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There's No Call to Celebrate the Telemarketer Registry

October 05, 2003|Jeffrey Milberg | Jeffrey Milberg, president and co-founder of a telemarketing service bureau in New York, is a member of the Direct Marketing Assn.

These last weeks have been roiled by historic federal court rulings that questioned the legality of a government-administered "do-not-call" registry. Despite the lack of clarity at the moment as to what these decisions mean for the thousands of companies, including my own, that are involved in telephone marketing, the public should have no illusions about one thing: The national do-not-call registry could cost thousands, if not millions, of jobs and billions of dollars in lost revenue.

According to the Direct Marketing Assn., telemarketing generated more than $100 billion in sales last year and employed more than 4 million people. It estimated that between 25% and 50% of that revenue and those jobs may be lost as a result of the federal do-not-call program.

In addition, the registry is not going to stop all telemarketing calls, as most consumers believe. Politicians, nonprofit organizations, market research firms and any business with which the consumer has had a prior business relationship can still phone.

Sadly, some of the most vulnerable segments of our population are going to be the most negatively affected by the do-not-call list. The vast majority of those employed by the telemarketing industry have a high school diploma or less, and many are from disadvantaged groups, including single mothers, minorities, the disabled and the elderly.

A full 30% of those employed by the industry are welfare-to-work participants or have previously relied on some other form of public assistance. In addition, many are students working to pay for their education. More than 60% of telemarketers work in small rural communities, where other job opportunities may not be as readily available.

What needs to be realized is that, contrary to popular belief, not everyone hates telemarketing. Not only does the industry employ millions of people, but millions of people actually enjoy buying by phone. It takes just common sense to realize that telemarketing is used because it works.

Why do so many people buy by phone? In a recent survey, many people reported that they bought something because they believed they were saving money, they liked the quality of the products offered or recognized and appreciated the reputation of the company that was calling. About 25% of those who made purchases over the phone said they did so because they liked the courteous, knowledgeable and helpful person calling them.

One of the primary reasons that telemarketing has emerged as the most successful direct-marketing medium is because of the one-to-one human interaction during the sales process.

At a time when our nation's economy is shaky and so many jobs have been lost, should inhibiting this form of commerce be a cause for celebration?

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