Outbound calling has a bad rep. Many people think of it as a tool mainly used in cold sales calls and – even worse – spam.
But, there’s much more to outbound calling. When used correctly, it can be an effective use of both your business’s and customer’s time.
This article will explore how.
What is an outbound call?
An outbound call is made from your business, usually by a sales or customer service agent, to a third-party, usually a lead or customer. Outbound calls are used in sales, customer support, lead generation, market research, and more.
Outbound calls are considered resource-intensive. This is because it costs money to place the call, and because agents spend time contacting people who may not pick up or be interested in what they have to say.
Inbound vs. outbound calling
An inbound call is one made by a third-party to your contact center. They are often used for customer support, and the cost of the call falls on the person who dials.
The challenge of inbound calls is managing volume so you are neither spending too much on staffing costs or making customers wait too long to speak to an agent.
Inbound calls and outbound calls are often made from separate contact centers. But blended contact centers deal with both types.
Outbound vs. cold calling
Here things get a little trickier. While all cold calls are outbound calls, not all outbound calls are cold calls.
Cold calls are a form of unsolicited contact made from a contact center – usually by a sales team. The person on the other end of the line doesn’t know who’s calling or why they’re calling.
However, even the best cold callers have a low success rate.
That’s because the chance that the recipient both needs your product and has the time to speak to you at that exact moment is low.
But there *are* more effective types of outbound calls
Beyond cold calling, there are plenty of types of outbound calls that people value. These are calls that your team enjoys making and your customers like to receive.
Here are some of the most effective ways to use outbound calling:
Provide proactive and pre-emptive service
Pre-emptive and proactive service is when you contact customers about problems before they call you. These strategies are the opposite of reactive service, which is when the customer calls your team first.
There are subtle differences between the two terms.
Proactive service is when you contact a customer who has an issue to help them resolve it. The recipient may not know they have a problem when you initiate contact. A great example of this is a bank calling a customer when a suspicious transaction is made on their card.
Preemptive service is when your business contacts the customer about an issue they may have in the future. You provide information to either show them how to solve the problem if it arises or stop it from occurring in the first place.
There are significant benefits to offering the above types of service.
- You’ll reduce inbound call volume for avoidable issues. Agents are free to speak to customers with other requests.
- Customers are happier. They spend less time on the phone, get a personalized experience, and avoid issues with your product.
- It spreads out call volume between times of very high and very low agent availability.
- It can increase customer retention rates by between 3 and 5 percent.
You can offer great proactive service by gathering data on why customers contact you and then taking steps to call them first.
This type of call can be expensive – in the short term. But it’s possible to reduce the cost by using your auto dialer to send a pre-recorded message, rather than having an agent make every call.
We go into further detail about how to create a proactive strategy in this blog post.
Implement virtual queuing
Virtual queuing is a way to deal with a high volume of calls without making customers spend time on hold.
Here’s how it works:
- People call your contact center, and your IVR answers.
- The IVR automatically places the call in a queue.
- The customer can hang up and go about their day.
- You call them back when a rep is free.
It’s a valuable type of outbound call for the customer, your business, and agents.
The customer gets a significantly improved experience. Instead of spending time waiting on hold – growing frustrated as they do so – they can forget about their issue in the knowledge that you’ll contact them later.
Your business benefits as you can schedule callbacks for times that suit your team. This could be based on agent availability, call volume, or blocks.
And reps find it easier to solve customer problems. By integrating your queuing system with your CRM and IVR, agents can see crucial information about the customer and the issue before placing the call.
Schedule lead nurturing calls
Cold calling gives outbound sales calls a bad rep. But there are better ways to use outbound sales calls. For example, scheduling times to call warm leads.
These calls usually have a far higher success rate than cold calls, as the lead is interested in your product.
Here are some ways to use outbound calls during the lead nurturing process:
- Contact leads when they take actions that suggest they are ready to buy. Integrating your caller with your CRM or lead management software allows you to track sales triggers and score leads.
- Allow leads who visit your website to schedule callbacks via a form. Place outbound calls at the correct time.
- Schedule follow-up calls with leads generated via cold calls.
Timing is key to scheduling lead nurturing calls, and you need to be fast. Between 35 and 50 percent of sales go to the first vendor that calls.
Improve customer retention
Outbound calls are an effective method of customer retention. Use them to contact customers at the point in the customer life cycle when they are at risk of churning or primed to buy.
The key to using outbound calls for customer retention is to have a detailed understanding of the customer life cycle.
You can then schedule calls at just the right time to influence their decisions.
Here are some examples of how you can use outbound calling to improve customer retention:
- Discover when customers typically decide to renew (or leave) their contract and schedule calls to go before they decide.
- Track how customers use your product during free trials. If they haven’t interacted with it for some time, schedule a call to find out why. Use this call to help them integrate your product into their workflow.
- Reach out after customers purchase to make sure they’re happy. You’ll build a stronger relationship and have the opportunity to solve any issues.
Automation streamlines outbound calling
These examples show you automation helps streamline outbound calling. By integrating your dialer with other tools like your CRM and IVR you can create processes that keep customers happy and save you time and money.