Outbound Robocalls: the Good, the Bad and the Irritating
February 07, 2013
By Tracey E. Schelmetic
, TMCnet Contributor
As we wait on yet another storm here in the Northeast, I’ve been thinking about outbound robocalls. I’ve had several so far today: from the school, to inform me of school closings. That’s information I need to know. From my power company, to inform me how prepared they are to address any service outages. That’s information I need to know. Yesterday, I received one from my pharmacy that a prescription is ready to be refilled. That’s information I need to know. As a result, none of these robocalls irritated or angered me. They served both my needs and those of the organizations calling me.
If you have a telephone, you’ll know that robocalls have become a problem. Illegal robocalling is on the rise, but because these lawbreakers are so hard to catch (thanks to the miracle of IP calling, which makes it hard to pinpoint the caller), it’s like playing whack-a-mole. Last year, the number of consumer complaints about unwanted telemarketing calls rose 70 percent to an all-time record of 3,840,572 during fiscal year 2012, and a significant portion of these complaints were about robocalls.
The problem has become so bad that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC (News - Alert)) has actually issued incentives to the public to help combat it. Last year, the agency held a Robocall Summit to "explore innovations designed to trace robocalls, prevent wrongdoers from faking caller ID data, and stop unwanted calls." The result? A “Robocall Challenge” that encourages Americans to suggest technical proposals to block illegal robocalls on landlines and mobile phones, CNN reported.
According to the existing rules, commercial robocalls can only be initiated to customers with whom a company has an established business relationship. Political, charitable and survey calls are exempted from these rules. Once new FTC rules go into effect, even the established business relationship rule may disappear: instead, you will be required to obtain express consent from customers to make such calls or messages, on paper or through electronic means, including Web site forms, a telephone keypress, or a recording of oral consent.
In the meantime, while your organization may not be breaking the law, ask yourself: are you engaging in good robocalling or bad robocalling? Using my examples above, good robocalls are those that serve a useful purpose to the organization initiating them AND the customer. If you’re not providing real, demonstrable value to the customer with the call, that customer is likely to become annoyed. Make the calls too often, and that customer is likely to drop you as a company or service provider.
Think of outbound robocalling like salt on a meal: a little goes a long way, but too much is bad for everyone’s health.
Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli