Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Untold Joys of Telemarketing

Being incredibly broke, and not being able to find work at any other place in the great city of Duluth, I've taken up a job telemarketing. The company has one of those wonderfully generic names; Teleresources Inc. I've always been leery of any company that just mashes their description together to make their name, but the siren song of financial security is apparently enough to overcome that instinct. I don't think that I would ever go work for SYSCO though, whose name is an acronym of Systems and Services Company. It seems to me that someone must have intentionally made that name as bland and unhelpful as possible.

This isn't the first time that I've done the telemarketing thing. When I was in high school I worked for a company in my hometown called Inteleserve, which did essentially the same thing. There the campaigns were almost exclusively mortgage based. I would like to think that in some small way, I'm responsible for the current difficulties of the housing market. My job was to call people and ask them about how high or low their mortgages were, and whether they would consider refinancing through us. I was not in any way involved with getting them a new mortgage; my job was simply to get the information, which would be fed through the system to see whether we could get them one. If we could, I would hand them off to a banker.

Inteleserve had us on what's called "predictive dialing". This is where the computer calls for you, and waits until it hits an answering machine, a certain number of rings, or someone picks up the phone and says something. When there's a person there, the call gets routed to a telemarketer (in their parlance, Telephone Sales Representative). The process is efficient, but there's a lag from when the computer detects a person to when the telemarketer gets the call. By the time I heard a small click, the other person had already picked up the phone and said hello. That's one of the reasons that we stumble over last names.

I'm relearning this hatred of names. Only rarely does the computer call up someone with a name like John Smith. Instead, I get names with too many silent letters, or names that might be pronounced in multiple different ways. Alfred Moky - is this "moo-key", "mock-e", or "mo-key"? Or none of the above? It's worse when I'm not on predictive dialing, because then I have a few rings to try and puzzle out how the name is supposed to sound, only to be inevitably disappointed when I get it wrong.

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