Continuous Improvement for Telemarketing Programs is Golden

Blue Arrow Leading the Way - Continual ImprovementAfter countless hours of planning, preparation and implementation, you finally have the new telemarketing program kicked off. The telemarketing program seems to be running smoothly and more importantly, client goals and expectations are being met. You have a great operations team in place to keep a close eye on KPIs and make adjustments as needed to continue to reach and exceed client goals. But does the work stop there? Absolutely not. Henry Ford once said:

“The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.”

Even though the new telemarketing program is running smoothly and considered a success, we should always look for ways to improve on the program.

How to Continuously Improve?

Each program assessment or evaluation should start with a specific objective in mind. The objective could be very focused, such as trying to figure out why the contacts per hour (CPH) is low, for example.  Or the goals can be very broad, such as assessing all aspects of the telemarketing program to look for possible efficiencies or automation that could be implemented. Knowing the objective in the beginning will guide the rest of the assessment.

After understanding the objectives or goals of the assessment, it is time to dive into the program. This can be done in many ways, depending on the type of program. Here is a list of ways to start to dissect the program:

  1. Conduct interviews with stakeholders (including executive team, clients if this is an outsourced telemarketing program, and vendors) and those on the operations team (including managers, supervisors, agents, and IT/dialer team). Come prepared with specific questions that you can ask in order to better understand the program and how it currently is running. This is also a great way to learn about pain points or areas that could be improved. Providing these questions to the other party ahead of time might help them understand the objectives and come to the interview/meeting better prepared.
  2. Ask managers and supervisors to provide scripts, training material and several recorded calls. If there are multiple campaigns involved, make sure there are recordings from each campaign. Listen to the recorded calls to get a better understanding of how the scripts are being used. This will also give you a good idea if the script is laid out well for the telemarketing agents.
  3. Ask the IT/dialer team for a copy of each report that is being generated and review them. Look for trends in the data. Also focus on those KPIs that are the objective of this assessment.
  4. Gain deeper understanding of any processes that are happening outside of the dialer. Are there spreadsheets being used for tracking or reporting? Are there processes that could possibly be automated?

After sufficient time has been spent gathering and analyzing all the information, it is time to write up a report of the findings and possible solutions. Prioritize the findings by importance and/or ROI. This will help the stakeholders (whether internal or external) see the results in an organized way and help them to make decisions on which items to focus additional hours and resources.

Once decisions are made, it is time to roll up the sleeves and get the work done. Work with appropriate team members needed to make changes or implement new processes. Ensure proper testing and training is given if new processes or applications are being used.

The last step which should never be forgotten is to evaluate the process. There are two main reasons to do this.

  1. Track to see if changes that were agreed upon by the stakeholders is having the desired affect. This may take a few months depending on the changes made. If the desired affect was not archived, either further adjustments need to be made or a different direction needs to be taken.
  2. Evaluate the overall process used for the assessment and make any adjustments needed for the next program assessment. If a specific form or list of interview questions was very useful, why discard it and have to rewrite them again next time? Keep those important documents with adjustments for the future.

At Quality Contact Solutions, we have found that having someone from “the outside” assess the program is the most effective way. By outside, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be someone from outside the company. It could be someone from another part of the company that doesn’t work on the program on a daily basis. This person or team will be able to look at the program with a fresh set of eyes and be objective in the evaluation of the telemarketing program. It is important that the company have a culture of continual improvement When this person or team begins to learn and evaluate a program, it is vital that all employees are willing to be apart of the process and not concerned with how the results of the assessment will affect their job.

Benefits of Continual Improvement

I know what you are thinking. Wow, this appears to be a lot of effort that I am not sure if my company is willing to invest in. I have been evaluating telemarketing programs in my current role for over 4 years and I have seen some very positive outcomes to continual program assessments.

  1. Improved employee satisfaction and morale – If you think about how an assessment is viewed by a front line agent making telemarketing calls, if done correctly, an assessment can be very positive. Hopefully the culture within every telemarketing services company is to listen to their employees and take their suggestions into consideration. Now lets take that a step further. Bringing someone from outside of the team to come in and ask about those aspects that they like or don’t like or what they think could be better will have a real positive affect on the employees and team. Many times ideas that were told to a supervisor may not have made it far enough up the chain. With this approach different ideas come up during the interview since the person is coming from the outside and the new perspective sparks new ideas. Possibly seeing those ideas become a reality can be a real morale booster.
  2. Decreased costs and/or increased sales – If done properly, a program assessment should show areas that could be improved. It could be as simple as an adjustment to a script, or as complex as using a different dialer or application for certain processes. In one evaluation that I completed, I found that one call center we used was very good at a specific campaign but very inefficient at a different type of campaign. By reallocating campaign lists, we were able to see an increase in sales by 36% for one campaign and 10-15% on all other campaigns.
  3. New markets/opportunities – It is possible through this process to find different markets or opportunities for additional hours. During one evaluation, I found that we were not dialing wireless numbers. We had just set up a call center that had a great Non-ATDS solution so we knew we could handle those calls. We presented our findings to the client and were able to do a trial run on wireless dialing. The trial was such a huge success that currently about 35-40% of our dialing for this particular program is now wireless numbers
  4. Increased relationship with client – Telling a client that is completely happy with the work we are doing that we will be doing an assessment to try and improve even more really impresses them. We are showing that not only do we care about meeting their goals and expectations, but we want to exceed those expectations through improvement. Many times clients have given use extra work based on this approach. I completed one evaluation with a client that there were not a ton of changes that could be made to make the program much more efficient. We made a few which reflected in a small increase in sales but not what I was hoping for. A few months later the company came to us with additional business. They were so impressed by our culture of continual improvement that they trusted our work and that we would do our very best always.

The moment we decide not to focus energy on improvement will be the time when someone or a company will come along that can do the same job we can, but better. Program assessments allows us to evaluate the program and look for ways to make it more efficient. Not only will the assessment improve the KPIs for the program, it will also strengthen the morale within our company and set us apart from the rest. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me at [email protected] or call me at 516.656.5105.

Rich Hamilton is the Director of Implementation and Team Improvement Leader for Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing organization.  Rich is responsible for implementing new programs and managing the continuous improvement process of existing programs.  With a background of nearly a decade in managing small and large call centers, Rich is passionate about improving efficiencies and decreasing cost per call for every client.  In addition, Rich is a telemarketing compliance guru with a Customer Engagement Compliance Professional (CECP) certification to back it up .  Rich can be reached at [email protected] or 516-656-5105.

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