Newsletter Ten

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Issue 10 of Outbound Focus, a free email publication of Sytel Limited.

The call of business has meant that Issue 10 has been a while in coming. We are back on track, and keen to give away some champagne!

We have decided not only to award a case of bubbly to the winner of our Champagne Challenge, but also to give a bottle to each and every author we publish. And instead of handing out a case at year end, we will do so following the 10th contribution we publish, starting with this month’s contributor, to whom a bottle is now making it’s way.

Jamie Stewart

In This Issue

    Predictive Silence is NOT Golden…
    Improving The Art Of Speaking On The Telephone
    A little sweetener in the pot!


Predictive Silence is NOT Golden

Predictive dialing has come under regular attack in the US, principally on account of predictive silences, caused by a predictive dialer connecting to a consumer but having no agent to pass the call to. This practice is effectively banned by the US Direct Marketing Association (DMA), but still utilized in an attempt to crank up productivity. We had long thought that the UK would manage to avoid these bad practices, but a good (or rather, bad) example came through to one of the folk at Sytel recently.

But first, by way of contrast, here is a sample from a responsible UK operation, working within UK DMA rules for making predictive calls.

  1. How To Do It

    Even within the rules, there will be abandoned calls, but they will be kept to a minimum. But there is no scope for any other kind of nuisance call.

    Any calls that do get abandoned by this user, are rescheduled and quickly called back in preview mode (ensuring that an agent will be available if the call is answered). An apology is forthcoming, and a sweetener is offered as compensation. We can’t reveal the sweetener but we understand that it is affordable and that the called parties are pretty happy with it.
  2. How Not To Do It

    A major UK call center was doing some cross-selling from a list of credit card holders. One of our staff (‘our man’) was working at home that day and received three calls from them, the first such outbound calls he has had in over a year.

    The first call came in the morning when he was busy. The first callback came at around 2:00pm. Our man answered the phone to be met with silence, so he hung up, quickly. A couple of hours later another call, and again silence. Our man, intrigued, hung on to be greeted by a bouncy agent about 8 seconds later.

    When questioned as to why he had been kept waiting, after a pause she managed to find the excuse that she had been talking to her supervisor. Pretty feeble, especially given the earlier calls. So our man contacted the call center (which is, incidentally, a stalwart DMA member) to point out that such practice is way outside the UK DMA code of practice, and hoping that this might be a one-off.

    The MD wrote a very nice letter back, saying among other things that they are determined to work within the code of practice in future. And there it could have stopped. But no, we then got another reason as to why the agent was slow in answering the phone; she was clearing her throat!

    When you tell a porkie (being less than economical with the truth) it is usually a good idea to at least be consistent. But full marks anyway to the MD for being upfront about his future commitment to the UK code of practice.

But it does make you wonder whether we might be breeding some middle managers in the call center industry in the UK (for it is from these ranks that the MD’s explanation will have come) who have no interest in complying with any guidelines, and will use any practice they can to crank up talk times.

We hope not. The Labour government looks set for a second term. This kind of practice is an easy target for ‘consumer advocates’ within its ranks. The danger is that responsible operators working within the code of practice could suffer as well.

So Why Do Dialers Keep Consumers Waiting?

We have covered this topic several times in past issues but it bears repeating. A part of the explanation lies in the origins of predictive dialing in the debt collection marketplace in the 1980s. It didn’t matter if you kept folk waiting because they owed you money.

Another reason lies in design that is really past its ‘sell by date’. Even today, any time you see predictive dialing talked about, you often spot something along the lines of the following comment we picked up from a recent article on the web. (We have changed a few words so as not to embarrass anyone, but the sense remains the same).

“Using sophisticated algorithms the dialer will track an agent in the closing stages of a call, and begin dialing the next number for him. It will connect the call to that agent as soon as it knows there is a live voice on the line.”

Doesn’t add up, does it? What if the called party answers before the agent is free? This will happen often enough that, unless the dialer abandons the call, the only option is to keep the called party waiting.

P.S. Activity on the DMA Front.

There has been a lot of encouraging activity on the DMA front recently, with both the UK DMA and the US DMA reviewing their codes and how best to achieve compliance among members. Nothing in the public domain yet, but we will bring news as soon as it breaks.


This month, we introduce Mark Hevingham, of BPS Teleperformance, one of the leading call center outsourcing providers in the UK. As Team Manager, his role includes the induction, training, daily management and motivation of outbound sales teams.

Improving The Art Of Speaking On The Telephone

Let’s face it – telemarketing still has a great deal of excess baggage in the bad news department of the public consciousness. I have made a few changes to the way in which I train my new callers, which may also help you in your call center.

My thinking is that if I received a telemarketing call, how would I want it to go? If I had not thought about buying a service before the call, what would persuade me to turn off the ‘Weakest Link’ (a UK TV game show) and listen? For anyone who has ever received a telemarketing call, there can be no worse sound than the lazy and disinterested voice of the weak TSR. For many people, the telephone is an every day part of life, but in a similar way to the VCR, not everyone who owns one, knows how to use it to its optimum potential. We are all keenly aware that the telephone is an extremely powerful – and lucrative – sales tool but it could be even better.

As a Team Manager, for a world-wide teleservices company, I have a lot of involvement in the training and ongoing development of staff. I firmly believe that success lies not necessarily in what we say to the customer but in the way in which we say it. I have seen – and indeed been party to -training programs which employ various principles and memory jogging phrases that are designed to grab the customers attention, or handle the difficult rebuttal. Since the beginning of 2001, I have dropped many of these methods – which I now firmly believe are as outdated a concept as calling from lists on sheets of paper.

Presentation of the service or product is as important as the features and benefits of the item itself. In order to help TSRs sell these items, I do not drone on for hours with slides or handouts.

Instead, I use three simple props in sales training:

  • a tape recorder
  • a photocopier
  • a daily newspaper

With these three invaluable tools, it is possible to guide the weakest TSR towards excellent delivery and gaining the empathy of the customer.

Here’s the plan; simply set up your tape recorder, then select a short, general interest piece from the newspaper.

Now, photocopy the article. Leave one as printed, then on the other, draw lines where you believe an interest-generating pause could sit. This may or may not coincide with the existing punctuation.

Next, one by one, take the TSRs from the training area, and ask them first to read the article, exactly as they would normally, then again, with the new pause generating lines that break up the text. Ask the TSR to wait in a neutral area, so that they cannot alert the next agent to what is going on. At this point they can grab a coffee whilst they wait for their team mates – this always goes down well!

When you have finished, play back the tape to the entire team. Not only will this create amusement, and begin to lower the barriers created with a new team, it will also quickly begin to highlight the correct way in which to speak over the telephone, and generate discussion.

Remind the TSRs, that whilst on the call, both they and the customer are deprived of four of the five senses, relying on just hearing. Finally, introduce a product for the team to sell – completely divorced from the product you offer, but show the concepts of introduction, information gathering, the pitch, and asking for the sale. These universal constants can be applied to any sales pitch.

Talk about scenarios that will strike a chord with the callers – mention a film or TV show they will know with great acting, then mention one with poor acting. Ask them to discuss how different acting methods color their appreciation of that production. Does the bad actor stand out? Can the same be said for the poor caller? For what reasons would the customer want stay on the telephone if the agent sounds flat and bored? This will ignite excellent discussions and the callers will connect with the concepts of presentation far more easily than if the trainer uses diagrams and handouts.

By the time you introduce any scripted guidelines you expect used in a call, the process will seem second nature. In this way, trainers can speed up the elimination of the drab and lifeless presentation that may be inherent with certain new team members.

Try it – it works!

Many thanks to Mark Hevingham for his contribution.

If you are a leading outbound specialist, why not win a bottle of champagne by contributing to our Tip of the Month column? Just send us an email.


You’ve heard of a ‘gaggle of geese’ and a ‘murder of crows’?

Now, a Clutch of Collective Outbound Nouns!

  1. prosthetic of headsets
  2. hassle of wrong numbers
  3. slipup of scripts
  4. An armada of agents
  5. dose of abandoned calls
  6. tagliatelli of telemarketing laws
  7. knuckle of irate consumers
  8. An apoplexy of enraged congressmen!

Know any outbound anecdotes? Send us an email.

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