What do you do when you cannot seem to shake off a company that is trying to sell you green solutions? I know it is a bit of an odd question, but I thought you might be interested in my recent experiences with a company that just will not take no for an answer.
It would be about a year ago, just after moving into our new home, that we first started getting cold calls from a company that wanted to sell us their supposed ‘green’ solutions – both loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. It was my wife who took the first few calls. At first, it did not concern me when I heard her asking the caller where he had got our telephone number.
These things happen fairly rarely; it was nothing to be concerned about, or so I thought. But every few weeks, it seemed, we would get a call from the same company. Sometimes it would be my wife who answered and sometimes it would be me. When I answered the phone to them, the conversation would open like this:
“Hello, is that Mr Hill speaking?”
Now, initially, I had tried beginning with a “no” which is, of course, the right answer. After all, I am not Mr Hill. That kind of conversation would result in the caller trying to elicit my real name. Neither my wife nor I had fallen for that. But the “no” response would often get me into a lengthy conversation about the accuracy of their data and they would then offer to correct it for me. However, I did not wish for my proper name to be added to their calling list.
Usually, I would ask them to remove my phone number from their records. Sometimes they would agree; sometimes they would tell me they could not do that. On one occasion, I was told they could add a “do not contact” comment to their data, so I asked them to do that. I do not know how many conversations my wife had along these lines, but I personally had a number of them before I decided to start asking to speak with the call centre manager.
There must have been about four or five times on which I was passed to another person to speak about the unwanted call and the inaccuracy of their data. Sometimes, the person I spoke with would be very polite. They would apologise and assure me they would do something about it. On other occasions, the person would try very hard to get me to part with my real details so they could correct their records.
On the last occasion I spoke with a ‘manager’ I ran through the whole story from start to finish. She appeared to be very polite and helpful. She looked up the computer records and was able to verify they had a Mr Hill logged in their system against my telephone number. She then proceeded to check the address. What do you know, they had the wrong address too! I told her the details were wrong and that I did not wish to hear from their company again.
After that call, they changed their approach. Instead of doing the cold calling using a human, they starting calling me and hooking me up to an automatic message. The message would go on for a couple of minutes and then there was the option to either press the number 2 to speak to a human or to hang up. The first time I just hung up. But these calls continued.
Recently, I noticed the message had slightly changed. At the end, there were now two options: press number 2 to speak with a representative of the company or press number 8 to have your details removed from the database. At last! I pressed number 8, of course. So it was to my surprise that just yesterday, I got the same recorded message again with the same options. Well, I had tried pressing number 8, so the only other option was to press number 2, which I duly did. A recorded voice announced that someone would call me back within an hour.
Right on cue, just about an hour later, I answered the phone and the voice at the other end asked,
“Is that Mr Hill?”
With that old NLP adage ringing in my ears i.e. if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got, I said,
“Ah Mr Hill, you asked for someone to call you back – is that correct?”
“It’s about solar panels. You can get them installed free at the moment with a special arrangement we have with … is that something that interests you?”
Closed questions are often used as openers to this kind of script. The caller has his response planned for either answer. The approach is designed to draw the ‘prospect’ into conversation. Personally, I really cannot think of anything less interesting than solar panels. And, in addition, there is no way I would allow them to be installed on our beautiful 1920s arts and crafts house.
“Yes!” I replied.
“Do you know much about solar panels?”
The closed questions continued and I could tell he was getting nicely settled into his script. The most common answer would have to be ‘no’ and this time, at least, I had no intention of knocking him off the script. So, bolstering myself for some kind of pitch, I did manage to summon up the negative response.
“Well sir, they will not only save you money on your electricity bills, they will also give you a way of making money by …”
Even Manchester City, making a dogs dinner of their Champions League game against Ajax were a lot more interesting than this stuff. As De Jong headed in Ajax’s second goal, I was aware that I had been asked another question.
“So, did you understand that sir?”
I had missed most of what he said because I had been fumbling around trying to find the speaker button so I could give more attention to the game but also hear when he had finished speaking.
“Yes!” I replied.
“So would you like someone to call on you to discuss the matter with you in a little more detail?”
I must have sounded like the perfect prospect. But I was thinking that I really did want to speak with a representative of the company. Not, of course, because I was remotely interested in anything they might want to sell.
“The address I have for you is …”
And he rattled off the wrong address, from his database.
“Yes – that’s correct!” I answered.
So we set the date and time of the meeting for Monday at 3 pm 😉