Predictive Dialing's Dead Air? More a Marketer's Problem

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Here's one from news-of-the-ridiculous: To address the dead air sometimes caused by telemarketers using predictive dialers, Kansas is considering a bill that would require a live recorded voice answer a line within 15 seconds of beginning the call.

Apologies to my home state, but 15 seconds? Who in the world would hang on for 15 seconds of dead air? And if the 15 seconds was enough to make that person want to sue for civil damages, would that person have the guts to admit it later in court? Would that person have the brains to testify? Imagine the headlines: "Kansas Village Idiot Sues for $10 Million; 'I Almost Starved to Death on Hold for Three Days.' " The accompanying news photo could show the hapless victim holding the offending telephone, glaring at it for almost killing him.

Why some states want to prohibit the use of predictive dialers entirely is beyond me. The DMA is re-examining its position on the subject and may come up with stricter guidelines. Many people I know, however, are quite content with the effects of predictive dialing. They know telemarketing isn't going away. Dead air allows them to recognize a telemarketing call and hang up without having to fend off a pesky sales rep. And in these days of cordless phones, the calls don't force people off their couches the way they once did. As a result, the unintended effect of predictive dialing is that telemarketers' calls are less intrusive than they're intended to be.

Imagine this scene: Couch potato watching TV. The phone rings. Potato picks it up without missing one word of TV dialogue. Dead air? No problem. Click. Hang up. Phew, it wasn't mother-in-law. Back to the sitcom that potato really never left. Fifteen seconds later, the call is forgotten. Unless, of course, it's that dummy in Kansas still on the line.
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