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Telemarketer getting under your skin?

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Question: “I work for a small firm and we receive calls from telemarketers who use the president’s first name, asserting that they know each other.  My boss has given me the liberty to gain as much information about the call in order to prepare him for it, or to end the call.  How do I achieve this task nicely and  professionally?” — Designated call screener


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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Trisha April 8, 2011 at 4:34 pm

On day, while in a lengthy meeting with my boss in my office, the phone rang. We both needed a breather so I took the call. It was a telemarketer who proceeded to tell me that she just got disconnected from her call with my boss and would I please reconnect her. I was floored! My boss was sitting right in front of me and had been for the last two hours. How’s that for a lying telemarketer?!

It is understandable that we all have a job to do, and it’s been my experience that salespeople will do anything and everything to get their foot (or voice) in the door; but sneaky, coniving tactics do not sit well with me. A major part of my job to protect my boss’s time. and in doing so. I am her defensive front line making sure her time isn’t wasted on needless sales pitches.

ps… I always ask for printed information to be sent in the mail or submitted to me via email. This way I have visual information to screen and can forward to the appropriate staff member if it’s something we may be in the market for.

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Sharon April 1, 2011 at 2:58 pm

I ask them to mail us information and explain that we do not work with vendors who are unable to meet this request.

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Andrea July 30, 2009 at 4:11 pm

I’ve been called by the “copier company,” specifically “Marc from customer service.” I dropped the call, and he immediately called back and proceeded to say some very vulgar things to me. Had me pretty shaken up for a while. Since then I’ve gotten a little more comfortable telling scam telemarketers that I know their call is a scam and to please remove our number from their list. (Hasn’t worked yet with the “local internet yellow pages” but I do have fun every time they call.

If it’s just a local vendor trying to get info to the owner, I’m much more polite and take their name/number/email/website. Also, wether or not it’s true, stating that the company has a national contract with a major supplier works too!

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Ms D July 9, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I searched for these suggestions because I had one get through that still makes me shake my head.
I asked the nature of the call and the caller said “To speak to So-n-So” and the caller was pushy and urgent and after a couple of minutes of sparring, finally, I said, “I really have to stop you and tell you that we are not taking sales calls.” and I hung up.
The caller called back, scolded me, told I was rude and wanted to report me to my supervisor!
Of course, I was stunned, gave them the corporate reception number, hoping she would have better luck. The caller pulled the same routine on her, and actually got through to one of the VP’s! Who then, sent out a corporate memo reminding us that she does not take sales calls…!
I will not fall for that one again.

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Mrs. R. March 22, 2009 at 8:16 pm

I’ll never forget the slick you know what that told me one time, “I was just on the cell phone with him (our president) and the line dropped.” To which I told him how that usually happens, “Since he’s in JAPAN, and it’s 2 am there.” Click.

I am really strict with telemarketers trying to get my CEO. They call him by first name, act very cavalier as if they’ve been friends for years, and when they tell me it’s regarding ‘copy paper purchases’ or something of that sort, I have gone as far as to say, “Surely you don’t think our president handles these matters?” “Well, who does,” and it’s so hard to not come back with, “your mom.”

Saying I’m not sure and would be glad to take a message to ferret the information to the person who this does relate to usually gets me a click. I appreciate they’re trying to make a living. They should appreciate that I am too.

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Kate January 29, 2009 at 12:31 pm

I found almost all these suggestions helpful. I add one more sentence when I ask for the “nature of the call”. If they refuse to give me that information, I explain that if they don’t, I won’t be able to direct their call to the appropriate person who handles these matters.

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Lisa January 26, 2009 at 4:21 pm

My boss (the President of the company) and I are still working through the best way for me to screen for telemarketers for him. I’m lucky – most of these calls go through our call center first. They are almost always telemarketers – they often ask for the president of the company, or sometimes know his name, but don’t have my boss’s direct phone number – a dead giveaway that they don’t actually know him!

I always say that he’s unavailable and take a message. In addition to asking for the person’s name and company name, I always say, “May I tell him what this is regarding?” If they hem and haw, it’s usually a telemarketer. If they refuse to tell me why they’re calling, I let them know that my boss has instructed me to always find out the nature of all calls. I also let them know that if it’s a sales call, I can route them to the appropriate person very quickly (since my boss never takes sales calls). I try to turn it into a “win/win” situation for them, since I can get them to the correct person very quickly, and their time is not wasted.

I have to be very careful, though – I work for a credit union and want to be sure that if we have an upset customer calling who asks for the President, that I can identify what they need and pass them through. He always wants to talk to them.

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Rita January 26, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Birdie, there’s probably nothing you can do, except handle the calls as you have been. I’ve tried to find someone to report them to, and can’t. Without a calling number and/or company name, no one is able or willing to take a complaint about these type of calls.

I find that these callers usually start out with something like, “I’m calling from your copier supply source, and need to ask you a question . . .” Before answering any questions, I ask them what company they work for. If they don’t immediately hang up , they give a vague answer. I then reply, politely, that if they cannot identify themselves, then I have to believe that they are NOT from our vendor, so I have to wonder about the purpose of their call. If their story doesn’t change, I simply tell them, politely, that we’re not interested in solicitation calls and to please take us off their call list.

I work for a state government agency, and can always use the “we have to purchase all of our supplies through our agency’s Central Stores department. If you wish to become a contracted vendor with the state, you will have to contact the Office of Financial Management (OFM), and they can explain the vetting process you will have to undergo. Would you like their number?” I’ve never had anyone pursue the matter further.

The thing to remember is that these calls are scams. We cannot afford to give out any information that they can use to “authorize” them to send supplies you don’t need or want, along with a whopping big bill.

Since I work for a government agency, customer service is job one. The trick is to stay sweetly polite and friendly, but give out NO information.

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Karen January 26, 2009 at 10:09 am

All of the advice of previous writers is very helpful. One thing I did want to say is that as admins., we are the gatekeepers of our bosses’ time. We owe it to our boss to be professional, courteous and at the same time persistent with callers who will not identify their organization or reason for calling. If they tell me the call is “Confidential”, I just take the information they give me and pass it along to my boss. I let callers know that it is my job to screen all calls and they need to let me know what they want. I don’t make excuses and tell them I am unable to pass their calls on if they don’t give me their name, company and the exact nature of their call. I tell them if they don’t give me this information, my boss will not call them back.

I try to remember that these individuals, however, annoying some can be, are just like me – trying to make a living. So I try to be as courteous as possible without being friendly.

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Karen January 26, 2009 at 9:58 am

Barb,

Unfortunately a lot of telemarketers have no problem lying, so asking if the boss knows that the call is about or is he expecting the call doesn’t work for many calls.

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ManyHats January 26, 2009 at 8:43 am

And what do you do if they say “Yes” and “Yes” and give you no more to go on than that? Leading questions that require actual information answers work a lot better for me. I’ve also had telemarketers flat out lie to me more than once, claiming that he knows them and/or that they already have a business relationship.

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ManyHats January 26, 2009 at 8:17 am

Janet, that tactic sounds like trouble on the way to happen. How do you handle it when the telemarketer says, “Yes!” to your offer to pull him out of his meeting? I’ve talked to people who are that sure of themselves. They have nothing to lose but a little more time, and they will say anything to get through.

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annie January 23, 2009 at 4:08 pm

I am the assistant for a physician that gets lots of sales calls & I ask who’s calling, what it’s in regard to & try to get all the information. If they become pushy & rude & say that they will call back when someone else answers the phone, I just politelly tell them- you STILL have to get through me to get to him regardless of when you call & that usually ends it.

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Birdie January 23, 2009 at 3:28 pm

I always ask who’s calling, if their call is expected (usually it’s not), and what the call is regarding. If the caller is being vague I ask for more information. If it is a solitation call, I simply tell them we don’t accept phone solitations and ask that they remove us from their call list.

Does anyone receive calls from the people pretending to be from the copier company. What do you do about these people? When I ask for more information they curse me out and hang up! Is there somewhere to report them?

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Cynthia Sheeks January 23, 2009 at 3:28 pm

We use the line, “please send us your information to review.” That either ends the call, or you do receive info, and it may be of value!

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Margaret January 23, 2009 at 3:23 pm

I just put our lines on the national Do Not Call list. And if someone gets through that and it is something I know we don’t want, won’t want, and certainly wouldn’t buy over the phone to begin with, I just ask politely that the caller put us on his company’s own “no calls” list. If requested, they MUST acknowledge the request and do as you ask immediately. I can’t remember the last time we got a telemarketing call.

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Kristi January 19, 2009 at 3:03 pm

I screen the calls as well asking name, company name, what the call is regarding, etc. If he’s not available or they continue to be vague with their responses, I offer them his voice mail. I’m the one that listens to all his v/m and then log in each of his calls on a spreadsheet. He gets a printout of who called, when, and why. I’ve been working with him for 6 years so I pretty much know which calls he needs to take and which callers can be redirected to another person or manager within our company.

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Janet January 19, 2009 at 12:15 pm

I work for the CEO and get lots of sales calls. I can usually dissuade them or redirect. On those that just won’t give up, I usually say, “Well, he’s in a high level meeting, would you like me to interrupt and pull him out of the meeting for you?” They have always backed down and left a message.

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Bea January 19, 2009 at 8:39 am

Our policy on telemarketers is to ask them to send an email with their questions and a link to their website. We inform them that the manager will review the note and website. If the manager has any interest or questions he/she will give them a call back.

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Jocelyn January 16, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Here the front desk just asks who is calling and requires the full name, sometimes they end the call right there. And then they ask what the call is regarding and if he/she is expecting the call. They also ask if it is a sales or recruiting call, and if so we have a no solicitation policy. If they STILL push to speak to them they simply say he/she does not take calls and can only take a message and that if he would like to call back he will and for them to not call again.

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Patty January 16, 2009 at 2:14 pm

If I don’t recognize the person’s name or company and they start tap-dancing when I ask what the call is regarding, I ask point-blank if this is a sales call. If they say yes, I ask what the product is. Usually it’s either software or publications. If it’s software, I give them the name of our IT director and transfer the call to his office. If it’s for a publication (and they’re the most pushy), I tell them we don’t have money in the budget for additional publications (that works for most sales calls). Sometimes, though, a caller won’t give me any more information than their name. If my boss doesn’t know the person, I’ll say she’s in a meeting and ask if they would like to leave a message with me or on her voicemail. Since I work in local government, sometimes it’s a citizen calling who gets offended when we don’t drop everything and wait on them hand and foot, so I have to be extremely diplomatic and patient with every call. It wears thin sometimes.

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Barb January 16, 2009 at 2:01 pm

I usually ask two questions:
“Is he expecting your call?”
“Does he know what this is in regards to?”
That usually gives me enough information to know how to handle the call.

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Dona Thornton January 16, 2009 at 1:53 pm

When I do not know the caller, I always ask “May I say what the call is in reference to?” If they refuse to give me information, I tell them my boss is very busy and I do not know when she will be able to return their call. That usually gets some information from them and I can properly handle the call.

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Tabby January 16, 2009 at 1:51 pm

I also ask the caller for their email address. When I see the company name in the address, I print out one page of their website and give that to my boss. In some cases they say they are one thing and than you find out what type of company they really are.
I also keep a “no call” list on my desk for those telemarkers that call annually. Then I don’t have to recreate the wheel and I can turn them down right away!

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BenThere January 16, 2009 at 1:49 pm

If I receive a call from ANYONE whose name I don’t recognize or who does not identify themself right up front, I tell them that my boss is on the phone or in a meeting and then I get the info – who are they, who they are with & “will he/she know what it is regarding?” etc. I don’t often get “pushback” with this approach.

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Barb G January 16, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Ew, telemarketers… Our office has a policy to screen calls for everyone. I politely ask, “May I tell him/her who is calling?” and they usually give me enough information to satisfy my coworkers.

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ManyHats January 16, 2009 at 1:36 pm

I am a designated call screener as well. It can be a tough job, especially when you run into the 2% you don’t recognize, but he actually does know and want to talk to them!

Friendly/cool and professional are the hallmarks of my approach:
“May I tell him who’s calling?”
“And you’re with…?” (Many calls can stop right here!)
“May I ask the nature of the call?”

Half of them have gotten surly by this time; they know they aren’t getting through. One unpleasant person was his next door neighbor, who – instead of telling me that – answered the first two questions flat, leaving me completely at sea as to why this person should be allowed to interrupt my boss’s workday!

Some calls are in my domain, but the only name they had was his, and that works out well for all. Others… just shouldn’t have spent their time or mine!

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April January 16, 2009 at 1:30 pm

I’ve had to do this many times. I find the best solution is to never give out too much information about your president’s availibility. They’ll tend to push to speak with them right away. I always politely take a message with as much information as possible. I would then give that information to the president. Your president can quickly detirmine if it is someone they would like to speak with or not. If the president decides not to call them back and the person continues to call, you can either let them know they’ll need to provide more information (I notice the persistant and pushy also are sometimes the most vague) about their company or service for your president to review or just let them know that your not interested at this time, but they may call back in a year, or other time frame when you might be revaluating the need for what they are selling.

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