Outsourced Telemarketing: Data Collection Best Practices

Capturing data during a telemarketing call seems pretty straight forward. The telemarketing agent simply types in what the customer says.
data collection

By Melissa Hinrichs, Director of Client Services

I work for an outsourced telemarketing company, so my point of view is relevant to that distinct niche. If you work in a different telemarketing niche, don’t despair. My advice is also relevant for anyone that is working with capturing data from an inbound or outbound telemarketing program (particularly if you represent the vendor side).

Capturing data during a telemarketing call seems pretty straight forward. The telemarketing agent simply types in what the customer says. Seems pretty basic, doesn’t it? However, as we get into analyzing data and running reports from that data, it becomes evident that the more streamlined the data capture process, the better the data is. Below are 4 basic steps I like to follow when setting up the data capture process with any new telemarketing program.

1st rule of thumb: Never assume anything. Assumption can be a killer for all parties involved. Make sure you clearly understand what data elements are required by the client. In addition, to understanding the data elements, make sure you clearly understand every data field that will be required, the file layout format requirements, data capture limitations and which fields can be over-written with updated data during the telephone call. If you need to set up a meeting with a client or make a phone call to iron out some of these answers it is best to do so. A client will respect you for caring about their data enough to take the time to ask.

Once you have identified the data capture requirements, make sure you set up your program so that you are able to limit any possibilities of mistakes during the data capture process. And while this may seem to be a time killer in the beginning, it will save you time in the end. There are many ways to try and limit the possibility of errors. Here are my recommendations that will give you the most bang for your buck:

  • Drop Down/List fields: If there’s an opportunity to limit fields to specific answers, like yes/no, or a list of choices, this is really helpful. This will not only help the telemarketing agent to move through the script quicker but help ensure that the data being captured is accurate. Here’s one example that is relevant to B2B Telemarketing: It is best to provide the telemarketing agent with a drop-down list of relevant or acceptable titles to choose from. Otherwise, you might get VP of Sales, Vice President of Sales, Sales VP or some other combination. Check with your client and create one standard list of titles.
  • Field requirements: This can mean many things.
    • For instance if it’s a ‘required’ field make sure that you make it so the agent has to put in an answer in the field.
    • If it’s a field that should only be a number, then make it so it’s a numerical field so they aren’t allowed to input anything
      except a number.
    • If the data field has a length restriction, be sure to limit the data capture field length. This will help ensure data doesn’t
      get truncated (helping save you valuable time, trying to figure out how to fix the data on the back end).
  • Determine what capitalization rules the data will follow and then make every field require the proper use of capitalization. If you have some fields upper case while others are proper case, it just looks sloppy. Take a close look at all drop-down lists, or fields you pre-populate to ensure you’re following the same capitalization rules.

The program is now running and the data is captured. Great! You set up everything so the data should be captured correctly. Go ahead and send the data to your client. WRONG! As much as I wish that all data collections processes resulted in perfect data, there always seems to be the occasional error. It’s our jobs as the data specialist to catch those errors before the client catches them for us. The best thing here is to set up what I like to call “checks and balances.” This step takes place after the raw data is extracted from the telemarketing database, before we send a client their data. And it’s best to do the double-check on a daily basis. If you find an error on day-one, you can create a systemic fix that potentially prevents that type of data entry error from occurring again.  I’ve found that it’s best to check the following: Are there answers in a field that should be blank? Are there answers in some fields which should be populated? Are all the required fields completed with the relevant data?  Doing a careful double-check on daily basis helps ensure that data errors are not passed on to a client.

YAY!! You’re ready to deliver your end product; that data the client has been desperately waiting for. There are 3 key pieces of information when delivering date:

  • What type of file? Comma-delimited, tab-delimited, Excel, etc.
  • Deadline it needs to be submitted and
  • How is the file to be submitted? Email, SFTP, etc.

When you’re working with a new client it’s a good idea to find out the answers to these questions before you start the telemarketing program. This helps ensure you’re not scrambling to find out this information at the last minute. In addition, (and particularly with more complex data files), it is always a good idea to send a sample data file for the client to approve before sending actual data.

When it comes to the world of data, I’ve found that following these 4 basic steps helps ensure the delivery of good clean data. I’ve always loved the data and I love playing the game of making data as perfect as possible.

Melissa Hinrichs is Director of Client Services for Quality Contact Solutions, a leading outsourced telemarketing organization. Melissa leads a talented team that ensures client data and reports are delivered on-time and without errors. With more than 20 years of database management and reporting experience, Melissa loves helping her clients make better business decisions by providing them with relevant data and reports on a daily basis.  Melissa can be reached at Melissa.hinrichs@qualtiycontactsolutiosn.com or 516-656-5125.


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