Due to quick technological advancements, which now permit faster and cheaper communication for telemarketing industry, the management of Infas Telemarketing Inc. faced new ethical challenges and in some cases missed to observe law.
Mr. John Smith from Infas Telemarketing Inc. has asked us to examine these challenges and respond with an analysis of the issues, and provide conclusions as well as recommendations. The purpose of this report is to analyze how telemarketing managers can maintain an ethical environment and recommend corrective actions to improve the professionalism of our agents. The analysis will be limited to the ethical issues in the Barrie Call center, which should help us to improve our level of service as well as our public image. The significance of this report is to provide better customer service, to restore our image and to expand amongst the Barrie community. This report will investigate the cause of the increasing ethical issues our customers are raising against our business practices. Furthermore it will examine the federal laws on legal Telemarketing, and discuss how managerial involvement could improve the level of service as well as the professionalism of our telemarketers.
A telemarketer’s most essential tool is the telephone and the computer. To increase sales, improve customer relations, and establish long term customers, one must to have the proper know-how on how to portray the business purpose in a professional and efficient manner. However, to avoid malfunction for the company, a manager has to constantly follow up on the level of feedbacks, as well as train agents for ethical behavior in the workplace. Each telemarketer is to add value to the company, and be aware of his or her responsibilities. It is vital for the company that each telemarketer is aware of the outcome of his/her behavior in the long term.
Telemarketing agents who tend to focus on corporate and personal goals, and do not put any consideration to the human context of their calls, portray a perfect example of an unethical business purpose and ruin the image of the telemarketing industry as a whole.
Perspective customers are very time sensitive and vary in favorite time gaps. Some customers do not want to be contacted in the evening; others prefer to be contacted in the evenings. Telemarketing agencies need to consider and respect these variances. A basic timeframe should be followed throughout the company, as respecting the timeframe would be one of the major elements of ethical telemarketing. Most importantly – honesty and clarity are the key factors of a successful telemarketing business. 95% of current telemarketing agents and managers answered that “a telephone conversation should be held clearly and honestly. The agent has to make sure the recipient is aware of the exact nature of the call before he or she commits to any kind of agreement.”
Sensitivity should be especially present when dealing with elders and disabled people. Agencies who pay their fair wages, keep track of their employees work, and include each individual in the company decisions, will maintain an ethical status. Yet, the telemarketing industry is a highly competitive market, where the main theme is “Make it or Die” (Silviya Partos, 2011). These issues may represent a threat to some agencies, which pursue with unethical business behaviors.
1.1 Elements of Unethical Telemarketing
To surpass the legal challenges, some corrupt telemarketing agencies shut down and move their business from Canada to another nearby country which allows them to continue stay in business. Predominantly, the customer is offered a “free” product, a big surprise, a car, a trip, money, (you name it) etc. Due to number of these calls, most customers are pre-warned about these scams. However, some naÃ¯ve customers still fall for these scams and provide those agencies with financial information such as banking account- and credit card information.
Many telemarketing agents are either full-time students, or find the telemarketing industry as a bridge between jobs until they advance with their original careers (Mohammed Sahli, 2011). These individuals mostly focus on personal goals, and sometimes skip essential information to pass on to the customer in order to close a deal. Customers are often manipulated to agree on a product, on which they are not fully aware of.
Customers sometimes wonder why they are being contacted from telemarketing agencies even though they have either a private number or registered their number on the do-not call list. Most people do not know that when they sign up for a public contest (i.e. to win a car, or a trip, or money etc.), application forms and past purchase history, they are sometimes automatically permitting third parties to contact them. Customers sometimes do not read the fine print which states “with this signature you entitle company X to pass your information to third parties, or keep your information for further advertising purposes”.
Telemarketing Agencies Face Legal Challenges
Telemarketing has become a powerful tool for companies to rake in substantial profits. This quick and easy way to contact potential customers has been leveraged for years to reinforce companies marketing strategy. However, since 2005 telemarketing agencies face legal challenges that are worsened by encyclopedic lists of complaints about customer service representatives and their methods. These complaints resulted in the adoption of several laws and regulations that have forced calling agencies to restrict their calls and deeply restructure their business practices.
The National Do-Not-Call Registry (DNCL)
In the United States, the Do-Not-Call Registry has been in effect for over 6 years and hundreds of thousands of companies have made adjustments to comply. The Do-Not-Call registry has more than 60 million registered numbers (Lieber, 2004). In Canada the National Do-Not-Call list has been implemented and companies are experiencing increasing difficulties to make a pleasant and productive telephone contact with customers. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has initiated regulations that bind companies to maintain internal, company or client specific Do-Not-Call lists and to comply with requests from consumers not to receive future solicitation calls. Companies must adhere to this mandate whether using internal or contracted telephone representatives (Ethical Marketing Guidelines, 2011). The Do-Not-Call list is continuously growing and is preventing telemarketing agencies from contacting customers.
Telemarketing companies have to filter their lists in order to avoid calling phone numbers that are placed on the Do-Not-Call Registry. To make the rules stricter, the list filtering interval has changed. As of January 1, 2005, the minimum interval for filtering against the Do-Not-Call list changed from every 90 days to every 31 days (Lieber, 2004). The change put more pressure on telemarketing agencies because they have to scrub their lists much more often. This change took away numbers from the lists telemarketing agencies call. The survey conducted amongst 46 telemarketers asked if: Telephone marketers should remove the name of any contact from their telephone lists when requested to do so. The chart shows that a vast majority being 89% agreed, however 9% neither agreed nor disagreed and 2% disagreed. These figures show that there is still room for an improvement in ethical behavior in call center floors and the pressure for results still forces some telemarketers to trespass the law.
Calling Hour Restrictions
To the question: Telemarketing agents should comply with the call hour restriction in order to avoid calling customers during hours they consider inappropriate. 69% of the surveyed telemarketers agreed, 22% were borderline and 9% disagreed. The time restriction placed on telemarketing agencies also creates problems as it reduces the size of the potential market. Telemarketers tend to cut corners to increase chances to make sales. The CRTC through the Telecommunication act prohibits telephone solicitation calls to residents before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. (Ethical Marketing Guidelines, 2011). Telemarketing companies must train their staff and implement a compliance program to ensure that calls are made within certain time periods. With continuous expansion of technology, most telemarketing agencies have calling lists that are filtered by time zone. However, technology is not always 100% guaranteed. Mistakes and errors within systems occur and telemarketing agents call the wrong time zones. Technology helps companies manage calling hour and holiday calling restrictions for varying federal and provincial guidelines filtering numbers by area code, and local time supported by postal codes (Noble Systems, 2003). Telemarketing calls made before and after restricted hours are unethical and violate the law.
To be successful telemarketing agencies must operate under successful management. The frontline manager involvement is crucial in achieving high sales while maintaining an ethical environment. The character and nature of telemarketing management is critical to the success of a telemarketing operation in its relationships with other internal organization units. Managers must justify the existence of their operations continually in the face of the reality of having a poor reputation (Szmyd, 2002). The job of a telemarketing manager is demanding. It is for those who are willing and are able to meet the challenge of the position.Because it’s common for a contact center to hold a wide span of duties, it’s extremely important for call center managers not only to be excellent managers, but also inherently customer orientated. Specifically, they should be exceptional communicators, adept listeners and capable decision makers, as well as extremely organized, tolerant of stress, and possess an innate flair for motivating and engaging their employees. Manager involvement is essential in creating an ethical environment. Technological advances have given managers the ability to monitor their agents. They are able to listen to the phone calls their agents make for quality assurance. It is the job of the manager to conduct periodic monitoring to ensure that experienced callers do not become careless in their eagerness to complete calls (Szmyd, 2002).Because a large proportion of the people working in telemarketing stumble into contact-center positions, many managers and agents lack the required skills for the job. In fact, there is not one college or university that offers a degree program in call center management. There is no clear-cut
defined path for this, most of the skills are usually learned on the job. The managers need to possess the same skills as the telemarketing agents. Successful managers have interpersonal skills and have relationships with their employees. They are able to listen to the needs of the employees and create a supportive environment. Managers are successful when they are involved in the work of their agents. They are aware of the strengths and weaknesses of their employees and are constantly working with ways of improving the professionalism of the agents (Szmyd, 2002).
Unethical behaviours not only affect customers but also telemarketing agencies which will ultimately suffer revenues losses.
Better business practices will help restore telemarketing image in the public opinion but this goal cannot be achieved without the involvement of the frontline management team.
Managers are responsible for monitoring their agents and making sure that they are not making unethical phone calls and /or business malpractices. The monitoring process will provide managers with information that they can use in order to refine their training methods.
To be successful, managers should involve their agents in implementing new ideas and suggestions for improvement within the department. Good communication will result in better professional relationships.
Telemarketing agents who have bad communication skills are not able to form relationships with their clients. A relationship is necessary so that a client is comfortable and trusts the agent. Telemarketing agents who do not have the proper communication skills must be trained.
Telemarketers, who provide bad customer service due to the nature of their personality, are generally unsuccessful because they don’t find enjoyment in servicing others.
Customer service is an important factor in choosing companies to do business with. Clients are more upset by a poor customer service, than a bad product.
Urge telemarketers to comply immediately with the calling hours guidelines.
Increase telemarketers’ awareness to avoid placing calls to phone numbers registered with the Do-not-call list.
Train agents to develop communication skills such as listening and speaking to improve telemarketing skills within the next three months.
Establish specific ethical and operational guidelines for which employees will be held accountable.
Monitor telemarketing agents’ calls for quality improvement purposes on a monthly basis.
Foster managerial interpersonal relationships with all telemarketing agents to better analyze their strengths and weaknesses.
Involve employees in decision making processes and foster feedback to make the best possible changes
All Telephone offers should be clear, honest and complete so that the recipient of the call will know the exact nature of what is being offered and the commitment involved in placing order
Disagree Somewhat agree
1% 4% 95%
Telephone marketers should remove the name of any contact from their telephone lists when requested to do so.
Disagree Somewhat agree
2% 9% 89%
In the survey we conducted with our former supervisors in Montreal and Germany, we asked if: Telephone marketers should remove the name of any contact from their telephone lists when requested to do so. The chart shows that a vast majority agreed, however 11% were either borderline or disagreed. These figures show that there is still room for an improvement in ethical behavior in call center floors and
Telemarketers should promptly disclose seller’s name and the primary purpose of the contact.
Disagree Somewhat agree
2% 21% 77%
Telemarketing agents should comply with the call hour restriction in order to avoid calling customers during hours they consider inappropriate.
Disagree Somewhat agree
9% 22% 69%
Telemarketing agents should have to deal in especially sensitive ways people considered vulnerable such as minors, elders, etc.
Disagree Somewhat agree
13% 37% 50%
ALL terms and conditions, charges, etc. should be fully clarified to the customer BEFORE his or her commitment.
Disagree Somewhat agree
23% 30% 47%
Scale. 1= Disagree. 2=Neither Agree or Disagree 3=Agree N = 46