HotAIR - MINI FOLLOW-UP-- Telemarketing Optimization Project

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MINI FOLLOW-UP--
Telemarketing Optimization Project

Practical improvements to daily life

by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, AIR staff

The Telemarketing Optimization Project announced in mini-AIR 2001-06 has borne fruit. This summary page contains two sections:

1. The original announcement
2. The results

Project Announcement

This is the original project announcement:

We receive many telephone call from telemarketers. Until recently these seemed annoyances, but now we realize they are research opportunities. You are invited to collaborate on our Telemarketing Optimization Project. The project consists of a number of protocols. Here we describe several that we have used.

TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION: The project takes advantage of a quirk of modern technology. Many telemarketing calls begin with a brief period of silence, in which the telemarketer's automatic equipment tries to determine whether the call recipient is a likely target. You can easily learn to recognize this silence, and so be ready to implement a protocol the moment the human telemarketer is switched onto the line.

PROTOCOL: Say "hi."
DESCRIPTION: Whenever the telemarketer asks you to say anything, pause for several seconds, and then softly, plaintively, say just the word "hi." Pronounce it as if it were written in lowercase and spoken by a wispy child.
[NOTE: Our lab notebook for this project may be instructive to new investigators. Here is a typical entry:
May 29, 2001. 11:08 am. Another telemarketer, another round of plaintive "hi"s. She hung up after round three.]

PROTOCOL: Read methodically from a prepared text. So far we have conducted test runs using each of the following texts:
<> "The World of Mathematics," Newman, volume 4
<> "The Integrative Action of the Nervous System," Sherrington
<> The digits of pi

PROTOCOL: Sing from a prepared score. The quality of the singing matters not. So far we have conducted test runs using the following:
<> The complete works of Philip Glass

PROTOCOL: Whatever the telemarketer says to you, you repeat back to the telemarketer.

==> We invite you to devise your own protocols, run the experiments, and then tell us about it. We will report the most compelling results.

The Results

Here are the most salient of the many reports we have received.

(It must me noted that some of the following protocols were developed by multiple investigators, each presumably acting independently. In such cases we have randomly selected one of each type for presentation here.)

PROTOCOL: Say "No."
INVESTIGATOR: W.M. Clarke
DESCRIPTION: After the caller asks "May I speak to Mr. or Mrs. Clarke?" I say "No." Then I wait.
RESULTS: After numerous applications of this over six months I find no change in the average response time. About 1/3 of telemarketers repeat themselves. 1/3 hang up, and 1/3 pause for ten to fifteen seconds before saying, "Uh! Ah? Oh!" and then disconnecting.

PROTOCOL: "Wait a minute"
INVESTIGATOR: G. Dryfoos
DESCRIPTION: When I get a telemarketer, I say, "Oh, good! I've been hoping you'd call. That's just what I need. How much... oh, wait, that's the door. Can you wait a minute, please?" Then I put down the phone and go about my business, using the "un-hung-up phone beeping" as a signal that they finally gave up.
RESULTS: The record so far is 15 minutes for a long-distance phone service. The median is about 4 minutes. This technique has the advantage of making all willing customers seem like possible "poisoned prey". With enough of us in the environment, it might have some effect on the predator population. One hopes.

PROTOCOL: "You have reached..."
INVESTIGATOR: R. Freborg
DESCRIPTION: Say, "You have reached the telemarketing response line. Please leave your message after the click." Then hang up
RESULTS: Good

PROTOCOL: Bagpipes
INVESTIGATOR: J. Maxfield
DESCRIPTION: Put the phone down on the table. Continue playing bagpipes.
RESULTS: 100% success (one out of one cases)

PROTOCOL: Youth
INVESTIGATOR: A. Shapir
DESCRIPTION: Hand over the phone to your two years old child.
RESULTS: Good. The only drawback of this method is that it requires a steady supply of two years old children. Unfortunately, mine has run out (or rather, grown out).

PROTOCOL: Savings plan
INVESTIGATOR: S. Cohen
DESCRIPTION: A protocol that a Methodist minister friend suggested has been working excellently. Say "I'm so glad you've called. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?"
RESULTS: To date I have not had a single telemarketer last through "as your" - hang-up is usually within milliseconds of the end of "Christ". I have no idea what I will do if they *do* last through the whole spiel -- I am Jewish.

PROTOCOL: A store-bought solution
INVESTIGATOR: J. Pellmann
DESCRIPTION:
RESULTS: A $9.95 device called "Easy Hangup," available at better drugstores, Radio Shack stores, or many sources online, attaches to your phone and provides a simple one-button interface. When a telemarketer calls and starts their pitch, you simply press the button. The device emits a loud buzzer sound on the phone line (which usually, but not always, gets them to stop talking), followed by the following prerecorded announcement:
"I'm sorry, this number does not accept this type of call. Please regard this message as your notification to remove this number from your list. Thank you."
It then disconnects the line. Another example of better living through electronics.

PROTOCOL: Sorry
INVESTIGATOR: S. Johnson
DESCRIPTION: Whoever they ask to speak to, respond that that person is dead. Escalate the interaction until the telemarketer hangs up or you have to admit you did it.
RESULTS:
Calls: 10
Average time to hang up: 30 seconds
Call distribution of hang ups:
After:
1 response 60% hung up
2 responses 30%
3 responses 10%
I have yet to use more than 3 responses.

PROTOCOL: "Not permitted"
INVESTIGATOR: D. Fearn
DESCRIPTION: I say, "Business solicitation calls are not permitted on this line."
RESULTS: Number of calls applied: At least 100. IT failed only once. Average time elapsed before hangup: Long enough for the telemarketer to say "I'm sorry"[*]. (Imagine that; a telemarketer telling *me* he's sorry!)

PROTOCOL: "Helleeaaaoo"
INVESTIGATOR: C. Callobre
DESCRIPTION: We say "Helleeaaaoo" in the style of the Jerry Lewis "Hey Laaady", and increase the volume with each repetition.
RESULTS: This was applied to about 18 phone calls. The telemarketers would hang up between the second and third "Helleeaaaoo"s.

PROTOCOL: "What's your number?"
INVESTIGATOR: M. Sarakinsky
DESCRIPTION: Inform the telemarketer that you are busy and cannot talk now. Ask for his/her home telephone number and the time at which he/she eats supper. Offer to phone him/her back at home at supper time.
RESULTS: I have applied this to more than 120 over about 5 years. Almost always, the caller hangs up in just a few seconds.

PROTOCOL: Hang up
INVESTIGATOR: K. Roberts
DESCRIPTION: I immediately hang up.
RESULTS: The average time it took me to hang up was 3.375 seconds. I have no idea how long the telemarketer remained on the line after being hung upon.

PROTOCOL: Repetition - VARIANT #1
INVESTIGATOR: J. Smith II
DESCRIPTION: Whatever the telemarketer says to you, you repeat back to the telemarketer as a question. (EXAMPLE: "May I speak to Mr. Smith?"
RESULTS: I've been able to hold the conversation until the caller hung up, twice surpassing the 5 minute mark.

PROTOCOL: Repetition - VARIANT #2
INVESTIGATOR: P. Guertin
DESCRIPTION: The "whatever the telemarketer says to you, you repeat back to the telemarketer" protocol can be automated. Use a computer equipped with a sound card and a "Parrot" program that waits for silence and then repeats the last few seconds of speech.
RESULTS: Excellent

PROTOCOL: Repetition - VARIANT #3
INVESTIGATOR: S. Saal
DESCRIPTION: Whenever the telemarketer says something, ask him or her to please repeat it.
RESULTS: Excellent

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