TELEMARKETING: Hanging on the Telephone - Caroline Lindsay, an account director at BMP, shopaholic and proud mum of a month-old daughter, tries out ten telemarketing services



Uncannily, the BT Customer Care Unit called early in the day to discuss

their service. They have been calling quite persistently but I normally

avoid them by claiming to be the cleaner. Still, this time we went


After introductions, the first question was to determine if I was

responsible for the bill (responsible, yes, but financially liable, no).

Undeterred, the nice young woman asked if I was authorised to make

alterations to the account (why not!) and then, to check I wasn’t

actually the cleaner, asked a couple of questions about the bill and who

pays it, but not for any customer account number. Perhaps they should

check with the real bill payer before instigating all my additions to

the service.

Having established my authority, we began a long, scripted discussion on

the additional BT services available. We then ploughed through several

other benefits, most of which sounded fine if you didn’t have a crying

baby disturbing you.

The sales pitch was heavy going, to the extent that I had to hold back

from pleading with her to skip to the next paragraph. Clearly there was

a set ’sales patter’ but with no ad-libbing it became irritating and a



Someone wise told me recently you should buy a book a week, so I

responded to a book offer through the Guardian. Easy. The whole thing

was friendly, if computerised, with no heavy sales pitch or a

requirement to join a club for the next ten years. It only took three

minutes and made me feel in touch with technology ( a breakthrough).


Because there was a number on the press ad clearly visible but not

screamingly huge, I called the Twinings Speciality Teas Helpline. The

phone answered immediately (I was still choosing my free tea), ’Phil’

introduced himself and asked how he might help. I explained I’d seen an

ad and would like some free samples. Phil didn’t ask any questions about

the ad (their only one?) but went straight for name and address, then

advised that delivery would be within 28 days and signed off with a

polite ’thank you for your call’. What, no hidden catch?


The ultimate - the shopping channel. Among endless sports channels

(football football football) is QVC, which features wonder products for

everything from trimming hedges to trimming thighs. It’s simple - the

phone number is displayed constantly, each product has a code and you

just call to snap up your bargain before they all sell out. The beauty

hour had many miracle products at ’low low’ prices and some had

apparently sold out by the time I called. The phone was answered first

ring, there was a brief welcome and a request for my membership number.

I didn’t have one, but no problem. We went straight to my order then did

all the detail and finished with my new membership account number so I

could call again anytime .



The baby information service number was small and hard to find, but they

answered immediately and the advisors were friendly and helpful, one

even called back with more advice - just like having a chat with the

health visitor.


Once more, snappy answering. I said I’d seen an ad and wanted to


This time they did ask about the ad but quickly got into the normal

detail including electoral register questions.

I was advised I was eligible to join (I must have scraped through the

hasty credit check) and I’d receive the information in three days. Plus,

if I had any further questions I was invited to call back. All in all,

pretty efficient.


Something I’ve been meaning to do for ages, car insurance. Seeing a

television commercial for Admiral with a giant-size number on it, I

called to discuss a quote. It took ten rings to answer but they were

then very friendly and within four minutes had a guideline quote which,

incidentally, was pounds 40 cheaper than my current policy (that’ll help

pay for the shopping channel shopping spree). As my current insurance

expires in a month they gave me a quick reference number and invited me

to call back, but didn’t do a heavy sales push, thankfully!


Time for more consumer advice. I called the Ace Gentle Bleach Consumer

Advice Freephone (printed - albeit small - on the back of packaging).

Answering on the second ring, the Ace people were clear and precise (if

a little formal) about how to use Ace to remove all manner of shocking

nappy disasters.

If it works as well as they say it will, it should be on the shopping

channel’s miracle products top ten!


Back to books. To enhance my knowledge of fairy tales and nursery rhymes

(such a misspent youth) I joined the Red House book club, having found a

leaflet with a big phone number in a paper or magazine. Yet more

answering efficiency and a quick transfer to new members. Here I was

asked where I had heard of Red House and even the reference code of the

leaflet was taken (real data capturing!). Again it was quick, easy and

painless spending money and, anyway, I got two free books and a

Teletubbies jigsaw.


One last thing before I go. The Dyson helpline. Inexplicably when

hoovering, my new ’knobs and whistles’ Dyson stopped. While dismantling

to detect the fault, I also called the number conveniently displayed on

the handle.

It rang and I was put on hold - for about ten minutes! Just as I had

finished rehearsing my indignant speech, a sweet old lady answered

and ... I just couldn’t.

So I meekly explained and this advice I now share with all you Dyson

owners: when your machine inexplicably stops, don’t take it apart, just

leave it to cool. That’s what I’ll do if mine ever gets re-assembled.