Posted by: P. K. | 18th June, 2008

New strategy by tele-marketers: “random” calls

I have never been sympathetic to tele-marketers who call my mobile who sell products or try to trick me into “gifts” which come with expensive commitments — my mobile is for personal conversation, not for spam-dialing. Not least by people whom I don’t know and who may have probably obtained my mobile number through some fishy means at the first place.

Among the first thing I say after the listening to the opening sentences of the tele-marketer and having satisfied myself that this is a tele-marketer, not someone I have reason to listen to, speaking is to ask how did the tele-market get my personal information. This would have caused some nervous moments to some tele-marketers; there follows some incoherent mumblings or even, in some rare occasions, hang-ups from the other side.

But not any more. For at least three consecutive tele-marketer calls when I asked this question I got a steady and firm answer that they are calling numbers “by random”. One well-prepared and enthusiastic tele-marketer even kindly explained to me how he would go on to place the next call by incrementing my mobile number by one, then by two, and so forth.

I don’t believe one bit of this. Hongkong phone numbers are 8-digit numbers. Even if we factor in the fact that mobile numbers only start with either 9 or 6, this still leaves 20 million number in the pool for “randomising”. There are, in total, 3,870,000 phone numbers in Hongkong (by the way, I got this figure quickly from EditGrid’s latest remote data function — simply create a new spreadsheet and then key in the formula =cia_factbook("telephones","HK") in a cell and you’ll get this figure as well). Let’s say half of them are mobile numbers. This means a less than 10% chance of getting through to a registered number. Is this really a sustainable way to run promotion campaigns? Especially in these days of rampant CRM techniques?

But the problem is, I have no way to disprove of this notion. I can’t tell it in the face of the telemarketer that it’s a lie. I’d then have to retort to a formal rejection of the call and asking politely to take my phone number off their list.

It’s a lowly strategy — but it works for the tele-marketer. And what can you say when even the Zurich Insurance Group scoops this low?

Perhaps it’s time for me to print out a copy of the anti-tele-marketing counter-script and practice it here in Hongkong.


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