Who hasn’t had a less than ideal experience with outbound sales? We’ve all been there — whether you’re at home and the phone rings at just the wrong time; or you are running a sales team trying to get those exceptional results. But times are changing: traditional outbound is making way for proactive outbound contact to your customers.
Imagine… no more challenges of poor contact rates, low conversion rates and people uninterested in speaking over the phone (or worse, complaining about being harassed by your sales people). Now you can contact your customers at the time they want, using the best method for them — enhancing the customer experience.
So how is this possible? Proactive outbound is about using contextual understanding of when and how your customers want to interact with you and when it’s most suitable for them. Proactive outbound is not just limited to traditional phone calls, but includes other contact methods like email, SMS and direct messaging. It all depends on the campaign, client and customer needs, and all you need to start is basic customer data that can be segmented.
There are a number of benefits using this approach, including enhancing the customer experience, increasing contact rates, reducing inbound call volumes, increasing conversion rates and your net promoter score (NPS). You are also able to connect with people who are usually not interested in talking to you — which becomes especially relevant to the young generation who prefer to interact through digital channels and social media.
The key to proactive outbound is analysing your database and the way you select your leads, looking for growth or service opportunities to enhance your customer or prospects experience.
So if it’s possible to contact your customers in the way that they want, at the time that they want – why isn’t everyone doing it? Some would say it is the fear of hearing what your customers are really saying, but in reality, you are far better interacting and addressing your customers’ needs rather than ignoring them . There are so many opportunities to communicate with customers and build stronger relationships. A proactive approach produces brand advocates and could result in referrals and generate additional revenue.
When it comes down to it, the four key components for success are:
1. Knowing the preferred method of contact for your customers
If you can personalise the customers preferred method of contact, the customer will be more inclined to engage with you.
To do this, you simply capture the preferred method of contact whenever you communicate with the customer; either upfront during the initial interaction or through sending a communication piece to your customers and ask them.
You will almost immediately realise benefits with:
- increased net promoter score
- enhanced customer experience
- exceeded customer expectations
- improved results.
2. People, processes and structure
Vital to any sales team is the front line team: as the voice of the brand.
When you are recruiting, you need to make sure you have the right process in place to identify the person that you need. Do they have the right temperament and tenacity? Do they have the skillset and capability? Do they have the “it” pieces that makes the right sales person? The recruitment team needs to be highly skilled in identifying these traits and choosing only the best people. Ultimately they are setting your business up for success.
After this, you need to make sure that that they are having the right conversations with your customers. Work on your scripting, allow for freedom when needed and take on feedback from the team on what doesn’t work well and change it. A small change can have a dramatic effect on the results of the team and your business.
Ask if the structure is right. Are you more concerned with cost-effective team leader to agent ratios, without focusing on the complexity of the work? Are you doing a disservice to the team by having too many — or too few – people reporting into a team leader? If your team does not have the support and staff engagement they require, this will start to impact your front line staff and be projected onto your customers.
The other thing that goes hand in hand with support is having the right staff engagement program in place, with a coaching and quality programme essential to maximising your results. Balance this with the right incentive program that focuses on the driving the key metrics that will results in both customer satisfaction and achieving your business objectives.
3. Proactively look at your database to enhance the customer experience
Take the leap of faith and contact your customers. Many companies underestimate the impact of proactive outbound contact and how it assists with brand promotion and enhancing the customer’s experience. While the methods can be used for service, sales, existing customer interactions and account management; it can’t be a scattergun approach. You should start with just one carefully calculated pitch, targeting one topic.
Customers will be grateful to be kept up-to-date with changes, hearing about things that could or will affect their services, and understanding if you can potentially save them money. Some will be less appreciative that you’ve reached out, but this reaction isn’t something to fear: it’s how you will learn more about your company and your reputation in the marketplace.
In planning what to talk to your customers about, a great place to start is by looking at why your customers have been calling. Is there a known issue that has led to an increase in inbound call volumes? Rather than allow the increased volumes to impact your service levels and customers, you could actively target these people to notify and address the situation — keeping your customers informed and happy.
Another place to look is the pain points within your customer’s journey. Which points trigger complaints and result in a bad customer experience? Look at areas like high bills, deliveries, and product defects; and actively target customers before they even know there is an issue. The impact you can have by calling a customer before they receive a high bill or a late delivery to advise and offer a solution is a far better experience for a customer; one that can also lead to additional sales opportunities and reduced inbound call volumes.
4. The right technology
Technology is forever changing and so should our contact methods. There are many different platforms that can assist your business with an effective way to communicate to your customers. These systems don’t need to cost and arm and a leg, and in some cases, the use of this technology can be as basic as an SMS.
Ensure when selecting your technology and systems that these tie-in with your processes. Operating systems and processes in isolation may result in you not using the system to its full capacity. Question your current provider to on what changes they have implemented and how you can use them to better contact your customers.
To quote Bob Dylan, ‘the times, they are a changin’”… and in order to differentiate our businesses and to meet customer expectations we need to evolve. Customer expectations do not exist in silos, and a customer receiving a great experience in one industry now expects to receive the same level of service in other industries. You are not just competing against your traditional rivals and industry leaders — you now need to be one step ahead of your customers and the wider market.
Surprise and delight your customers using proactive outbound to create true advocates for your brand.