Telemarketers are about as popular as the common cold. When studies are done, they rank down at the bottom of the list along with door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen, politicians and newspaper editors.
There’s something about having your evening interrupted by a phone call you didn’t ask for and don’t want that puts people in a bad mood. Books have been written about how to get rid of telemarketers. People put themselves on do-not-call lists, in vain. They try being rude, or pretend they don’t understand English.
When none of it works, they hang up. So a telemarketer is starting from behind right off the bat.
Last Monday, between 7 and 8 p.m., 40,000 phones rang in Kamloops and the surrounding area.
“Hello, this is Cathy McLeod, your Member of Parliament for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo,” said the recorded message on the other end of the call.
The only thing more unpopular than a telemarketer is a recorded-message telemarketer. Thirty-six thousand people hung up.
Those who didn’t heard McLeod’s recorded voice asking them three yes-or-no questions about the Conservative government’s economic-recovery plan. The whole thing took a minute or two.
A 10-per-cent response — 4,000 people — is pretty good as these kinds of phone-outs go. McLeod is happy with the result, though not sure if she’ll do it again.
As surveys go, this one was cheap like dirt — $700. Your average 250-sample phone survey, albeit with more questions and more science behind it, runs $3,000 or more.
She acknowledges her quickie phone campaign “was not completely scientific” but the answers were rather interesting. Half those who answered the questions thought returning to a balanced budget by 2015-2016 is appropriate.
Seventy per cent agreed that jobs and the economy are “the first priority to Canada’s success.”
And here’s the really interesting one: only 48 per cent figured the government was “on the right track with our economic action plan.”
McLeod isn’t sure what to think about that, saying she’ll have to dig into it a little more to find out why less than half her constituents like the way the government is dealing with the economy.
When staff walked into McLeod’s Victoria Street office the next day, the voicemail was full. Then the phones started ringing off the hook. Some of those calls were to complain about the survey, but most were from people who wanted to talk more about the economy. That was the real value of the mini-survey, McLeod said.
She offered the assurance that anyone who doesn’t want to be called for future such surveys can have their names taken off the call list.
Since the phone responses are traceable to the phone numbers, could information from this and other surveys be used to chart demographics that could be used in the next election campaign? For example, the mapping of areas of soft versus strong support?
“You’re 10 steps ahead of me on that one,” McLeod said.
I noted there was no mention in her phone message that information would not be used for other purposes. She supposed there’s “implicit consent” when someone answers a survey, but affirmed that it was strictly for getting feedback on the questions asked.
All in all, she felt it was a good process. McLeod isn’t aware of other politicians who’ve hired companies to do recorded-message surveys like this one, but don’t be surprised if telemarketing becomes the next big thing for politicians, right up there with social networking.
Once people get used to the notion, I’m thinking they’ll be more and more responsive. I don’t now if politician-telemarketers will move out of the popularity basement as a result, but McLeod deserves credit for some innovation in taking the pulse of her constituents.