Outbound and Blended Dialing QA: Selection Criteria, Best Practices, and More

Guest Post by Nancy Jamison, President and Principal Analyst of Jamison Consulting.

Outbound dialing has many applications for businesses of all types – from collections and telemarketing firms that rely on outbound for their livelihoods, to an increasing number of companies that want to deploy outbound for more proactive customer service. So I interviewed Mathew Erickson, senior product manager for outbound solutions at Interactive Intelligence, to find out how companies can maximize the value of an outbound and/or blended dialing deployment.

NJ: We like to talk about the concept of a blended agent, but not every agent has the temperament to do both. What are some guidelines to help determine the best mix of inbound/outbound and blended agents?

ME: First, blended agents must be very adaptive, moving from outbound calls that are well-scripted and purposeful, to inbound calls that require quick thinking and often creative problem-solving. It’s also very important that the calls a company blends are of similar types. For instance, it’s tough to have outbound telemarketing agents also handle customer service calls because these require two very different skill- and mind-sets.

One tool that is incredibly useful for blended agents is scripting. Being able to “pop” a script for agents is really useful in this environment because it helps ensure all calls are handled consistently and with accurate information.

NJ: Should a business decide that outbound and/or blended dialing is a worthwhile investment, what criteria should it use to select the right product?

ME: First, companies should look closely at the algorithm used for dialing. If a company is reviewing a blended system, the algorithm needs to take into account inbound traffic. If there’s no insight into how many calls are waiting, outbound attempts may be wasted. 

Companies must also take into account compliance regulations and the ability to link to a third-party system, such as DNC.com, to keep up-to-date on regulations and changes on a state-by-state basis – ideally in an automated fashion. This is particularly important internationally because each European country has its own rules.

Another critical feature is skills-based dialing. This is especially relevant to industries governed by state licensing laws. Insurance companies, for example, employ agents that must be licensed in the states they serve. So a dialer might call a bunch of accounts then look to see if the appropriately licensed agent is available. With skills-based dialing, calls wouldn’t be initiated unless the appropriately licensed agents are available. So skills-based dialing in a blended environment ensures maximum efficiency, while improving customer service.

NJ: What best practices do you recommend for getting the most out of outbound dialing campaigns?

ME: In almost any outbound dialing deployment an IVR front-end can be very valuable. First, it offloads agents by collecting customer information up-front. It can also be used to provide self-service where appropriate to further offload agents.  

Another best practice is to show agents how they compare in a blended environment. Whether these are underperforming agents or agents who excel, it’s an excellent training tool to be able to show specific comparative metrics, such as amount of revenue collected, average length of calls, call resolution rates, etc.

NJ: How do you see the future of outbound and blended dialing evolving?

ME: The “best time to call” is the future of outbound dialing. It’s been used mostly in collections and mostly in North America. To be able to look at past dialing history and see when a company should be calling which phone number to get results is a major time saver.

I’ve also seen the need for much tighter integration between inbound and outbound — not only for effective campaign management, but to successfully share queues. Being able to predict outbound calls needed versus inbound call volume is critical. 

Finally, proactive customer contact is going to be big, particularly for traditional inbound contact centers. The cost of dialing is offset by the benefits that result from proactive service, including customer retention and the ability to more easily attract new customers through competitive differentiation.

About Jamison Consulting
Nancy Jamison, President and Principal Analyst of Jamison Consulting, has over 30 years of industry analyst and brand manager experience in the contact center and enterprise communications markets. She applies her broad industry knowledge and expertise in marketing to help clients develop and deliver solutions from a tactical and strategic perspective. Jamison Consulting is an independent industry analyst and consulting firm that provides in-depth market research, analysis, and insight to clients in the areas of unified communications, speech technologies, contact centers, and related emerging areas. Ms. Jamison can be reached at 650-795-0116; on Twitter @NancyJami, via email or on the Jamison Consulting web site