In our guest post this week, we welcome Marianne Withers. Marianne is a Founding Director of EMC2 (GB) Ltd, the Outbound Specialists and has many years and experience providing Outbound Telemarketing, Operational Consultancy, Data and Dialler Management services for a wide range of businesses across industry sectors. Over to Marianne:
“I speak with many organisations and businesses operating within the B2C market that are contemplating, or considering Outbound campaigns, many of whom, are quite rightly worried about the consequences of undertaking outbound. There are many publicised stories and articles, of rogue organisations and bad outbound dialling practices, where organisations or individuals are challenging and or, breaking the OFCOM rules, to achieve higher levels of contact, in a bid to achieve targets, better conversions and sales per hour.
There is still an opportunity to deliver effective outbound performance in conjunction with a robust dialler and data management strategy, which can be extremely fruitful to all that make the invaluable decision to undertake an outbound campaign.
Many of the problems in the outbound industry, which affect consumer detriment, silent calls and generate cries to ‘stop outbound cold calling’ are caused by a number of areas and bad practice across the industry:
Some of the Pitfalls:
Your Advisors are one of the most important elements of your business success but when it comes to outbound dialling you have probably heard the following:
- ‘The data is not great’,
- ‘I cannot sell on that data set’
- ‘If AMD (Answer Machine Detection) is turned off they state there are too many voicemails
- ‘If AMD is turned on, then the dialler is running too slow’
Your Advisors learn and will be led by your Team Managers. In many organisations, these same beliefs are also held by your Team Managers and even perhaps, at a much higher level, as there are Operations Managers and Heads of Operations leading their teams with the same understanding and misconceptions.
It all seems to be about the sales per hour (SPH), instead of a mixture of the SPH and the conversion of sales to data.
I am sure we have all experienced how easy it is for advisors to race through data and make decisions early on that the person is not going to buy. If you work on the belief that you pace the dialler harder to give more contacts to the advisors, then yes, you could achieve the SPH you require, however, this will be to the detriment of your sales conversion per data.
Now if you have a lot of data maybe cherry picking has occurred, or maybe it’s not important to your company.
Nevertheless, in a world where data is so vital, deliberately reducing, or removing calls and cherry picking the data dialled, will deliver a detrimental service to the customer, as they are not being offered the chance of the best customer experience. This is also a loss to your company, as you will inevitably have to use more data to be able to achieve the level of sales you require.
People buy from people, therefore, there is no reason why a person who at first may seem uninterested, goes on to change their mind and becomes interested. It is about what is said, but also how it is said. It is about following the right sales structure and using the correct intonation and inflection in your voice. It is about having a relationship with the person you are speaking to, not sounding as though it is just another call. Your advisors might wonder why the customer does not sound interested, if so, listen to your call openings, you have 10-15 seconds to capture their interest and gain their trust and commitment so they want to listen further.
Why are certain people very good at selling? (Delivering Compliant and sales which achieve Longevity). They treat every call as an individual call. Putting the same amount of effort in and taking the customer through a journey; offering the customer, trust, information, commitment and therefore the comfort factor that is needed to help them move forward with the sale and the advisor is able to transact a compliant call, where the sale is wanted and will be more likely retained over time.
- Customer Satisfaction:
Training is vitally important but even more so if you are calling your own customers. Each customer is extremely valuable; it costs far more to win a new customer than keep and existing one!
Every time you have contact with your customer the call needs to be of the highest standard, as each time they speak with a person they are building up a perception of your organisation. This will have a long lasting effect and may determine how long they stay being your customer. The last thing you want is an advisor contacting them and not giving their best, sounding bored and indifferent, or making a judgement at the beginning of the call which leads to them put in little effort to get to know your customer and what your customer may need, this is a sure way not to have successful call outcomes.
Example: Person A:
24 DMC’s per hour 1.4 sales per hour 5.83% conversion
Example: Person B:
12 DMC ‘s per hour 1.4 sales per hour 11.67% conversion
If you look at Person A, they have achieved the SPH target, but with a detriment to your data.
If the management are focusing mainly on the SPH, then it allows the cherry picking behaviour, but if you target on conversion as well, you can change the behaviour of your managers and thus change the behaviour of advisors to achieve better outbound performance, which is shown in Person B.
Outbound Management is very tricky according to who developed your managers and what their belief is on the above statements.
If your dialler is managed correctly in line with strong strategic data management, then the most important factor is your training, educating, development and coaching of your staff to sell and approach your customers in the right way.
Anyone can be the picture at the top of this page, I call it cloning, where it is all just about numbers of people on the phone, all saying the same, all sounding the same, all trained on product, then a script and if they are lucky some soft skills. What happened to training people on how to sell properly, structured selling and most importantly the psychology of selling?
Giving the sales person the knowledge and understanding of why people make decisions to purchase and teach them about social aspects, people’s habits and what can allow people to change their mind, all help to make outbound calling more compliant and definitely more successful.
Data & Dialler Performance:
Moving on to the dialler and data side – My question here is:
Why do companies perceive that pacing a dialler hard and increasing a contact rate to a level where the advisors are achieving a high level of refusals is the right way to work their data?
In a world where data is extremely valuable, especially customer data, why would anyone want to increase Decision Maker Contacts (DMC) – (Right Party Contacts), to levels above 14/15 DMC’s per hour, just to achieve a Sales per Hour (SPH) Target? Especially when this means that you are dropping the conversion rate consistently. If you really understand outbound and dialler performance, you will know that you need to invest in training, development and coaching, to educate your advisors to a standard where they are able to convert at a higher level.
Higher conversions achieve the same SPH but with less use of data.
I would expect on a normal B2C campaign that you are hitting around 11/12 DMC’s maximum per hour and that the advisors are having good conversations with your potential customer and achieving a talk time rate of around 60%.
The dialler has a part in all of this, however; a dialler alone cannot deliver talk time. It has to be a partnership. The dialler will do its part to give the correct number of DMC’s per hour, your trained and educated agents then deliver the talk time. If you believe that the dialler is king this will affect your outbound and dialler performance. Yes, the dialler plays an important part of your successful outbound campaigns, but in the end, it is how your people are trained, developed and coached to have meaningful conversations from the beginning of the call to end of the call, that is what will deliver you the best outbound performance.
If you do not have well trained staff, you start getting advisors playing the system and the dialler just becomes a tool to throw out more and more data to the available advisor. When this occurs, is the advisor available as they have just come off a meaningful call, or, have they just decided that the lead is not going to work for them? We call this cherry picking as discussed above, and over the last few years this has definitely been on the increase. If you think this is happening on your data and dialler, I would suggest you check some of your top SPH performers just to see how much data they are getting through to achieve those sales and see how you can improve what your team can deliver with your precious data.
Good data management can support consistent achievement of conversion throughout each day of the month. However, it is imperative that you educate the advisors and managers on dialler and data management. This training can completely change the attitude of the advisors towards the data they are calling.
You are all probably familiar with following:
- “The data is awful”
- “The data is bad”
- “These people are just not interested”
- “Can we change the data”
- “Can we not have more of that other data that was converting well”
This is something that Team Managers hear constantly and as stated above, in many circumstances these comments can actually be fuelled by the Team Managers themselves, as they have a lack of understanding of data management and are just being asked to focus on hitting their SPH target. These managers need on-going development from their seniors in operational and data management to appreciate and understand the different data strategies, thus allowing them to manage the expectations of their advisors.
In most circumstances companies have different levels of data; some will be warmer than others. The challenge lies with the advisors and managers wanting the best data, however, for the majority of the time that is just not possible. What is needed is training and development which will help your advisors be able to convert even the hardest data. Get them to cut their teeth on the more difficult data when they start, if you can get them to achieve target on these more difficult data sets, when you add in warmer leads they will over achieve.
It is all down to the education and development of the advisors and managers on data and managing their expectations that for the majority of time they will be working through the tougher data. The more you are able to do this, the more you will inspire and motivate your people. Honesty and education is very important.
What your dialler team does with the data and the strategy they use can give you that consistent, compliant approach – consistency through the month is what is needed, not a peak and trough approach. Fluctuating peaks and troughs in Dialler and Data performance come about from old dialler strategies where you keep following a certain type of person, at a certain time of the day. The difficulty with this strategy is that you only have a certain amount of data and at some stage you are going to need to call it all. The other reason you may see peaks in your data/dialler performance is where you load the best data at the beginning of the month, this gives you that lovely peak on performance, but your team becomes demotivated when the data gets harder throughout the month, this produces a huge dip in performance and conversions.
Blending datasets can considerably help your conversion consistency. However, if you download all your data sets into one pot to try to achieve this, you will end up with one large file that will challenge you on penetration and fresher data throughout the third and fourth week. What you want is perfectly blended files and a number of data blocks to allow you to undertake your data blocking strategy, which will help give you good contact rates throughout the whole day and allow you to penetrate your files with higher conversions.
If you do put all the data into one file, ensure it is sorted by surname, doing this will completely blend all your demographics. Once you have done that split the data into small equal file blocks according to the number of advisors on the campaign, you can then analyse the files to see how equal the demographics are in each file.
The above strategy is just one strategy but it is an important one that can help motivate your staff and give you a far more consistent approach and consistent conversions every day.
I do undertake a number of different strategies; however your judgement on this has to be precise.
I only decide once I have undertaken in-depth analysis on the figures and reviewed the insight from the datasets.
As you can see there is a lot to consider and to get right to deliver more effective and compliant outbound performance. The industry, business, advisors and consumers will all benefit when we are able to deliver this.
I hope the above has been of good interest, there is a lot more of this, if you would like to discuss or know more please contact me.”
Have you experienced issues with your outbound, data or dialler performance, do you agree with Marianne, or have any tips of your own? Please do let us know by commenting here.