Hiring ‘call centres’

Don’t get me wrong call centers have their place, but the issue is they are often misapplied.

This is why you get telemarketer calls that make no sense. I seem to get them in Chinese, sometimes twice a day. Thanks HBSC but message not received. Not getting to appreciated or annoyed by at all. Its just a waste of your money, even if its some machine and recording.

Any reasonable person will probably agree that this is not the way to start a business relationship with anyone. Even if they literally speak the language.

So if the telemarketing companies exist, how do you use them properly?

There isn’t a hard and fast answer to that one.

People and organizations that deploy are sold on call enters being a cornerstone or their entire their marketing solutions have blinders on. Its like using a spellchecker on an article. Its a matter of context. Spell check an article in British English you get a different result than American or International English.

Its telltale enough that your company or organization bleeds through the lack of care. Call for ‘Sam Smith’ about tractor parts and find out that its Samantha Smith and she has nothing to do with them. Far a fit.

Any reasonable person would skip over the call and make a note to take it off the list once this is discovered.

The reality of call centers is they operate on speed and often their mechanism isn’t flexible enough to determine things like; already called leave it alone, do not call, eliminated not in criteria, and other no interest items.

This is because a ‘dialer’ is used. A dialer is not as flexible or forgiving to the person making the call. It forces a now or never approach. Why? Because setting up a call back for a convenient time or when the person is there just isn’t doable. Dialers tend to run through the list.

What list? That’s always a question. Some as the same as calling from the phone book, you have an entity, corporate or individual. Ever get a call for your first initial and last name? Or have you gotten a call for Mr or Mrs Lastname? I have received calls for my first name, middle initial and last name.

This does indicate A level of research, but its still a cold call and people can tell. Do you agree that when you call an organization its still a personal call until other people are brought in? If you don’t for some reason. Please review that. Even if your calling an office containing overcrowded cubicles in a shipping container somewhere.

The strength of calling as apposed to any other form of marketing is personalization. Doing anything you can to make the call fit the circumstance is what you should be doing without exception. Revising rules to get more soft hits just does not make sense or money.

You need to talk with the decision maker and only the decision maker. If you can’t focus on that with precision, you need to take steps (to borrow from Stephen Covey) to sharpen that saw.

The shame about call centers is they often focus on calls and not deducing who it is that can trigger a result. Someone is a prime influencer at the least, and with the proper technique is the entrance way to relations with the organization. Individuals such as entrepreneurs are usually capable of a hard and fast decision right there during the call. Often though they are distracted and realize it, tabling a decision.

So the days of calling up and making an end to end sale are severely limited, particularly when the prospect tries to find your website “what is your companies name again” and googles it. Often support materials are assumed to be available without question. “We are working on our website” is very weak.

What good is it when you can’t dial for dollars like the old days? You can, but you have to add more relationship in the dial. Usually. Even lower ticket items or impulse buys are becoming this way. Prospects are challenging and often make comparisons to product they truly want.

One call Sales isn’t as strong as it used to be on the phone, even if you have the deal of the century. I mean the deal of the century, truly bigger better, proven to be so, with better terms. Your not just hyping it, you are living it and back it up.

Prospects consumer or business know that the stronger the claim the bigger the bluff is true as a rule of thumb. They are also getting pounded by other call centers and individual sales people trying an end to end sale.

Making a sales call is not for the faint of heart. Unfortunately call centers do not employ anything but the weak of heart as a rule. Unless they handle inbound calls for tech or similar industries like banks. Most call centers hire people to fill the seats who are transitory at best. Few are well spoken, dedicated, and will be there for you from campaign to campaign.

Other things include recordings, robo-calls they are often called, often muddy the water as they annoy and are mostly survey or information based. The HSBC example I alluded to earlier are is not a rule of thumb but frightening in their frequency. I have received calls from “the Captain’ that they are leaving Charlottetown harbour and calls about my septic tank.

Since I wasn’t about to embark on a sea voyage and I did not have a septic tank, I was on city plumbing, the Assumptive factor was up there.

This is mostly the complaint about many sales calls and the big factor in getting to the next level with a prospect. The old school, “sales is the effect of one man’s mind on another” is far too rigid when your unseen, easily confused for others who are intent on sell, sell, sell, and just aren’t looking at what a fit it should be for the prospect or organization.

You get less people on the line than ever, you need to sell a reason for a call as much or more than the actual product. You have to have your act together. People are myopic and when resistant will look around their home or office as they hear how far off track you really are. As the song goes ‘that don’t impress me much”.

You need to impress people by listening. When they say no, get permission to call them back at a later date with something that does fit. Make the promise and sift the list so that only real prospects are called or sent a marketing piece.

Don’t go overboard with support materials and stay on the right side of filters. You will find that business people will have a gmail or yahoo to send untrusted emails to. Make the most of that and stay active. Don’t send out monthly flyers, semi annual flyers without permission. Get permission each time, ‘can I send to XXX@gmail.com ‘ each time. Maybe they will put you on a less filtered email. You have done what you said you would.

Robo calls will not get this permission, and general calls to the home owner or the person in charge of… will not get through.

A CRM is the only way to go. The biggest hint here is that a Dialer loads telephone number, first and last name, address and has a small area for notes. Often the dialer is used to keep call center workers glued to their seats making call after call. While its true that you can make more calls per hour with them, you also dial more answering machines and receptionists with them.

Like anything else they must be used judiciously, or the ‘game is afoot’. You want to have a light footprint in the initial stages of qualifying suspects, yes, SUSPECTS. Many campaigns miss the step of the criteria of who will be a prospect and who will not. The effect of one persons mind on another will not get me on a boat ‘just leaving Charlottetown harbour’ (complete with fog horn on the phone). Can we assume there were a few more like me?

Call centers, particularly off shore, paid only by piecework do not have a light foot print. Neither do those who ‘upsell’ as a part of their ‘solutions’ in customer care or tech. It just increases call resistance to deploy tactics like that. Service should be service, you should not expect more calls to the same people to sift more result from them. Calls that did not connect are the only correct assumption.

The really unfortunate thing is call centers who hit the calls more than one ‘pass’ with people who answered the phone and said no are subscribing to ‘buyers are liars’ or at least treating suspects like that by default. Maybe they don’t intend to, maybe they are forced to for one reason or another (lack of list, contract with client company, etc) The fact is the default action often is heavy handed.

Operators or workers often lack experience or training. Over time a good operator learns to read the non verbal signals that tells them to carry on or disposition the call as not interested. Client company expectations figure in this as well.

Often experienced people will get results without a lot of hand holding, because they aren’t working within a tight box. I have seen this a number of times where the SPH or Contacts (per hour) do not match the experience of the call center. Probably because the experienced talent could pull the trigger on the phone and sift suspect more effectively than others. That’s not always the reason.

It could also be that the expectations were not as high as, say, four sales per hour of a certain dollar value. That’s just downloading the grief to the front line and often the odds of making enough sales is spread amongst the numbers manning the phones.

Hiring a call center is usually a decision between general call centers which are bee hives with many bodies or more boutique firms with specialists that have some level of experience in your industry.

But probably not your business.

The one that would be ideal to hire is one that can leverage new opportunities for you, without beating up your integrity in the eyes of your customer. When a customer (not prospect or suspect) calls in and the person does not know main streets in the area, it filters down to everything. It just makes it clear that they aren’t about to get an expert on the phone from your company.

This chink in trust over time flavours the suspect, prospect and customer experience and in certain ways can lead to negativity which may or may not be reported back to you.

My best advice actually comes from another area of my life, and relates whole heartedly to this topic. Begin with an end in mind. This is true of many things

I would be happy to answer in confidence any questions you have in reviewing a marketing entity who may be making calls for you.