How NOT To Get Me To Attend Your Conference (A Cautionary Tale) – Part 1: How Bad Customer Experiences Are No Longer Acceptable In An Age Of Digital & Social Media

I was recently contacted (or, more accurately, badgered and harassed) by a telemarketer from GDS International (www.gdsapac.com) trying to sell me on the “iStrategy2010” conference (www.istrategy2010.com) – essentially a conference on social media. The series of sales calls that followed were a terribly annoying experience of being harangued into spending time with the telemarketer – it felt as if they were trying to wear me down (like those time-share sales meetings) just so that, in frustration, I’d say yes and be done with it.

Here is my cautionary tale…

It all started when the usual cold call – normally innocuous enough, to which I replied saying that I was quite busy (generally true – work has been insane, recently) and if they could just kindly email me the information, I would be happy to evaluate the offer and get back to them.

Then, the first red flag presented itself. The telemarketer responds saying something along the lines of “I’m sorry – I can’t email you the information. We prefer to speak to you over the phone so that we can demonstrate to you the value of what we would like to talk to you about. All we need is about 15 minutes.” Not only that, the telemarketer proceeds to drop names of certain C-level individuals who had referred my name to them – as if mentioning this would induce me to take their call more seriously. Annoyed, I protested and repeated my request to have the information emailed. However, the telemarketer remained insistent so I asked for the person to call me back.

The person did try – several times, in fact. Unfortunately, each time, the person caught me at a rather inconvenient time so I kept repeating my request for an email which I can view at my own time. Each time, I got a response along the lines of, “That’s not how we do things. We’d much rather be able to spend the time with you – so we’ll try again another time.” Of course, there were still attempts to name drop and an adamant refusal to divulge further information unless they could spend the full time with me.

By the third time this happened, I was really annoyed already. I was still not given any clue as to what the conference was called, what it was about, who were the speakers… nothing!

Then, today, the telemarketer catches me at a rare moment when I’m actually free enough to entertain the long telephone call. Trying to be nice, I start listening to the spiel about this conference. Midway through the drivel, I ask the telemarketer to hurry it up because I want to move on with the rest of my day.

Then the telemarketer directs me to their website asking me to click on certain links. Apparently, I was supposed to be impressed at the brands that have supposedly already signed up to participate. The telemarketer proceeded to ask me to click on the “programmes” page and enter a password to view its contents.

At this point, I was incensed.

THIS IS WHY THEY HAD ME ON THE PHONE FOR SO LONG?! SO THAT THEY COULD WALK ME THROUGH THEIR RIDICULOUS PASSWORD-PROTECTED WEBSITE?!?

I conveyed my annoyance at how this has been a terrible waste of my time since this information could have been just emailed to me. The telemarketer tried to cheerfully reply, “I understand how this looks like from your end, sir, but this is how we do things and we wanted to talk you through it to demonstrate value…” and blah blah blah.

I wasn’t even listening then.

I requested for the additional passwords to the “packages” and “speakers” pages to view at my leisure. I also asked for the necessary contact information and told them I would reply them on whatever decision I make. (It’s a resouding no. But you know, even if I were interested in the subject matter, this experience has been so distasteful that I refuse to attend this conference.)

Next: Part 2 – What I did after I hung up the phone.

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