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Stop the third degree methods being applied on hapless customers

On an average Saturday, I get about 15 calls from annoying telemarketers and about 50 messages on my mobile phone that are totally irrelevant. About email, the less said, the better. My reaction towards these has progressed from annoyance to anger to rage to intense hatred and has now comfortably settled on deriving sadistic pleasure.

My most preferred response to a telemarketing call would be to let it ring and ring and ring for about 15 seconds and then click on the receive button and not respond. I derive intense pleasure from just hearing the caller holler my name incessantly on the call before hanging up. At other times, especially when I am in a bad mood, I would delight in just picking up a fight with the person who calls me. This usually results in their abruptly hanging up just to escape my (completely made up) fury.

However, I have noticed that my novel methods of response have absolutely no effect on the amount of “marketing touches” I receive. In fact, it’s also true that these touches actually exponentially increase if we make the mistake of actually buying something from any of these companies. The old marketing adage about existing customers being more valuable than prospects have cruelly been translated this way. For example, I receive no less than 2 calls a day during weekdays and 5 calls a day in the weekend for the past 3 months from the insurance company asking me to renew my policy. When I actually took one of these calls and told the caller to put me in touch with somebody to explain the policy to me, it fell on deaf ears. Till date, nobody has bothered to clarify my questions on the policy.

Not another telemarketer

Another bizarre example is the message I have been receiving from a NBFC about a “pre-approved” personal loan since 2010! The message wording and the “pre-approved” amount are unchanged and they land in my inbox daily. Again, I made the mistake of taking a no interest EMI loan from them in 2010, while purchasing my LCD TV.

Then there are the real estate companies that just shovel garbage in the name of direct marketing. Literally hundreds of messages every week that make no sense at all are being sprayed far and wide.

It beats me as to who gains by these methods. Certainly it should cost money to send even a poorly worded SMS and even completely unqualified people would not work for free as telemarketing agents. So why do this at all?

My contention is that this is a result of lazy marketing. Large companies that have significant marketing resources simply believe in shoving their messaging down the throat of hapless customers and prospects.

The other problem is that they are being measured on cost, efficiency and productivity but not the most important metric- effectiveness. Therefore, the average marketing manager shows that his direct marketing operation has deployed more telemarketers, made more calls, sent more messages and yet, reduced overall cost. Effectiveness metrics are usually relegated to the dustbin because of conventional belief that nobody is supposed to read the messages and pick up the phone or buy the product anyway.

This absurdity has to end. Way too much money is being spent on stuff that is really subjecting people to torture. The plummeting cost of communication technology is playing into the hands of these demon marketers who carpet bomb us at will. The other contributing factor is the fact that direct marketing activities are outsourced to sweatshops that employ desperate, but completely unsuitable people to execute. Lost among all this is the fact that these tactics will put off a large number of people and increase irritation and disengagement among both customers and target prospects- two very important constituencies.

It’s time for this idiocy to stop.

Marketing urgently needs to change direction by a 180 degrees. The lion’s share of investments should go towards collecting information from the customers and churning them into insight on what they want. It’s time to spend infinitely more on getting to know what attributes a product should have and what are the ways to be a step ahead of the competition. Marketing’s activities should be sufficiently frontloaded to facilitate making what the customer wants rather than factory produce a me-too item and then shove it down everybody’s throat.

Next comes post purchase interaction with customers. I think it would be much simpler to employ sensible people who would systematically address customer complaints and need for clarifications rather than just dump them after they sign on the dotted line. The conventional pyramid view of resourcing frontline staff automatically leads to the worst possible talent being in the forefront of customer communication. The better people are in the smaller concentric circles and more and more away from the customer. Visit a customer service center of any mobile service provider and see this in action.

This doesn’t make sense. Why would we want to shield the best people from engaging with customers? Then, when the time comes for renewal or cross sell, the strategy is to again overwhelm with shock and awe in the form of marketing touches. It’s time to invest in a sustained approach to keeping customers engaged and make them feel valued by listening to their feedback and responding accordingly. To return to my earlier example, I would have certainly appreciated one call from somebody explaining my policy compared to a 100 trying to bully me to renew.

Finally, it’s time to replace methods that don’t work with those that do. Marketing needs to be held accountable for every cent that gets spent. For this, data infrastructure, measurement systems and campaign close-looping techniques would enable a clear eyed evaluation of effectiveness and a continuous learning paradigm.

Deploying proven analytics methods like market mix optimization, attribution modeling, Design of Experiments Campaign deployment and optimized customer touch management frameworks would ensure that marketing doesn’t degenerate into a free for all.

The icing on the cake would be that the data collected would enable a virtuous cycle of more and more outcome focused initiatives for every future campaign that ensure the best, optimized ROI.

It’s time for Marketing to stop punishing customers.

The author, Karthikeyan Damodaran, is a Consulting Services Delivery Leader at BRIDGEi2i – a company on a mission to unleash the power of analytics and transform the lives of enterprises and individuals alike. We believe that the solutions to almost all intractable problems lies in our ability to mine & contextualize data. We want to help organizations prepare for adversity of all types by embracing data driven calculated risk taking, as a way of life. To know more visit www.bridgei2i.com .

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of BRIDGEi2i.

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