Claudia Hathway, editor at Customer Strategy, interviewed Mark Hamblin, Sabio's Head of Customer Interaction Management, to find out more about what an organisation should consider when developing their outbound campaign and their use of dialler technology.
What should an organisation consider when devising an outbound campaign?
No two organisations are the same, so they have to carefully balance key areas such as technology, staffing, business goals and profitability if they are to successfully deliver an outbound campaign that supports their broader company mission. They also have to consider today’s Ofcom regulations on dialling, and be aware that these are constantly evolving. It’s no good carefully developing a long-term dialler strategy, and then finding that the goalposts have moved as you progress towards launch.
Businesses also have to establish whether it really is still beneficial to the business and supporting their campaign goals with outbound dialling activity. Certainly we’ve found that increasingly strict Ofcom regulations have significantly shifted the dynamics of dialler operations, with many organisations – particularly outsourcers – dramatically downscaling their level of outbound activity. Once you’ve made the right outbound technology decisions for your business, you’ve also got to make sure that you have the right staff in place to support your dialler activities. We find that the best run outbound programmes work well because they’re directed by a Dialler Manager, a specialist role that ensures you’re getting the best possible return on your dialler and outbound investment.
How should you use the data you have to maximum effect?
Depending on the type of application, there are many distinct – yet perfectly valid – approaches to data utilisation. We’re seeing much more successful take-up from those operators who manage to analyse their data more carefully, assessing contacts against key criteria such as demographics, geographic considerations and a customer’s propensity to spend. It’s perhaps more time-consuming but, by taking advantage of the many different datasets that are available, organisations can increase the success rate of their outbound activity by taking account of a contact’s current context.
For some operators, however, there still seems to be a determination to keep on thrashing the data until they’ve squeezed out the maximum commercial return. While it can make sense to maximise sales, what organisations often overlook is that the rate of return keeps on decreasing, so that the overall cost of chasing after the last 20 percent is not always matched by potential returns. That’s why many dialler operators today tend to switch off their dialler activity at around the 80 percent mark, and move on to the next campaign.
How should an operation prepare their agents for an outbound campaign? What training should be offered? And how does it differ from inbound work?
Because outbound campaigns are typically staffed by dedicated teams, agents are often provided with specific training to support closely defined activities such as sales, telemarketing or collections. This differs significantly from inbound staff where the role is often much more general. Where activities are closely prescribed, outbound staff can also benefit from scripting, significantly reducing the need for more complex, role-specific training.
Clearly the level of training depends on the industry and application. Outsourcers, for example, like to support their outbound activities with scripting to reduce training and allow agents to be more flexible in terms of campaign deployment. In the financial services sector, however, where the requirements are much more complex, there’s a far greater focus on individual training and much less use of scripts.
What level of response should be expected? How can an operation work out the ROI of an outbound campaign?
ROI depends very much on your underlying campaign goals: whether, for example, you’re looking to increase revenues, decrease costs or both. It also depends on where you’re starting from – if you’re still relying on manual dialling and shuffling bits of paper with customer details on, then it’s quite likely that you can secure enormous levels of improvement. When considering ROI, it’s also important for organisations to factor in the whole project cost, not just the dialler and software costs, but also ongoing spending on staff support and training. This also relates back to the quality of data you’re using for your outbound campaigns – with significant improvements here, operators can actually conduct their campaigns much more efficiently, potentially reducing their overall requirement for outbound agents.
Are there any pitfalls to look out for? Or opportunities that some companies may overlook?
Veterans of dialler campaigns will know there are pitfalls everywhere. Obviously keeping on top of the latest Ofcom regulations is essential, but organisations also have to make sure they’re up to speed on key issues such as desktop integration, switch integration, best practices in agent training, utilisation of answering machine detection, as well as the key technology benefits around hard and soft diallers, outsourcing, and on premise or hosted solutions.
So there’s a lot for organisations to get their heads around. Alternatively, find a good systems integrator that really understands how to make diallers and outbound work for your business. When dealing with technology suppliers, it’s also imperative to speak to as many of their customers as you can – not just the friendly ones who are always positive, but also the ones further down the list who can probably provide you with a truer picture.
What is the best technology to use and how should it be implemented?
There’s no standard answer, and it always depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Typically, if your outbound calls are higher value, perhaps taking up to 25 minutes and resulting in a significant sale, then you might not be looking at a hard dialler. If, however, you’re working with poor quality data and your call length is much shorter, then buying a hard dialler can often make much more sense.
At Sabio, for example, we support a range of technology solutions, from major Avaya Proactive Contact dialler systems to more flexible approaches such as own Thin Client Dialler solution that allows voice-based call centre functionality to be delivered to any agent that has a web browser installed on their desktop PC. Both have a role to play, however organisations need to understand exactly the level of sophistication they require before making their technology decisions.
Are there other automated outbound channels that could be explored?
While Ofcom found that many customers appreciate the convenience of speech-enabled outbound campaigns, it’s important that organisations understand that all outbound interactions have to be backed by an appropriate level of agent support. So, while email and SMS channels have been around for years, organisations need to consider what they would do if they suddenly start to get lots of incoming traffic into their interaction centres. This challenge is likely to intensify as customers increasingly turn to non-traditional channels – such as Facebook and other social media sites – to interact and transact with the organisations they engage with.