Tag Archives: Marketing Articles

Why Telemarketing Programs Fail, Part 4



By Kathy Sisk

In the last issue we discussed properly assessing and preparing agents for training before the start of your campaign. Now we’ll look at what happens during the calling period.

A Challenging Task

When it comes to outbound campaigns, it isn’t realistic to think the prospect is waiting by their phone in anticipation of your call. On the contrary, the prospect may have already been inundated with calls like yours, in the middle of doing something more important, or they aren’t available.

Additionally, they may not have an interest in what you’re calling about. If you get any negative response early in your presentation, the method of handling it is critical. One of the most challenging parts of an outbound call is handling a premature “I’m not interested.”

The Easy Close

Using the “easy close” technique will help you through this challenge and allow you to continue with your presentation or keep the door open for future contact.

Here’s a typical easy close to the I’m-not-interested brush-off: “I respect that. If I could provide you with information that could save you on your insurance policy, how open are you to receive more information about this?”

The idea is to get the prospect to say “yes”; this turns a negative into a positive. This approach allows you to move on to the next portion of the easy close, which is to qualify their interest by saying, “To make sure that you can benefit, I need to verify some information, if you don’t mind.” This final portion of the easy close gets another positive response that helps you go to the next step of your presentation, the probing step.Preparation is a vital key to overcoming potential obstacles. Click To Tweet

When the campaign is carefully planned, and you incorporate what you learned in your training, you will gain greater confidence in handling calls and experience more positive outcomes. Preparation is a vital key to overcoming potential obstacles.

In the next issue we’ll tie everything together for a cohesive, well-thought-out outsourcing campaign.

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.

20 Essential Questions for B2B Lead Qualification



By Giuseppe D’Angelo

Are you frustrated when your salespeople squander your hard-earned leads? If so, you’re not alone. Reps ignore 80 percent of the leads marketing generates.

If you don’t want to waste time and money generating leads that reps push aside, ensure that those leads are so well-qualified your reps can’t wait to pursue them. Of course, this is easier said than done.

What do salespeople want? You’ve heard it before—leads that have the budget, the authority to buy, a need to solve a problem, a time frame to get it done, and are a good fit for your solution. It’s known as BANTS. While it’s a simple list of requirements, determining who meets them is not easy unless you’re armed with the right questions. Use the following as your guide.

Need: Find the Pain

Just because the acronym is BANTS, it doesn’t mean you should start with questions about the budget. First you want to uncover the individual’s pain and learn how you can help with an opportunity.

Ask these questions:

  • What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
  • How do you deal with them today?
  • What are the consequences of not dealing with these issues?
  • How do you see your business changing over the next one or two years?

These questions reveal much about the individual’s situation and their daily frustrations. They can also broaden your understanding of how your solution could help.

Solution: Is There a Fit?

To learn more about whether you might be able to offer an ideal answer to the problem, ask:

  • Ideally, what would you be able to achieve with the right solution?
  • What is your “must have” or “nice to have” solution?
  • What solutions are you currently using?

You can then ask follow-up questions related to the specifics of your product or solution. For instance, you might want to ask how critical specific benefits are to the prospect and whether they can achieve these benefits with their current product or with a competitive offering they are considering.If your reps aren’t jumping to follow up on your leads, review your current lead qualification questions and add in those you’re missing. Click To Tweet

Budget: Show Me the Money

It’s frustrating for a salesperson to waste time pursuing a lead that will never come to fruition because the budget isn’t there and never will be. These questions can prevent that from happening.

  • How much is this problem costing your organization? Rather than starting by asking a prospect whether they have a budget for a project, set the framework by discussing how much the problem is costing them. For instance, if you have a solution that prevents computer system downtime, ask how much downtime costs their company.
  • Do you have a budget for this project? This is an easy question with a “yes” or “no” answer. If, however, you receive a “no,” you shouldn’t immediately disqualify the lead. It doesn’t mean the organization won’t come up with a budget in the future, just that it’s early in their buying cycle. If the prospect gives you a negative response, follow up with the next question.
  • Given that this problem is costing you $X a year, how much could you see investing in solving it? If they provide an answer that’s reasonable given your company’s solution, that’s good. However, because the prospect may not know how much solutions cost, they may not be able to provide an answer. If so, you’ll need to give them some cost parameters.
  • Our solution to this problem could run anywhere from $X to $Y. Would you be likely to invest that amount in it? With this extra piece of information, your prospect may feel comfortable letting you know the upper limit of what they might invest, or they might give you a budget range.
  • Who oversees the budget? It’s good to find out who is in control of the budget and whether you’ll need to convince other members of the buying team.

Authority: Who’s the Decision-Maker?

You want to find out who has the authority to buy. If the person you’re talking with has a low level of clout in the company, it doesn’t mean you’ve reached a dead end. They can help you map out the buying influencers and decision-makers within the organization. Once you know who is on the buying team, you can reach out to them.

  • How will your organization evaluate a solution to this issue? This question is intentionally broad to elicit as much information as possible about the decision-making process. Ideally, you’ll learn who the stakeholders are, what their roles are, and who has the authority to make decisions. If your contact is less forthcoming, you may have to ask some more pointed questions.
  • Who else in your company does this problem affect, and what are their roles in determining a solution? You’re starting to piece together the buying team, but you want insights straight from the individuals involved. Request permission to talk to these individuals.
  • Would it make sense for me to call (name of buying team member) to gain their perspective? The more people on the team you can talk with, the less likely it is that a last-minute objection could derail the sale.
  • Who signs off on the final decision? Don’t forget to ask this question if the prospect has not answered it in response to the previous inquiries.

Timeframe: How Urgent Is It?

Every businessperson faces many problems, only a few of which can bubble to the top of the to-do list. So ask a couple of questions to establish the level of urgency to act.

  • Ideally, when would you like to solve this problem?
  • Regarding priorities, where does solving this problem fit?

Next Steps: How Interested Are They Learning About Your Solution?

The following questions are essential in gauging a prospect’s interest in investing more time in learning about your solution. This also helps you move to the next phase of the sales process.

  • What are the steps we would need to take to make this deal happen?
  • When is the best date and time to schedule our next call or set up a meeting?

Qualifying leads is an essential ingredient in an effective, efficient sales process. If your reps aren’t jumping to follow up on your leads, review your current lead qualification questions and add in those you’re missing. By doing so, you’ll ensure that all leads qualified for your sales team meet the budget, authority, need, timing, and solution-fit criteria. Then all your salespeople will need to do is what they do best: close the deal.

Giuseppe D’Angelo graduated from I.T.I.S. Euclide with a degree in information technology. In 2003 he joined 3D2B and has become a senior project manager for the Italian and Spanish markets, responsible for generating leads and revenues.

How to Stay Positive in the Telemarketing Services Industry



By Angela Garfinkel

No. Not interested. Thanks for your call, but no. No.

You get the point. Working in outbound telemarketing sales can be a difficult job. Working in telemarketing management is also hard, but at least we aren’t the ones who are told no every five to seven minutes throughout an eight-hour day. Most telemarketing programs average one sale every four to five hours. Some really great programs get one sale every two to three hours. The very best programs get one sale for every hour of calling. In an eight-hour day, that’s about one hundred noes and, at best, a handful of yeses.

Remaining upbeat and positive is a challenge, but the key is knowing that what you’re selling is worth the effort. We call it “worthwhile work.” It’s important to carefully evaluate each client program to ensure that it meets the minimum standard of being worthwhile work. If I go to Thanksgiving dinner and tell my grandma what project I’m working on, will I be proud of it? If the answer is “not really,” then we’ll choose to not work on it. Click To Tweet

Here Are Some Criteria I Consider:

  • Would our team enjoy working with this client? Would our management team get along with them and find there is a true partnership? Obviously, it takes a while to build a relationship, but within an initial conversation, I can normally tell if there is a seed of potential for our team to enjoy working with a client.
  • Is the potential client a reputable company? I check the Better Business Bureau. I look at their website. I read press releases and other news about the company. If I can’t find anything that validates them as a reputable company, that isn’t necessarily a negative, but then I do my own assessment by asking some detailed questions about the company and how they approach their market.
  • Is the product or service something the target market needs? This can be difficult to assess, but you can normally ask some questions that will give you insight to the need in the market. One key question is asking them how many products they’ve sold so far. If it’s zero, that could be a real challenge.
  • Is the product or service something that can be sold over the phone? Has the client already tested telemarketing? Was it successful? If not, look at the potential for success with scrutiny.
  • Is it a program our team will be successful with? That’s hard to quantify, but with thirty years of experience, I’m pretty good at identifying if our team will do well with a client program or not.
  • Is it something a consumer or business may ultimately view as a rip-off or scam? Obviously if the answer is yes, then we carefully walk away from the potential opportunity.

Based on these answers, I’ve found that it is critical to carefully consider whether the program will be viewed by our team as worthwhile work. In the simplest of terms, I explain it this way: If I go to Thanksgiving dinner and tell my grandma what project I’m working on, will I be proud of it? If the answer is “not really,” then we’ll choose to not work on it.

Here Are Some Programs My Team Considers Worthwhile Work:

  • Calling physician offices and hospitals to sell them billing and coding resources.
  • Calling existing utility customers to offer a warranty and appliance repair program from the utility.
  • Calling small business owners to ask if they’re interested in learning more about 401(k) benefits for their employees.
  • Calling existing customers of auto dealerships to schedule service appointments and conduct after-service surveys.
  • Calling small and medium businesses to sell them regulatory and compliance resources to help them navigate complex regulatory requirements in their industry.
  • Calling small businesses to ask them to listen to the radio for a chance to win a prize.

And while I won’t mention the brand names represented in these worthwhile calls, they are household names our employees love to work for.

So here’s my theory: when you’re conducting worthwhile work for well-known, respected brand names, you can take pride in what you do and know that it matters. This makes it easier to stay positive and let those noes roll off your back. There’s an old chant we used years ago that I still think is relevant and a great way to put the noes into perspective: “Some will. Some won’t. So what? Who’s next?”

Angela Garfinkel is the president and founder of Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing services organization. Angela has the pleasure of leading a talented team that runs thousands of outbound telemarketing program hours each day. Angela 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). Angela can be reached at angela.garfinkel@qualitycontactsolutions.com or 516-656-5118.

Why Telemarketing Programs Fail, Part Two



By Kathy Sisk

In the last issue we discussed the key reasons telemarketing programs fail. Now let’s look at some vital aspects of setting up and managing a campaign.

Expectations

Having unrealistic expectations can cause agents to become unmotivated and produce poorer results. Having unrealistic expectations causes staff to handle the campaign in a state of “crisis management.”  

A Project Management Guide (PMG) outlines expectations for the campaign; it’s the responsibility of those assigned to carry out the PMG to meet those expectations. Expectations should be tested and defined to address all variables. The PMG also needs a “what if” section so if something doesn’t go as planned, alternatives are provided to correct mistakes and adjust expectations. This increases the internal and external communication between the client, the project management team, and the assigned center.

Database

For outbound campaigns, the database is critical for success. The database must be fresh and pre-scrubbed. The demographics should closely match the ideal customer the client seeks. A list that is outdated, poorly targeted, overworked, or not scrubbed will eat up calling hours, yield inferior results, and frustrate agents, along with everyone else who is part of the campaign.Having unrealistic expectations causes staff to handle the campaign in a state of 'crisis management.' Click To Tweet

This is where the disposition of calls is crucial. The agent must have a clear understanding of the target prospect to identify how to best disposition each call and identify a bad lead. If there are too many bad leads, the list may need replacing.

Reporting

The project manager will assist the client in assessing the profile of an ideal list. Once identified, the reporting of the dispositions from the list is defined. This allows agents to report more accurate results. This helps everyone determine the quality of the list for outbound campaigns, quality of the marketing efforts for inbound campaigns, the effectiveness of the assigned agents, and a determination of the overall results. The per call results enables the assigned task team (such as floor supervisors, shift supervisors, quality assurance department, and project managers) to assess the results of the campaign and make appropriate changes to enhance the overall results.

Next time we’ll discuss how to properly assess and prepare agents for training.

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

Reasons Why Telemarketing Programs Fail



By Kathy Sisk

In my forty years as a call center consultant and trainer, I’ve witnessed many mistakes that could have been avoided or quickly corrected. I’ve observed many telemarketing programs that suffer from the same types of problems, repeated from one campaign to the next. The failures fall into three groups: before the calling begins, during the calling, and after the call.

The goal of a telemarketing program is ensuring a more positive outcome for everyone: clients, call centers, and customers. Equipping the right people with the right tools is essential and must be enforced. We’ll start with before the calling period begins.

Preplan the Campaign:

Calling shouldn’t start without a written plan, agreed to by all parties. I have identified twenty points to cover in a plan. It will change as the program moves along, but it’s imperative to follow a logical path. Without a written plan, blame for problems is usually misdirected. When this happens it’s difficult to rectify the failure.

To avoid this, my company maintains a project management guide (PMG) for every campaign. All parties are required to study the PMG and discuss any issues and rework them prior to starting the campaign. Whether inbound or outbound, we work to see what is effective and which areas that might require improvement. This is the testing, or ramping up, phase of the campaign.The goal of a telemarketing program is ensuring a more positive outcome for everyone. Click To Tweet

Program Objective:

All concerned parties must have the same understanding of the campaign objectives. This includes the client, service provider, agents, and assigned project manager (APM). The client communicates to the APM what they want accomplished, along with their campaign expectations and specifications. A comprehensive questionnaire form, the “account overview,” accomplishes this.

Once the client completes the form, the information is transferred to the PMG, and the assigned center’s staff is properly orientated and trained. A program can have several levels of objectives (such as setting appointments, sending literature, generating leads, taking orders, troubleshooting, conducting surveys, and so forth.) All objectives and levels are predefined and identified in the client PMG, which is the roadmap to success for the client’s outsourcing campaign.

In the next issue I’ll share the expectations and other vital aspects for setting up, managing, and achieving a successful campaign.

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.

5 Keys to Writing a Successful B2B Telemarketing Script



By Nathan Teahon

Recently someone asked me how to create a strong B2B telemarketing script. It’s a good question, and even after having helped create and implement thousands of successful scripts over the years, I don’t have quick answer to that question.

Instead I have multiple questions. What is the goal of the script? Is there an underlying goal lurking beneath the initial goal? Whom are you contacting? Why are you contacting them? Are you selling something? If so, what? Is it a service or product?

Many books have been written about creating calling scripts for telemarketing services, and many of those books address some of the above questions, but these only begin to address the situation. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to share five keys to create a successful B2B telemarketing script.

1. Thirty Seconds to Buy a Minute

In B2B telemarketing, you typically call someone who isn’t expecting your call. Even if you aren’t prospecting and you’re calling a current customer—for instance, to renew a subscription—that customer isn’t sitting by the phone eagerly awaiting your call. You are calling someone at work while they are presumably trying to do their job.

Most people are like me in that they don’t want to be unnecessarily distracted while working. If this is the case, you have a short window to capture a person’s attention in any meaningful way. The guiding rule is that “you have thirty seconds to buy the next minute of a person’s time.” Don’t waste it.

The first and most common mistake in a B2B telemarketing script is having the agent ask, “How are you today?” Managers who insert this into a script and agents who like to use it think it helps to build some rapport. No, it doesn’t. It does the opposite. If I don’t know you, don’t ask me how I am. At best, I’ll roll my eyes. You don’t care how I am. I don’t care how you are. We don’t know each other. It’s disingenuous.

At best, you’ve wasted twenty seconds of your thirty-second window to capture my attention in a meaningful way. At worst, you’ve captured my attention in a negative way, and you have no time to turn this into a productive call.

2. Don’t Monologue

You have a product to sell, and you must explain the concept, capture the prospect’s imagination, and give five reasons why this person needs that product. And don’t forget that special promotional offer! Before you know it, your script is seeping onto a second page in a block-like format with eleven-point type.

If you want to put someone into a coma, this is the way to do it. People don’t like to be “talked at,” and they don’t tend to respond favorably when they get the impression someone is reading a script to them. Break it up; build in some engagement and consultative questions when appropriate. It’s less about building a script and more about building an agent-controlled conversation.

It’s important to note that engagement and consultative-based questions in your script doesn’t mean you must sacrifice structure. It’s not an exclusive situation; you can build a script that allows agents to create engagement without sacrificing structure. Create a compelling introduction that leads into an engaging question. Let the customer’s response dictate where the script should go next, but plan for likely positive or negative responses accordingly.Engagement and consultative-based questions in your script doesn’t mean you must sacrifice structure. Click To Tweet

3. Understand the Players

This point is twofold. First, realize that not every B2B telemarketing script can be executed in the same manner by each person. Certain agents are going to pull off a conversational script better than others. Those same agents may struggle if you ask them to follow a script verbatim, and vice versa.

Hopefully you can tailor your team around the needs and message of the program. If not, you need to carefully consider your approach and assess whether the team you have can execute it.

Second, consider your audience. Will your message resonate with those you’re attempting to reach? Is the offer compelling to them? Are you selling a product that solves a problem for the prospect? Is it affordable?

This is where quality assurance (QA) is key. A good QA department will not just focus on the individuals they’re listening to but also will be listening to see what resonates with the audience. Do you have the correct market targeted? There are several questions you need to understand about your audience when creating a script, and then monitor for these things once the campaign begins.

4. Call to Action

In many cases I refer to this key as “asking for the sale.” However, depending on the objective of the script, perhaps this isn’t the exact call to action. This is probably the biggest no-brainer on the list, yet it is still a common coaching area for agents. Sometimes this issue has more to do with ensuring you have a proper call to action in the script itself.

I’ve encountered many amazing presentations that ended up being for naught due to simply not asking for the sale. Things get weird and a little awkward. It’s like asking a girl to the dance; she knows it’s coming, except you don’t ask because you’re afraid, so she never responds, and you both end up disappointed. It’s simple: you won’t get a yes if you don’t ask.

 5. Test

It’s rare to create the perfect script on your first try. You must listen carefully to how the message resonates, see what people respond to, and determine what they ignore. Adjust accordingly.

Also, when you have found that perfect script, don’t think it will be perfect forever. Your audience will change over time, and a periodic review is essential.

Nathan Teahon is the vice president at Quality Contact Solutions, an outsourced telemarketing services organization. Nathan grew up in the business and intimately knows (and has played) every position on the field, including supervisor, quality assurance, call center manager, program management, account management, and call center psychologist. Contact Nathan at nathan.teahon@qualitycontactsolutions.com or 516-656-5133.

Maximize Results with B2B Outbound Marketing



By Ryan Apodac

“What’s the secret sauce?” This is a common question new clients often ask me. But there is no simple answer. Of course, there are a multitude of variables for evaluating B2B marketing campaigns to maximize performance. However, it’s easy to overlook the small details that can make a huge impact on your overall results. Here are a few creative techniques that a great telemarketing service partner will use to maximize results on your B2B outbound marketing campaign.

 Daily Program Scheduling

One of the keys to B2B outbound marketing project success is identifying when the prospect or customer will answer the phone. In most B2B outbound marketing campaigns, the ultimate decision maker is typically in an executive or at least a mid-level management position. Knowing that, you have to ask yourself, “When would be the best time to make contact?”

It is much more productive to dial the majority of the time Monday through Thursday and half a day on Fridays. Statistically, in B2B outbound telemarketing, Friday afternoons are typically the worst time of the week to reach decision makers. While this may not apply to every B2B campaign, it could definitely be a key ingredient.

 Use a Local Caller ID

How many times have you received a call, noticed an out-of-state caller ID number, and let it go to voicemail? Conversely, I’m sure we’ve all seen an unfamiliar local number on our Caller ID and answered it out of curiosity. “Is that my spouse’s office? Maybe it’s my child’s school. Well, it’s a local number, so maybe it’s someone I know calling from a different phone.” Pushing a local caller ID can only improve results.

 Ring-to Number

What’s the best way to speak to a decision maker? Have them call you. One of the best ways to increase decision-maker contact is to create an inbound campaign. In conjunction with using a local caller ID, routing that number to an inbound campaign and ultimately a live agent, gives you another opportunity to speak with the decision maker.

A good best practice is to route to a live agent instead of voicemail. Routing to voicemail creates the additional step of calling back the customer or prospect. Whether or not you leave a voicemail message, some decision makers will return a missed call just by seeing your phone number on their Caller ID. Outbound marketing agents sound confident if they can speak in their own words. Click To Tweet

 Rotating Time-Zone Attempts

While Eastern Standard Time leads are the first leads to call each day, it is likely not a best practice to run through all those leads before moving on to Central Standard Time, and so forth. The same would apply to calling Pacific Standard Time leads late each afternoon. Granted, you can dial Eastern Standard Time leads earlier and Pacific Standard Time leads later each day, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best time to reach decision makers.

The key here is to rotate the times during the day you are calling these time zones. Be flexible with how you manage your time zones. Review the data, and you’ll likely find that sweet spot to maximize contact.

No More Scripts

It may seem counterintuitive to eliminate your script. After all, how can you expect an agent to call an outbound B2B marketing campaign without a script? Instead, provide outbound call agents with a call guide or a call flow that outlines all the objectives and important information to relay to the customer. Then let the agent communicate that message to the customer.

For some agents this inevitably results in them creating their own script. So be it. It can empower the agent to contribute to his or her own success. Ultimately outbound marketing agents will sound more confident in their presentations if they can speak in their own words.

Careful monitoring and coaching of agents to calibrate their thoughts of effective verbiage with your expectations is key. While there is no easy recipe to maximizing performance in B2B marketing campaigns, these are definitely ingredients to consider. Think outside the box. Little changes can make big differences.

 Ryan Apodac is an operations manager and training leader at Quality Contact Solutions, a leading B2B outsourced telemarketing organization. With a background of more than a decade in sales, Ryan is passionate about developing and delivering training that ultimately results in improved performance for client programs.

Continuous Improvement for Telemarketing Programs



By Rich Hamilton

After countless hours of planning, preparation, and implementation, you finally have the new telemarketing program in place. The program is running smoothly, and more importantly, client goals and expectations are being met. You have a great operations team in place to keep a close eye on KPIs (key performance indicators), and you make adjustments as needed to continue to reach and exceed client goals.

But does the work stop there? Absolutely not. Even though the telemarketing program is running smoothly and considered a success, you should always look for ways to improve it. Strive for continuous improvement.

Continuous Improvement Process: Each program assessment or evaluation should start with a specific objective. The objective could be focused, such as trying to figure out why the contacts per hour (CPH) is low. Or the goals can be broad, such as assessing all aspects of the telemarketing program to look for possible efficiencies or automation that could be implemented. Knowing the objective in the beginning will guide the rest of the assessment.

After understanding the objectives or goals of the assessment, dig into the program. This can be done in many ways, depending on the type of program. Here’s how to start to dissect the program:

  • Interview: Conduct interviews with stakeholders (executive team, vendors, and the client—if this is an outsourced telemarketing program) and those on the operations team (managers, supervisors, agents, and IT or dialer team). Ask specific questions to better understand how the program is running. This is also a great way to learn about pain points or areas for improvement. Provide these questions ahead of time to help others come to the meeting better prepared.
  • Evaluate: Ask managers and supervisors to provide scripts, training material, and several recorded calls. If there are multiple campaigns involved, have these items for each campaign. Listen to the calls to better understand how the scripts are being used. This will also reveal if the script is organized well for the telemarketing agents.
  • Review: Ask IT for a copy of each dialer report. Look for trends in the data. Focus on the KPIs that are the objective of this assessment.
  • Understand: Gain an understanding of any processes that are happening outside of the dialer. Are there spreadsheets being used for tracking or reporting? Are there processes that could be automated?It’s important for the company to have a culture of continual improvement. Click To Tweet

After analyzing the information, write a report of the findings and possible solutions. Prioritize the findings by importance or ROI (return on investment). This helps stakeholders see the results in an organized way so they can better make decisions on which items to focus additional hours and resources.

Once decisions are made, work to make changes or implement new processes. Give proper testing and training for new processes or applications.

The last step is to evaluate the whole process. First, see if changes are having the desired effect. Second, evaluate the overall process to make any needed adjustments for the next program assessment.

Having someone from outside assess the program is the most effective. This doesn’t mean it needs to be someone from outside the company. It could be someone from another part of the organization. This person can give the program a fresh look and be objective in evaluating the telemarketing program.

To be successful, it’s important for the company to have a culture of continual improvement, and it’s vital that employees are willing to be a part of the process.

Continuous Imrpovement Benefits: Though this appears to be a lot of work, I have been evaluating telemarketing programs for over four years and have seen some positive outcomes to continual program assessments, such as:

  • Improved Employee Satisfaction: If done correctly, an assessment can have a positive effect on frontline agents by showing that their input matters. Many times ideas told to a supervisor never make it to upper management, but a person coming from the outside with a new perspective encourages sharing and sparks ideas. The possibility of seeing their suggestions become a reality can be a real morale booster for employees.
  • Decreased Costs and Increase Sales: If done properly, a program assessment should show areas for improvement. It could be as simple as adjusting the script or as complex as using a different dialer or application. The results are lower costs or more sales—often both.
  • Increased Opportunities: During one evaluation I found that we weren’t dialing wireless numbers. We presented our findings to the client and did a trial calling wireless numbers. It was such a success that currently about 35 to 40 percent of our dialing for this particular campaign is now to wireless numbers.
  • Enhanced Client Relationships: Telling a happy client that we will do an assessment to improve even more really impresses them. This shows we care about their goals and expectations and want to exceed those expectations through improvement. Many times clients have given us extra work based on this approach.

The moment we decide not to focus energy on improvement will be the time another company will come along that can do the same job we can, but better. Program assessments allow us to evaluate the program and look for ways to make it more efficient, thereby better retaining the business. Not only will the assessment improve the KPIs for the program, it will also strengthen the morale within our companies and set us apart from the competition.

Rich Hamilton is the director of implementation and team improvement leader for Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing organization. Rich is responsible for implementing new programs and managing the continuous improvement process of existing programs. With a background of nearly a decade in managing small and large call centers, Rich is passionate about improving efficiencies and decreasing cost per call for every client. In addition, Rich is a telemarketing compliance guru with a Customer Engagement Compliance Professional (CECP) certification. Reach Rich at rich.hamilton@qualitycontactsolutions.com or 516-656-5105.

The Growing Risks in Cross-Border Telemarketing

By Joshua Briones, Harrison Brown, and Crystal Lopez

In 1997, President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien established a US-Canada Working Group on Telemarketing Fraud and directed it to report on ways to counter what it considered deceptive cross-border telemarketing. The Telemarketing Fraud Working Group’s Report to the Commission, now considered a blueprint for coordinated binational actions against telemarketing fraud, recommended expanded cooperation and information sharing between the countries in an effort to avoid duplication of effort by law enforcement agencies and to expedite identification and prosecution of fraud.

The report also recognized that different legal standards may interfere with effective cross-border law enforcement. As a result of the report, the countries have harmonized their efforts and cracked down on illegal marketing. This effort continues today, nearly twenty years later, with the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two nations. As a result, legitimate telemarketers face increased compliance risks.

Cross-border telemarketing is still a useful and valid business process, particularly in the business-to-business sector. Trained outbound sales reps can gather and warm up leads to pass on to outside sales personnel. Problems arise, however, when companies deliberately cut corners or operate out of ignorance of the law. In those circumstances, telemarketing can become a costly mistake.

American and Canadian Enforcement Activities: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) jointly regulate telemarketing in the United States and maintain strict rules for the circumstances in which companies can place outbound telephone calls to customers and prospects. The agencies have handed out many fines, some quite hefty, to players who violate the rules.

In Canada, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is responsible for enforcing telemarketing rules and regulations. Fines levied on violators by the CRTC have recently spiked. For example, the commission recently handed out fines to Thrift Magic ($250,000), Québec Loisirs ($200,000), Telelisting ($260,000), Florida-based Consolidated Travel Holdings ($200,000), and Metroland, one of Canada’s largest media outlets ($240,000). Additionally, other companies were hit with smaller fines: AcademyOne Learning Ltd., a company offering educational tutoring ($25,000); Eagle Water of Ontario, a water treatment company ($32,500); Outsource 3000 Inc., a telemarketer offering calling services for telemarketing ($15,000); Scentral Cleaning Services, a residential and commercial cleaning company ($20,000); and Ontario Eco Energy Inc. ($30,000).

Altogether, the CRTC has issued thirty-two notices of violation (totaling over $2 million in monetary penalties), sixteen warning letters, and five citations. In most cases, the fines were levied for failing to comply with national Do Not Call (DNC) list regulations, which were established in Canada in 2008. Canadian consumers have registered 12.8 million numbers on the national DNC list to date, and any businesses engaged in outbound telemarketing are required to remain up-to-date with the lists and scrub any numbers that appear on the list from outbound calling schedules.

Memorandum of Understanding: The FTC and CRTC signed an MOU on March 24 encouraging cross-border cooperation in DNC and anti-spam enforcement. Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), which the CRTC enforces, authorizes Canadian authorities to provide investigative assistance to foreign enforcement agencies, including the FTC. In turn, the US SAFE WEB Act allows the FTC to help the CRTC in its investigations. The announcement follows a speech by CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais to the Canadian Marketing Association, in which he pledged that the country’s antispam legislation would only get tougher. Blais urged the group to empower its members with the information and insight required to comply with its rules and laws.

The laws administered by the agencies – the FTC Act and CASL, respectively – both contemplate sharing information with foreign enforcement agencies under certain conditions. The new MOU recognizes that it is in the FTC’s and the CRTC’s “common public interest” to extend support across the border where the agencies will assist each other in investigation and enforcement efforts, including:

  • cooperating with respect to the enforcement of telemarketing fraud, including sharing complaints and other relevant information and providing investigative assistance;
  • facilitating research and education related to unauthorized telemarketing and unauthorized telephone calls;
  • facilitating mutual exchange of knowledge and expertise through training programs and staff exchanges;
  • promoting a better understanding by each country of economic and legal conditions and theories relevant to the enforcement of the other’s laws; and
  • informing each other of developments in their respective countries that relate to this MOU in a timely fashion.

Accordingly, the FTC and CRTC will share information, provide investigative assistance, and coordinate enforcement against cross-border violations that both sides agree are priority cases.

Ramifications: The CRTC had a banner 2014–2015 year for fines against telemarketing violators. The association said the fines were the result of investigations and collaboration with domestic and international partners. With a formal MOU in place, companies can expect an even further uptick in investigations and fines. For this reason, companies engaged in cross-border telemarking activities would do well to familiarize themselves with the rules and comply with them.

Joshua Briones, Harrison Brown, and Crystal Lopez are from the law firm Blank Rome. Joshua Briones is a partner in Blank Rome’s Los Angeles office. He focuses his national practice on bet-the-company class actions and has participated in the defense of dozens of class actions in state and federal courts across the country. He can be reached at JBriones@BlankRome.com. Harrison Brown is an attorney in Blank Rome’s Los Angeles office. His practice encompasses a wide range of business litigation and class action defense, with an emphasis on consumer fraud and privacy claims. He can be reached at HBrown@BlankRome.com. Crystal Lopez is an attorney in Blank Rome’s Los Angeles office. She focuses her practice on class action defense, with an emphasis on consumer fraud and privacy claims. She can be reached at ECLopez@BlankRome.com.

[From Connection MagazineJuly/August 2016]

When Games Supersede Work

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections MagazineLast September in my column, “Let’s Play,” I discussed gamification and questioned if it was mostly hype or offered merit. I wondered then – and still do – if gamification has any application in the contact center. Those who talk about gamification mostly do so from a theoretical perspective, lacking tangible real-world examples. In my article, I shared my experience with gamification from a customer perspective: It motivated a change in my behavior but left me frustrated, so I gave up.

Now I’ll share my gamification experience from an employee perspective. My story goes back a few decades, long before the word came into being.

My first full-time job was repairing copy machines. I didn’t necessarily like the work, but I liked having work. I viewed my employment as temporary, something to pay the bills until I could move into my preferred career. Not only did I grab the first job offered, I also failed to verify the compensation, assuming that what my school’s placement department told me was correct. It was not – the company paid about half of what I expected.

Nevertheless, I poured myself into my new job, striving to do my best at fixing copy machines. I soon became quite good at it. Imagine my dismay, then, when I saw the first ranking of technicians: I was near the bottom. Something was wrong.

I asked the dispatcher, who calculated the results for our boss, what criteria she tracked. She told me, and I listened carefully. To my surprise, the metrics had little to do with repairing machines quickly or cost-effectively. Most measurements addressed other factors – such as how much time was spent driving, the number of hours worked, or how many leads I passed to the sales department. I was doing everything wrong.

Taking this information and working backwards, I established a new way of doing my job – not focused on serving customers or saving money but on maximizing my rating. My incentive pay was tied to the results, and I desperately needed to earn a sizable bonus to offset my lower-than-expected base salary.

With my newfound focus, the next ranking came out with me near the top for the month; my year-to-date number had now moved to the upper half of the list. My paycheck, however, was my real reward.

For the third month, I was number one; year-to-date, I was in the top quarter. Six months later both my monthly and annual results were number one; my bonus almost equaled my base pay. By playing their game, I’d nearly doubled my compensation.

Though I was still a good copy machine repairman (yes, we were all guys), I no longer put the customer first; I put me first. I didn’t prioritize customers based on the urgency of their need, I scheduled them in the order designed to minimize my drive time, since part of the bonus was for spending 10 percent or less of my time behind the wheel. I’d also start and end the day with a stop close to home because driving to my first call and driving home didn’t count in the calculation. I also drove faster, but that’s another story.

Also, I no longer tried to save the company money but focused on increasing my rating instead. For example, if protocol called for cleaning a filter or retrofitting a part, I’d replace it. Though this cost the company more, it all but eliminated me being called back to redo a job – and be penalized in the process. If one of two parts would fix the problem but only time would tell which one, instead of replacing the cheaper part first and then waiting, I’d replace both and be done with it.

No one ever realized what I was doing. My rating was stellar, so my superiors were pleased and the customers never knew the difference.

After nine months, I quit. A better job beckoned. It still wasn’t my dream job, but it was much closer. The base pay for my new job exceeded the salary and bonuses of my old job. And with my new employer, there were no games to play. All I had to do was focus on the work.

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.

[From Connection Magazine April 2013]