(Pause) Oh! Hi! Hello There!!!
I’m sorry, I was having a little problem with my headset. Anyway, I’m Amy …
That’s how the pre-recorded robo-call starts. The (pause) at the beginning is not a sure “tell” that it’s a robo-call but it almost always means the other side of the line is a call center. But as soon as I hear the chirpy “Oh! Hi!” I’m hanging up.
It’s amazing how quickly our spam recognition algorithms update. The first time I got one of the “Amy with the headset” calls, I tried to interact with it to see if it was a chatbot. It’s not even a chatbot!! I was hoping that the voice actress who was playing ‘Amy’ at least got more than 5 minutes of work out of the deal.
The other day I encountered a Skype chatbot that was really, really bad. It asked to be on my contact list, then immediately says, “Hi! I am a hot 24 year-old female!” Wow, I can tell your target market. It then offered me pictures and said “you go set up your video club membership while I slip into something more comfortable.”
I told ‘her’
"are you a robot" && select * from users
but it was only a half-hearted effort. I can’t be arsed to try to figure out how they coded such a rotten chatbot. I left it running for a while and it fell into a loop where it plaintively complained “I am here ready to show you my underwear. Where are you?” Perhaps someday I will plug in my old Eliza implementation from 1988 and start logging her in to places where the chatbots are, to see if I can create a few infinite loop romances.
All of this is part of the war on authenticity. Instead of having some poor person in a call center call me and get hung up on, they’ve got a heartless robot that won’t learn self-loathing until version 6.0. But what’s the basic premise here? This is what amazes me:
We marketing people acknowledge that our message is so unimportant to you that we have to try to fool you into even listening to it.
That sounds, to me, like the un-winningest sales strategy ever. “Hi, we suck and have just annoyed you, would you like to give us some money too?” The reason this boggles my mind is that I know that marketing people have loads of tools that tell them conversion rates, click-through rates, per-campaign click-rates, etc. When a skilled marketer* starts a campaign they track conversion rates in the previous campaign, note the changeover date, and watch to see if conversion rates go up or down. That’s all basic stuff.
The only conclusion I can reach is that marketing people don’t care. They don’t care that they actually aren’t selling at all. They just care that they have a job. They don’t care that they are universally loathed. They just care that they have a job. The only thing marketing of this sort has been able to sell is: itself. Imagine what it feels like to be one of the companies that makes their money off of banner ads! They wake up every day knowing that they are slime, who work for sleaze, and that the second the ad-blocker installed base goes past a certain point, they’ll be unemployed. Or, if the sleaze they work for ever really look at the conversion rates from these campaigns and realizes that there’s a negative conversion then they’ll be unemployed.
I have never listened past the introductory lies of the “Amy” bot, but if I cared enough to find out what product it’s selling, I would never, ever, do business with anyone that annoying. Perhaps I am over-rationalizing this but I can’t see any way that robocall marketing is anything but self-defeating.
I frequently get calls from police union benefits. One time, when I was in an unusually bad mood, I said “I don’t like cops” to the person on the phone who laughed and said, “Me Either!”
A friend of mine runs a call center for a financial services company. Apparently the staff have all kinds of stress responses from being cussed out, hung up on, told they are loathesome, etc. I always used to tell her that they should do something like a ‘carbon offset’ sort of thing – for every 500 calls that annoy a normal person, they’ll call a cop, politician, lawyer, or corporate exec and interrupt/wake them up, to re-balance the karma a bit.
(* I did not say “good” marketer)