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Business Articles

Beware the EBR

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Over the past few years, there has been much concern over the legality of outbound telemarketing, that is calling prospects. One exception to this prohibition is if you have an “existing business relationships” (EBR) with the person being called. So, if your call center is only making EBR calls, you may think you have nothing to worry about, right? Not so fast. Just because it is legal to dial that number, still doesn’t mean you should. Simply put, calling too often or for the wrong reasons could turn an EBR into a former EBR. This happened when I retaliated against a company that was overcalling me—and others could do it to you.

I used to have a subscription to the local paper. Since I only had time to read it on the weekends, those were the only days I received it. This was a splendid arrangement, one which I would have gladly continued if not for overzealous telemarketing.

One evening, during suppertime, I received a call from an enthusiastic employee of the paper. They had a special upgrade price so that I could enjoy the paper all week long. When would I like to start? Gamely I explained that I only wanted the paper on the weekends. Receiving it when I didn’t have time to read it only served to make me feel guilty—either for wasting time by reading it or for wasting money by not reading it. The agent laughed and said that she understood.

A few months later, I received another call with the same offer from a different rep. I assumed that turnover had occurred and my stated preference for weekend-only delivery had not been appropriately noted (so much for an effective “customer relationship management”). I repeated my explanation and again stated my penchant for weekend-only delivery.

These calls became a regular occurrence—and I grew increasingly annoyed. Sometimes the interval was two or three months, other times only a couple of weeks; once it was two days. They always came at an inopportune time. No one seemed to realize that regardless of how often it was offered, I was not going to capitulate to their plea to expand my subscription to include weekdays. Even when it was offered at no additional cost, I declined, citing my concern over the landfill’s shrinking capacity. I asked that they stop calling, but my appeals went unheeded.

My exasperation over the persistent phone calls grew to the point there it exceeded my satisfaction in reading the paper. I realized that by cancelling my subscription, the EBR provision would soon cease to be a factor and eventually I would have legal recourse should the calls continue.

I expected that the effort to end my subscription would provide one final opportunity to stop the phone calls—and continue receiving the paper, sans telemarketing. I was mistaken. Incredibly, when I called to cancel my subscription, no one asked why. They didn’t say they were sorry. Most surprising of all—especially given their proclivity for phoning me—no one made a follow-up call. Even though there was a window of opportunity for them to phone and win me back, that never occurred. Finally, the unwelcomed calls had stopped.

I do miss the paper—at least a little bit. However, I now rely on the radio to get national news, the Internet for sports, email for the weather, and a book for crossword puzzles. Even so, I am quite out of the loop on local news, and I do miss the comics. But it is a small price to pay to avoid the incessant dinnertime interruptions to sell me something I have repeatedly declined.

The paper thought they were safe by placing calls that complied with legal requirements, but they were wrong. Their unbridled calling turned a happy reader into an irritated former reader and decremented their circulation count by one. This leaves me wondering how many other subscriptions they lost because of their legal, but unrestrained calling practices?

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher of Article Weekly. In addition to being a publisher and editor, he is an author and blogger with 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for tips and insights.

Categories
Business Articles

The Politics of Calling

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

With the fall elections in the United States now in our rear-view mirror, we can now take a calmer look at what happened. In the days preceding the election, more than one person shared with me their eagerness for the voting to come to a conclusion. Quite succinctly, their common refrain was, “I’m sick of all political commercials—and especially the phone calls.”

Here are some of my observations:

  • Unlike in the past, I did not receive one live call. Not even a “don’t forget to vote” reminder.
  • The number of recorded messages I received this year, far outpaced the total number of automated and live calls during past campaigns.
  • My mother, part of the senior citizen demographic, received about three times the number of automated political calls that I received.
  • People do not understand why they receive these calls when they are on the “Do Not Call” (DNC) list—and they are angry about it. (Our self-serving elected officials conveniently exempted themselves from the DNC legislation.)
  • My wife’s common response is to lay the receiver down (or put the call on hold) and walk away. It’s her small way of retaliation.
  • I never listened to more than a few seconds of a single robo call I received.

Therefore, our politicians calls should consider:

  • Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right. Check numbers against the DNC list when making political calls. Those who signed up did so for a reason. Calling them will only make them mad, cause them to assume you or your client are breaking the law, or both.
  • Don’t overcall people. Even if you have them donations to call the same number multiple times, don’t do it—especially not on the same day!
  • Don’t mislead people and do provide responsible discloser. Email messages must contain legitimate subject lines; print and broadcast ads must state who paid for the ad; and mailed messages have their own content requirements. Apply these reasonable and accepted practices to recorded messages—people have grown to expect this from other channels, provide it on calls as well.

Given the electorate’s outcry over robo calls, specifically, and political calling, in general, we can expect the practice will come under greater scrutiny. To address this, our elected officials will adopt a more regulatory attitude towards telemarketing and robo calling, even though they, in part, contributed to the problem, causing some of the exact voter angst they are seeking to appease.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher of Article Weekly. In addition to being a publisher and editor, he is an author and blogger with 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for tips and insights.