Outbound service agencies … the newly discovered marketing arm for corporate America
Outbound telemarketing has come of age for a variety of reasons, among them, the following:
1) Corporate America has discovered that it is no longer a luxury to have access to an outbound telemarketing center, but a matter of survival. They’ve found that drastic increases in sales at much lower costs are more a reality than a pipe dream when they use telemarketing.
2) The recent avalanche of restructuring, reengineering and deep personnel cutbacks at virtually all companies has created a delayed revelation that sales, marketing and customer service and relationship marketing, as well as their support, suffer drastically as a result of these actions. These same companies have also discovered that service agencies are their ally and, often to their surprise, discovered that great productivity can be attained from quality service agencies.
Having visited hundreds of service agencies, I know that quality service agencies run a tight ship. If you visit a quality service agency, you will literally feel the intensive, highly focused and enthusiastic selling attitude shared by all employees. Quality service agencies stay on their toes because:
A) Telemarketing is their only business.
B) To stay in business, they must consistently produce quality sales through professional and ethical operations for each and every customer.
As the benefits of service agencies have been uncovered, corporate America has been encouraged to give more and more business to service agencies and, as a result, such agencies are currently enjoying well-deserved prosperity. Fortunately, the chief executives of the service agencies, with whom I converse almost daily, are keenly aware that this type of business growth will be sustained as long as the quality of service performed by the service agencies justifies it. They are fully aware that, should there be a lapse in quality of service, the business may go down the drain. This awareness by the savvy service agencies has created customer loyalty and, as a result, many service agencies are now enjoying heavy repeat business. I learned early in my life as a young entrepreneur that companies live or die from repeat business, it seems that all service agency executives are fully aware of this cardinal rule of business.
UNIQUE APPLICATIONS OF OUTBOUND TELEMARKETING
Given that the service agency executives are regarded as the most knowledgeable people in our industry, I contacted several chief executives of a few companies to discuss new outbound telemarketing applications. Here’s what I discovered.
Jim Eckdahl, assistant vice president of sales for The Signature Group, shared with me the company’s program of “save units.” If a customer wants to cancel an order, the call is not taken by an inbound sales representative; instead, it is routed to an outbound sales rep who is specially trained to resell the product or service or restate the benefits. Jim reports that The Signature Group has saved more than 25 percent of canceled orders by using these “save units.”
Ron Weber, president of Ron Weber and Associates, worked with Prodigy’s interactive computer network to conduct a program to initiate early membership contacts. New Prodigy members were called within weeks after they first logged onto the service. These calls were designed to reinforce the member’s decision to subscribe, and every call reviewed Prodigy’s features and benefits to appeal to the new members of each household. The TSR also had the ability to access Prodigy and log on with the member to work through any problems. The results of this program were decreased cancellation rates and constant updates on how to retain members.
Larry Kaplan, president and CEO of Tele Business USA, espoused the value of fax-on-demand. In a business-to-business scenario, a TSR can fax information to the customer/prospect during the call, allowing the customer/prospect to immediately view the information and make a decision. This application increases sales, and reduces the costs of call-backs and sending information in the mail. It also decreases the cost of returns, as customers can preview a publication and then make a purchasing decision rather than receiving a publication and then canceling the order. Larry believes the future of fax-on-demand is market research; rather than taking the information over the phone, reps can fax the survey and the respondents can fill it out and immediately fax it back.
ADVANCES IN OUTBOUND TECHNOLOGY
I consulted with Aleksander Szlam, president and CEO of Melita International Corporation, about new outbound technology. He stressed the importance of having an integrated inbound/outbound capability, which covers inbound peaks and valleys by matching calls with people, enabling agents to make calls during inbound downtime. According to Aleksander, the results of such a program will be reduced staff size, increased call processing and increased productivity.
He also emphasized the importance of customer care, maintaining that every company’s call system should use ANI and DNIS to instantly identify the call and route it to a knowledgeable sales rep. Also, if a customer makes an inbound call, the system should automatically remove that customer’s name from the outbound list. Similarly, the system should be able to identify when certain customers should not be called; for example, on certain religious holidays.
Bob Kelley, senior vice president, strategic business development of EIS International, noted the important changes in integrating inbound and outbound call center functions. According to Bob, today’s technology is “true CTI:” it uses link facilities to achieve inbound/outbound integration, which allows the dialer to keep doing its job of moving operators into inbound or outbound depending on performance thresholds. When the threshold is exceeded, the system chooses an operator and moves through a CTI command working off an ACD, resulting in very clean integration. Such a program maintains the integrity of reports, and agents can be moved based on a quality setting.
I LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING ALL OF YOU AT TBT(R)
As you’ll see in the attached brochure inserted between pages 72 and 73, the conference program as well as the Exhibit Hall technology showcase at TBT(R) SPRING ’94 promise to make this one of the most comprehensive conventions ever held. We look forward to seeing all of you at TBT(R) SPRING ’94 in Anaheim, May 11 – 13, 1994 to share and exchange ideas and new opportunities for all of us.
Copyright Technology Marketing Corporation Apr 1994
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