Anil Thakraney’s Hard Knocks: Why did telemarketers lose the game?

28 Sep,2011

Today morning, I sent a text message to 1909, and in a matter of seconds, forever banished telemarketers from my life. Or at least I hope I did. (This is India, where there are many laws, but many more people ready to flout them.) But at the same time it did make me feel a wee bit sad as a communication professional. Here is a powerful medium destroyed by the foibles of some very incompetent telemarketers.


I am not a direct marketing guru, but here are three key reasons I think why the tele guys lost the plot. You can add your own.


  1.  Badly trained, poorly paid staffers who lack even basic communication skills. ‘Hello sir, main XYZ se bol rahi hoon, aapko ek free SIM card ka offer hai, kya aap interested hain?’ Imagine I could be doing 100 important things when this call arrives. Even hanging precariously by a cliff. Is it too difficult for callers to politely ask for a ‘good time’ to call?  We often do that with friends, leave alone strangers. Who knows, some courtesy may encourage people to at least have a conversation. And in telemarketing, that’s half the battle won. I really think some amount of smart training would help.


  1. Poor sense of timing: I would get calls at 10.30 AM Monday, the peak work hour, from someone selling me a holiday package to Macau. Or, on a lazy Sunday noon, from a chap asking if I want a computer printer. Worse, someone texts me at night offering Yoga classes. Is anyone even trying to think out there on when to sell what?


  1.  I know this is a cold calling business, but does have it to be like blind shooting in the dark? Is market segmentation so difficult in telemarketing? Can’t the proprietors invest some funds in market research before hitting the phone? I’ll give you an example. Once, an expensive time share resorts seller called my driver. Overhearing their conversation, I encouraged him to talk, so we could have some masti. Not only did the excited tele girl ‘sell’ him a Rs 2-lakh-worth worth life membership, she even agreed to drop by his chawl for a cup of tea. I told him to have fun!



All said, it’s a pity, really. Because telemarketing is a very useful tool for one-on-one communication. And it’s failed in India because it’s run by people who just don’t get it.




PS: Must say I am more than surprised with the overreaction and anger in India at Shoaib Akhtar’s book. The mud he’s flung at fellow cricketers in his book, as per reports, is totally consistent with his own brand personality. He’s lived an entirely controversial life, so why must his book be any different? What were people expecting? A collection of sweet lullabies? Hello? Branding, anyone?

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