Welcome to Issue 07 of Outbound Focus, a free email publication of Sytel Limited.
We are making some changes from as from this issue. We are going to move away from ‘monthly’ issues to numbered issues, but you can expect to see future editions rolling out at pretty much the same pace as hitherto.
And we are going to vary the format a bit, so don’t expect to see the same sections issue on issue. But our primary focus still remains responsible outbound dialing.
This month features an interview with Natalie Raso, president of the Australian CCMA, who gives us the broad view of the outbound marketplace there.
We are delaying making comments on what is happening on codes of practice in Europe. We are expecting a profound change on this front, from a major country in Europe which, in turn, we expect to have knock-on influence in other countries. No wish to be secretive on this, but we need to hold off until something emerges into the public domain.
In This Issue
- TECHNOLOGY CORNER
the Kansas City view of ‘predictive pauses’.
- THE OUTBOUND DIALOGUE
with Natalie Raso, of the Australian CCMA.
- INDUSTRY UPDATE
more on the ethics of hanging up.
- CANDY STORE
a lighter telemarketing moment.
This contribution comes with thanks to the Kansas City Business Journal which published the following in a recent edition:
“With the passing of House Bill 2580, which became effective this month, telemarketers calling Kansas residents must follow new guidelines regarding dead time as part of the state’s Consumer Protection Act. The measure initially would have required that a live operator or an automated dialing-announcing device come on the line within 15 seconds of the beginning of an unsolicited telephone call to a consumer. The Kansas House Committee on Business, Commerce and Labor amended the bill to reduce this gap from 15 seconds to five seconds.”
Kansas is not a state that grabs the headlines in the way that say California does, where there was a lot of excitement recently over Bill 2721 seeking to ban predictive dialing. But the interest in this bill lies in the time being allowed for hang-ups, in the absence of an agent to take a connected call. Fifteen seconds was, frankly, absurd, but five seconds is still too generous and way beyond the two seconds (from the point that a called party goes offhook) stipulated in the guidelines issued by the US Direct Marketing Association in January 1999. What is a DMA member operating in Kansas to do?
There is nothing intrinsic in its design that should stop a dialer hanging up when it knows that it has a live call but no agent to take it. Our view is that hang-up should be immediate, and no more ‘predictive pauses’. We would be interested in any contributions telling us that this is either not possible or desirable.
Click here to read the full article from the Kansas City Business Journal
THE OUTBOUND DIALOGUE
This month, we are delighted to welcome Natalie Raso, president of the Australian Call Center Management Association (CCMA). Natalie has been involved in the call center industry for almost 10 years with experience in operational and project management roles, in both the public and private sectors. We invited her to give us the broad view of the call center industry in Australia.
i) What is the size of the outbound market in Australia both in absolute and relative (to inbound) terms?
The turnover for the Australian call center industry this year is estimated to be about AUS$1.8 billion (almost US$1 billion), and the market is growing steadily. Outbound activity is growing but relatively smaller than inbound.
ii) What are the factors that will encourage growth of outbound activities in the future?
The main factor is continued consumer acceptance of outbound calling. People, as a rule, don’t mind being called, as long as the call is conducted well.
Also, there has been a steady rise in Business to Business (B2B) calling, which we expect to continue.
iii) And are there any developments that may restrict it?
None that I can see. The market is enjoying a healthy growth at the moment.
iv) What mix of campaigns are being run? For example, ‘customer care’, ‘lead generation’ and so on.
You’ve hit the nail on the head with those two examples. Customer care is the big one; making sure consumers are happy with the level of service they’ve received. Businesses recognize the need to retain and sell to existing customers, as well as gain new ones. So we see a lot of loyalty campaigns being run, as well as affinity programs and follow-ups to direct marketing campaigns.
v) Which campaigns work – and which don’t?
We are finding that straight cold calling doesn’t work particularly well. Consumers aren’t receptive to it and don’t want to be called over dinner. But, they don’t mind so much if there has been some previous contact.
vi) Other countries are grappling with a range of codes of practice and legislative actions to help encourage responsible outbound dialing. Where does Australia stand in this respect, and what changes, if any, do you expect?
At the moment there is no strong push for legislative action. Outbound calling is just not an issue for consumers, although we (the CCMA) are planning to poll our members to gauge whether they feel any need for self-regulation. We are aiming to spearhead this initiative, perhaps in conjunction with the Australian Direct Marketing Association (ADMA) and the Australian Customer Service Association (ACSA).
vii) Can you tell us a bit about agent selection. Australians are renowned as being extrovert; how do you get agents to listen when they are making outbound calls!?
[laughs] I think Australians have a certain reputation, but the required skills are the same as for inbound. You have to be good at creating a rapport with the customer. You have to be able to listen in order to build the relationship. And you have to be able to handle any final agreement or closing strategy. At the same time, the best sales people are sometimes the introverts. They get on the phone and just become different people.
When agents get talking, they use ‘call guides’ rather than tightly-controlled scripts. Australians just don’t appreciate knowing that the person who called them is reading from a script; it’s much more productive to let the agent’s personality shine through. (This is a trend in other countries, but sounds like OZ is a step ahead -ed.)
viii) A lot of outbound activity in other countries is out-sourced. What is happening in Australia and why?
The market for outsourcing is experiencing strong growth. We find that companies often outsource to supplement their existing sales force. Again, the emphasis is on customer retention and satisfaction. Other reasons would be to generate new leads to be followed up by the in-house sales team, or to test the water for a new campaign, with a small sample call list.
We are also seeing other countries outsourcing their campaigns to Australia. The main factor in this is Australia’s broad multicultural agent base. We can raise a strong workforce for pretty much any language or cultural marketplace. So as campaigns go increasingly global, I am sure that Australia will get its fair share.
Does this help in running campaigns aimed at ethnic minorities?
There has been little evidence of multilingual domestic outbound campaigns as most consumers are quite fluent in English, but on occasion we do see companies requiring specific language skills for targeted campaigns where they have a broad residential reach, such as telcos.
ix) How did the Asian economic crisis affect the shape of the Australia call center industry?
The main effect was to raise the profile of Australia as a stable and viable business option. I think it made the economy stronger, but also led to some rationalization in the call center industry. Overall, I would say it has had a positive influence.
x) We understand that, compared with most countries, long distance call charges within Australia are relatively high. How does this affect your running of outbound campaigns?
With the recent increase in competition between telcos, there has been a significant decrease in interstate charges. Nevertheless, while call center centralization is occurring, there is still a tendency to tie outbound activities to the local state, particularly for government organizations. There is a growing trend to centralize as the cost benefits usually outweigh the additional costs incurred from long distance traffic.
xi) Is there a ‘call center capital’ of Australia?
It is easier to rank in terms of number of call centers per state. New South Wales comes first, Victoria second, Queensland third. There is, incidentally, a lot of competition between the local governments to attract call center business, as they recognize the industry as a large potential employer. Tasmania has won a number of large call center contracts, especially in the airline industry, largely because of government incentives. Even regional councils are competing with the big cities to win these contracts.
Many thanks to Natalie for sharing her insight. Natalie can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are an outbound specialist, and would like to be interviewed for Outbound Focus, just send us an email.
We have given examples in Issue 05 of the kind of enquiries our Sytel parent gets from the US looking for ‘predictive’ solutions for small numbers of users, and in Issue 06 we commented on the need to have realistic expectations when running small campaigns, and not to expect a lot of ‘predictive benefit’.
This month an enquiry came in which we thought neatly summed up the problem of nuisance calls at the lower end of the market.
A very impressive-sounding chap called and discussion proceeded as follows:
Caller – I am looking to buy a system for 8 agents that will dial out on lots of lines, so that I can get a lot more talk time.
Sytel – Can you explain that a bit more please? What do you mean by ‘lots of lines’?
Caller – Well, I’ve used systems that use just one line per agent and they simply aren’t productive enough.
Sytel – To be honest, you won’t get a lot of benefit by doing predictive dialing with a small number of agents.
Caller – Why’s that? I want to dial out on, say, 5 or 6 lines each time an agent becomes available. The benefits will be huge.
Sytel – So let’s say you get at least one answered call, but the chances are that you will still have several lines being dialed. What do you do about them?
Caller – (with no hesitation) Hang up on them.
Sytel – That’s creating nuisance calls on a big scale. Do you really want to do this?
Caller – No, it’s not. Why should this be a problem?
Sytel – (wishing this conversation had never started, and wondering how to end it peacefully) How do you feel when your phone rings for a few seconds, and then stops before you can get to it?
Caller – I see what you mean.
Sytel – (trying to be conciliatory) Of itself, what you are proposing is not a major nuisance. If you were the only person to do this, it just wouldn’t matter. But the problem is that there are simply too many people in the US who think this is an OK thing to do.
Caller – (warming to the theme) Yes, you’re right! It’s a kind of paradox in our culture. We are all brought up to be very competitive and go for things, and don’t always care about the impact on others.
Caller – By the way, we are going to ship this system out to Spain as soon as we have got it working here!
Sytel – Good luck, but I hope that the Spanish marketplace doesn’t follow your lead.
Spain, you have been warned!
As ever, we are happy to publish any well-argued views on these issues. Just send us an email.
Another nugget of call center gold.
Agent – Hi, would that be Mr.Schwarz?
Mr. Schwartz – It would.
Agent – Hi, my name is Ben, and calling on behalf of the Sunnyview Rest Home. You asked us to give you a call, sir.
Mr. Schwartz – I did?
Agent – Don’t you remember, sir? You said on the form here that you require a place for your father.
Mr. Schwartz – Er…Go on.
Agent – You mentioned, to put it politely, that you would appreciate someone else looking after him now.
Mr. Schwartz – I did, eh?
Agent – Yes, sir. Surely you must remember. You also said that cost is not an issue, because, er…in your words, “the old man’s loaded”.
Agent – So, would you like to go ahead and make a booking, Mr. Schwarz?
Mr. Schwartz – No!
Agent – Could I ask the reason for that, sir?
Mr. Schwartz – Because this is Mr.Schwarz Senior, and my son is hereby disinherited!!
Know any good outbound anecdotes? Send us an email.