Coming in from the Cold

Enda Kenneally, VP Sales & Business Development, West Unified Communications Services explains why contact centres need to look again at their outbound strategy and highlights five important rules for success

Cold calling has given the contact centre industry a bad name in recent years. Not only is it hated by customers, but on top of that, success rates for cold calls have plummeted in recent years. Industry research from Baylor University’s Keller Centre Research shows that typically just 28% of those cold called engage in conversations.

However, there are still many reasons why a business may need to make outbound calls to customers, such as proactive customer service and appointment setting, renewals and repeat business, debt collection and of course, finding out how satisfied your customers are.

In today’s world of mobile savvy customers, ready availability of digital channels and soaring penalties for nuisance calls, companies are rethinking outbound. It is clear that it is time to replace traditional cold calling with more customer-friendly outbound strategies, to attract new customers and build profitable relationships with existing ones.

In spite of Ofcom cracking down harder than ever on automated marketing calls, the company’s ‘tackling ababdoned and silent calls statement found that 72% of consumers are receiving two or more silent calls a day from the same company. Ofcom also reports that UK consumers receive a staggering 4.8billion nuisance calls every year.

With the maximum penalty for companies found to be persistently misusing a network or services £2million, today’s contact centres need sophisticated outbound dialling software that allows them to meet Ofcom regulations, while maximising connections and making the most of agent time.

And while technology plays a crucial part it’s also important to remember that technology is not a silver bullet. It can often uncover flaws and expose weaknesses in other processes. The following rules explain how outbound can play a key role as part of a multichannel strategy and how you can help your customers to choose an outbound solution and maximise its success in their contact centre.

Rule 1: Help your customers ensure compliance with regulations

Different counties have different dialling regulations. For example, the UK has Ofcom, the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and the Financial Conduct Authority. A wrong strategy can result in silent calls – so when a call is connected to a customer but the agent is not ready. Ofcom states the ‘abandoned call rate’ should be no more than 3% of all the ‘live calls’ calculated. TPS is the central opt-out register and it is a legal requirement to not make calls to the numbers on the list unless they have the customer’s consent to do so.

Specific industries and outbound campaign types can be further regulated by industry bodies, for example the FCA for financial services and anything involving payments.

Rule 2: Help your customer choose the right technology

The first step is to help your customers identify and acquire the right predictive dialing solution that will satisfy their outbound requirements and generate maximum efficiencies in their contact centre. Basically, there are three different types of dialling strategy– preview, progressive and predictive. Each have their strengths. For example, preview dialling is good for complex case management where an agent needs to understand and consider the history of the customer.

Progressive dialling allows agents to review the record but only as long as it takes for the customer to answer – after that it moves to the next customer. And finally, predictive dialling only delivers live answered calls to agents which minimises ‘idle’ time and greatly increases productivity.

Rule 3: Maximising connection rates for your customer

If your customers utilise technology such as Mobile Number Presentation, which dynamically presents a mobile number to the recipient, they will find that the connection rates are typically driven up by 40%*. Similarly, Local Number Representation will display a number with a dialling code local to the customer, making customers 35%* more likely to answer. In the event that customers do call back, they will only be charged the local rate as opposed to a premium rate.

Rule 4: How scripting increases customer satisfaction

Scripting can greatly enhance the effectiveness of your customers’ outbound campaigns because a dynamic call script can help to deliver consistent, confident and compliant communications with customers. Small ‘on-the-fly’ adjustments can have a big impact on results.

Your customers will need to ensure that all of the necessary and relevant information is together in one place to make easier for the contact centre agents and allow them to concentrate on the job at hand – serving customers and making sales.

Rule 5: Helping your customers establish the right KPIs

Before your customers undertake any form of outbound campaign, be sure that they clearly determine the the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Businesses will need to think about the figures that add to the top line, converting leads into sales, converting business, booking appointments, collecting debt and ultimately, increasing profits. So this means that when using outbound technology, available talk time is key. An optimised process will add valuable time to the contact centre agents’ availability to the system for further calls. This also means cutting losses to be sure that they know when to close a call and move on – again increasing efficiency and profitability.

* The complete guide to 10 Golden Rules of Outbound Campaigns can be downloaded here

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine