Telemarketing guidelines: help or hindrance?

The telemarketing guidelines from the Office of the Insurance Commission (OIC) for the sale of life insurance products are certainly creating a significant level of excitement among players in the industry. The leading question is whether the guidelines will help or hinder the industry.

The answer to this question will vary among organisations but in the minds of consumers, it will be perceived as a proactive measure to enhance the environment within which telemarketing is conducted, by a regulator who has the consumer's best interests at heart.

For those organisations that are currently conducting telemarketing in a less than professional manner, the new guidelines will be of concern as they will need to change the way they conduct their business. On the contrary, those organisations not too perturbed by the proposed guidelines are those with "best of breed" telemarketing practices in place.

In the minds of professional telemarketing businesses, the proposed guidelines are well overdue to curtail the activities of non-professional telemarketing organisations whose recent performance has tarnished the credibility of the entire industry.

Having said all of this, what do the guidelines encompass? In sum, these guidelines include some basic and common sense contact fundamentals that will enhance the customer experience and ultimately make telemarketing companies more successful.

At a broad level these guidelines include:

* Life insurance products offered through telemarketing must be those approved by the OIC to be sold through this channel only.

* A person who makes contact and sells a life insurance policy must have a life insurance agent's or broker's licence. This person must provide their name and the name of the company they work for (if any), to the prospect.

A person making contact must clearly specify the objective of the contact is to offer life insurance products only and must not use the words "deposit" or making a "fund deposit" instead of making a "premium payment".

* The conversation must follow guidelines prepared by the company and include basic information such as: name and address of company, details of policy benefits and exclusions, amount / of premium that the insured must pay, period of insurance and period of premium payment, just to name a few. In essence this is tightening up the disclosure to the customer in line with some of the more developed insurance markets.

* A person who offers a product must ask for permission from the prospect before continuing with the sales process. If the prospect says that they do not want to be solicited, the call must end immediately.

* If permission is granted, the caller must ask for permission to record the entire call. The call must be retained for the entire policy period.

* Contacts must only be conducted only between 8:30 am and 7 pm, Monday to Friday.

* The life insurance company must establish a "do not call list" and should honor that list for a period of six month; from the date the prospect gets put on this list.

* Industries that interact with consumers in a reasonable and mutually acceptable manner prosper.

* Telemarketing in Thailand is no different. It is an industry that is now at the juncture of moving toward this happy medium between consumer and telemarketing company. Albeit with a steer from the OIC, these guidelines will enable telemarketing organisations and consumers alike to do business in an environment that will be sustainable and mutually satisfying.

Author: Mark Manolas

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