For five bucks, Bell limits the nuisance
Service that helps screen tele-marketers is too clever by half

Stop me if this has never happened to you. After a hard days work, an hour in traffic, a run into the depaneur to pick up milk, a trip to the sitter's for the kids, and twenty minutes in the kitchen, you finally get down to supper with the family. Two minutes into the meal, the phone rings and it's a tele-marketer trying to sell you a heat pump.

For people that don't like being harassed by unwanted callers, Bell Canada has a new privacy service, which intercepts calls from unidentified numbers, even before the phone rings.

The option -- which costs $5.00 a month for those who already have the call display service -- gives users the choice of accepting, rejecting or sending calls from unidentified numbers to a voice mailbox.

Although Bell's marketing material doesn't say so, the service's biggest client groups will surely be those trying to screen out tele-marketers. When a call comes in to your phone tagged as "un-identified caller," or "number not available," it's a good bet that you have a tele-marketer or a survey company on the line.

It's not supposed to be that way. According to Bell guidelines, tele-marketers are supposed to display the originating phone number, when making solicitation calls. In practice it rarely works out that way.

When a tele-marketing call is made, if the target has the caller identification service, he can note the caller's telephone number, and choose whether to pick up the phone.

But tele-marketers are only required to display their phone numbers if the service is available in the area in which the call center is located. Conveniently, many are in areas where the service is not available.

Even among tele-marketers that could make their names and phone numbers available to be seen on the call display, many routinely block out this information by either pushing *67 before placing a call, or by making calls from unlisted phone numbers. Survey and market research companies don't have to identify themselves at all.

The upshot, is that when a call comes in to your phone tagged as "un-identified caller," or "number not available," it's a good bet that you have a tele-marketer or a survey company on the line.

Even though Bell's new product will be used to help customers screen out tele-marketers, the service is not being sold as such. Telemarketing and survey companies rack up huge long-distance bills.

Unlike its home user market, Bell faces heavy competition to get and keep call center accounts, and thus has every incentive to make it as easy as possible for them to do business. Publicizing a service, that makes it harder for them to get through to the public is thus not in Bell's interest.

But in today's service economy, where almost everyone is under enormous time pressure, the telemarketing industry, as well as all direct marketers, have to tread lightly when intruding on the public's increasingly scarce private time.

Time is money, and interrupting a dinner of say four family members with a five-minute solicitation overheard by all, ruins a combined 20 minutes of quiet family time. And tele-marketers know what they are doing -- many call on purpose at suppertime because they know people are likely to be home.

Not just tele-marketing, but most direct marketing techniques leave customers with all the inconvenience of media advertising, and none of the benefits.

Television, radio, Internet and newspaper advertisers, deliver -- even to their non-client consumers -- considerable benefit. The public grudgingly puts up with advertisements, since advertisers are heavily subsidizing the programming, news articles and other content.

But direct marketing is different. Sure a high quality Ikea catalogue is a keeper in many homes. Highly targeted mail can also be useful. But most junk mail, E-mail, faxes and tele-marketing solicitations bring little except annoyance to almost everyone targeted.

To avoid a backlash from the public, direct marketers must constantly avoid the perception that they are taking advantage of the customer's good will.

That is precisely what smells bad about Bell's latest call privacy service. If Bell has the technology to force tele-marketers to identify themselves to the public and does not use it, the phone company risks annoying its client base.

Providing call centers with the telephone and long distance services to place what Bell broadly alludes to as "nuisance calls," is one thing. But charging the public five bucks a month, to avoid the nuisance that Bell itself is profiting from, just smells bad.

 

 

Photo Caption: Unidentified callers are often telemarketers or survey companies. Bell's new service allows users to intercept these calls, and either reject them, or send them to a voice mailbox.

 

Diekmeyer can be reached at peter @peterdiekmeyer.com

-30-
For five bucks, Bell limits the nuisance
Service that helps screen tele-marketers is too clever by half

Stop me if this has never happened to you. After a hard days work, an hour in traffic, a run into the depaneur to pick up milk, a trip to the sitter's for the kids, and twenty minutes in the kitchen, you finally get down to supper with the family. Two minutes into the meal, the phone rings and it's a tele-marketer trying to sell you a heat pump.

For people that don't like being harassed by unwanted callers, Bell Canada has a new privacy service, which intercepts calls from unidentified numbers, even before the phone rings.

The option -- which costs $5.00 a month for those who already have the call display service -- gives users the choice of accepting, rejecting or sending calls from unidentified numbers to a voice mailbox.

Although Bell's marketing material doesn't say so, the service's biggest client groups will surely be those trying to screen out tele-marketers. When a call comes in to your phone tagged as "un-identified caller," or "number not available," it's a good bet that you have a tele-marketer or a survey company on the line.

It's not supposed to be that way. According to Bell guidelines, tele-marketers are supposed to display the originating phone number, when making solicitation calls. In practice it rarely works out that way.

When a tele-marketing call is made, if the target has the caller identification service, he can note the caller's telephone number, and choose whether to pick up the phone.

But tele-marketers are only required to display their phone numbers if the service is available in the area in which the call center is located. Conveniently, many are in areas where the service is not available.

Even among tele-marketers that could make their names and phone numbers available to be seen on the call display, many routinely block out this information by either pushing *67 before placing a call, or by making calls from unlisted phone numbers. Survey and market research companies don't have to identify themselves at all.

The upshot, is that when a call comes in to your phone tagged as "un-identified caller," or "number not available," it's a good bet that you have a tele-marketer or a survey company on the line.

Even though Bell's new product will be used to help customers screen out tele-marketers, the service is not being sold as such. Telemarketing and survey companies rack up huge long-distance bills.

Unlike its home user market, Bell faces heavy competition to get and keep call center accounts, and thus has every incentive to make it as easy as possible for them to do business. Publicizing a service, that makes it harder for them to get through to the public is thus not in Bell's interest.

But in today's service economy, where almost everyone is under enormous time pressure, the telemarketing industry, as well as all direct marketers, have to tread lightly when intruding on the public's increasingly scarce private time.

Time is money, and interrupting a dinner of say four family members with a five-minute solicitation overheard by all, ruins a combined 20 minutes of quiet family time. And tele-marketers know what they are doing -- many call on purpose at suppertime because they know people are likely to be home.

Not just tele-marketing, but most direct marketing techniques leave customers with all the inconvenience of media advertising, and none of the benefits.

Television, radio, Internet and newspaper advertisers, deliver -- even to their non-client consumers -- considerable benefit. The public grudgingly puts up with advertisements, since advertisers are heavily subsidizing the programming, news articles and other content.

But direct marketing is different. Sure a high quality Ikea catalogue is a keeper in many homes. Highly targeted mail can also be useful. But most junk mail, E-mail, faxes and tele-marketing solicitations bring little except annoyance to almost everyone targeted.

To avoid a backlash from the public, direct marketers must constantly avoid the perception that they are taking advantage of the customer's good will.

That is precisely what smells bad about Bell's latest call privacy service. If Bell has the technology to force tele-marketers to identify themselves to the public and does not use it, the phone company risks annoying its client base.

Providing call centers with the telephone and long distance services to place what Bell broadly alludes to as "nuisance calls," is one thing. But charging the public five bucks a month, to avoid the nuisance that Bell itself is profiting from, just smells bad.

 

 

Photo Caption: Unidentified callers are often telemarketers or survey companies. Bell's new service allows users to intercept these calls, and either reject them, or send them to a voice mailbox.

 

Diekmeyer can be reached at peter @peterdiekmeyer.com

-30-

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