Telemarketing Performance

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How do we maintain the quality of our telesales team?

Once established, the greatest threat to the productivity of a telemarketing team is a drop in motivation. In addition, the unavoidably high turnover of staff associated with telemarketing can mean that good staff leave for other jobs and are replaced, often in a hurry, by bad ones. Further, bad or sloppy habits can return to individual staff members if they do not receive regular training specific to their job.

The key to maintaining motivation is to employ and retain a good telemarketing team leader. Another tip to avoid a dip in motivation is to consider giving your staff time off when the people they are calling are least likely to be receptive (and most likely to be rude or aggressive). Examples of such times are during important football matches.

Relatively high staff turnover is part and parcel of large telemarketing teams and our experience has shown that it is largely unavoidable. With this in mind a program of constant recruitment should be considered, taking into account the recruitment guidelines here.

Performance data can be used to identify staff members who have taken their eye off the ball. A good team leader will be able to identify the techniques used by well performing team members and regularly reinforce those techniques in team members who are underperforming.

How do we increase the productivity of our telesales team?

Three methods can be used to increase the productivity of a telemarketing team; removing the bad candidates, improving the phone script and motivating the staff.

For newly formed telemarketing teams it is essential that the good and bad performing candidates are identified and the bad ones removed from the team. Whilst training can improve the performance of telemarketing staff, innate personality characteristics form up to 30% of performance. Therefore there is no point wasting time on candidates who do not have the characteristics required to perform well. As explained, it is also important that candidates who perform well are encouraged to remain.

The performance of a telephone operative depends on three factors:

  • How the questions are worded and in what order.  Any telemarketing call is taking up the time of the person at the other end of the call, unannounced and typically with no reward. Therefore it generally relies on the good nature of the person being called to comply. It is ia good idea to be polite, friendly (but not overly friendly) and to the point. Telemarketing campaigns generally involve criteria which the customer has to satisfy in order for the call to be considered a success. A common mistake is to leave the criteria questions to the end of the call. This wastes the time of all involved. A good telemarketing script will be polite, friendly and as short as possible.
  • How the questions are asked. Even with the best script, if a staff member is obviously bored and unfriendly then the customer is very unlikely to warm to them and will attempt to finish the call as soon as possible. The best operatives appear friendly and optimistic on the phone (including the ability to deviate from the script to exchange pleasantries if appropriate). Research has also shown that some accents are received badly. Other research has shown that people are most likely to warm to members of the opposite sex with a similar accent to themselves.
  • What is required from the customer. Obviously, the more you ask of the customer, the less likely they are to comply. Company contact information, including enquiry email addresses are the easiest to get. Next is the personal contact information of the customer or their manager. Contact information of decision makers is harder to source, simply because it the most valuable and therefore the most asked for. Commitments to go to a seminar or worse, to part with money, are amongst the hardest to obtain.

Team leaders and telesales managers should regularly address these three factors and made regular adjustments to refine the telemarketing process.

How do we increase the return per lead ratio?

The return per lead ratio is the number of leads that have to be called in order to generate a success. Please see earlier answers for methods that can be used to improve this ratio.

How do we monitor the quality of our sales team?

Monitoring the performance of a telemarketing team is essential in order to improve and maintain the number and quality of leads they can produce. The key performance metrics are:

  • Number of successful calls.  Clearly, if one staff member has more successful calls than another in a given period of time, they are performing better. It is important that this metric is not used in isolation to judge performance.
  • Number of failed calls.  Whilst a greater number of successful calls is important, if the number of failed calls is also large then it suggests that the staff member might be “burning leads”. This can be especially important if the leads are expensive. Once a lead has been called they cannot be called again and asked the same questions.
  • The ratio of successful calls relative to total calls made.  The previous two metrics can be combined into a ratio. If this ratio is near 100% then very few leads are being burnt. A good candidate will have a reasonable number of successful calls and successful call ratio. It could be argued that this ratio becomes less important if the call data is free or cheap.
  • Number of disconnected numbers.  If a number is no longer in service then it will fail to be put through. A sign of bad telemarketing phone data is a large number of disconnected calls. Data companies will typically provide more numbers than requested in order to deal with this issue. If the total amount of data purchased minus the disconnected numbers is less than the amount of data purchased then data companies will typically produce more free of charge.
  • Number of calls that are not answered.  Time spent by your staff waiting for the call to answer is entirely unproductive. Given that the minimum time a call must be allowed to ring before being abandoned is 15 seconds and the average length of a telemarketing call is only 30 seconds, the cost per lead can increase considerably if a large proportion of calls do not answer. This proportion is typically affected by the time of day and whether the numbers are business or residential. Business numbers are most likely answered during office hours and residential numbers in the early evening.
  • Total ring time.  This is the total time an individual staff member has spent waiting for calls to answer. It is similar to the number of calls that are not answered metric. Staff are entirely unproductive during this time.
  • Total talk time.  This is the total time an individual staff member has spent talking to customers. This is the only time when your staff are potentially earning you money.
  • Total wrap-up time.  This is the total time an individual staff member has spent recording data sourced during the call into your customer database. Staff are not productive during this time.
  • Combination of ring, talk and wrap-up time.  Ideally, the ring and wrap-up time should be as short as possible. Ring time can be reduced by using a predictive dialler, although there are drawbacks to this method (see above). Wrap-up time can be greatly reduced by using a dialler, in addition to encouraging your staff to record pertinent details during the call, ideally whilst asking the next question. Whilst a high ratio of talk time relative to ring and wrap-up time is desirable, it is also important that your staff do not spend too long talking to individual customers, especially if the customer will not convert to a success. If this is happening then the number of successful calls metric will be unacceptably small.

As can be seen, no single metric can judge performance alone. For good performance it is essential that these metrics are available to your managers and team leaders. The eDialler system provides these metrics, in addition to others, as standard.

How can we increase our telesales leads?

The number of telemarketing leads generated in a given period of time is dependent on the efficiency of your telemarketing team. Please see above for methods that can be used to increase this efficiency

How can we automatically detect voicemail?

Whilst it does not take long for your staff to recognise an answerphone and move on to the next call (typically 2 seconds), this time can mount up. During a typical week in a top heavy telemarketing team, each staff member will listen to over 15 minutes of answerphone messages.

Systems exist that can detect some types of voicemail. They use a combination of the two following techniques to do so:

  • Delay before audio.  Typically, a call answered by a person results in “Hello?” being uttered in the first 1.5 seconds of the call. Answerphones typically take a second longer to start playing the unavailable message. Therefore, some systems will assume a call is an answerphone if no audio is received after 1.5 seconds.
  • Recognition of standard answerphone messages.  60% of all residential answerphone messages (landline and mobile) result in one of 10 standard answerphone messages (BT Callminder / Orange / Vodafone, etc). Some systems will use audio recognition techniques to detect these messages.

Whilst detection of answerphone messages using the above techniques can result in a detection rate of 98%, “false positives” where a person is wrongly identified as an answerphone can present a problem. Some systems will hang up the call on the apparent detection of an answerphone, meaning that people receive a call that appears to hang up as soon as they answer it. This breaks Ofcom regulations and could result in a large fine.

Therefore if an answerphone detection system is used it is essential that when an answerphone is detected the call is not hung up.  Instead a message should be played giving the company name and a number that can be called back.

Year on year Ofcom’s powers to fine offenders increase. Consequently, it is becoming increasingly cost effective to let your staff weed out answerphones as opposed to relying on automatic systems that have a non-zero error false positive rate.

How can we increase the time our telesales staff spend on the phone?

Even the most hard working telemarketing phone operative cannot spend more than a third of their time speaking to customers without the help of a dialler system.

For short telemarketing surveys, an operative dialling numbers manually will spend roughly a third of their time finding the next number / getting customer details / dialling the number, a third of their time listening to ringing and a third of their time speaking. This means that for every pound you spend on your staff, only 33p is productive.

Two options are available to improve this - progressive diallers or predictive diallers.

Progressive diallers automatically start dialling the next number as soon as the first is finished. Typically the telemarketing survey answers are typed into a computer terminal. Using a system such as this reduces considerably the time between calls being placed, so that only 5% of time is spent between calls leaving the remaining 95% split equally between ring time and talk time. This means that for every pound you spend on your staff roughly 48p is productive.

Predictive diallers use statistics to predict that a staff member will be available to take a call in the amount of time it takes the average call to be answered (see above for more information on predictive diallers). Using a predictive dialler means that the time between calls is still 5% but the time spent waiting for the call to answer reduces to around 15%. This means that for every pound you spend on your staff roughly 80p is productive. However, great care has to be taken when using predictive diallers to cap the number of silent calls (where a customer answers but no staff member is available to take the call) at 3% or less. Of the 3% of customers who receive silent calls, one in ten will complain so some staff time will have to be allotted to deal with complaints. Staff using predictive diallers often complain of “burn out” as they have so little time between calls. This often results in staff taking more breaks and a higher staff turnover. Therefore their use is not recommended apart from very specific telemarketing campaigns.

How can we reduce the dead time between calls?

The use of dialler technology can significantly reduce the dead time between calls. On average, if calls are manually dialled then a third of staff time is spent finding the next number / getting customer details / dialling the number. Using dialler technology can reduce this fraction to only 5%. Please see above for more information.

How can we filter out dead numbers?

Any telemarketing data will contain numbers that are no longer active. This is because people / companies move house / office and companies go out of business. If your data contains a lot of dead numbers then the amount of time your staff are productive can greatly decrease. Each record still needs to be prepared and the number dialled even though it will not connect.

For a manually dialled system 10% dead numbers can reduce productive staff time to around 25%.

Dialler systems automatically detect dead numbers and move on to the next record. However, the detection process generally takes between 2 and 5 seconds. Although this is a relatively small amount of time it can add up during the day and cost pounds per week per staff member.

It is therefore in your best interest to reduce the number of dead numbers in your data to a minimum. Data companies generally provide more data than requested to account for dead numbers but the staff cost is still apparent.

Two methods exist to filter out dead numbers in advance of them being called by your staff. BT maintains a database of active numbers called the OSIS database. However, subscribing to receive the list can cost tens of thousands of pounds. An alternative is to call each of the numbers and see if they connect. It is possible for the numbers to be called automatically without the need for a staff member. However, if the number rings it must be allowed to ring for 15 seconds. In addition, if the number is answered then the person at the other end must be played a message that must identify the company calling and enable them to opt out of receiving future calls.