Outbound Calling: Past, Present, and Future

By Peter DeHaan, PhD

The most buffeted segment of call center work has been the outbound arena, specifically, consumer calling. With the combined effects of a public outcry against intrusion, political expediency, and the enactment of state and ultimately a national do not call (DNC) law, outbound calling to consumers has, by most all accounts, been devastated. 

Some outsource call centers elected to cease all outbound work, migrating to inbound (thereby diverting work from existing inbound centers, resulting in a smaller slice of the market for inbound centers). Other outbound call centers elected to switch from consumer campaigns to business calling, something to which I can personally attest. 

I am sad to report that these call centers have learned nothing from the motivation behind the DNC legislation. They are employing the same tactics with business calling that caused the downfall of consumer calling. This includes inadequately compiled lists, poorly screened and trained agents, badly written scripts, and overly aggressively dialer settings.  I’m all for a smartly targeted call, dispensing useful and relevant information –- but in my experience, it’s just not happening. 

Too often, I receive inept B2B telemarketing calls. To make matters worse, often the dialing rate is set too tight and I get dead air or am disconnected. It is one thing to be interrupted by a useless phone call, but it is infuriating to be interrupted so that a machine can hang up on me. Outbound call centers need to be careful. The same lackadaisical business practices that resulted in the government regulation and legal restrictions on residential calling could easily be extended to include business numbers.

It appears that these centers are still stuck the old numbers game: if you make enough calls, you are going to get some sales. Their focus is on quantity over quality. I would much rather have an agent who made four quality contacts an hour and close 25%, than an agent who cranked out 20 mediocre calls an hour and closed 5%. The sales number would be the same, but the in the first situation, the agent would be less stressed, the caller parties less frustrated, the quality of the interaction much greater, and fewer people interrupted. Plus, the 75% who didn’t buy would most likely be left with a positive impression of that company, leaving the door open for future sales and referrals.

To personalize George Santayana’s advice, if we don’t learn from history, we will be doomed to repeat it.

[Posted by Peter DeHaan for Connections Magazine, a contact center publication from Peter DeHaan Publishing Inc.]

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