As marketers confront the limitations of
the newer digital channels, outbound
telemarketing has once more returned to
the fore – but establishing how well an
outsourced call centre is performing on
your behalf can be a tricky business, as Antony Begley finds out.
Outbound telemarketing and lead generation are very much back on the multichannel marketing map as more and more businesses come to accept that the digital channels, far from being the answer to all of their prayers, actually come with their own sets of very real and very important embedded limitations. Through cold, hard experience, marketers now have a much better handle on the ‘real’ costs of email and digital marketing that for a long time lay hidden out of sight – all of which only serves to make telemarketing seem a much more attractive option once more.
But how exactly do you get the measure of your outsourced call centre? The answer, of course, is to ask the right questions to get the right answers by understanding the metrics – and not just the basics like cost per call or average handling time. Fully grasping which KPIs are vital when it comes to evaluating outsourced telemarketing is key to maximising ROI through this relatively expensive channel.
NOT SO CHEAP AND EASY
First things first, however. How has the recession affected telemarketing, and how does it now fit into a digital world? “There’s no question that the recession forced a lot of marketers’ hands and they got into digital whether they thought it was appropriate for their purposes or not, just because digital appeared so cheap and easy,”
says Niall Habba, Managing Director of the Telemarketing Company.
“A big problem with that however was that the good quality data that marketers needed in order to underpin their activity in the newer digital channels just wasn’t there. In general, the data quality out there isn’t great which means campaigns were never destined to deliver to their potential. In the case of B2B marketing, for
instance, take job titles in a specific departments – that list just doesn’t exist, you can’t buy it.” Which plays into the hands of telemarketers who can justifiably argue that while they have always been expensive (and have always acknowledged this fact), they have always delivered robust ROI.
“Today’s telemarketers are a different breed from the bad old days when consumers couldn’t sit at home for more than a couple of hours without getting a pushy salesman on the phone trying to sell them double glazing,” says Duncan Graham, Commercial Director at Callcredit Marketing Solutions. “Clients are no longer buying all the data they can get their hands on then hammering dialers and seeing what falls out. Today it’s all about
feeding as much insight into the system as is possible before anyone even picks a phone up.” Gathering transactional, behavioural and lifestyle data and serving it to the call centre operative to facilitate real or near-real-time decisioning is the holy grail here, and a survey published last month highlights how important this can be in exploiting sales opportunities and maximising customer retention.
Without real-time decisioning, says the survey, call centres risk suffering from ‘insight gaps’, that will negatively impact on their abilities to identify customers who can be persuaded to consider new offers, for example, or retain customers they might otherwise lose or re-establishing profitable relationships with former customers.
“Joining data and contact together and making the call on the back of that is what delivers success,” believes Graham. “With more data you make better calls, it’s that simple. The call itself is actually a relatively small part of the overall process – all of the hard work should have been done before the call is made.”
Which brings us neatly onto call centre performance metrics. We’re all familiar with the usual cost per call or average handling time metrics, but do these really give clients true insight into how their call centre partner is delivering for them?
“The basic metrics around calls per hour, average call times and so on are certainly useful and can give you a general feel for how well the call centre is delivering but ultimately what every client really should be focused on is conversion to business,” says Habba. “You’re clearly better to take five minutes and get a sale than rush through four calls in the same time and get no sales, and that can get lost if you don’t know what you’re looking at.” Graham agrees: “The most appropriate metrics to use will vary from client to client, but it all boils down to focusing on value, not cost. Additional insight into customer behavior is what produces results.”
It’s clear that KPIs still have value but marketers need to look deeper to really discover
how well their call centre is performing, and there’s little question that a longer term
partnership approach is far more likely to deliver than a tactical, short term approach, as Habba concludes: “A collaborative, two-way dynamic approach lets each of the partners get to know each other and understand how they work and what their true aims are, and it’s only through a longer term refining and finessing process with closed loop feedback that your call centre will really be able to optimise ROI.”