Predictive dialers are automated outbound calling systems that can call down a long list of phone numbers on an automated basis. When a connection is made, they connect an agent directly to the individual who answered the call. The result is that a business can much more efficiently call a long list of customers or prospects. Soft dials, by contrast, are when an agent manually dials a phone number and waits to see if someone answers. As you may guess, predictive dialing delivered an enormous boost to revenue at a lower cost in the past. But that’s changing.
It’s a fact – hardly anyone answers their telephone anymore if the call is coming from someone that they don’t know. This is particularly true of business executives. And, even when they do, finding the right person in a business often requires navigating an automated call agent – something that a predictive dialer just can’t do. So agents know it is important to be able to leave a voice message if given the opportunity. But dialers sometimes produce “false negatives” when an automated service answers a phone – reducing the number of times that they might get through either to an individual or to a messaging system.
When calls are connected, the nature of the conversation is different than it was a few years ago. Customers are no longer patient with getting a call from someone reading a script, they want someone who understands their specific situation and can engage in a conversation with them. As a result, call center agents need a few moments to understand the basics of who they are calling (what is their title, what kind of business are they in, how might they use the product that the agent is calling to discuss) so that they can be prepared to engage with the customer or prospect. Predictive dialers leave no time for the agent to understand the customer situation before the call is connected.
On a recent project, we worked with a group of call center agents who had abandoned using their predictive dialer completely (this was a dialer from one of the largest telephony equipment providers in the world). Instead, they were manually soft dialing down their list of prospects. Their reason was simple – they engaged in more conversations with greater relevance and as a result their commissions were better (as was the bottom line of the company that they worked for). They still had the option of using the predictive dialer, but they made the conscious decision to move away from it. How did they come to this conclusion? Read on…
At the same time, call center managers are now starting to recognize that legacy call center software is no longer providing a benefit over integrated customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.
Not too long ago, enterprise caliber call centers had to use software customized to the call center to handle their scripting, call recording, audits and reporting – CRM solutions just didn’t provide the depth and breadth of functionality that they needed. But that started to change around 5 years ago as CRM systems evolved to include more robust call center functionality either built in or through third party extensions.
Beating the competition means differentiating the business – and the call center is one of the most important places to engage in a different kind of relationship with customers and prospects. With more pressure to differentiate, call center managers are finding that CRM systems offer more configuration flexibility. Moreover, an integrated CRM system means that the call center can now better collaborate with marketing, sales, operations and customer support. Lastly, modern CRM systems such as Microsoft CRM and Salesforce also include extensive reporting and dashboard capabilities, making it easier for call centers to spot trends that can lead to almost instant improvements in their business processes.
On the same project referenced above, the client discovered the benefit of soft dialing over predictive dialing through an analysis call data from their new CRM system. While their legacy application provided fairly robust reporting, it was not easy to customize. The client was able to customize their CRM system to capture more granular information regarding call connections, and the dispositions of calls. Combining this better information with CRM dashboards, they were able to identify and correct an issue that had persisted for years – in a matter of a few weeks after deploying their new CRM system.
Soft dialing remains too inefficient to be a long-term solution. But combining the benefits of predictive and soft dialing may be the solution. This approach works as follows:
While this approach is not as efficient as a predictive dialer, it is a significant improvement over soft dialing. Not to mention, it is more respectful of the individual receiving the call.
At the intersection of changing customer expectations and changing CRM capabilities is a great opportunity for call centers to excel at winning more new relationships and fostering loyalty.
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