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Article : Debunking Common Myths In Outbound Dialing

Let’s face it-outbound dialing just doesn’t have a very glamorous image. When you think about outbound, you don’t conjure up a picture of happy, smiling agents filling orders for home shopping networks or travel specialists setting up Condé Nast dream vacations. Truth be told, most consumers still view outbound dialing as a nuisance, characterized by calls to collect overdue bills, reminders to pick up prescriptions or—heaven forbid—a live telemarketing call at the hallowed dinner hour. At the same time, let’s also be honest: the outbound teleservices and collections industry is BIG business and it generates billions in revenues across a myriad of industry verticals.

I’ve had the good fortune over the years to manage both inbound and outbound centers, large and small. What I’d like to do in this article is “tee up” half a dozen misconceptions about outbound dialing and then give readers a real-world readout.

Myth #1: “Outbound dialing is pretty much a stand-alone function in business these days.”
While a number of “old school” dedicated point solutions remain in the market today, there is a significant movement away from this model to a completely different calling environment. What we’re seeing deployed are full suites that support outbound and inbound blended centers (allowing agents to easily move between inbound and outbound campaigns) with tight integration to CRM and back-office applications. This new model gives the enterprise a complete view of the customer’s history, including a log of all agent interactions. The focus is rapidly shifting from a dedicated telemarketing or collections tool to one that enables companies to zero in on increasing overall customer lifetime value. This means that retention campaigns don’t get launched in a vacuum, and the efficiencies of blending can be realized through a more productive agent population. Predictive dialers today have sophisticated algorithms that can move idle agents away from the automatic call distributor (ACD) and, based on business rules, better extend service customers on an outbound basis. This reduces the ‘peaks and valleys’ that often plague contact centers and makes for smarter agent utilization. 

Myth # 2: "Outbound calling fails to attract high-quality agents.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. Granted, there are some call center associates who gravitate to sales or who enjoy the back and forth of collection calls, while others abhor any type of selling and prefer to handle service inquiries with no pressure to sell. Current practitioners in the field tell me that the vast majority of agents in these blended environments, however, thrive on the variety inherent in handling both call types. Outsourcers that specialize in using home agents, tell me that there is a huge pent-up demand in the U.S. for employment as outbound agents.

The key is to invest in meaningful on-going training, concise scripting and knowledge systems that support the delivery of an excellent customer experience. Recruiting of agents is one thing; retaining them is a completely different ballgame.

Myth #3: “DNC legislation has crippled telemarketing and, as a result, the outbound dialing market isn’t growing much.”
Frost & Sullivan believes that the world outbound dialing market is indeed saturated. Our studies on outbound dialing dating all the way back to 2003 showed a decline, especially in the North America market. However, instead of crippling the industry, initial DNC legislation had a surprisingly positive impact. It forced unscrupulous and unprofitable telemarketers out of business and focused outbound calling where it squarely belongs: dialing out to prospects receptive to being called. The good news with the DNC rules: firms with prior business relationships with consumers can continue to reach out to extend valuable offers and build brand loyalty and retention. In the financial services arena, for instance, outbound calling campaigns welcome new credit card customers and acknowledge payments received. It is part and parcel of the new ‘quality equation’ in call centers today. Over the last few years these creative outbound activities have blunted much of the initial negative impact DNC legislation might have had. 

Myth 4: “Proactive customer care is just a buzzword and doesn’t deliver superior customer service.”
Not so. Ultimately, all contact centers look to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction (C-Sat), measured by surveys, quality monitoring or first call resolution. What proactive customer care does is take the customer interaction tools and leverages them for outbound campaigns with a special mission. The mission, generally, is four-fold:

  • Retain customers
  • Maintain brand loyalty
  • Up sell and cross-sell, if appropriate
  • Accentuate service, service, and more service

To be effective, proactive care must be driven by a broad business vision to create and maintain a customer-centric organization - period. It is simply a tactic for a operationalizing a wide-ranging business strategy. For example, a floral company can proactively place follow-up calls to ensure that a bouquet was delivered with fresh flowers, on time and to the right location. Before the end of the call, an agent can unobtrusively attempt to sell future deliveries for birthdays, graduations and holidays.  Another classic case might involve an airline proactively calling customers about flight delays and arranging new travel options. A utility company can contact its largest (and best paying) customers to advise of planned power outages. Some companies make an outbound call to take the opportunity to offer an incentive or discount to a customer in exchange for responses to a short marketing survey. Retail catalogue companies routinely offer proactive customer care to provide order status. Proactive calling and reaching out to customers, if done right, can yield substantially better C-sat. 

Myth #5: “Hosted outbound solutions aren’t yet fully developed, nor do they have the security requirements in-place.”
This is simply false. One of the biggest advantages of a hosted solution today is that it gives clients the freedom to concentrate on caring for their customers, leaving contact center technology management to other professionals. This includes providing security at the network, infrastructure and application level. Service level agreements (SLAs) provide assurances that hosted providers meet security requirements for data, configurations and desktop applications. This includes 24x7x365 monitoring of communications, web, email and chat servers.

Myth #6: “Outbound dialing is really out of sync with the multimedia demands of today’s savvy consumers.”
While this might have been true in the past, companies today have transformed old-fashioned call centers into next-generation multi-channel contact centers. This enables agents to deliver highly personalized outbound customer care across a broad range of communications channels. Telephone contact, believe it or not, is still the preferred method of communication for the majority of consumers. With that said, blended centers are very much in sync with consumer demands for email, web chat, web collaboration, SMS text messaging to PDAs and the like. For example, a
contact center technology provider, offers completely integrated solutions that allow contact centers to seamlessly manage customer interactions across multiple communications channels and multiple locations. What companies want is the ability to deliver the same high level of service, regardless of the contact center’s location or the customer’s preferred touch point.

Lastly, let’s not forget another important dimension of outbound calling, one which receives little publicity: the field of agent-free outbound notifications and messaging for unplanned events. There are several providers in this spacewith proven and reliable notification applications for the delivery of time-sensitive and proactive notifications. Providers also offer a hosted notification service, which automates traditional manual processes and eliminates the need for on-premise customer equipment and network bandwidth.

These time-sensitive notifications can cover a wide range of mutlimedia communication needs including those for:

  • Emergencies such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc.
  • Police, fire and health care providers
  • Business disruptions and disaster recovery
  • Municipal governments, state agencies and schools
  • Homeland security
  • Employee hotlines
  • Identity theft
  • “Phishing” warnings

So while outbound calling and messaging may not appear to be exciting or sensational, it has become an essential element for successful contact centers, and a key part of the strategic roadmap to improved customer satisfaction. I, like many other industry analysts, believe that outbound dialing remains alive and well. No more misinformation, half-truths, or myths for me. Market forces are driving intelligent customer outreach and, with it, customers who feel valued.

Isn’t that what we all want out of the ‘customer experience’ anyway?

About Michael DeSalles:
Mr. DeSalles is widely recognized as experienced in the contact center marketplace, with his primary knowledge being in call center operations and infrastructure. Other areas of coverage include:·Call routing and off shore outsourcing·Customer service delivery and outbound dialing·Performance management and agent optimization. Michael is responsible for tracking products, technologies, and strategies in the contact center solutions market. His clients include the range of contact center vendors, and end-user organizations across a broad set of industry verticals.

About Frost & Sullivan:
Company LogoFrost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, works in collaboration with clients to leverage visionary innovation that addresses the global challenges and related growth opportunities that will make or break today's market participants. For more than 50 years, we have been developing growth strategies for the global 1000, emerging businesses, the public sector and the investment community. Is your organization prepared for the next profound wave of industry convergence, disruptive technologies, increasing competitive intensity, Mega Trends, breakthrough best practices, changing customer dynamics and emerging economies?
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