Outbound Campaign Design and Management
In much of the literature and industry newsletters focuses on the inbound portion of the call center trade. TRG was recently asked to provide help to someone who was asked to prepare and execute an outbound campaign. Not having done an outbound campaign before he looked for support and advice and found very little. This is strange since most people in the call center trade have done this at one time or another. And for many outbound campaigns formed the most frequent introduction to the trade.
This article focuses on business to business (B2B) calling because fewer people have done B2B and calling consumers involves predictive dialling and other tools and is worthy of a separate article.
Business to business calling has for the last 75 or 80 years included some form of telephone communication. In the last 25 to 30 years these forms have increasingly taken the form of phone rooms, inside sales, sales representatives, service center and a myriad of other euphuisms for getting on the phone and selling someone something.
On the surface this would seem like a no-brainer but it proves the adage “all that is old is new again”.
Outbound campaign management and design is different then inbound. Some might say simpler or less complex. On the surface and from an outside point of view that appears fair. That view does not however reflect the extent of the variables and the probability of success. If it was easy everyone would do it and do it correctly the first time and all campaigns would be successful.
Business to business calling is done for all sorts of purposes. You can: sell beer to pubs, marginal account management, customer satisfaction and other surveys, account or dealer support, service outlying and hard to reach accounts, marketing support, cold call prospecting, lead generation and qualification, data verification, on-going communication (staying in touch), gaining and updating information – aka emails new contacts, multi-step programs etc. If you can think of it, it has likely been done and can be done by phone.
Let’s take a brief general look at what is required for an outbound campaign. The demand and the capacity issues and terms are familiar to anyone in a call center. For an outbound campaign the demand requirements are finite usually known in advance. The demand is the number of records/people/accounts needed to be reached in what time. The capacity is usually flexible to meet whatever demand and campaign requires. This is different from inbound where a precise forecast, educated guess or estimate of the demand is the critical success factor. For outbound you usually know the number of calls required during a limited period. The script is known and can be timed. So the probability of call length varying widely is reduced but not eliminated.
The following estimates provide a high-level capacity requirement.
• Size of the list, number of numbers to be called ÷ percentage of list likely to be reached ÷ reaches per hour = number of calling hours required
• Number of calling hours required ÷ Campaign duration (usually in weeks) =Staff hours per week ÷ FTE or PTE (Full and or Part time staff) =number of staff required.
• Number of calling hours required + (training hours per staff x number of staff required) = total staff hours required.
Key to any outbound campaign success is the list to be called. Good list selection is part science, part art and good judgment. Books have been written on this subject alone. In general the better the list the more success the campaign achieves. For instance calling existing customers capable of buying is better then even good prospects; which are better then suspects; who are in turn better than random selections. For surveys and market research there is an entire science to sample development and selection. In all cases money spent to get the right list and the list right for the purpose is money well spent. List segmentation by and for the purpose of the calling makes the calls more effective and efficient. This is the case regardless of purpose.
It is important to estimate the amount of list penetration required or expected for each campaign. Only a few calls result in reaching the contact the first time. Multiply calls and call backs are needed. For some accounts/people on the list might require a lot of calls to reach them. At some point repeated calling is fruitless. Therefore the following terms will help with setting the expectations:
• 80% penetration means that over campaign the callers reach 80% of the file
• Provide for some percentage of dead or out of service numbers no matter how good the file and excellence of source.
• Reach rate is a function of the number of dials per hour and the number of genuine contacts talked with.
• Qualified contacts are always a subset of those people reached.
• Conversion rate or sometimes called completion rate is the number of qualified contacts who decide to act on whatever caller is calling about.
Telemarketing benefits many direct marketing campaigns and often quickly pays for the added expense by providing greater conversion that just the direct mail by itself. So for instance a mailing to prospects gets an average response of 2%. Following up the mailing with a call to the same prospect base gets a lift of between 3 to 5 time the basic mailing response. This means that instead of just 2% the campaign will generate 6 to 10% response rate. Depending upon the value of the mailing this means that for just a little extra effort a campaign will generate a lot more value and deeper penetration of the market you are going after.
In previous articles about phone selling we have detailed the structure of an outbound sales script and also the variety of forms those scripts and others can take. Script development must conform to the purpose of the call. In market research in order to eliminate bias a word for word script is used and the staff are monitored to ensure they use exactly the wording provided. While in a business to business environment where the purpose is to develop a sales relationship a more free form script performs better. These take the form of script guides and key points to make. The range and difference from the extremely tight script and the open script guide points and all the other forms in between is one area that trips up people new to this trade. Experience with different campaigns results in better judgment of what works in what situation.
The final area for this article is staff. They must be selected with the campaign and its purpose in mind. If all that is required is a read this to them survey then the skills needed are those of attention to detail and adherence to instructions and directions. Provided these people make the number of calls required, follow the script, then not much will go wrong that is not in the campaign design.
For business to business where the calls are designed to generate sales or to gather information the skills required are different. The callers will have to think and respond to a variety of situations that are not always detailed in the script. This can include have to zero out to the operator to find who is in charge of a particular area; or explore with a contact on the phone how to make a sale to their company. This requires a flexibility and understanding that they have to do more than just follow the script.
Outbound campaigns have similar elements to inbound: people, process, purpose and tools. While these appear similar they are used differently and can, in the hands of experienced management, produce remarkable results. Today more than ever outbound calling is an important part of modern sales and marketing. This old tool is as new today as it was when we all got into this trade.
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