Telemarketers are telephone marketing agents who sell to customers on behalf of the companies they work for. They are in contact with customers by telephone to market products, provide information or to address queries.

Through advances in technology, telemarketers are not restricted to the telephone but also use email, SMS messaging, fax and mail as ways of communicating with customers.

The job demands strong interpersonal and customer service skills since a telemarketer is often a customer’s first point of contact with a company. Higher standards are required from call centre staff in some fields of work, where technical and linguistic skills are more important.

A telemarketer’s role and day-to-day responsibilities depend on the particular industry in which they work and the type of call they make.

Their work may involve:

  • direct selling, which may include ‘cold calling’.
  • taking catalogue or other orders and arranging delivery
  • carrying out market research
  • providing advice or other information requested, to customers
  • providing a financial institution’s customers with information requested, such as their account balances, or dealing with credit card bill queries

The work can be highly intensive, and repetitive. Telemarketers are usually set targets to answer or deal with a certain number of calls within a specific period. This creates a pressurised environment.

Most telemarketers work from 35 to 40 hours a week. Depending on the industry, the contact centre may be open 24 hours a day, including weekends, and operators may be required to work shifts to cover all hours. Part-time work is also available.

Telemarketers communicate with customers using telephone, e-mail, fax, or mail correspondence. Customer service representatives use multi-line telephones systems, which often route calls directly to the most appropriate representative.

They usually work at desks or ‘workstations’ in a large open-plan office. Each call centre operator normally has a computer and telephone headset which enables their hands to be free to access information or input data.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Grade 10 Certificate.
Employers prefer a National Senior Certificate.

What to Study

Although some positions may require previous industry, office, or customer service experience, many customer service jobs are entry level. Customer service jobs are often good introductory positions into a company or an industry. In some cases, experienced workers can move up within the company into supervisory or managerial positions or they may move into areas such as product development, in which they can use their knowledge to improve products and services.

Because of a constant need to update skills and knowledge, most customer service representatives continue to receive instruction and training throughout their career. This is particularly true of workers in industries such as banking, in which regulations and products are continually changing.


Telemarketing jobs are often good introductory positions into a company or an industry. Telemarketers are employed by:

  • insurance companies
  • telephone companies
  • power, water and gas utility companies and contractors
  • retail establishments
  • wholesale establishments such as mail-order and ? Internet-based companies
  • educational institutions
  • other organisations with a strong customer service orientation

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work as a telemarketer
  • arrange to speak to a telemarketer about this career and ask to observe them at work