Considering how long it takes to accomplish much of anything in Congress, it was impressive how quickly our elected officials reacted last month to the legal back-and-forth regarding the national Do Not Call Registry. Similarly, given that the Bush Administration is not exactly renowned for its consumer-friendly policies, the president's speedy signing of last-minute do-not-call legislation was heart-warming, to say the least.
Heart-warming but certainly not surprising. It's clear that do-not-call is a proverbial "hot-button" issue, something that is widely and immediately embraced-and something that, if you are a politician (or insurance company executive) you would be ill-advised to oppose. As they say, 50 million people can't be wrong! (Well, it may not be quite 50 million people; it's actually 50 million numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.) Somehow the courts will determine whether or not it is legal to prohibit telemarketers from calling people who have officially requested not to be called.
There are several lessons for the insurance industry from this latest demonstration of democracy. An obvious one is that it is going to be harder than ever to cold call even qualified prospects, so insurers, agents and others involved in distribution will have to be even smarter and more strategic about how they find and reach potential new customers. But that can't mean just shifting all prospecting efforts to other channels, such as the Web. With spam rising even higher on consumers' hate lists than dinnertime telemarketing calls, it's clear that companies cannot just give lip service to concepts such as privacy and permission marketing. The embrace of the Do Not Call Registry illustrates that true customer-centricity means a total commitment to what the customer wants, even if that means being left alone.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio