Monday, December 10, 2007

Outbound - industry reputation, branding and regulation

If you mention you work with call centres you can sometimes (!) expect a negative response, and you almost guarantee that this will be because the other person has been on the receiving end of an unwanted automated call.

It's an irritation that I understand and share.

My particular hatred is for the silent calls and the automated message calls. I'll explain the technology in a separate post, but these experiences are because of business decisions made by the calling companies, not because of technology limitations.

In my view, if the company concerned wants to treat customers like that, then I will not give it any business. If you are called by human it at least suggests that there is some effort on the companies behalf to value my business and make an attempt to engage with me. you get none of that with an automated message. Yet brand damage is perhaps not a sufficient deterrent, as most of the companies doing it are debt-consolidators, low-cost telecoms providers and other industries where brand is not a primary concern.

I would argue that companies which keep doing outbound calling on a lowest cost basis have already damaged the reputation of the call centre industry. Consumer pressure has already forced governments to act. In the UK in March last year (Ofcom, the UK communications regulator) increased the fine for silent outbound calls tenfold, to a maximum of £50,000 per instance. It also introduced three other new rules:

  • Abandoned call rates must be below three per cent of all calls made in any 24 hour period for each campaign.
  • All abandoned calls must carry a short recorded information message identifying the source of the call.
  • Calling line identification (CLI) must be included on all outbound calls generated by automated calling systems. CLI allows people to dial 1471 and access the telephone number of the person or organisation calling them.
Already in the UK consumer can ask the TPS (Telephone Preference Service) to add them to a 'do not call' list but it is clear that this is not enough for many consumers. In the end the industry either needs to make consumers happy to risks further regulation. The pity in all of this is that legitimate and useful uses of outbound, such as companies calling to alert their customers of problems with (say) their bank account, or a delayed product shipping, may well be restricted. I


Abeni said...

I was very interested in seeing your post about “Outbound - industry reputation, branding and regulation”. Thank you for the information about this topic.

Alex said...

Thank you for the feedback, it's always good to know what readers find useful.

Best wishes,