Telemarketing (known as telesales in the UK and Ireland) is a method of direct marketing in which a salesperson solicits to prospective customers to buy products or services, either over the phone or through a subsequent face to face or Web conferencing appointment scheduled during the call.
Telemarketing can also include recorded sales pitches programmed to be played over the phone via automatic dialing. Telemarketing has come under fire in recent years, being viewed as an annoyance by many.
Some people believe that in the 1950s, DialAmerica Marketing, Inc became the first company completely dedicated to inbound and outbound telephone sales and services. The company, spun-off and sold by Time, Inc. magazine in 1976, became the largest provider of telephone sales and services to magazine publishing companies. The term telemarketing was first used extensively in the late 1970s to describe Bell System communications which related to new uses for the outbound WATS and inbound Toll-free services.
Telemarketing may be done from a company office, from a call centre, or from home. It may involve either a live operator or a recorded message, in which case it is known as "automated telemarketing" using voice broadcasting. "Robocalling" is a form of voice broadcasting which is most frequently associated with political messages.
An effective telemarketing process often involves two or more calls. The first call (or series of calls) determines the customer’s needs. The final call (or series of calls) motivates the customer to make a purchase.
Prospective customers are identified by various means, including past purchase history, previous requests for information, credit limit, competition entry forms, and application forms. Names may also be purchased from another company's consumer database or obtained from a telephone directory or another public list. The qualification process is intended to determine which customers are most likely to purchase the product or service.
Charitable organizations, alumni associations, and political parties often use telemarketing to solicit donations. Marketing research companies use telemarketing techniques to survey the prospective or past customers of a client’s business in order to assess market acceptance of or satisfaction with a particular product, service, brand, or company. Public opinion polls are conducted in a similar manner.
Telemarketing has been negatively associated with various scams and frauds, such as pyramid schemes, and with deceptively overpriced products and services. Fraudulent telemarketing companies are frequently referred to as "telemarketing boiler rooms" or simply "boiler rooms." Telemarketing is often criticized as an unethical business practice due to the perception of high-pressure sales techniques during unsolicited calls. Telemarketers marketing telephone companies may participate in telephone slamming, the practice of switching a customer's telephone service without their knowledge or authorization.
Telemarketing calls are often considered an annoyance, especially when they occur during the dinner hour, early in the morning, or late in the evening.
A recent trend in telemarketing is to use robocalls: automated telephone calls that use both computerized autodialers and computer-delivered pre-recorded messages in a sales pitch. These often include intentionally deceptive tactics, with computer recorded messages saying things like "Don't panic but this is your final notice" or "We have already attempted to contact you through the mail." These messages are often outright lies, intended to incite concern or fear in the potential customer.
Robocalls are known for failing to add numbers to their do-not-call list and repeatedly interrupting individuals at all hours of the day.
It is not known exactly when (or if) telemarkting officially became legal in the United States of America. Telemarketing in the United States of America is restricted at the federal level by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) (47 U.S.C. § 227) and the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). The FCC derives regulatory authority from the TCPA, adopted as CFR 64.1200. Many professional associations of telemarketers have codes of ethics and standards that member businesses follow to encourage public confidence.
Some jurisdictions have implemented "Do Not Call" lists through industry organizations or legislation; telemarketers are restricted from initiating contact with participating consumers. Legislative versions often provide for heavy penalties on companies which call individuals on these listings. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has implemented a National Do Not Call Registry in an attempt to reduce intrusive telemarketing nationwide. Telemarketing corporations and trade groups challenged this as a violation of commercial speech rights. However, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the National Do Not Call Registry on February 17, 2004.
Companies that use telemarketing as a sales tool are governed by the United States Federal regulations outlined in the TSR (amended on January 29, 2003 originally issued in 1995) and the TCPA. In addition to these Federal regulations, telemarketers calling nationally must also adhere to separate state regulations. Most states have adapted "do not call" files of their own, of which only some states share with the U.S. Federal Do Not Call registry. Each U.S. state also has its own regulations concerning: permission to record, permission to continue, no rebuttaling statutes, Sunday and Holiday calls; as well as the fines and punishments exacted for violations. September 1, 2009, FTC regulations banning most robocall went into effect.
Telemarketing techniques are increasingly used in political campaigns. Because of free-speech issues, the laws governing political phone calls are much less stringent than those applying to commercial messages. Even so, a number of states have barred or restricted political robocalls.
In Canada, telemarketing is regulated by Federal Government, specifically handled by Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.
Telemarketing in Australia is restricted by the Australian Federal Government and policed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). Australian Federal legislation provides for a restriction in calling hours for both Research and Marketing calls.
In 2007 a Do Not Call Register was established for Australian inbound telephone numbers. The register allows a user to register private use telephone numbers. Australian Federal Legislation limits the types of marketing calls that can be made to these registered telephone numbers; however, research calls are allowed. Other exemptions include calls made by charities and political members, parties and candidates
Inbound telemarketing is another major industry. It involves both live operators and IVR—Interactive Voice Response. IVR is also known as audiotext or automated call processing. Usually, major television campaigns and advertisers use toll-free telephone number that are answered by IVR service bureaus. Such service bureaus have the technology and call capacity to process the large amounts of simultaneous calls that occur when an toll-free telephone number is advertised on television.