You hate robocalls for the wrong reasons



JD Engelbrecht, MD at Everlytic.

Think back to your favorite robotic calling experience. You probably don’t have one. Last week at a dinner party, I asked guests to remember their favorite automated calling experiences. It was interesting and exciting… not quite… nobody likes having a robocall. I do not. You neither. It is one of the few things behind which people almost unanimously unite. Why do companies continue to use the channel? Is there a better way to use it? Why do people hate him so much?

Yes, Everlytic offers automated voice as a messaging channel. Does that make us hypocrites? No, and I’ll argue why not.

Why do we hate robocalls?

Given the same message content, delivered by email, SMS, human, and automated voice delivery mechanism, what would you hate most? You are probably more tolerant of emails, then texts, then automated voice, and you would be more prone to acts of violence when a human calls you. Usually, our politeness saves lives.

Passive channels versus active engagement

And this is where things start to clear up: the more passive and easily dismissed the chain, the more tolerant we are.

Email and SMS are relatively passive; depending on your notification settings, you may hear a ping but there is no immediacy or urgency to read or respond. When your phone rings you usually answer (let’s forget about Truecaller for now) because if you miss it you miss the message and it becomes a chore, and: FOMO. A robocall is more easily rejected than when a human is talking to you – we also feel guilty for being dismissive, which adds an emotional cost.


There is more to this, however. Aside from the above factors, our brains are highly efficient and optimized pattern recognition and simplification machines. Stereotypes are shortcuts produced by the brain that use past experiences to draw conclusions and condense reasoning and understanding. What does this have to do with robocalls? Hang on.

I would dare say that other channels are used with higher gross volume and intensity for spam or fraud than robocalls. Aside from the fact that emails are consumed more passively and less intrusively, consider that it is less about the number of these messages than about their proportion of spam.


I don’t remember having received a single robocall for which I gave informed consent (ever).

Typically either data is purchased, lead generators are used to extract their own data, or consent is given, but it is usually not informed – often buried deep in contracts. The channel is not communicated upstream either. Most of the emails I get after the email client filters out spam are things that I expect, want, can tolerate because I understand why someone would send them, and of course, everyone should have a Nigerian prince in their network.

One hundred percent of the automated voice calls I received were unsolicited. It is important, however, that we avoid a trap … Consider the ratio high not because companies are sending the current unsolicited messages; it is high due to the lack of consented and expected messages (think of my email context).

Considering all of the above, it would be reasonable to accept that the reason we hate robocalls is that they require active engagement. There is a perceived personal cost to rejecting a call, and our brains have taught us that all robocalls will waste our time.

So why do businesses continue to use the channel for a tough sell?

The answer is simple: statistics – more precisely the expected return of a call (yes, I’m having fun in the evening). Simply put, the expected return is the lifetime average value of a sale multiplied by the probability of a sale being made. As long as this expected return is greater than the cost of a call, businesses will continue to use the channel. This is also why it is generally used to promote annuity products like insurance. Another popular use case is counseling and debt collection. Same premise.

I’m not condemning the existing tactics, although I think companies could maximize their expected returns by being more focused and combining them with other channels; however, volume then becomes the challenge. There is a place for robocalls in the market, otherwise they would have been abandoned.


It’s unclear what the future holds for automated voice based on lead generation in the context of the Personal Information Protection Act (POPIA). What we do know is that existing databases will be grandfathered, but will become obsolete. I would say the dynamics of the chain will change dramatically as old data becomes stale and new data comes with informed consent – this will change the relationship between consumers and the chain and force companies to change their strategy. chain.

I think there is a place for automated voice in the mix of sales and marketing channels. That’s why we got into the business.

So why did Everlytic create an automated voice product?

A few reasons; some more noble than others – let’s be honest.

  1. We believe the channel has been abused and has untapped potential for good POPIA compliance over time.
  2. The addition of automated voice to multi-channel automated workflows is powerful.
  3. We recognize that there are business opportunities in the existing market and we can align them with our strong ethics.
  4. There are no real large-scale local competitors who offer this integrated multi-channel marketing mix on integrated automation bases.
  5. We can offer the lowest competitive price possible in the market.

If we can provide better service at a better price, while still supporting the expression of consumer opt-out, why not play?

Having said that, how do you change things? We started with a few questions; perhaps it is appropriate to end with a few, to which I will offer some answers.

Have lead generators and scammers ruined the potential of automated voicemail? Although it marred the canal, I don’t think it was damaged beyond repair. The channel is subject to change as POPIA moves into informed consent phases and older datasets become obsolete. We are ready and supporting the evolution of the chain.

Are marketers’ personal biases against automated voice blocking innovation preventing the channel from evolving? Yes. Personal biases need to be changed or set aside and we need to reinvent the channel, especially in the context of contextual, consented and personalized messaging.

Has Truecaller ever killed the channel?

It certainly changed him. It developed out of a clear need and a movement of consumer activism; they voted with facilities. Truecaller, at its core, is a service that helps you filter spam calls using network effects. Consider that people wouldn’t flag a business by sending them useful messages in a context they want, need, or expect. Instead of spinning the numbers around trying to outsmart Truecaller, maybe we should get informed consent, provide valuable content, and tag our numbers on Truecaller to make sure people know we’re the phone calls?

Here are some use cases where robocalls can be used where the consumer expects the message:

  • Fraud alerts. These can also be followed by an email or SMS if the call is not answered, using our multi-channel automation.
  • Policy renewals. It is in your best interest to renew on time.
  • Collection of revenue. While a customer may not want to pay, they understand the context.
  • Education notifications. It’s a great way to make sure students know exactly what’s going on on campus.
  • Emergency response alerts. These will limit the loss and lead the action quickly.
  • Updates to member groups for churches and clubs etc.
  • Participation in the webinar. Voice prompts to remind participants who have confirmed their attendance will stimulate participation.
  • Fiduciary duty to communicate. Some industries are required by law to communicate. Channel is a great way to deliver nuanced messages and use call routing to further explore content.
  • Appointment reminders. This includes chronic medications, beauticians, etc.

So it is clear that there is a time and place for automated voice calls in the modern mix of sales and marketing channels. Managed ethically, robocalls offer exciting business opportunities for organizations that would benefit from the immediacy of the channel.


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