What is an outbound call?
Outbound calling is initiated by a call center to a customer. Outbound calls are often referred to as ‘cold calls’. They get this name because customers aren’t warmed up to the interaction before it happens. In a typical scenario, associates will reach out to a list of contacts who haven’t explicitly expressed any intent in purchasing what they are looking to sell.
Outbound calls are focused rather on creating meaningful conversations that increase the level of awareness about products/solutions/services that, in turn, lead to deals getting closed. Examples of such calls include telemarketing, telesales, non-profit fundraising, market research, appointment scheduling, or retention. Mostly focused on revenue generation activities, they also include collections and payments.
There are situations where outbound calls are made for service and support. It can be agents following up on a prior inquiry to provide an update or inform customers about the resolution of their issue. While these interactions are growingly shifted to digital channels and automation, critical activities and proactive outreach such as onboarding or loyalty development have remained through in-person calling.
Outbound calls tend to be sales-y by nature and can constitute make-or-break moments where customers decide if they are interested or not. But, of course, today, agents are better equipped with data powers that provide valuable context and allow them to be relevant. They have access to information that offers insights about customer behavior, sentiments, purchasing history, and more. Hence, when they make a call, they are more in control of the conversation. Today, it is pertinent that outbound call centers are omnichannel, given the explosion of digital channels like chat, emails, and social media. And they must pay equal importance to abide by compliance regulations that restrict the number of calls that can be made and the type of customers who can be contacted.
Tips to improve an outbound call center
Outbound calls are characterized by the broad diversity of their intents. The expected impact can vary too – as outbound calls are triggered to contact existing and prospective customers who need to be targeted differently. For example, an agent could place a call to inform an existing customer about a value add-on service to a product previously purchased. Or an agent could call to remind a prospect about a discount offer about to end. This diversity is making personalization crucial to yield consistent results.
Having said that, there are tips and tricks that can be followed to improve the overall efficiency of your outbound contact center. Here are the 5 tips to improve outbound call centers:
1) Track productivity, outcomes, and experience
As for any other contact center strategy, outbound calling should be tracked using precise and well-defined metrics. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) need to encompass agent productivity, desired outcomes, and the customer experience (CX). A few of such KPIs include:
- Connect Rate – successfully connected calls vs. attempted calls
- Right Party Contact – successfully contacted people
- Average Handling Time
- Conversion Rate – surveys taken, rate of appointments made, number of orders, etc.
- Campaign Penetration – the number of contacts attempted vs. the total number of records in the campaign
- Opt-Out – the number of customers asking to be placed on the do-not-call list
- Customer Sentiment – as surveys are difficult to ask for outbound calls, customer sentiment extracted from recorded calls can provide a good proxy for CX
2) Leverage AI to optimize outbound call centers
Outbound call centers are under pressure to improve agent productivity and increase campaign effectiveness. They are turning to analytics and AI to do it. With AI-powered platforms and tools, outbound call centers can identify the best time to call, the best channel to use, and leverage propensity models to prioritize their outreach. They can also embark on an incremental transformation journey based on their topmost business priorities.
One of the biggest advantages of AI is that it helps unlock the true power of data. After all, call centers have copious amounts of data flowing through their applications and systems. Every single day, it grows in size—thereby requiring cloud and AI software for collecting, storing, analyzing, and transforming them into actionable insights.
Top use cases of AI in outbound call centers:
- Best time to call or contact
- Best channel to use
- Propensity to pay – helps prioritize collections efforts
- Propensity to churn – can trigger re-engagement
- Lead scoring – helps prioritize sales engagement
- Sentiment – equips agents for empathetic conversations
3) Focus on segmentation
Outbound contact centers must deal with two enormous challenges. They need first to be relevant to the persons contacted and personalize their outreach. Second, they must prioritize the lists of contacts to make, always larger than their agent capacity. The solution to both is segmentation. A lot of data about customers is thankfully available. It includes demographic attributes, such as age, as well as psychographic such as lifestyle, and behavioral such as channel preferences. The data reside in a plethora of different systems and need to be assembled into a cohesive data model. This is why you want to consider software with a built-in customer data platform (CDP).
4) Boost agent training with speech analytics and coaching tools
There’s no doubt that outbound call center agents need continuous training and coaching, given the targets that they have to meet in the face of unpredictable customer responses. With speech analytics tools, it becomes much easier to improve agent performance by monitoring and scoring calls. Modern solutions can record and transcribe all the calls and extract relevant signals to guide feedback and coaching. It gives a clear picture of the quality of all interactions by providing structured data points on conversations that took place between agents and customers
What speech analytics can do for outbound contact centers:
- Improve agent productivity and other key contact center metrics
- Unearth customer sentiment
- Record and transcribe all calls
- Uncover the drivers of performance to drive training and coaching
- Surface product or service issues
- Track adherence and compliance
- Develop call scripts and sales guidance
Having solid calling scripts makes a world of difference for outbound call center agents. And what makes scripts powerful is their ability to unravel information that leads to productive conversations. Whether engaging new leads or existing customers, the path to closing a deal starts when the agent can identify their potential before empathizing with their pain points. Outbound calling scripts, while structured, should also be dynamic enough to allow agents to use their soft skills to carry the conversation in a favorable (and natural) manner. For instance, interacting with a gatekeeper is different from talking to a decision-maker. It’s why agents cannot be expected to follow a ‘one-sized fits all’ script.
5) Motivate and reward agents
The ‘Great Resignation’ has propelled the well-being and experience of employees to the top of all managers’ agendas. Keeping the workforce motivated can be challenging, especially in outbound call centers where pressure cooker situations have to be dealt with in real-time. Creating incentive programs like rewards, company recognition, preferential scheduling, or paid time offs can go a long way to encourage agents to improve their performance. It’s also pertinent to help agents further grow their career with professional development programs—besides the regular training sessions. It can help reduce turnover and increase workforce loyalty.
Other tips and tricks to enhance outbound call center efficiency
- Use smart outbound auto dialers (predictive, preview, power, progressive or agentless— depending on business requirements) to streamline calls, achieve lead efficiency, and eliminate silent calls
- Create effective omnichannel outreach strategies by going beyond voice channels and automating engagement workflows
- Connect the right agent with the right customer through skills-based routing or more advanced pairing technologies
- Amplify your speed to lead ratio by immediately connecting with customers after they expressed interest in buying your products or services
- Implement caller ID validation to positively impact contact rates
Implementing the right outbound call management software is also crucial because no amount of internal strategizing can compensate for wrong-fit software! Acqueon provides intelligent conversational engagement products and solutions that enable outbound call centers to connect with customers in a way that makes them feel engaged and cared for. As a result, outbound agents can reach the right customers at the right time through the most effective channels.