The future of outbound
We were recently asked by a business partner whether outbound has any future. Our answer today is the same as it was 25 years ago:
‘Yes, as long as you do it right!’
Contact rates for voice outreach have dropped to new lows that require most dialers to either generate staggering levels of nuisance calls or remain unprofitable.
In this context, ‘doing it right’ today must involve a properly joined-up view of the customer. Beware the buzz phrases ‘360 degree view’, ‘Omnichannel’, ‘AI’, ‘Big Data / Data Warehousing’. We are not saying these things aren’t relevant, but they are often indicative of a ‘technology will solve the problem’ approach.
Rather, what’s needed is joined-up outreach.
This is the process of understanding what works for connecting with your customers and prospects, and then executing and refining outreach programs during their lifetime.
Yes, you need a suitable contact center platform for this but the requirements aren’t that onerous. You need:
- Some means of storing and having fast retrieval of both inbound and outbound contact history for a customer across all media channels.
- Contact preference data for customers, or the means to permute this from contact history.
- Some insight into how differing contact channels will work for your proposition.
- A baseline set of inventory rules that is well-thought out and the tools to automate across all channels.
- Reporting / feedback that enables you to validate your assumptions and refine.
You could, in theory, do all of this with existing technology and manual processes but there is one word hidden in these bullet points that is critical, and that is automate.
Automating your Outreach
The days of simple recycling of no answers and answer machines are long gone, but despite the tools available there is still a tendency to ‘run through the contact list, analyse and recycle’. The decision tree for contact needs to be tailored for each individual customer; so the right time, media and sales approach.
Your choice of platform must be able to automate scheduling, selection of media for next contact, and handling of what happens to scheduling if the campaign is put on hold for a few days. In these days of customer-specific decision trees for contact, you will not have the resources to have manual control of this process. It must be automated.
Analysing feedback to optimise your inventory strategy comes from having meaningful reporting. Knowing, for example, that customers respond better to SMS outreach for a particular type of proposition during the business day rather than the evening, probably has even more value than ‘when we used these words in the SMS we got a better hit rate’.
Also, making changes to inventory strategy needs to be done within a framework that automates the consequences of change. If you are getting a better response from some types of customers with a different medium and time, this will have consequences for what you do to keep your outreach teams consistently busy during the shift. An automated solution solves this for you.
Sytel sought to change the dialer industry in the early days of our existence by making predictive pacing entirely automatic. We did this because a well-designed intelligent machine can react far better to changing conditions than a supervisor ever can. In today’s complicated multimedia and multisession landscape, the execution of your outreach strategy needs the same intelligent approach.