Welcome to Issue 06 of Outbound Focus, a free email publication of Sytel Limited.
Back into the fray this month, with a bumper issue including a welcome and thought-provoking contribution on self-regulation from Philip Cohen (Tip of the Month), and more biting comment on the ongoing threat of legislation to the telemarketing industry (Industry Update).
In This Issue
- TECHNOLOGY CORNER
the minimum number of seats for a predictive campaign
- TIP OF THE MONTH
regulation – or self-regulation?
- INDUSTRY UPDATE
what next for US predictive dialing?
- CANDY STORE
a lighter telemarketing moment.
Our sister website, www.sytel.com, has been inundated with questions in the past few months about what is the minimum number of seats for a predictive campaign. A very timely question, given the concern in the US about implementing and adhering to sensible codes of conduct for predictive dialers.
There seem to be two schools of thought on this.
At the power end, are operators with anything from say 25 to several hundred of agents per campaign, who should have no problems getting real benefits from predictive dialing while staying well within responsible guidelines.
At the lower end of the scale are a lot of users looking to get the advantage of predictive dialing, but working with low numbers of agents on campaigns, sometimes in just single figures. What price predictive dialing for these users?
For many of these users, ‘predictive dialers’ will be synonymous with turnkey solutions for managing outbound campaigns, enabling fulfillment and so on. They won’t be too interested in the mechanics of the dialing, and will be grateful that a lot of the organization of this is taken off their hands. OK so far as it goes. Beyond that, if these users want to turn up their dialers’ pacing algorithms, there simply is not a lot of scope for predictive dialing (that is, overdialing with multiple trunks per agent and delivering a lot of extra talk time per hour, compared with a situation of just one trunk per agent). For campaigns with agents in single figures, the maximum benefit may be no more than 4 – 5 minutes extra talk time per agent hour, and many times will fall well short of that. So, not a lot of scope, if responsible dialing guidelines are going to be adhered to.
And there’s the rub. Unfortunately, quite a few users in the outbound industry have high expectations of what extra talk time predictive dialing can bring at low agent levels, and the only way these expectations can be met is by operating well outside guidelines.
So what to do? Well, we’ll spare you the lecture that such users should change their ways; pretty obvious if you consider the consumer backlash against untrammeled predictive dialing in the US (see Industry Update).
Smaller users should still buy ‘predictive dialers’ but make sure that they are realistic about the premium they are paying for ‘predictive’ uplift, in working with multiple trunks per agent.
And there is a message for bigger users as well, who run a lot of small campaigns. Where possible, group different outbound activities in the same campaign or dialing context, so that higher agent numbers bring in more talk time per hour. Outbound applications should allow users to do this, and there can be real advantages in that agents can be offered a wider variety of calls to deal with, rather than continually working off the same ‘script’.
As always, we are happy to give air time to any well-argued cases, putting alternative points of view on this subject. Please email us with your comments.
TIP OF THE MONTH
This month, we are delighted to welcome Philip Cohen to the microphone. Philip is well known and well respected internationally for his work in promoting and protecting the telemarketing industry, and has received many awards in recognition. We asked him to take a moment from his busy schedule, and give his advice on how the teleservices industry can regulate itself. We welcome his valuable contribution to this debate.
Regulation – or self-regulation?
In Outbound Focus we have over the months been bombarded with information about legislation threatening the teleservices industry, in this particular case with regard to predictive dialling. The industry’s trade organisations say self-regulation is preferable to legislation, and they have produced guidelines. The fact of the matter is that they’re not being followed, or they are not working (otherwise legislation would be unnecessary). There are five key factors to creating self-regulation. If any one of them is missing it will not work. Read here what they are – then consider which factors are lacking in successful self-regulation of our industry.
Key success factors
- A set of rules.
The rules/ guidelines must be broad enough to cover the issues; few enough for people to be able to know what they are; simple enough for people to understand them; and not so detailed that people who are supposed to be following them give up because of their inability to follow the detail. The rules should be general enough to stand the test of time (they should not have to be changed so often that people are unaware of the “latest version”) but specific enough to give real guidance as to the conduct that is expected.
- Marketing to the consumer (whether private person or business).
The people who should be benefiting from the self-regulatory activity of their suppliers must be made aware of the standards they have a right to expect – there is no point in creating a set of rules but then hiding them from the consumer (who are the ultimate “police”, determining whether rules are being followed). This is a delicate exercise because the marketing of the rules must genuinely give the consumer the opportunity to be informed while at the same time it should not be such heavy marketing that it actively encourages people to find cause to complain. This is a balance on a knife-edge. One way of handling this in our teleservices world would be for there to be a page of “Your rights of what to expect as a consumer” in the telephone book – after all, telephone companies stand to lose a lot of money if calls fall away because of legislation, so they should be able to afford the cost of publishing consumer rights.
- Marketing to the supplier.
The people who are expected to follow the rules must be made aware of the rules. This means that the rules should be made freely available to them. In many countries it is suitable to do this via various trade associations – that way you reach at least all the “serious” companies in any industry. Non-members are harder to reach – perhaps they belong to a local chamber of commerce or other “non-trade” organisation? It is, therefore, necessary to keep other trade associations informed of self-regulatory rules.For the supplier to accept and live by the rules it is important that these are deemed relevant and acceptable – so it is imperative that suppliers are included in the working group that creates the rules, so that they are not merely a “theoretical” product of lawyers and other association leaders (it is also important that rules are not created merely to protect suppliers’ interests: legitimate consumer opinion and grievance must be weighed in when creating the rules).
- Forum for complaint and sanction.
Self-regulatory measures are often criticised for not being enforceable. If rules are created there must be a forum to which anyone who wishes to complain may turn, whether it be an ethics committee, a marketing commission, a board of complaints… the name is not important, but the existence of a body is. To heighten credibility it is an advantage if a (neutral) lawyer chairs the committee – he/ she must be competent at interpreting the rules. The committee should also include representatives of supplier/ users of what is to be regulated – and possibly, though not necessarily, consumer representatives also.For the forum to have any teeth it must be able to “punish” those who transgress the guidelines – a fine, reporting to the wrong-doer’s trade organisation (who should have a rule in their conditions of membership as to the consequence of being found “guilty”), press-release with consequent publicity for companies not following the guidelines; all of these are forms of sanction available, and there are surely several more. Remember – publicity is a tool usable even against non-members of organisations!That a company does not belong to an organisation is no indication per se as to its professionalism – there are many legitimate reasons not to belong. A neutral “court” can, however, take up “unethical” behaviour even with non-members – most of these are, in my experience, good guys’ who did not follow the rules because they did not know what the rules were, and they will willingly fall into line! (The “bad guys” will never follow laws or self-regulatory guidelines – they can only be harmed by bad publicity!).It is important, in the information about self-regulatory measures to both consumers and their supplier, that it is made clear that there is a forum for complaint and who may file a complaint (anyone – why not?). It is also important that the complainant is informed as to the outcome of their expression of dissatisfaction.
Any self-regulatory measures worth their salt cost money, and it is important that before entering the road to self-regulation the question has been addressed, and resolved, as to how initial and on-going finance of the project is to take place. Ideally, it should not cost money to make a complaint, nor should any fines levied on transgressors be used to finance the project. It is necessary to find financial backing, from sponsors/ trade associations or the other parties who are prepared to support self-regulation without making a requirement of return on investment in self-regulation.
Within the teleservices industry there is a plethora of trade-associations – direct marketing associations, teleservices associations, call centre associations, call centre management associations, International Chamber of Commerce (in over 100 countries). With the help of the above 5 criteria, why cannot our teleservices industry get its act together and create some efficient, effective self-regulation that will stop legislators from crawling all over us? If it works, self-regulation is far more effective than legislation, because it is policed by people who understand what the issues are – and it is far cheaper for society, as it does not require the use of public money to make it work.
The advantages of self-regulation rather than legislation are so obvious that I say no more. As they say in court – “I rest my case, m’lud”!
Click here for a complete archive of our ‘Tip of the Month’ column.
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Many readers will know that Bill 2721 to ban predictive dialing in California got defeated earlier this month in the Californian Senate by 22 votes to 18. A victory for the telemarketing community snatched from the jaws of defeat, as a result of very effective lobbying, particularly by the American Teleservices Association (ATA) and the US Direct Marketing Association (DMA).
There is a very strong parallel with the state of the UK economy, where these words are being written. A small number of protestors literally brought the UK to its knees a week ago by blocking petrol distribution, in the wake of swingeing tax windfalls on fuel, and the highest petrol prices just about anywhere. The government didn’t back down, but its victory was pyrrhic as protestors went back to work vowing similar action if the tax burden was not reduced quickly.
Why the parallel? In the UK, the government has ‘been given’ 60 days by the protestors to respond to their grievances. No such respite in the US, where the debate on predictive dialing has now moved onto Congress, where an attempt is being made to ban predictive dialing in all 50 states.
OK, now check one of two, below:
- “We thought these pesky tree-huggers and ‘greens’ learnt their lesson in California. Why don’t they stick to yoga, and let us get on with running one of the US’s most efficient industries?”OR
- “Heck, California was a shock for us. Consumers do have legitimate concerns about predictive dialing. What can we do now to address these, and foster an efficient outbound industry that is renowned for the service it delivers, rather than the nuisance calls it foists upon people?”
If you checked (1), skip to the joke in the Candy Store below. If you checked (2), please read on.
If you want to refresh your understanding of why consumers are up in arms in the US on the issue of predictive dialing, then refer back to our May issue.
Our guess is that predictive dialing is unlikely to get banned by Congress, at least this time around, but if you are an active participant in the US outbound marketplace, then you should recognize that the clock is on its way to midnight there.
We think you should consider…
- understanding the guidelines on predictive dialing laid down by the DMA and endorsed (we believe) by the ATA and make sure that you comply with them. As we said in the May issue, if these guidelines are adhered to, then nuisance calls in the US will be decimated, and probably become a non-issue.
- making sure that those people who do not want to receive outbound calls (whether ‘predictive’ or not) can ‘opt out’. One solution is to rely upon the telcos to provide filtering services so that callers who withhold their numbers, are withheld themselves. A great value-added service for the telcos, but will it stop the move amongst states to come up with their own ‘don’t call’ lists? One contact of ours has point out that Congress has abrogated its rights on ‘don’t call’ lists to the states. Pity, an efficient national ‘don’t call’ system could be just the solution that the US needs.
Watch out next month for how predictive dialing is faring on the regulatory front in Europe.
As ever, we are happy to publish any well-argued views on these issues. Just send us an email.
If you’ve got this far you deserve some light refreshment.
Brad shows up for morning shift in the call center with a black eye.
“Wow, what happened to you!” asks his friend Steve.
Brad replies “My wife bought three boxes of the stuff we’re selling. It was delivered this morning and I managed to trip over it. I don’t know what made her buy so much.”
Steve replies, “Sounds like the handiwork of our killer agent of the week, Charlene.”
“Yeah?” says Brad, hoping to improve his technique and make peace with his wife at the same time. “What’s her technique?”
“Well, if it looks like they’re not going to buy, she tells them ‘If you don’t give me an order, I’ll tell your husband what you were up to last night!’ “
Know any good outbound anecdotes? Send us an email.