depths? Since this is about travel (and travel is about fantasizing), is authority even the right way to go?

      To your other point: technology makes it so easy for people to opt out before they answer. I’m sure you do that too. But still, we get tricked. With an automated voice, you can just hang up. But when there’s a real person on the other end, manners comes into play. Sinewy little guilt area that successful telemarketers exploit mercilessly! Thanks for the comment and the insight.

      • Terrance Lam (@kinematicdigit) February 14, 2013 at 9:26 am #

        I agree. Authority isn’t necessarily what’s needed here, but to build trust with the caller in the first sentence uttered.

        I wonder rather than authority or assertiveness, maybe that could be set aside for an honest and truthful pitch?

        As you say, we’ve all been duped at some point despite our technology, but how often would you hang up if someone starts off by being honest…


        “Good evening Mr Lam, I want to start off by apologizing to you.”

        “Who’s Calling?”

        “I’m Nicole, a telemarketer that’s trying to sell you something you might need, but I want to apologize first for interrupting you during your personal time, but this offer might be totally worth it to you…”

        “Um… ok… thank you for your honesty. I am curious what you are offering now….”


        I always say that good communications starts with a good dialogue. Automated systems are so awful to me and at least in my case will never respond to them.

      • Doug Brown February 14, 2013 at 9:31 am #

        YES! YES! YES!


  2. hitgirl February 25, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    I will not take a call in my home from anyone trying to sell me something – no matter the gender or the quality of communication. Done with telemarketers. Period.

    • Doug Brown February 25, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      Did you hang up as soon as you hear the 5 second pause?

      • hitgirl February 26, 2013 at 8:55 am #

        Doug, I’m one of the people Terrance mentioned, I don’t pick up if I don’t recognize the number – and if caught off guard, I hang up during the 5 second pause. The 5 second pause… Seriously – does anyone actually wait to hear what the robotron is going to say? What great brain thought this strategy would work? In what world? Please don’t tell me it’s effective! I’m agitated just thinking about it all.

      • Doug Brown February 26, 2013 at 8:58 am #

        Well as irritating as they are, I remind myself that the person calling is doing this thankless job because of financial imperatives, likely mouths to feed and mortgages to pay. Unless it’s a Robot from Hell, in which case, I don’t feel the need to be human in return. Now breathe….

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