If there is one area of call centre activity which has been hit harder than other sectors of the call centre industry then it must be B2C telemarketing. In 2004, CM-Insight’s Mike Havard predicted the death of the cold call within 5 years unless companies changed their actions. Despite the doom and gloom over the last few years, we are now starting to see the resurgence of outbound. However, it has now transformed and is smaller and cleverer. Prospects are targeted more accurately, the agents speaking to them are more professional and the message being delivered is far more in tune with the individual needs. We examine the chequered history of B2C outbound and look at what it holds for the future.
Of course, some of the UK’s more professional companies did change their course but some went even further down the road to self-destruction. With conversion rates dwindling, some companies made b2c telemarketing data even more low-quality calls to achieve the same volume of sales. They ignored related legislation in the belief that if they threw enough mud against the wall, some of it would stick. Over more recent years, we have seen some trends which could have further undermined telemarketing.
o The explosion in offshore call centres.
o The rise of the TPS and stronger enforcement of regulation
o “Non-branded” companies using call-centres to sell products such as
When smaller centres were opened by entrepreneurs in countries like India and The Philippines, most of these were only able to operate outbound projects. Unlike clients who were “offshoring” inbound, the outbound clients didn’t care as much as in most cases, they were not messing with a brand. They were simply trying to get as many new customers as possible regardless of the consequences. With these offshore centres desperate to win any project they could, there were a number of very worrying bi-products:
o A dramatic rise in the number of telemarketing calls people receive
o Clients increasingly pushing for pay-per-performance modes
o Call-centres responding to less-profitable payment structures by reducing quality control processes
o Increasing resistance to telemarketing from consumers
o The rise and rise of the Telephone Preference Service
o Reductions in conversion rates
o Increase cost of finding and handling large volumes of data
Many UK-based outsourced vendors moved away from outbound work all together. Some companies even questioned the wisdom of doing cold B2C telemarketing at all. Even companies with their own client base have been careful not to exploit their valuable data with over-exposure to telemarketing. It comes as no surprise that the quality of telemarketing call has a direct impact on a company’s brand.
And just when they thought that things could not get any worse, Channel 4 produces its documentary on fraud in offshore call centres. Whilst it’s true that Channel 4 tried to establish a link between the banking sector and offshore fraud, the link was quite clearly with offshore telemarketing companies. It could be said that consumers will tar all telemarketing with the same brush. In reality, any business needs to be aware that they are responsible for the entire process of data handling regardless of where it is done. The companies which were offshoring work to low quality centres in India were failing to do any due diligence on the centres performing their work and this simply highlighted this.
Of course, all this has given the call centre industry a great deal of focus and now the call centre industry
1. Be careful about offshoring: At the risk of offending our many readers who are involved in offshoring, it’s pretty safe to say that the vast majority of the best received telemarketing calls originate from the UK. Unfortunately, many of the low quality offshore vendors have left consumers with a very poor perception when they receive a call from overseas.
2. The need to properly target data: The “hit and hope” methodology simply doesn’t work these days even for the products or services with the most widespread appeal. If you don’t have your own customer database to call, partner with someone who does and sell your products/services in conjunction with them. Conversion rates are much higher when speaking with an existing supplier or their partners.
3. Remember that each call contributes to your brand: No successful company would publish advertising material without ensuring it meets all of their internal standards. Well, each call is a piece of advertising material which subconsciously impacts on a company’s brand.
4. Performance Management: This is probably the most important aspect. Outbound agents can be unpredictable if you don’t know what fires them up. Good agents love targets. Targets should be hourly where possible.
5. To constantly be innovative in the way product/service offerings are generated and communicated: The art of telemarketing script-writing is a rare skill. Engage the whole team in coming up with “the phrase that pays”.
6. Innovation throughout the operation: Successful outbound operations can quickly lose their steam. Any operation which wants to remain competitive has to continually come up with new ideas for incentives, management.
In an ironic twist of fate, the outbound industry finds itself in a more positive state than it could have been.
1. In our recent survey on consumer opinions on offshoring, more people objected to offshore inbound centres than their outbound counterparts.
2. Anyone who truly objects to the TPS has already registered. This has immediately removed the people most unlikely to buy from telemarketers.
3. Many of the small, independent vendors without international call centre experience are increasingly going out of business.