Proactive outbound is a platform for outbound customer engagement which goes beyond telephone-based cold calling to encompass “warm calling”, email, SMS, web chat, mobile app and social media communications.
Organisations that contact their customers proactively benefit from reduced churn, greater share of wallet and revenue growth. Further, customer experience improves when customers receive personalised, relevant contacts, at convenient times of day and through familiar channels. Selecting the right technology is key to unleashing the benefits of proactive outbound communications.
Be proactive across multiple channels
Outbound customer engagement has evolved from telephone-based cold calling in the eighties to email marketing since the nineties and, more recently, web chat and social media channels in addition to SMS and phone-based “warm calling”. Types of proactive outbound contact include:
- Welcome calls – giving new customers a personalised, warm welcome
- Cross-selling – pitching more products or services to existing customers
- Reminders – notification of appointments and events to increase attendance rates
- Marketing offers – ad hoc campaign offers and deals
- Lead calls – contacting potential customers who made an enquiry on a website or via email
- Surveys – gathering feedback and opinions from customers
- Debt recovery and collections – following up customers for overdue payments
- Thank you calls – to show you appreciate the customer’s business
The true benefit of proactive outbound lies in the seamless adoption of multiple channels to meet different business objectives and customer communication preferences.
Extend the reach of your contact centre with outbound capability across multiple channels
Multi-channel use cases
Here are a few examples of how an organisation can optimise productivity and customer experience by leveraging multiple channels in outbound campaigns:
- A charity can use outbound dialling to call donors and when someone pledges a donation a follow-up text message or email is scheduled two days later if payment hasn’t yet been received.
- An SMS campaign directs respondents to a phone number which is answered by an IVR system, automating data collection.
- An appointment reminder is delivered via a recorded message using predictive dialling. DTMF is then used by the receiver to “press one” to confirm or “two” to reschedule.
Let’s review some features of each outbound channel.
|Phone||High-volume outbound contact centres typically use a dialler to increase efficiency. A dialler enables you to upload a list of people to call and then automatically dials each record. Diallers have “predictive”, “progressive” or “preview” modes. Predictive dialling is suited to high-volume, simple consumer campaigns, where the agent doesn’t need to review the customer’s profile before initiating a conversation. The dialler does not present a call to the agent unless someone answers the phone, thus weeding out busy signals, answering machines and ring-outs. While predictive dialling is highly efficient and automated, it can leave agents feeling breathless and overwhelmed if not managed well. Preview mode provides relief by allowing the agent to click on a record when he or she is ready. This may be preferred when careful preview of the customer’s profile is needed to optimise the chances of a sale, or the agent has to navigate a receptionist to reach the decision-maker contact. Progressive dialling is the “in-between” mode – as soon as the agent finishes a call, the system dials the next one, but the agent hears the ringing and therefore any problem with split second delays when the customer answers is eliminated.|
|Outbound email is facilitated by a standard “mail merge” feature in a mail client or a dedicated enterprise mailing list application, including cloud-based services. The more dedicated the system the more likely it is to support personalisation and integration with various content sources, like a CRM system. Email works well for outbound communications where there is a lot to tell in one message. The most effective email campaigns are personalised to the recipient. Companies should also have consent to contact the customer to dodge the Spam Act.|
|SMS||To send targeted SMS, look at dedicated delivery services which handle the messages (text and MMS) and allow data integration with other online systems. On-premises GSM appliances are also an option for SMS delivery. SMS is renowned for having a higher response rate than email, but make sure the notification is worthwhile to avoid annoying your customers.|
|Social media||Facebook and Twitter have their own ecosystem of tools and services which can be used for proactive outbound marketing. Contact centre platforms are increasingly developing APIs to connect with popular social networks.|
|Mobile app notifications||If your organisation has an app, an emerging channel uses the notification capability of Android and iOS-based smartphones. New services are appearing which make it easier to push marketing and call-to-action messages to customers.|
|Web chat||While usually associated with customer service or support, web chat can be used as a marketing mechanism to capture leads or present offers to web site visitors. The key with web chat is to be proactive rather than pushy, and relevant rather than random.|
Getting smart about outbound with analytics
An outbound contact centre that utilises predictive strategies for contacting customers can significantly improve the number of right-party contacts (RPCs), sales and overall revenue. For example, incorporating best time to call analytics into the strategy can improve RPCs by at least 10 to 30 per cent.
“With analytics tools, outbound contact centres can predict the best time and the best method for contacting customers.”
Real-time speech analytics can provide further advantages as interactions can be screened while the conversation is taking place. This allows the agent to respond more proactively to the customer’s situation – such as prompting the agent to present a cross-sell or up-sell offer.
The best business outcomes result when the agent has access to timely and relevant information about the person they are calling. For example, a data feed to an agent can include purchasing history, previous interactions on a web property, mobile app usage and transcripts from previous calls. Intelligent data feeds can help determine the type of offers the customer would be most interested in and the customer’s preferred channel. With more intelligence, a company can make more sales with fewer contact attempts. Further, the customer is more engaged and finds more value in the offers received.
Features to look for in proactive outbound technology