Long live Telemarketing

Good morning sir, I am John Doe calling from ABC Corporation  to sell you 123.Tell me one person who has not been through this regular annoyance which do not seem to die out anytime sooner.

It has been over a few years since the PAN-India National Do Not Call (DNC) registry went into effect. From the time of its inception till today, there are over 15 crore numbers on the list, with more being added every month. Of all the listed phone numbers, more than 30 percent are now covered under the list in India and growing at a steady rate.

Brainy pundits have duly suggested and equated this trend to writing a final obituary for telemarketing which of course, has changed the industry dynamics. But has the industry really died, hmmm not yet, at least not in the eyes of telemarketing professionals who have taken this legislation in a healthier context. With ill-practices getting weeded out the time is highly opportune for doing ideal telemarketing culminating to an ideal sell.

Industry trends have shown that businesses doing telemarketing have comprehensively added to their revenues over the years consistently. For standalone telemarketing this number would not be that significant, but there is no question about the enormous impact the medium has had on the business ecosystem.

Using and executing effectively, telemarketing has allowed businesses having the direct marketing concept, to emulate as closely as possible the one-to-one sales advantage bringing them closer to customers. But this has its own pros and cons.

Telemarketing efficiency depends purely on the immensely large number of contacts reached via an outbound campaign which has become difficult to sustain in the present regulatory scenario in an industry which is also being marred by existing high turnover. There are about 1300 entities (outsourced / in-house) identifying themselves as telemarketing services provider to the sector as per TRAI (nodal regulatory agency in India). These service providers deliver more than an estimated 100 crore outbound calling hours per year for business operations.

While some telemarketing processes are aggressive reach campaigns, others are more mature and controlled form of establishing customer contact with both falling into business-to-business and business-to-consumer categories.

Indian firms invest an estimated INR 10,000 crore in outbound telemarketing generating INR 60,000 crore in annualized business value. This again is a downfall from the prime time of telemarketing in the mid-2000s, when single businesses were recording double digit growths in customer acquisition.

Another roadblock to the growth of telemarketing industry has been the introduction of Do-not-Call registry and the subsequent regulations. Post this, the business has shrunk further, even though the regulations are not that stringent as of now and businesses have been given enough time to adjust. In fact, DNC regulations do not take the blame entirely, the affected business is the result of both regulatory and market forces. The DNC lists, as well as the revised telemarketing sales rules, have forced businesses to restrict calling activity. Firms who were heavy users of outbound telemarketing until a few years back have significantly mellowed down to prevent legal logjams.

The regulations related to Unsolicited Commercial Calls or UCC prevention has forced the telemarketing companies to employ a more focused outbound strategy rather than blind dialing on a mass scale. Also there has been significant shift of marketing spends from vanilla telemarketing to a more robust, sustainable and composite strategy of going the multi-channel way of customer reach-out which has the potential to drive the prospects to inbound call centers.

Even though deliberations are still ongoing on the effectiveness of regulations on outbound telemarketing and its upcoming demise, businesses have adopted innovative strategies to meet their ROI goals. These include – transferring customer sales calls to a sales call center for cross-selling, Internet and e-mail marketing to generate immediate leads and also by only calling those who are not on the DNC lists.

To conclude, even though its a highly hated term, the fact remains that telemarketing is here to stay and that too as a very effective marketing channel for businesses. The idea is to understand that its profitability does not come with the power and ability to “push” not-needed products, but from the ability to offer the right products and services to the right customer at the right time.