Everybody knows about the bad side of telemarketing: the pressure on the employees, the nasty names they are called when they ring at the wrong time, the high employee turnover rates and problems with out-sourced call centres.

But not all telemarketing companies are created equal. The bad side mentioned above often applies more to telesales than telemarketing. Telesales is where customers are sold a product on the phone, or encouraged to upgrade instead of cancelling their account. The now-infamous Comcast call between the customer service representative and the VP of AOL is a scene repeated across many similar companies, at least according to the tales shared at Gizmodo (article by Ashley Feinberg, 28 July 2014).

Telemarketing, on the other hand, is an earlier stage of the process; more about creating opportunities, talking to leads, generating interest in a product, organising face-to-face appointments and soliciting feedback. It’s perhaps a slightly slower paced environment than telesales, and therefore less pressured. Those automated feedback surveys the commenters mention in the Gizmodo article are still there though, even though the one I just completed for the bank was only four questions long and actually required me to voice my opinion rather than simply pressing buttons to indicate a rating score.

So, how do you decide whether a telemarketing company is right for your business? This is one area where you are allowed to ask questions which would be outlawed in a job interview. You can ask where the call centres or freelance agents are located. You can ask whether the customer service representatives (CSRs) have experience with your company’s field of business. You should ask whether the telemarketing firm records their calls and request information on their success rate and scripting policies. Ideally you should be involved in creating the script for the CSRs to deliver, as that ensures the right message is conveyed.

After all, telemarketing is often about first impressions, promoting new products based on customers’ existing experience with the organisation, or ensuring ongoing loyalty to a brand or company. You hardly want to risk losing or alienating customers at that stage. Retention should be a key strategy, not a battleground. CSRs need to know when to accept defeat, regardless of the hit to their bottom line or the company’s customer figures. Letting a customer go when they can’t see a single good thing about the company is better than being pasted on social media in the act of failed retention.

A polite ‘is there anything more I can help you with today?’ or ‘can I tell you more about our full range of products?’ will be far more likely to end the call on a peaceful note than the battleground depicted in the Comcast call. Such an approach is more likely to reflect positively on both your company and the telemarketing firm too.