Tag Archives: Call Center Management Articles

How to Write an Outbound Telemarketing Script



By Julie Kramme

So, you’ve decided to use outbound calling as part of your sales and marketing strategy. You’ve acquired a list of prospects to call, and you know what you want the outcome of those calls to be. Now you need to develop a message for your telemarketing staff to effectively convey on your behalf. You need a telemarketing script. But what does that look like?

What Should a Telemarketing Script Include?

For some call center agents, a traditional script that tells your agent what you want to say and how you want them to say it works well—especially for those who are new and still building confidence. The challenge with traditional scripting is that with time and repetition, message delivery can get a bit stale. How can we prevent this? Through training and motivation, of course! But that’s not the only way.

Carefully consider your wording to avoid sounding too rigid or too official early in the conversation. Click To Tweet

When to Consider Eliminating the Telemarketing Script

The key to ensuring long-term effectiveness of your outbound telemarketing script may be to eliminate the script. Instead of writing paragraphs for agents to read, consider developing an outline or road map that provides directional conversation and key talking points to assist the agent in accomplishing their objective. Doing so allows the agent to insert their personality, use their own words, and build credibility with the prospect.

Using talking points works particularly well with lead generation, sales, and recruitment calls. But in other scenarios, such as market research and survey calls, where it’s important to eliminate personal opinions or bias, a traditional script may be necessary. So be open to both methods. Regardless of which approach you take, include the following components to ensure long-term effectiveness of your outbound telemarketing script.

Eight Components of an Outbound Telemarketing Script

1. Introduction: When making an outbound call, getting your “foot in the door” can be the biggest hurdle. Utilizing an effective call introduction is key. Keep it short: Who are you? Why are you calling? Why should the prospect listen?

2. Transition Statements: Be mindful of your prospect’s time, and be aware that your call interrupted their day. Use transition statements to set expectations and to maintain call control while moving from one phase of the conversation to the next.

3. Discovery: Learning about your prospect’s needs is the key to winning their business. Take a minute to ask them a few simple questions about what they’re doing today, what they like about it, and what they don’t. Use a combination of open- and close-ended questions to ensure qualification and get your prospect talking so you can build rapport.

4. Presentation: When presenting an offer, keep it concise. Clearly outline the key details of your proposal, and don’t forget to apply what you learned during the discovery phase of the conversation. Always tie your prospect’s needs back to a feature that provides benefit to them. Verbalizing these value statements is the key to generating interest and buy-in.

5. Assumptive Close: Be confident in your offering. If you’re setting an appointment, go ahead and ask what time of day works best for your prospect. If you’re selling a paid service, ask what method of payment they’d like to use to complete their order today. Until the prospect gives you a reason to believe they’re not interested, always assume a positive outcome.

6. Confirmation/Recap: Take a moment to confirm your prospect’s contact info and ensure they understand their level of commitment, along with any actions they must take. Then set expectations for the next steps. For example, when setting an appointment, let your prospect know that they’ll be getting an email confirmation, and schedule appointments within reasonable time frames to ensure follow through.

7. FAQs/Rebuttals: This is the most important component of any telemarketing script. Answering questions and overcoming objections is often the most difficult step for any telemarketing agent to master. Always remember that knowledge is power. Arm your team with the necessary tools to complete their objective successfully. Anticipate common questions and objections, providing talking points to help agents over these hurdles.

8. Compliance: Always make sure your telemarketing script includes any language that is a legal requirement, such as disclosing that you’re calling on a recorded line. Make this verbiage stand out so that it’s not easily overlooked. Also, carefully consider your wording to avoid sounding too rigid or too official early in the conversation, as this can make prospects wary about the call.

Listening Skills and a Positive Attitude Make the Difference

Two additional components are vital to the long-term effectiveness of your telemarketing script: a listening ear and a positive attitude. An agent’s ability to listen to their prospect and stay upbeat has more impact on the long-term success of your program than any scripted component. In a job full of repetition and rejection, this is a challenge. 

Work with other leaders on your team to apply this information. These telemarketing script components, when combined with effective training, motivational leadership, and responsible quality assurance practices, are sure to make your program a success, now and in the future.

Julie Kramme leads the sales team as sales executive for Quality Contact Solutions. Julie has a record for building strong and lasting partnerships with each client she works with. With more than twenty years of call center and telemarketing industry experience, Julie is an expert in call center operations, regulatory compliance, and technology. She assists each client with creating customized solutions to meet their growth and customer engagement goals. Julie’s primary passion is achieving goals without sacrificing quality.

Five Call Center Improvements Patients Say Would Improve Healthcare Experiences



By Allison Hart

From clinical process enhancements to facility improvements, there are many ways to drive better healthcare experiences for patients. One key area is call center optimization. More than one in three healthcare providers say their organization is updating their contact center or has plans to do so in the near future. Making call center upgrades doesn’t have to be difficult to have an impact. Healthcare teams just need to know what patients want and expect when they call.

Are patients frustrated by having to wait on hold? Are they satisfied with the interactions they have with call center agents? West surveyed 1,036 adults and healthcare providers in the United States to find out and identify ways healthcare organizations can provide better experiences for patients calling contact centers.

Survey responses confirmed that patients want calls resolved quickly and easily with minimal transfers and holds. Many will use self-service features, but they expect live agent availability to answer questions and make recommendations based on their individual medical data and needs. 

The following recommendations—which are driven by this survey data—show five call center improvements patients want healthcare organizations to prioritize.

Ideally, organizations will have their contact center technology connected to electronic health records, their patient web portal, and other systems that house patient information. Click To Tweet

1. Eliminate Extra Steps During Calls

Patients are frustrated by how often their calls are redirected. Callers want to reach a resolution in the fewest possible steps, but they’re often transferred multiple times and asked to restate information to several people during a single call. According to providers, more than one-third (35 percent) of patient calls are redirected at least once.

To create a better experience for callers, healthcare teams can make call center improvements that enable them to route calls to the correct place on the first try. For example, hospitals and health systems can adopt intelligent call routing software with speech recognition features so callers can specify what they need and who they want to speak with. Healthcare organizations can also interconnect their phone systems so calls can be transferred anywhere within their organization. This saves staff from having to ask patients to hang up and dial a different number to reach a different department.

2. Create a Single Point of Contact

Some patients struggle even before they pick up the phone because they don’t know which number to call or who they need to speak with. Dialing the wrong number can lead to confusion and frustration for both patients and staff, as well as making calls last longer than necessary. Nearly three in five of those surveyed (59 percent) say they have trouble understanding which phone number to use to contact their healthcare provider. More troubling is the fact that 28 percent of patients have called their healthcare team and been unable to reach the correct person or department.

Eight in ten Americans (80 percent) want to be able to call a single person dedicated to their health. Hospitals and health systems can give callers a better experience by upgrading to a centralized phone system and routing all calls through one main line. Doing this relieves patients from navigating complex call structures. It gives them one clear point of entry with one phone number they can call to reach anyone within an organization—whether they know who they are looking for or not.

3. Minimize On-Hold Time

Americans don’t like waiting on hold, and many patients feel they do too much of it when they call healthcare organizations. Fifty-three percent of patients report having been put on hold for a long period of time or without a callback option. Providers may be underestimating how much patients are bothered by having to wait and how much time patients spend on hold. Only 29 percent of healthcare providers think patients who call their office are put on hold for an excessive amount of time, confirming a disconnect between what patients and providers deem as an acceptable wait time.

To ensure that patients feel their time is valued, healthcare organizations can take steps to reduce the amount of time patients spend on hold. For example, hospitals and health systems can give patients the option of receiving a callback so they spend less time waiting on the phone. This shows that providers respect patients’ time, and it lets patients choose whether they want to wait to speak with a healthcare professional.

4. Equip Staff with Patient Medical Information

Patients want to feel known by their healthcare team. They want staff members to have knowledge of their health history and be able to answer questions and make recommendations. Unfortunately, 63 percent of patients say the person they reach when they call their provider doesn’t have access to their medical information and therefore can’t provide personalized recommendations. In addition, nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of callers say they haven’t been able to get their questions answered during calls.

To ensure that patients get the help they need, healthcare organizations can make sure technology gives staff quick access to patient data. This will help them better support callers with tailored information. It also will reassure patients that their medical team understands them on an individual basis. Ideally, organizations will have their contact center technology connected to electronic health records, their patient web portal, and other systems that house patient information.

5. Offer Smart Self-Service Opportunities

Patients recognize that sometimes the simplest route to a resolution is through self-service. So, it’s not surprising that nearly six in ten patients (58 percent) say they want healthcare providers to offer self-serve options to complete actions such as paying bills and scheduling appointments. To get the most out of self-service technology, healthcare teams should make sure their system is configured to recognize when inbound calls are coming from phone numbers that have recently received automated outreach messages.

For example, if a provider sends an automated message to a patient with an invitation to schedule a preventive service or screening and the patient calls into the organization, the system should recognize the number and predict the caller’s intention. In this case, the system would ask the patient if he or she is calling to schedule an appointment and then walk the patient through the self-service scheduling process. By using smart technology and giving patients opportunities to resolve calls on their own, organizations can give callers better experiences.

Conclusion

Healthcare organizations put a lot of time and resources into designing top-notch patient experiences. It makes sense to have call center optimization be part of those efforts. By following these suggestions, healthcare teams can deliver on expectations and create better experiences for callers.

Allison Hart is an advocate for utilizing technology-enabled communications to engage and activate patients beyond the clinical setting. She leads thought leadership efforts for West’s TeleVox Solutions, promoting the idea that engaging with patients between healthcare appointments in meaningful ways will encourage and inspire them to follow and embrace treatment plans, and that activating these positive behaviors ultimately leads to better outcomes for both healthcare organizations and patients. Hart currently serves as vice president of marketing at West, where the healthcare mission is to help organizations harness communications to expand the boundaries of where, when, and how healthcare is delivered.

Combatting the Top Reasons for Agent Churn

By Jeff Gallino



Agent churn is one of the most challenging issues for call centers throughout every industry. According to research conducted by the Quality Assurance & Training Connection (QATC), the average annual turnover rate for contact center agents is between 30 to 45 percent, more than double the average for other occupations. In major population centers, it is not unusual for attrition to exceed 100 percent and sometimes even 200 percent. 

With agents being a crucial contact point in the customer journey, this problem has the power to seriously affect a brand’s reputation and bottom line, as seasoned agents with experience and skill under their belt are rare. It’s an expensive problem to have, too, with the average expense for onboarding a new agent costing an organization thousands of dollars.

Agent churn may be one of the most challenging issues for today’s call centers, but there’s no mystery behind why employees are leaving. Click To Tweet

We need a proactive approach in a few key areas for supervisors to churn-proof their call centers. Through understanding the top reasons why many agents decide to leave, leaders can fix turnover triggers and create a place that supports the most valuable customer experience possible.

A Lack of Objective Evaluation and Positive Recognition

As a call center manager, one of the most important aspects of the role is to provide fair, consistent evaluations and objective feedback to agents. However, agents often only receive feedback when its negative, it’s usually delayed, and sometimes it’s subjective rather than objective due to being based on only a fraction of calls. This can create animosity and confusion between managers and agents, driving feelings of unfair treatment or unappreciation on the agent’s side and often clouding the path to performance improvements.

There’s a world of value in providing real-time, objective, data-driven feedback. Recognition goes a long way as well. With speech analytics, call centers can analyze every phone call, painting a much more accurate picture of an agent’s performance versus only analyzing 5 percent of their calls. And with automated scorecards, agents receive an objective score based on criteria established by team leaders as soon as the call is complete—or even during a call— making feedback timely, fair, and objective.

This timely and relevant feedback allows agents to reflect on their performance immediately and work to improve their next call, giving employees the power to self-coach and determine for themselves where they need to seek additional learning. These scorecards also make it possible for managers to recognize agents for successful engagements and positively reinforce good work, commitment, and motivation.

Tools Don’t Help Agents Succeed, but They Do Cause Stress 

A call agent handles between forty and fifty calls per day on average—managing hundreds of problems, concerns, and situations during a given week. And that’s why so many call centers are turning to tech to help their agents sift through information and help each customer as quickly and efficiently as possible.

But according to Gartner, 84 percent of agents say that their company’s legacy tools are not helpful to them in resolving customer queries. In fact, when they have the customer on the line, agents must navigate an average of 8.2 applications to get answers and resolve problems.

Companies should upgrade to tech that is designed to make both the customer’s and the agent’s lives easier. Technology should help agents capture conversational topics and integrate with other systems and tools to allow them to quickly identify repeat contacts and be best prepared to address issues. 

Since call centers also tend to utilize several databases to manage customer information (sales software, CRM, a knowledge center, and so forth), this slows down an agent’s ability to help customers while searching for answers. Managers can simplify their agents’ work by investing in tools that work across databases and feed relevant information and valuable insights into one manageable dashboard.

Repetitive, Mundane Tasks Make Agents Feel Bored and Replaceable

High levels of monotony lead to agent turnover, which is why call centers should strive to empower agents with meaningful decisions and tasks. Automating the tedious jobs that take up much of an agent’s day can free them up to focus on more fulfilling work.

According to Forrester, by reducing routine calls, data entry, report preparation, transaction details, system navigation, logs, and documentation, agents can focus on tasks that deliver personalized experiences for customers. Through implementing AI-powered speech analytics, agents can move away from those monotonous tasks and focus on duties that drive growth and fulfillment. These include creative problem solving for unique situations, showing personality and empathy, becoming better product experts, and focusing on weak spots for a potential promotion or advancement.

Agent churn may be one of the most challenging issues for today’s call centers, but there’s no mystery behind why employees are leaving. Through understanding the top reasons for turnover, call center managers can adjust their strategy to accommodate the needs of agents while creating an environment that they want to be part of. It’s important to remember that feedback is meaningful when it’s given correctly, the right tools go a long way, and fulfillment is an important factor to any human’s happiness, even at work.

Jeff Gallino is the CTO and founder of CallMiner.

How to Enhance the Customer Experience



Pursue Big-Picture Solutions, Not Incremental Improvements

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan-customer experience

There’s a lot of talk about customer experience and ways to enhance it. Though this is the right outcome, too often the approach to get there is shortsighted. Making incremental changes to improve one metric may help a bit, but how many metrics must you improve and by how much for the customer to realize an enhanced experience? And how much stress will your frontline staff endure to get there?

Instead of focusing on the minutia of data that call center systems are so good at producing, take a step back and address big-picture issues. These will have the greatest impact on improving customer experience. And the side effect of these changes will make it easier, not harder, for your staff to do their job with excellence.

Integrate Isolated Repositories of Information

How many places do you store customer data and the information your staff needs to serve callers? How easy is it for agents to get all relevant information displayed on a single monitor—or even two?

Ideally you want everything in one place, in a unified database. However, sometimes this isn’t feasible. In those instances, it’s critical to be able to seamlessly move from one to the other. Consider how often customer service representatives give wrong information simply because they aren’t looking in the right place.

Integrating or interconnecting databases for seamless customer experience is something for vendors to accomplish; it’s too complex for end-users to solve. However, investigate whether your implementation of your vendor’s solutions hampers your team from fully using the tools you already have. Sometimes the solution is there, but you can’t tap into its power because of how you deployed it.

When agents can’t serve customers to the best of their ability and keep those customers happy, you end up losing those customers’ business. Click To Tweet

Remove Internal Silos of Control

Many companies operate as a group of disengaged fiefdoms. This occurs in departments such as operations, marketing, sales, accounting, tech support, and so forth. When management measures each department head for that unit’s individual performance, disconnected from the company’s overall objectives, the result is managers doing what is in the best interest of themselves, their job, and their staff. Customer needs and the overall good of the company comes in second. 

To correct this, deemphasize—but don’t eliminate—individual department objectives and performance incentives. Instead elevate company-wide results and the way in which each department plays a role to achieve those objectives. 

For example, companies are in business to make money, regardless of what their corporate vision and mission statement affirm. Look at how each department contributes to this, either directly or indirectly. It comes down to two activities: how much money they spend and what they do to drive revenue. It’s true that there are secondary metrics, often unique to each unit, that affect this. But to remove internal silos of control in your company, downplay the importance of the specific measurements and instead look at overall company metrics.

Empower Agents So They Can Best Serve Customers

Everyone knows to empower frontline people. However, this is easier to say than to do. It’s hard to let entry-level employees make decisions that cost money. Yet prohibiting them from doing so has an even worse result: it costs customers.

When agents can’t serve customers to the best of their ability and keep those customers happy, you end up losing those customers’ business, both now and in the future. Yes, sometimes empowered agents go overboard and make ill-advised decisions. Although undesirable, wouldn’t it be better for them to do that than being prohibited from doing what’s right for the customer, thus losing those customers?

Integrate Communications Channels

With omnichannel, the goal is to provide contact options for customers. Again, this requires sophisticated technology from vendors. Yet as end-users of contact center platforms, make sure that your implementation of the technology doesn’t interfere with your ability to use it to its fullest and enjoy integrated communications channels.

Final Thoughts

These are big-picture considerations. You won’t solve them quickly or easily, but you must pursue them if you want to provide the customer experience that callers expect—a customer experience that will retain them as your customers and not your competitors’.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

Three Hosted Services Considerations

By Bill Curtin, IV



With many advances in communications technology come changes in the call center industry. These advances allow the use of remote agents and the opportunity to downsize pricey office space. Some call centers are now 100 percent virtual. These changes enable vendors to offer fully hosted solutions, off-site backup, and co-location solutions.

1. A Fully Hosted Solution 

With a fully hosted call center, you can service customers without purchasing a system. Phone calls arrive at the switch, agents process the calls, and they deliver messages as needed. At the end of the month, your billing application prints the invoices. This sounds ideal, but getting to this point takes effort.

A fully hosted solution can reduce call center responsibilities by not having to maintain or worry about software and hardware. But in most cases, a fully hosted solution will have a higher total cost of ownership than a purchased solution. There is also the intangible cost of less control. While there are no more urgent trips to the office to fix system problems, you are now reliant on the sense of urgency of others.

You need to find a hosted solution provider who will be a good business partner and is willing to work with you to address your customers’ needs. With this model, your business continuity plan is a joint venture between you and your hosting provider.

Also, if your call center processes protected health information (PHI) you will need to have proper agreements in place with your hosting provider for this confidential information.

The biggest challenge in co-locating your data center is finding the right partner. Click To Tweet

Depending on how you structure your hosted solution, there are many ways to lower the cost. You may need fewer technical staff to support a hosted system, but there remains a need for technical support for on-premises workstations, phone lines, and internet connectivity.

Before signing a hosted solution contract, identify every piece of hardware the call center’s data will touch. Also identify all hardware that is not redundant or shared, along with all hardware dedicated to your solution. If the solution has nonredundant or shared hardware, this could impact the quality of service.

Likewise, identify every circuit that data travels over. All phone lines should travel on SONET (Synchronous Optical Networking) rings, and all internet connections should use border gateway protocol to freely access multiple internet providers. Phone calls should only travel on the PSTN or on an MPLS network, and never over the internet. 

Most importantly, check references before signing any agreement. A good reference check contains questions that address level of service, technical support responses, and interactions with the hosting facility’s billing department.

2. Off-Site or Hosted Backup Solution

For call centers that are happy with their on-premise solutions, there are still ways technology advances can improve call center reliability and potentially reduce costs.

By creating an off-site backup system in a geographically diverse location, call centers can protect themselves from unforeseen local problems, thus preventing a situation in which a call center can’t take calls for hours or days. 

Call centers with multiple locations can create off-site backup solutions at their other offices. For single-location call centers, consider working with another trusted call center, so that both call centers can provide emergency backup service to the other.

Another solution is to contact your switch vendor about hosted backup solutions. Vendors that have infrastructure in place for their own systems could also host or co-locate a backup solution.

When creating an off-site backup solution, coordinate with your telephony provider. Many providers have options to forward calls to another number in the event of a service outage. And SIP providers can forward telephone calls to another IP address on an MPLS network or sometimes even an IP address.

The challenge with off-site backup solutions is finding the best solution to protect your business needs while keeping the costs in check.

3. A Co-Located Call Center 

Lastly, consider co-locating your system at a data center. This will improve the reliability of your telephone, internet connectivity, and electrical power.

When using a telephony solution at a data center, be sure your telephony provider delivers a “meet me” telephone line. This line terminates at the phone company’s central office, and the data center provides the information to connect the phone line to its SONET ring. The data center then runs the phone connection into your rack.

The biggest challenge in co-locating your data center is finding the right partner. Data centers come in all configurations and prices. When looking at co-locating your system, check with your system provider. Call center solution providers that offer hosted solutions will have the resources to co-locate your hardware and fully support your system.

Amtelco

Bill Curtin IV is corporate IS/IT manager for Amtelco and manages the three data centers that Amtelco uses to provide customer solutions.

Telemarketing Appointment Setting Best Practices: Part 3



By Angela Garfinkel

In Part 1 of “Telemarketing Appointment Setting Best Practices,” we discussed how to maximize the appointment kept rate when conducting telemarketing appointment setting. In addition, we introduced the six primary components of a successful telemarketing appointment setting program.

In Part 2, we discussed how to write an effective script that delivers a powerful nutshell message with a clear WIIFM (What’s In It for Me?).

All outbound telemarketing appointment setting professionals know that the third key component of success is the list you’re calling. In Part 3 of this series on telemarketing appointment setting, I’ll share my experience with curating the best outbound call list. Because my primary list purchase experience is in B2B appointment setting, I’ll focus there.

Because NAICS is more specific than SIC codes, we prefer to purchase outbound telemarketing call lists using NAICS. Click To Tweet

What Makes a Good List?

How do you identify what list to purchase? If you already have existing customers for your product or service, start by identifying what characteristics make up your best ones. Pinpointing your best customers and their similar characteristics become your criteria for purchasing prospect data from which to make outbound telemarketing appointment setting calls.

In the US there are about fifteen million businesses. There are many different list companies that will sell you business data, but knowing which segment(s) of the fifteen million businesses you should target is critical.

Here are some common B2B list selection variables:

• SIC (Standard Industrial Classification)
• NAICS (North American Industry Classification System)
• Revenues
• Number of employees
• Geography, typically by Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)
• Type of location (single, headquarters, branch)
• Credit rating
• Holding status (private, public)

Because NAICS is more specific than SIC codes, we prefer to purchase outbound telemarketing call lists using NAICS. This allows us to narrow the list to ensure we aren’t purchasing data that isn’t applicable for a client. For example, a travel solutions client is looking for businesses that have employees who travel. One of our good segments is construction. The NAICS code for construction starts with 23. We know that purchasing all available data with a NAICS code that starts with 23 is a waste of money. By narrowing it down to the type of construction, we can get better results. Single family home construction companies (NAICS 236115) don’t tend to have employees who travel. Specialized large project construction companies (such as NAICS 236210) tend to have employees who do travel. They go where the work is because large projects often aren’t in the geographic region where the construction company is located. This is just one example.

Create a Model, Validate, and Test

Once you’ve identified your best customers, purchased a list of more prospects that have the same characteristics as your best customers (called a look-alike model), then start placing calls. As you get call result data (disposition data) from the outbound B2B telemarketing appointment setting campaign, feed the results back to your data scientists to validate the model. Then tweak the model based on real performance.

Expertise Is Invaluable

Depending on the size of your company, it may even make sense to hire a list analyst to work full-time on developing your prospecting list. The alternative is relying on account reps from the list companies you purchase from. Their experience can be varied, and their ambition of selling you a larger list doesn’t necessarily align with your objective of buying just enough of the right list to achieve your goals.

If you could increase your telemarketing appointment set percentage by even a small amount, what would that be worth to you? List acquisition is a specialized field, and the options are varied. As a rule of thumb, we like to purchase data from compiled resources such as D&B, InfoUSA, and Accudata. Knowing who you want to target with your calling effort, knowing the results of the calls, and tracking performance by list segment will help drive smarter list acquisition efforts.

Angela Garfinkel is the president and founder of Quality Contact Solutions (https://qualitycontactsolutions.com), a leading outsourced telemarketing services organization serving the healthcare, financial services, automotive, market research, professional associations, and other B2B focused verticals. Angela leads a talented team that runs thousands of outbound telemarketing program hours daily. She is also a certified Self-Regulatory Organization (SRO) auditor with the Professional Association for Customer Engagement, and she is a designated Customer Engagement Compliance Professional (CECP). Contact Angela at angela.garfinkel@qualitycontactsolutions.com or 516-656-5118.

Innovation Enhances the Cloud-Based Contact Center Infrastructure Market



By Donna Fluss

The past year was excellent for the cloud-based contact center infrastructure (CBCCI) market. DMG had projected that the market would grow by 22 percent in 2017, and the actual growth rate was 25.4 percent. Most of the sales were to existing contact centers whose management made the decision to migrate to the cloud. The introduction of contact center platforms from companies such as Amazon and Twilio also contributed to the growth of the market.

DMG remains bullish on this IT market, particularly now that we see some of the larger contact centers either moving to the cloud (albeit not all their seats at once) or considering a move. DMG expects the market to grow at a minimum of 23 percent in 2019 and 2020, and 21 percent in 2021 and 2022.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is another valuable tool, relieving contact center agents of repetitive, noncognitive tasks, including the time-consuming processes required for compliance with two-factor authentication. Click To Tweet

Adoption Rate for the CBCCI Segment

The adoption rate of the cloud-based contact center infrastructure market as of the end of 2017 was 14.1 percent. This includes hosted and software as a service (SaaS), up from 11.4 percent at the end of 2016. Assuming an average cost per seat of 125 dollars per month, this is already a 4.1 billion dollars market. The amount of 125 dollars per seat per month takes into consideration implementation, professional services, and add-ons such as WFO.

Differentiation Drives the Market Forward

CBCCI vendors have begun to differentiate themselves with innovative routing capabilities that can optimize the outcome of each interaction. Incoming transactions in any channel can be evaluated and directed to the agent or advisor ideally suited to handle the issue. The result is higher sales rates, larger collections, and greatly improved customer service.

At the same time, this enhances productivity, as inbound agents benefit from guidance and recommendations on handling transactions as they occur, without having to spend as much time researching the customer’s background and the context of the inquiry. The solutions also help organizations comply with various governmental regulations for required disclosures and prohibited activities during agents’ conversations with customers.

Artificial Intelligence Enhances Contact Centers

Artificial intelligence (AI) is having a profound effect on the CBCCI market. Customers show a preference for self-service, and AI-enabled intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) are playing a vital role in addressing the self-service challenge. IVAs can automatically verify callers and allow customers to ask questions in their own words. IVAs also support seamless migration from one channel to another and provide agents with information from diverse online sources to optimize and personalize each interaction and make the most of each sales opportunity.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is another valuable tool, relieving contact center agents of repetitive, noncognitive tasks, including the time-consuming processes required for compliance with two-factor authentication. This gives agents more time to spend on resolving customers’ issues, enhancing their job satisfaction as well as customer experience.

Contact Center Infrastructure Platforms Are Game Changers

Contact center infrastructure platform vendors are having a positive and disruptive impact on the CBCCI market. The new paradigm of “platform as a service” allows for the quick creation and deployment of customized solutions. Application programming interfaces (APIs) facilitate the build-out of functional capabilities rapidly and easily.

What’s Next?

The advantages of hosted/SaaS applications in the cloud are no longer the sole value proposition for buying a CBCCI solution. The CBCCI solutions are compelling because vendors are delivering outstanding and differentiated capabilities, either natively, by acquisition, or through integrations with best-of-breed providers.

During 2019, more contact center systems will incorporate AI, machine learning, and natural language understanding and processing (NLU/NLP). This will present companies with an opportunity to vastly improve their performance and gain insights into customer needs. The use of robotic process automation (RPA) and IVAs will enhance the customer and agent experience. The next few years will be exciting as market innovation enables companies to start delivering the personalized service their customers expect.

Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting LLC. For more than two decades, she has helped to emerge and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary, author, and speaker, Donna drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the services industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community.

Caught in the Cross Fire: Contact Rates Continue to Decline



By Dean Garfinkel

A recent initiative launched by the FCC called Robocall Call Processing (RCP) was intended to combat illegal robo-calls. Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of RCP is the accidental blocking of legitimate calls from companies trying to reach their customers via an outbound phone call. In fact, as an industry, we’re seeing an approximate 30 percent decrease in outbound call answer rates within the last nine to twelve months.

What Outbound Call Centers Should Know About RCP

I recommend a more tailored approach called “personalized calling strategies.” These are program-specific strategies intentionally designed to mitigate the effects of RCP and maximize answer rates Click To Tweet

The RCP initiative gives carriers the power to “block or label” any call on their network that they believe to be unwanted or a robocall. Carriers rely on data provided by unregulated third-party analytics companies to identify these types of calls on their network. The practice of blocking or labeling occurs when a carrier opts to block a call from ringing on their customer’s phone or replaces the caller ID name display with an arbitrary label, such as “Scam Likely” or “Robocaller.”

The RCP initiative does not require transparency from carriers, which means you’ll never know, or receive notification, when an outbound caller’s calls are blocked or potentially mislabeled. In some cases, carriers are returning false busy signals and network congestion signals or even routing calls directly to a recipient’s voicemail.

RCP does not hold the carriers and analytic companies accountable. So with a mislabeled or incorrectly blocked call, it’s impossible to pinpoint the provider responsible, since most calls involve multiple carriers: the originating carrier, the transit carrier, and the terminating carrier. In addition, it’s not feasible to get your caller ID numbers correctly labeled or unblocked, since there is no designated point of contact.

In addition, the FCC has given carriers and analytics companies unwarranted discretion over what constitutes an unwanted or robocall without requiring standardization. This often results in mislabeling or blocking important calls from companies trying to reach their customers, as well as significant inconsistencies across carriers.

These unfair practices cost outbound contact centers significantly, especially when you consider the time and resources spent by agents redialing numbers that get the same result: a busy signal.

What Outbound Call Centers Can Do to Protect Themselves

In the new era of RCP, the old tactics used by outbound call centers are even less effective, such as rotating or swapping out numbers in wholesale. The old tactics don’t address the technology that is driving RCP and therefore, they don’t offer protection.

To address this, I recommend a more tailored approach called “personalized calling strategies.” These are program-specific strategies intentionally designed to mitigate the effects of RCP and maximize answer rates. When implemented correctly, they offer the best protection I’ve seen.

Briefly, a good personalized calling strategy contains four steps:

  1. Evaluate how many phone numbers in your outbound call list are in each state or area code. Try to minimize the number of dials to a single area code or calling area when possible. Analytics companies look at the volume of calls you’re placing to an area’s telephone subscriber base.
  2. Look to see if your caller ID numbers have any complaints. Complaints to the FCC, FTC, or state agencies, as well as negative postings on social media, are public information and can be used against you.
  3. Make sure the phone number you’re using for caller ID is a real phone number. It seems basic, but it’s something you should double-check. Be sure you answer the incoming calls too; this will help minimize complaints.
  4. Look at your outbound calling pattern and minimize retries to the same phone numbers within a short period of time. The best practice is to establish a maximum attempt rule by day, by week, and by campaign.

Work to Establish a Fair Playing Field

Until we agree upon a universal definition and approach to nuisance calls, RCP will continue to foster an environment where inconsistency across carriers and significant errors are inevitable and acceptable. PACE (Professional Association for Customer Engagement), a leading force behind the Communication Protection Coalition (CPC), hosts quarterly meetings dedicated to combating robocalls.

CPC meeting attendees represent all industry stakeholders, including carriers, analytic companies, relevant associations, and contact centers. While representatives from the FCC continue to attend these meetings, they do so simply as observers. As an industry with so much at stake, we need to continue to proactively work through the CPC to ensure that our voice is heard.

For more information, visit http://www.paceassociation.org/coalition.

Dean Garfinkel is the president of Quality Voice & Data, a leading enhanced telecom solutions provider to the telemarketing and call center industry. Dean’s passion for creating value-added solutions for his clients has resulted in numerous solutions that are industry-standard and used by most Fortune 500 call centers and their call center vendor partners. Reach Dean at dean@qualityvoicedata.com or 516-656-5115.

Overcoming Call Reluctance, Part One



By Kathy Sisk

Whether you are a trainer, manager, owner, or a telemarketer, call reluctance—the struggle to make phone calls—has been an issue we all have dealt with. Call reluctance is more prevalent with newly recruited telemarketers and companies who are servicing multiple projects, such as third-party service agencies (call centers). With today’s progressive telemarketing environment and the increased career opportunities this industry has to offer, it is extremely crucial to understand what call reluctance is, why it happens, and how to provide practical solutions to overcome it.

Call reluctance is a concern for many call centers, and yet the solution is simple. To overcome call reluctance, you first need to identify the source of where it is coming from. Each year I visit various companies and conduct call center assessments. Most of my assessments have been able to identify two primary weaknesses that need greater attention.

The Agent’s Perspective

First, there is not enough focus on the three primary fears newly hired telemarketers have when they are prospecting for the first time on any given account.

These three fears are:

  1. How do I approach the prospect?
  2. What do I say during my presentation?
  3. When the prospect objects or resists me, how do I remain in control?

If not properly trained, the agent’s productivity will continue to be affected by these fears, the call center will experience high turnover, and the company’s bottom line will spiral down. However, agents can gain greater control of this problem by first identifying the sources of call reluctance, and then developing proven techniques to overcome it.

It is extremely crucial to understand what call reluctance is, why it happens, and how to provide practical solutions to overcome it. Click To Tweet

The Prospect’s Perspective

The second weakness parallels the agent’s three fears, but this time it focuses on the prospect. The key to prospecting is the relationship we develop with our prospects. Part of this relationship is understanding that prospects also have three primary fears they must identify and overcome. The prospect’s three fears also exist in the face-to-face selling arena, but the field salesperson has greater control as opposed to the agent who is prospecting over the telephone.

Next time I will share the three primary fears your prospects have when making outbound calls.

Kathy Sisk Enterprises Inc. has forty years of experience providing call center setup, reengineering, assessments, training, script development, and project management services to centers globally.

MiSecureMessages Secure Messaging App 4.2.0 for iOS/Apple Devices

Amtelco released version 4.2.0 of the miSecureMessages secure messaging app, which businesses and healthcare enterprises use for secure communications. Version 4.2.0 features enhanced functionality with Apple Watch. Apple Watch Series 3 and 4 users with Watch OS 5 or later can read and reply to secure messages. A new Apple Watch menu displays which accounts contain new messages.

Amtelco’s President Tom Curtin stated, “We are very excited to release this highly anticipated app update and would like to thank our customers who enthusiastically volunteered their time to test the update to ensure it would meet the needs of all of our customers. This new version will greatly improve communications with their clients.”

Customers may update the app from their iPhone’s App Store account. New documentation is available on Amtelco’s TechHelper website.

The miSecureMessages Apple app provides secure messaging and paging services for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. It receives notifications of secure messages sent from the miSecureMessages Web Service via the Apple Push Notification Service. Users can view, respond to, and initiate messages to other miSecureMessages users within their organization.

Amtelco

For more information contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148, info@misecuremessages.com, or visit www.misecuremessages.com.