Survey in 'cold calls are annoying' shock

According to a report, consumers want cold-calling banned. Then again, it does appear to work...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

A startling revelation from Which? today: apparently, consumers don’t like receiving cold calls. Who knew? In fact, according to the survey, people are so offended by them that three-quarters want the practice to be banned altogether. But although we're sympathetic (there are a few things more annoying than picking up the phone to an automated voice, after all) - we're not entirely sure we agree. Presumably it's a hugely important way for businesses to get sales, or they wouldn't bother doing it...
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the survey is that the proportion of people who hate cold-calls wasn't higher. Of the 2,092 people questioned, the average consumer receives six cold calls a month, while two-thirds said they’ve had ‘at least’ one in the last three months (we're amazed these numbers aren't higher - we seem to get at least one a day). About a third said they’ve had a ‘silent call’ – those irritating calls made by companies using an auto-dialler to phone multiple numbers at once – whereupon 60% of people say they ‘immediately hang up’. (So what do the other 40% do? Stay on the line for the rest of the night?)
The Direct Marketing Association’s response to the survey was to scuff its heels and mumble that while the telephone marketing industry has improved its practices, ‘there is still some way to go’. It added that perhaps, if householders don’t want to receive cold calls, they should start screening their calls. Hmm. Though there is also the Telephone Preference Service, which (supposedly) gets your number taken off telemarketing lists.
But perhaps we're looking at this the wrong way. Getting unwanted nuisance calls is undeniably annoying. But cold calls are sometimes the only way for businesses to reach out to new customers. The reason companies spend money on this kind of thing is that it does actually work: the returns may be smaller than for other 'warmer' forms of marketing, but if done correctly and sensitively, it can be an effective way to win new business. Obviously, the less targeted your approach, the smaller the return – but some people clearly say yes. In fact, it's that 25% who don't object to cold-calling that makes it worth companies' while.
So we suspect cold calling is here to stay - and to be honest, we're ok with that. Those who aren't had better get that call screening device installed...

In today's bulletin:

Nadir for SFO as Polly Peck tycoon comes back to face the music
Diageo looks beyond UK for booze bonanza
What Arthur Scargill has in common with Neutron Jack Welch
Survey in 'cold calls are annoying' shock
Letters from Malawi: The NGOs doing more harm than good

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