Outbound Contact Center Basics
An outbound contact center is often considered synonymous with spammers, but when run ethically and with the right purpose, it can play a critical role in deepening your relationships with your existing customers and connecting with new ones.
Inbound Vs. Outbound Contact Centers
The biggest difference between inbound call centers and outbound call centers is in the direction of the communications flows.
Inbound contact centers are designed to respond to inquiries initiated by the prospect or customer. The communications can include a mix of sales inquiries, changes to orders, questions about billing, complaints about your product and more. The volume can be unpredictable, as can the mix of issues prompting customers to reach out.
In contrast, outbound call centers are designed to support outreach by agents. Common goals can be lead generation, proactively alerting customers to a problem, requesting to participate in satisfaction surveys and more. The center has greater control over the pace of the outreach, but not necessarily the outcome of any particular call.
7 Best Practices for Running an Effective Outbound Contact Center
Running an effective outbound contact center requires more than just agents firing up an autodialer to call as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time.
Let’s explore best practices for helping your agents experience successful calls and provide a memorable experience.
Establish Meaningful KPIs
Your outbound call center metrics should be tied to your overall organizational goals. Common key performance indicators include
- Answer Success Rate (ASR). This is the percentage of the successfully connected calls to the number of attempted ones. A “good” call center’s ASR is 40-50%, and if it’s above 60% — the services exceed expectations.
- Average Handle Time (AHT). This tracks your agents’ efficiency. This is the time it takes for an agent to complete a phone call or a “session.” A shorter AHT is generally considered better than a longer one.
- Occupancy rate. This is the percentage of time agents actually spend on calls vs. idle time. This is more of a reflection on your staffing levels and planning rather than an agent’s performance.
- Calls per Agent. This tracks how many calls your agent is managing during a time period. More skilled, more efficient agents generally can handle a higher pace of outbound calls.
You may choose to focus on these metrics, along with others that are more relevant to your business. The key is to choose just a few that correlate with your biggest goals.
Remember: a staggering 97% of consumers reject or ignore phone calls from a business or a person they don’t know. Outdated auto-dialers have trained us to ignore phone calls from numbers we don’t recognize. And even as they’ve “progressed” to mimic our area codes or appear familiar, your customers are done falling for the tricks.
SharpenCX set out to help you communicate with your customers the way they want to communicate. With digital communication channels, you know your customers get the info they need. About 98% of customers open an SMS in the first 5 minutes. And 45% of those people reply, offering you predictable two-way communication with customers.
Set Clear Expectations
Unclear expectations and goals are a recipe for the failure of your agents and your organizational performance. And Officervibe’s 2021 State of Employee Engagement report found that 72% of employees think their manager could define clearer goals.
Here are a few questions to consider, to determine if you are being clear on your expectations of your agents:
- Are agents expected to follow up after “no answer”?
- Is there a limit to how often you should reach out to potential customers?
- Is there a minimum amount of calls an agent needs to make in a day?
- Are agents providing clear and correct information?
This way, you can ensure everyone is on the same page.
Aim to Connect Through Strong Scripts
Whether an agent is a naturally gifted speaker or someone who needs more coaching and guidance, everyone needs a solid script.
A good script starts with a statement that quickly elicits a strong connection. However, what distinguishes a good agent from a great agent is the ability to make the script their own while creating a better overall experience for both parties.
Collaborate with your agents in developing your scripts. Incorporate the feedback they receive from customers into regular updates and refinements.
Adopt a Good CRM
A good customer relationship management (CRM) system goes a long way to monitoring interactions between your agents and customers. And it’s also great for creating opportunities to upsell and cross-sell your products and services.
You and your team will get a clearer picture of customer expectations along with the chances of selling upgrades or new products that fit their changing needs using your CRM data. This data can also be used to identify opportunities for your agents to improve their skills and create more effective, conversion-friendly conversations with customers.
Ongoing Training for Your Team
Consistently coaching and training agents ensures that your employees are prepared, feel confident and come away from each call more motivated to take on the next one.
Schedule 1:1s and host workshops every month to keep skills fresh or implement new training programs. Whatever the approach, training and coaching are essential to success for your agents and your organization.
Accurately Identify Prospects in Advance
What leaders and professionals do you want to connect with? Tech leaders? Healthcare executives? Finance? Human resources managers and professionals?
Whether your call center sells products or services, you want to ensure agents reach out to the right target audience. Accurately identifying your prospects in advance saves everyone time and improves conversion rates.
When a customer responds to automated outbound contact, agents can offer the same level of service and fast response as they would to an inbound customer. The customer can be placed into an associated interaction flow and prompted to either self-serve or speak with an agent.
How to Choose the Right Outbound Contact Center Software
Part of your job as a manager is to make sure your agents have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. And if they don’t? Then you need to secure them.
Remember that your goal is to better serve your customers, and whatever decision you make should serve that purpose. Changing your system can be an expensive time-consuming task that changes the way you and your agents work.
So how do you choose software that is the best fit for your business?
Evaluate Your Current Tools
Think about your contact center’s goals and the current challenges holding you back from reaching them. Those challenges are the symptoms of real, larger problems within your call center.
Explore if your current toolset is perpetuating those larger problems or resolving them by talking to your team members. Ultimately, your agents are the end-users of your tools. They feel the most pain when your “solutions” don’t work effectively to help them help your customers.
Do Your Research
Now it’s time to bring in your other stakeholders, such as IT, operations, HR, and finance departments. Come prepared with your list of must-have features versus your list of nice-to-haves based on the previous discussions you’ve conducted. You’ll quickly learn what’s crucial for your business and what you can do without.
Ask the Right Questions
As you’re seeking a new vendor to work with, you go through a request for proposals process. This is the point in the RFP process where you can ask specific questions of the vendor. Ask questions like:
- Will I have to adapt my process to fit the technology’s limits?
- Do the tools you offer integrate with the systems I already have in place?
- What does the implementation process look like, and how does the number of seats I need impact these deadlines?
Vendors may appear to closely match up on a feature-by-feature basis, but the real differentiators become evident when you pull processes and service level agreements into the mix. Dig in and ask tough questions while you explore your options. And make sure you understand how each small detail influences each one of your business outcomes.
Click to See evaluate your Contact Center with SharpenCX’s Contact Center Checklist
Best Outbound Contact Center Solutions
The best outbound contact center solution for your business will depend on the mix of features you need and your budget.
Our call center software delivers engaging agent and customer experiences anywhere, any time. Our multi-modal, omnichannel platform routes, measures and records customers the same on every channel and gives you the data in a single user interface. Your customers enjoy a consistent experience—no matter how they reach out—and your agents do, too. We are best for mid-size and growing contact centers who need a cloud-first platform.
Zendesk offers a robust, flexible suite of tools that include outbound call center management. SharpenCX integrates with Zendesk.
CloudTalk is a Voice over Internet Protocol call phone system used by startups, scale-ups and small and medium-sized enterprises.
Dixa’s platform includes an AI-optimized knowledge base and supports contextual experiences.
The Future of Outbound Contact Centers
AI and machine learning help agents and contact centers better understand customer needs and preferences every day. By implementing new and improved outbound contact center software, call center leaders like you can support their team to make outbound calls more effectively and efficiently.
The CX industry is moving firmly toward an “anywhere workforce” model. Make sure your call center is prepared—not just for the future, but for today—with data insights that drive business objectives and automation tools that support and empower your agents.