As a business owner, you’re going to get two types of solicitation calls on your line: 1) live-operator telemarketing calls, and 2) robocalls. Live-operator telemarketing calls are exactly what they sound like – operators call through a targeted list of contacts, trying to solicit business. Robocalls, aka voice broadcasting, are automated messages, like the calls that you receive around election time.
In the call center industry, both live-operator and automated solicitation calls use autodialer technology – telecom software that enables a telephone system to call out to hundreds of numbers consecutively. The benefit to the answering service is instant, as the service can maximize marketing efforts while minimizing the time it takes to dial number after number. While this level of efficiency is great for answering services, it’s not so great for business owners who are receiving solicitations on the regular.
If you’re using an answering service, you don’t want to pay for usage not directly tied to your business. However, since all calls that an answering service fields are billable, you’re inevitably going to pay for some sort of inbound telemarketing. With a per-minute plan, this may not affect your bottom line that much, as most per-minute rates bill by the second. But for per-call clients, the tally can quickly rack up, eating into your plan allowance.
While no business can stop solicitation calls entirely, we’ve put together some information below that should help you limit those inbound hits, and simultaneously reduce the cost of your answering service.
As a consumer, am I protected against robocalls?
Absolutely. Unless you’re RoboCop, and your mother board is giving you a shout out, companies can’t just dial up consumers whenever they want. In fact, according to the Federal Communications Commission, robocalls and telesales are their number one source of complaints. That’s why Congress approved the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in 1991. In a nutshell, without prior consent to call or text your home or cell phone, autodialers and automated telemarketing are against FCC regulations. Registering your numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry is the first step to stopping the madness. Bear in mind, though, that there are a few exceptions to the FCC’s rules, e.g., emergency alerts, political polls, charities, and debt collectors.
What about small businesses whose personal phone is also their business phone?
If you’re a business owner, even if your personal landline or cell phone is being used for work, then the aforementioned regulations apply. In other words, it is still within your rights as a consumer to list those numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. The tricky part comes when businesses are trying to stop solicitation calls from other businesses. Unfortunately, there is no provision for Business to Business calls under FCC regulations.
B2B calls, when business A is trying to solicit sales from business B, are perfectly acceptable. If you’ve outsourced customer support to an answering service, solicitation calls can quickly jack up your monthly usage. Operators are trained to hang up on robocalls. But hanging up on a live caller? That would be pretty darn unprofessional, not to mention that some solicitors are adept at keeping an operator on the line until they get the information they want.
As a business owner, what recourse do I have?
There are a few things that you can do to reduce or eliminate solicitation calls altogether.
- If you can identify which numbers are from solicitors, ask your phone provider to block them from ever getting through to your line. Taking matters into your own hands, you can likely block callers yourself, directly from your phone or online account. It may also be possible to prohibit calls from “private” numbers or toll free numbers.
- If you haven’t already done so, add your phone numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry. Remember, even if your home or cell phone doubles as your business line, you are still entitled to the same protection that consumers are afforded. After your numbers have been on the registry for 31 days, if you’re still receiving robocalls, you can file complaints against any businesses that simply won’t leave you alone.
- For robocalls hitting the answering service, consider the effective software solution of including an upfront IVR that instructs callers to press 1 to reach an operator. As clever as autodialers might be, they can’t press buttons. IVR isn’t free, but the fee is generally minimal, and the benefits will far outweigh any out-of-pocket cost.
Use scripting to your advantage…
- Include a path in your call script specifically for inbound B2B solicitation. Once the operator realizes what the call is about, they can read a standard closing response such as, “We do not accept solicitation calls. Please remove this number from your list. Thank you.”
- Add a screening question to the operators’ greeting such as, “Are you a current client?” or, “Is this an emergency?” This should filter out the calls you want from the calls you don’t.
Talk with your answering service about what suggestions they have, or ask them to implement the ideas that we’ve outlined. While no solution is foolproof, these points will go a long way towards helping you beat the bots and bolster your small business’ bottom line.