The death knell for outbound telesales has sounded countless times over the years. Aggressive cold-calling practices, fraudsters, scam artists, relentless robocalls… it’s easy to see why telemarketing’s much-maligned reputation has been dominated by images of the illicit “boiler room” operation.
A brief history of outbound telesales
Although telemarketing is undergoing a revival, it has had its ups and downs since the beginning. The big surge in telemarketing operations happened in the early 1980s to mid-1990s when the industry grew from employing a half-million agents to 4.5 million, according to the Ad Age Encyclopedia of Advertising. Likewise, the number of telemarketing operations in the U.S., both in-house and outsourced, rose from fewer than 80,000 to 565,000. As many businesses discovered, telemarketing proved to be an efficient model for driving sales.
Unfortunately, success often invites the opportunity for abuse. Unethical telemarketers employed unscrupulous tactics, consumers began to feel harassed by the plethora of nuisance calls and, by the late 1990s, it looked like the end was near for outbound. Annual fraud costs exploded, prompting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and watchdog organizations to strengthen regulations to protect consumers.
In 2003, the FTC established the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry to give consumers a choice about whether they wanted to receive unsolicited sales calls from telemarketers. Similarly, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), passed by Congress in 1991 to restrict the use of automated dialing and prerecorded voice messages, was since amended to require written consent from consumers before robocalling them. [Read More…]