By Matt Harless
Yesterday’s telemarketing campaigns have collided with today’s new regulations. From outsource service agencies to in-house organizations, senior management is restructuring its game plan to meet FTC guidelines. The new “Do Not Call” (DNC) registry has changed the landscape of telemarketing. The challenges are daunting. Consumers who place their names on the registry are off limits and those that have yet to do so are not automatic customers. Yet, business is business and since federal law is federal law, rules must be adhered to strictly. Management must find a way to position their call centers for success. They need to hire better, train better, and stay on top of the rules like never before. Can it be done? Can organizations that rely on telemarketing play within the rules and achieve success? If so, how?
1. Have a game plan: Telemarketing has, since its inception, been an industry of strategy and training. Strategy dictates how a company proactively markets via the telephone. Training dictates how well the people implement the strategy. Under the new regulations, consumers can take themselves off your phone list. Literally, thousands of quality prospects will disappear from your target audience. So, agents need to get better at what they do. If, in the past, your staff converted 11% of their telemarketing calls, today, they may need to convert 22%. If, in the past, your strategy involved “power dialing,” that must change. Today, more than ever before, your strategy must rely on direct mail, E-marketing, print advertising, and other means of direct contact in order to improve the likelihood of success on the telephone. The elements that go into a telemarketing campaign must include a more fully developed strategic marketing program. There is no rule against direct mail. Studies have shown that “warming” the telephone call with direct mail and E-marketing, or other “hot” touches, improves conversion percentages. The money spent on more outbound telemarketing representatives can now be streamlined into money spent on alternative advertising programs.
Your call center, more than ever before, must tie marketing, public relations, sales, and customer service into a full “consumer centric” model. By virtue of the DNC Registry, consumers have become sharper, more discriminating, and clever – and so must you.
2. Hire and script better: Next, you must do a phenomenal job hiring and training. Your agents will make the difference; they must be vetted properly during the interview process. In the old days, sales and perseverance were critical. If an applicant could sell and dial, they were hired! Today, sales and perseverance are joined with sensitivity. Your telemarketing call must become more of a “touch” than a “push.” Finesse will impress your audience. No reason to slam the door and get a sale today. That will only result in a cancelled order and another name on the DNC registry, tomorrow. Instead, build a foundation of trust. Ask questions that involve your audience. Understand their thoughts when it comes to receiving telemarketing calls. Those names not on the DNC registry have not been motivated to do so. They do not have a reason yet; do not give them one.
The hiring program you initiate incorporates two factors. First, you are probably going to hire fewer people. If you have fewer names to call, you need less people to make those calls. Second, you need to do it right the first time. Hiring is expensive. Training is even more expensive. Training the right candidate takes time, energy, and money. From the agent to the trainer to the manager, time and money is invested on your hires.
The script, a staple in telemarketing circles, needs to be revised. Scripts today need fewer one-liners and feature/benefit statements. More needs-based analysis. Less trying to sell your offer, but asking better probing questions. More about proving to the prospect that their decision will not be a loss for them. The millions of consumers who have signed up for the DNC registry have done so because telemarketing has become a “loss factor” in the mind of some consumers. So, the script must become more versatile. Those remaining prospects need to feel that you, and your telemarketing agents, get it. Good selling is asking questions and being sensitive to the prospect as you direct the prospect towards an affirmative decision.
3. Follow the rules: Although intimidating at first, the national DNC registry and its rules are actually quite concise. The key is following them the right way. First, your organization must have an employee dedicated to the DNC registry. Every telemarketing service agency should have a senior employee who has attended seminars, registered at proper websites, and is considered the expert within the organization. In-house departments should immediately find a similar employee to meet these functions. The employee in charge of the DNC registry must register your company at https://telemarketing.donotcall.gov. They must update your telephone prospect list at least once every three months. They must search for and drop from the telemarketing lists the phone numbers of consumers who have registered.
Remember, the DNC registry does not apply to political organizations, charities, or telephone surveyors. Also, your organization may call a consumer with whom you have an established business relationship for up to 18 months after the last contact, such as a payment, delivery, or purchase. If a consumer provides written permission, your organization may call. If a consumer makes an inquiry or submits an application to your organization, you may also call for up to three months.
The most important rule to follow is the rule of consistency. Your organization must have in-house policies and procedures guidelines. You must follow them to a tee. Document any complaints from customers and bring it to the attention of your key employee responsible for managing the DNC registry. Prepare a caller resolution policy. This will show your client, the employees in your call center, and the FTC your proactive willingness to abide by the DNC law.
Lastly, prepare an internal DNC registry, separate from the list you maintain from the national DNC registry. Remember, state and local laws still apply. So does good business. Your organization must oblige callers that ask you to take their names off your database, even if they have not registered with the national DNC registry.
Telemarketing is going through more changes today then ever before. That is because organizations have abused their privilege and consumers have won their battle to stop telemarketing calls if they choose. Telemarketing is today and will be tomorrow, a noble effort when done well. There are plenty of consumers who purchase products and services over the telephone. There are several quality organizations that offer terrific products and services. Taking the time to build a strategic program to bring buyer and seller together is critical. When implemented effectively, it is a win-win for everybody.
Matt Harless is Vice President of Sales for PhoneWare, located in San Diego, CA. PhoneWare is a service agency with expertise in outbound and inbound sales and customer care campaigns. Contact Matt at 800-243-8329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
DNC Success Summary
1) Organizations can succeed in telemarketing if they hire better, train better, and follow the rules as established by the national DNC law.
2) Develop a strategy that relies on better hiring, training and scripting.
3) A successful marketing program must rely less on “power dialing” and more on a blend of direct mail, E-marketing, print advertisements, and telemarketing.
4) Hire better. Today, an applicant must have sales, perseverance, and sensitivity skills.
5) Implement better sales training. Finesse, not feature and benefit statements, will impress your audience. Build a foundation of trust.
6) The national DNC registry and its rules are concise. Follow the program carefully and be consistent in its implementation.
[From Connection Magazine – March 2005]