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I had two crummy telephone experiences recently -- both to my home number and both leaving a poor brand impression. These telephone reps, who make and receive calls on behalf of their organizations, surely have plenty of influence on their brands. So why would organizations risk so much by placing poorly-trained staff so close to their consumers?


The first call came from an organization I truly admire and respect. It was a pre-recorded message asking me to donate goods and clothing. I could have just hung up, but I took exception with being solicited on a major religious holiday and wanted to bring it to the management's attention. So, I called the toll-free number stated in the recording.
I explained that I wanted to advise the organization of the insensitivity of the inbound call on my holy day, to which she apologized first and then responded by saying, "I did not call you," totally absolving responsibility on behalf of her employer. She asked if I wanted to be taken off the call list, and after I asked if that was permanent, she said it would be. This action, of course, would have eliminated me from future solicitations, a move that would be detrimental to the organization.
When I asked why she did not offer to bring this issue to senior management, she replied that I did not give her that option and that is not her job. When I asked who is responsible for outbound automated calls, she said she had no idea. She was defensive, ill-prepared for such an issue, curt and border-line rude.
It's not that I didn't want to give; it's that I thought they could show more sensitivity by refraining from outbound calls on the holiest days of my religious calendar. I doubt they make calls on Christmas Day, so why can't they just check the major holy days of the top 2-3 minority religions in the country and show the same respect? Am I in La-La Land to expect this? Isn't this about diversity and inclusiveness?
The second call came from an advocacy organization asking me to participate in a 15-minute survey on my current health care plan. I first asked if my being in marketing disqualified me, to which the caller said it didn't.
I asked for clarification on the first quantitative question asking me to rate my overall satisfaction level from 1 to 10. My satisfaction compared to what? Other providers in the market, pricing, service, coverage? I'm not a market research expert, but my response would glean useless information unless I understood what I was rating.
After the second question, which was also generic and similar in style to the first, I again indicated my confusion as to what I was being asked to rate. The rep cursorily thanked me and hung up on me - after about three minutes into the 15-minute interview! So, here I am, agreeing to participate in a survey on a Sunday afternoon and she hangs up on me!
Both these situations are examples of poor brand experiences. As a result, I can tell others what happened and identify the two organizations (bad word-of-mouth) or I can cancel my membership, support, or participation in these organizations (attrition). Instead, I'm blogging about it to help shed light on this so maybe, just maybe, someone on the inside will read it and make some changes.
Why don't organizations and companies do a better job training their telephone personnel? This touchpoint has a huge bearing on the brand. Any comments, suggestions, other stories? Let's share. It'll be cathartic. :)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Elaine Fogel

Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, and a marketing and branding thought leader, speaker, writer, and MarketingProfs contributor. She is the author of the Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.

LinkedIn: Elaine Fogel

Twitter: @Elaine_Fogel