Telecalling or Telephone calling or Voice messaging has come a long way since the invention of telephone, as an important business tool. Is this just volume game that cannot be controlled or are there methods to optimize performance?
How to Boost Telecaller Efficiency through Intelligent Call Routing and sales performance motivation?
A telecaller is a person (or perhaps in future a device) that uses a telephone line to establish contact with a prospective customers or customers for business purposes. Sales organizations employ telecallers to make contact with the prospects to establish leads; customer support and services teams may also be contacting their customers to fulfill or sell services.
Telecalling as of today is a serious profession. Organizations provide significant budgets for this line of profession and have either their own telecallers or hire contracted services. Any organizational activity involving large budget warrants attempts to optimize the efforts and the costs. Hence boosting the telecaller efficiency and improving the performance of telecalling team becomes an organizational opportunity to increase the call throughput as well as effectiveness. This can be done by intelligent call routing (automation) and also by motivating people involved in telecalling (people) to perform better.
Telecalling as a Business Tool
Telephone in various forms continues to be an important communication device. The term telecalling applies to the communication achieved by using this device. Since the invention of the telephone Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 as a voice communication device, this device in various forms has come a long way in terms of its use in daily life as well as for business.
A modern telephone comes in numerous different forms such as Landline phone, Mobile phone, Cordless Phones, Conference call phones, just name a few from construction point of view. Telephones are also classified according to the purpose of applications, such as office phones, industrial phones, home phones, personal phones and others to name a few.
However it is the capabilities developed on the phones and operations of the phone during the last few decades that has the modern day telephone an exciting device; these are the features and capabilities such as IVR (Interactive Voice Response), Call back, Automated calling/messaging, Call logs, Call blocking, and many others.
Especially since the advent of the mobile phones particularly the Smartphones, the adoption of phone as a communicating device has been explosive and phenomenal. According to an estimate, there were as many as 6.8 billion subscriptions in the year 2014 (Courtesy Quartz.com article) and close to 8 billion connections in the year 2016 (Courtesy Statista.com publication). India alone has over 1 billion active connections according to TRAI information in 2017. Although it is possible that numerous persons have more than one phone per head, still this figure is way too high to be ignored from business interactions point of view. This number is so high that even with the application of major demographic and other filters it is still possible to get great volumes of contacts and calls.
Extensive use of telephones for telecalling has been in vogue since the 1970s, although its usage for business purposes can be dated back to 19th century. The primary purpose of telecalling is sales or lead generation, but it is also used for several sales and service cycles for any business.
For most profitable organizations sales cycle is the most important phase. From Lead generation point of view, while obtaining the list of calls to be made is the starting point, equally important is the aspect of establishing the right communication with the prospect. This generally happens at the beginning of a sales cycle and has limited success rate, even 1% success is considered to be very good. Hence the potential to increase performance in this is tremendous. Usually the prospect databases are large and it takes a long time to make calls and ensure success for the next stage of sales. Considering these two factors, it becomes necessary to strive for improvements in telecalling efficiencies and productivities.
Selling can be about either sale of products or service. Telecalling as applicable to Sale of products is about establishing initial contact with a prospect about the potential sales that may happen in future. Telecalling also applies to the Customer Service and Support that is applicable to any organization dealing with products or services. Sale of service is similar to sale of product although there are differences in terms of details. Telecalling is equally important for both of them.
It is imperative to ensure good success rate out of telecalling phase to ensure the amount of leads passed on to the inquiry stage of sales is ever increasing. It is equally important that the success rate of telecalling is measurable and predictable, as the next stages will need to gear up with action plans. Hence the process of telecalling must be improved progressively on a calculated and targeted basis.
Telecalling and Lead Management
A typical sales cycle has several stages (such as Lead generation, inquiry, quotation, order, delivery and payment of varied duration for each business case) which start generally with the Lead generation. While lead generation is an essential activity of this stage and an objective of this stage, the aspect of Lead management deals with the achievement of this objective through other activities. Although there are similarities in terms of ‘Lead Management’ as it applies to Sales or the Marketing function, this aspect can be primarily attributes to Sales in many cases.
A lead could be available due to initiatives from the organization or could be due to the necessity from the customer side. Different organizations have different perceptions of what is meant by the Lead management stage. The following graph provides (courtesy Marketing Sherpa 2012 survey result) an idea into this:
Request for Sale (initiated from the organization side) and the Request for proposal, Called in and Submitted online form (initiated from the customer side) are the top rankers in this definition.
According to the publication from Business Products Buyers Survey, only 20-25% of customers find their way into the leads list due to their own initiative, whereas 75-80% of them are discovered by the Lead generation process. Putting it this in another way, the company’s business would drop down to just 25% if they make no effort towards Lead generation. On the other hand company may make efforts to increase the Lead generation percentage by optimizing various media adopted; of these for many organizations of various sizes, telecalling is the way to go considering the volumes handled by this means and the ease of operations. These numbers count for nothing if this is not optimized into a continuously improving trend to ensure they account for sizeable business.
Lead Management for various organizations may vary in terms of the communication means or media employed. Some may resort to website optimizations, some may prefer SEO, some may opt for mass mailers, some may use email campaigns, some may resort to telecalling, some may launch tradeshows, and some may use direct marketing. All of organizations may use many of these in varied proportions. The question is about “what proportion of these that must be deployed for maximum impact” must be answered.
It may be noticed that some of these media are passive, such as the website optimizations, SEO, Pay-per-click, mass mailer, email campaigns and such others. The message is sent out from these media but it is the choice of the prospect to take a note and respond back. Some means like Tradeshows may work for larger products or services and may result in 2-way communications with the customers but they are expensive and need not happen frequently. Moreover they may not happen for organizations with smaller products (or services of how many ever lines of businesses). Although internet search engine related marketing is gaining in importance via means like Pay-per-click or specific advertisements, they are still advertisements; they help product or service message to be sent out, one-way!
Compared with all of these, the one means that may achieve volumes of 2-way communications (if done well), and also make it happen at reasonable cost if the telecalling. With the explosive proliferation of mobile phones in the past two decades, the ability to contact prospects goes up by several times. However, this requires good amount of optimization to ensure the right demographic choice, the right prospect, the right time are considered to ensure telecalling happens more effectively. It may even be worthwhile to combine some media to maximize the effects, for example initiating a call from the website or using the results from a Search Engine campaign to make telecalling more effective.
So, although telecalling helps in achieving volumes in terms of Lead generation, it must be driven with care and calculation, to make it more effective. In short it is necessary to optimize the costs and efforts. As the sales teams are often stressed out for performance and are always chased by stiff targets, it also becomes important to motivate telecalling team concerned to perform at optimal best levels. This needs measurement, analysis, and targets based on organizational objectives to ensure that the efforts remain focused.
Efficiency and Performance - Importance in Telecalling
Efficiency is about getting most of what is available at hand, and generally means the extent to which wastage is minimized or even eliminated. For every Telecaller, there are only fixed amount of working hours per day and limited number of days per week. Hence ensuring that a telecaller’ working time is optimally used thereby eliminating wastage.
A telecaller’ working time may be split between various activities, such as reporting, training, time-off, breaks, vacation and such others apart from the time spent on calls. Since the telecaller is a human being it may be possible that certain types of time splits may not avoidable; such as the daily breaks or training; perhaps no such time splits may be avoidable due company policies. This puts a limit on the availability time further. Within the available time then it becomes necessary to form some kind of queuing in order to optimize the daily schedule of calls handled.
While call centers that largely handle incoming calls have very decently established call routing rules, such as “next incoming call to be routed to longest waiting call agent” and “longest waiting call to be routed to first available agent”, this is not directly applicable in the case of telecalling as they are mostly outgoing calls.
In order to derive the equivalent advantage it may be necessary to have call-planning and call-scheduling list which can be optimized on similar lines. The call schedule per day in such cases could select telecallers based on availability, merits (background and skills) and past performance. While tools such as auto-diallers could be helpful in cutting down the calling time it may be necessary to limit their usage to just that, i.e. eliminating any time wastage.
Most important aspect is to eliminate the error-making, wastage (time and/or effort) and information inaccuracy. This can be done over a period of time in a trend of continuous improvement of efficiency and performance.
Performance is about the ability to deliver with maximum impact. In terms of telecalling this is not only concerning handling maximum number of calls, but also maximum success rate in terms call receipt (response from the call recipient), call materialization (dialogue happening between the caller and the recipient), and call conversion (move to the next stage of Lead Management). This requires good amount of analysis to take place before the call scheduling and routing can take place amongst the telecallers.
Telecalling performance can yield plenty of data! It is important to get a proper and well-thought-out analysis to craft a well-optimized call schedule. Numbers can be confusing unless they are interpreted correctly. Here are some examples!
There may be statements like “It takes about 80 calls in order to get an opportunity and takes about 68% of B2B calls required human interaction for conversion to subsequent stage”. This is obviously taken from the statistical analysis but it is still necessary to get the context of mention. It is obvious the following message is trying to make a mention that telecalling is better than email marketing, but the numbers hardly make any sense, unless they are taken in proper context!
From the above discussion it seems evident that in order to improve call efficiency and performance is it necessary to go through measurement, analysis and interpretation before effective call routing can take place. The terms efficiency as well as performance have their own sets of metrics which must be used in order to improve them.
Telecalling: An art or science!?
Telecalling as of today is still a human activity; distant or near future may find devices doing the telecalling based on Artificial Intelligence (if they mimic human sensitivity well). Telecalling cannot be done by everyone well. The question is whether it is an art or a science!?
Art requires artistic talent to be hidden within the telecaller; the art to perform during a call; no matter how many call scripts are trained and however many trials and trainings might have taken place! Each call is unique for the telecaller to be tackled independently each time. In fact automating the calling activity too much may make it uninteresting for the telecaller and may even be counter-productive in cases the script may not be suitable.
Even an experienced person may not be able to get the right way to approach the call unless an innate talent exists to handle the call. It may not be a complex art-form but still requires attitude and flair to do things in a successful manner. However not everything about telecalling is art! It requires considerable amount of science!
Telecalling requires some amount of training; training about how to begin, go through the call, and end the call; even the pause between the words; dealing with different situations of calm well-going receivers, caustic or even aggressive receivers may require significant amounts of training. Training is also about making the telecallers knowledgeable about company policies, usage of devices, and conduct within the premises with various stakeholders.
There is considerable repeatability of some parts of telecalling that can be considered as science. Every call is unique so the innate talent (art) within a telecaller to deal with different people in different situations that comes into picture.
The next question would be to understand how to ensure telecallers have the unique combination of both? While the art to deal with various situations can be discovered during the recruitment time, the science part can be dealt with during the training period (it may still be necessary to understand if the person does have the attitude to learn!).
The next question will be to understand how to measure the performance for each telecaller for these two! By considering the details on specific calls (based on selected success or failure criteria) the talent can be measured; call recording done in so many companies for performance sake is the way to go for this. The repeatability of performance of the telecaller can be measured from call recording as well as the day to day performance.
Every telecaller is unique in the end! Differences are bound to exist between any two callers. However the performance criteria can be formed and used within the call assignment logic, in terms of these two factors (efficiency and performance) depending on the call script considered for the next schedule.
Improving Caller Efficiency and Performance - Adoroi mScience
Telecalling centers are different from Call centers in a few aspects. Call centers are available on a reactive basis to help existing customers; the call volumes are large only if the customer base is large. Although in general Call centers have their own challenges, telecalling has its own unique challenges as discussed in several points above, such as the need for measurement, analysis, optimization and improvements. Some of the points discussed are applicable to both, but the need for optimization is greater in the case of telecalling.
The question then is about how to improve calling efficiency and improve its performance under various conditions? Some of the aspects discussed such as the existence of a call planning & scheduling from a reliable database, based on sound analysis/logic, comprehensive set of analytics about multi-faceted marketing campaigns, including all types of communication means.
It can be derived that telecalling as a business process can be improved successfully only by having a complete visibility about the performance of the Lead Management in the organization. This starts with the formation of the caller list and the timing of each call. For example, customers that have bought one product may find the necessity of another product or services after some duration; this might be a good time to call such customers for positive response. Nevertheless the knack of the telecaller often decides the success rate of calling to a good extent. It is also better to place the people providing negative responses on “not-repeat” list as this will ensure the calls (most importantly the time and effort) are not wasted.
It should also be kept in mind that the “Request for sale” initiated from customer’s side must also be given sufficient importance, although it may be relatively lesser in volumes. This is because a customer that comes seeking has greater chances for success and retention. So telecalling must have an additional aspect of responding to incoming calls. Metrics must be available for the incoming as well as outgoing calls made in terms of various details.
It may also become necessary to integrate the various marketing media with the Lead Management team to ensure maximization of responses; for example a feature available to call sales team from a website. Most often Telecalling team would be in a vantage position to provide the responses.
mScience is a solution from Adoroi Ventures Tech Ventures that provides comprehensive answers to various marketing problems and challenges. mScience is a coined term indicating Marketing Science. Several Lead Management features make it possible to cover wide range of media campaigns and their tracking.
It is often difficult to make decisions about whether to invest in marketing campaigns based on return on investment, or the number of people calling/visiting or based on the conversion success. The only way to make decision is by making simultaneous comparisons.
Sales and marketing data can be vast, overwhelming and complex. It needs good analytical tools to make meaningful inferences and conclusions. The calculations and interpretations must be accurate and reliable to derive decisions out of them.
mScience has several interesting features that will enable sales and marketing organizations to conduct the Lead management effectively and successfully:
- Metrics and analysis
- Return on Investment comparisons across campaigns: By comparisons it is possible to select the most suitable campaign media
- Footfalls and attendance measurement: Useful in some types of campaigns involving physical presence of customers
- Clicks and telephone calls: Useful in some types of campaigns involving contact of customers
- Leads and successes: Lead tracking and management
- Multiple measurements on each campaign: Better insights into the campaigns
- Waste visibility and Reduction: Optimizing the marketing budgets and efforts
- Predictive Marketing Analytics: AI-based predictive trend studies based on products, campaigns, and media sources.
- Detailed Dashboards: Near real-time call analytics and reports
- Marketing Charts and Graphs: Ready visibility instead of detailed number crunching
- Interpretation of complex data: Analytics that lead to interpretations and may lead to actions
- Competitive intelligence: To know spikes or drops in the sales data
- Virtual Call center
- Managing calls
- Automatic Call routing (efficiency based): Efficient and cost-effective call handling
- Round Robin Calling: Eliminating wastage by limiting unresponsive calls
- Call recording for quality/performance tracking: Helping the logic for keywords, use of positive or negative words, training and duration
- Keyword-based call tracking: Searching for exceptions
- Calling from website: Website visitors also included within telecalling
- Call/SMS notifications: Call and SMS campaigns apart from others
- Lead Management
- Marketing Campaign conduction
- Call/Ad/SMS/Search/Media campaigns: Multi-faceted campaign management system
- Customer life-cycle track: Lifetime view of the customer
- Lead to Revenue Management: For lead management, contacts and Ad Tracking.
- Media Planning: Based on the analytical insights, deciding on the marketing media for various campaigns.
- Marketing Campaign conduction
- Managing calls
Thus, Adoroi provides a comprehensive solution to all marketing organizational needs which has active and extensive Lead Management requirements; their LMS works in online as well as offline mode, to provide either flexibility or integrated view depending on the need. While the marketing success ultimately lies in the intention of the organization, mScience does not leave any stone unturned in terms of providing features required as inputs for marketing activities, especially Lead Management! It is even possible to automate the calling process!
Motivating Telecallers to Perform
While measurement, analysis, decision and implementation can be done well using suitable tools, the success of the marketing campaigns will still lie to a good extent in the hands of the telecallers. So, it becomes necessary to motivate the telecaller team to achieve the optimal best.
Since telecalling hitherto depends predominantly on the human performance by the telecaller team members, the performance may vary from time to time and person to person. It is only the motivation and the drive to perform the best that can bring out ever improving performances.
While the motivating and favorable (to perform better) factors can be created by organization managers, the motivation to perform better can also come from within each person and between team members.
There are two questions that must be attributed to this: “What happens if a person performs?” and “What happens if a person fails to meet performance expectations?”. This immediately leads us to the traditional “carrot & stick” principle.
While the term “carrot” may not work in long-term, the equivalent positive motivational factors such as short-term rewards-&-recognition, certificates-of-excellence, career promotions and such others may work well. The positive motivation may vary based on the performance levels in terms of the duration (consistency of performance) and measure of success (measure of performance improvement exhibited). Expectation setting related to practices and durations related to motivation could be crucial for this.
While the positive motivation may propel a person to move forward in terms of performance, the negative motivation (stick principle) may ensure prevention of performance degradation. Like the positive motivation in this case also it may vary depending on the duration and the measure of success. Lack of rewards, withdrawal of benefits, letters-of-memo, and certain extreme actions depending on the level of performance are some of the negative motivators that may discourage below par performances.
Telecallers with innate talent could be closing calls faster than the others; amongst these some of them can work with high-performance levels for longer times. The way the calls are closed, duration taken and the number of calls are some bases upon which the performance levels could be recorded. These may be correlated with conversion success; although it may happen much later, this provides an idea about the correlation between the way calls are closed and the success rate (an important one from sales point of view for any organization)!
There is a difference between positive and negative motivators. Positive motivators can be often done in public, whereas negative motivation often must be done in private; the need to do negative motivation in public must always be well thought out and with purpose; sometimes this is true for positive motivation also.
Lack of any motivation is undesirable. Presence of motivational factors helps the team to remain on a forward-mode. Motivational factors must be aimed to help keep healthy atmosphere in the workspace.
Telecalling continues to be a pursued option for sales and marketing campaigns due to its cost-effectiveness and ease of execution. The number of telephone devices in types, sizes and connections in the current world is humongous; the volume of sales achievable is large even with the filters applied. The metrics and analyses available that can reveal the performance trends and the areas of various media campaigns can make Lead management to become more predictable. Presence of metrics and analyses makes it possible to measure efficiency and target improvements, eliminate wastage and increase effectiveness. By adopting practices and software like Adoroi mScience it is well possible to optimize marketing budgets, make Lead Management more predictable and fruitful.
While telecalling can be made more efficient, telecaller performance can be enhanced through motivational steps as telecalling as of today is still largely a people’ activity. Performance measurement in details can reveal if the motivational initiatives are yielding positive, negative or neutral results.