Waiting for your customers to contact you and only servicing them when they do is unproductive, unpredictable and creates issues with managing resources as traffic levels fluctuate. But customer engagement doesn’t have to be this way. Think about it. Typically, the relationship with your customers involves a series of events over time. These can be customer-driven, and therefore inbound such as new purchases or requests for support.

Other events – contract renewals, appointments, and service outages, for example – may be driven instead by your organisation. Some of these events are unpredictable in their nature but many are not. It is the latter that provides the opportunity for you to ‘get on the front foot’ and be more proactive in how you engage with customers.

For many businesses, proactive outbound customer communication can potentially be a key driver of success. However, that’s unlikely to be the case for you if you end up having to employ cumbersome and unwieldy manual dialling – an approach which is typically characterised by agents having to punch in numbers to make calls. A great deal of agent time can be wasted calling unavailable numbers or getting through to answer machines, with very little time clocked up speaking directly to customers.

Despite its many drawbacks this kind of approach is surprisingly still used by many organisations. The good news is an alternative is available which is within the reach of most businesses today.

A predictive dialler is an outbound calling system that agents within organisations can use to automatically dial people but can also quickly and easily detect busy signals, answer machines and disconnected numbers.

The best systems can generate a wealth of data to help you hone the engagement process – from the number of people that pick up calls first time to how long it takes to have the next call lined up when one has been completed. These systems are adept at working out when the next agent will need a customer on the line and will start dialling in anticipation even if all available agents are currently on call, thereby helping cut waiting time between calls.

That, in a nutshell is what predictive diallers are and what they are typically used for. But what are the top ten reasons a business like yours might want to buy one?

  • To drive efficiency gains – With a predictive dialler, you can significantly reduce the time you waste on outbound campaigns. That’s because the software has the intelligence to predict how long your agents will spend on each call and precisely when they should make the next one. Without a dialler, they are likely to spend most of their time just trying to get hold of customers. With one, they’ll spend less time dialling them and more time, often up to 50 minutes an hour, speaking to them. In short, therefore, diallers can increase efficiency and raise agent productivity, both key benefits in a business environment where cost pressures continue to bite.
    • Helping you to stay compliant – The best diallers include functionality that helps you comply with Ofcom rules and other key regulations. This can be especially key in industries like collections, banking and financial services which have high levels of regulation. Avoiding nuisance calls to customers is increasingly important across all economic sectors, however, and will be a key criterion of quality in the future. With the latest state-of-the-art, predictive dialling technology, you can maintain lists of phone numbers directly within the dialler itself. This helps to stop you calling contacts that must not be called, even if the data has accidentally slipped into your CRM database. The most innovative diallers today also help to ensure the safety of credit card data. Using these diallers removes the need for customers to recite their card details over the phone, which may leave companies open to the possibility of fraud. Customers can instead enter their details using a phone keypad that effectively masks the information from the agent and therefore eliminates that possibility.

      • It can double agent productivity – Proactive customer engagement is not only about your customers, it affects your customer strategy operationally. Effectively managing the balance between understaffing and overstaffing helps eliminate agent downtime and improve efficiency. Using advanced dialling algorithms could increase agent productivity by as much as 100%. Agents will spend less time dialling, and more time speaking to your customers.
      • Building agent morale – Many businesses overlook it but having a high-quality predictive dialling solution in place can help you to drive up agent morale. Commission is a big part of many agents’ salaries. By helping them to achieve excellent results, a high-quality predictive dialling system can raise their commission levels and therefore their job satisfaction and the likelihood they will stay loyal to you. It works both ways of course. An inefficient dialler is likely to negatively impact their monthly pay packet and therefore reduce morale. Agents want diallers that are reliable, stable and that provide a steady and predictable stream of live calls that allow them to interact positively with customers. If they get all that, they are likely to stay happy.
      • The ability to deliver real-time agent monitoring – The best predictive diallers allow you to coach or train agents through a call, and even provide software to guide your agents through the customer engagement process when they are on a call. Silent monitoring, allows your supervisors to listen to calls and, if necessary, step in to deliver a message to the agent. And with real time speech analytics you can provide instant feedback to agents about their handling of calls at the same time ensuring that the correct procedures are carried out and that the business remains consistently compliant with regulations.
      • Scaling up multiple campaigns – As every fast-growing, customer-focused business knows, being able to set up and execute sales and marketing campaigns quickly and easily drives agility and ultimately competitive edge.  The best predictive dialling technology allows you to develop campaigns in hours rather than days and it also enables you to scale them up or down, make tweaks to content and even run multiple campaigns simultaneously. 
      • Providing a high-quality customer experience – Remember, your customers only really want to receive calls that will benefit them personally, whether that means giving them the chance to buy a product that they like, helping them save money, or reminding them of an upcoming appointment –  a key requirement in the healthcare sector, in particular. Customers don’t want nuisance calls every two hours, for example, or worse still, silent calls. A good predictive dialler will exercise control over the calls it makes in order to help deliver the kind of engagement customers are looking for.
      • Helping you make better use of data – The volume, variety and velocity of data is increasing all the time. Even today, your operational costs for data may well outstrip your equivalent costs for staff. Clearly, data can be an expensive commodity but it is also a highly valuable resource for customer communications and it can help inform the predictive dialling process enabling you to keep one step ahead of the competition. It can also help in scheduling, allowing you to work out the best times of the week and even the best times of day to call specific customers.
      • Delivering integration, if required – This is optional, of course. It is always more important that predictive diallers work well on their own. However, some of the higher end systems offer the capability to be integrated with other solutions – most notably with third-party CRM products. It is crucial, of course, that integration is achieved quickly and with minimum disruption. After all, no business wants to invest in weeks of professional services support simply to achieve a degree of integration for a limited period.
      • It can help you structure your client and customer database better – The best predictive diallers can help you to bring order to your database of customers and prospects by ensuring records are updated properly and a systematic structure is consistently maintained. You can move away from a manual approach, typically based on notes written in haste by agents, with the inevitable errors and inaccuracies that may creep in, to adopt instead a fully automated approach, which can also generate records of numbers that were busy, or did not respond. Equally, details of prospects that have expressed a preference not to be called can be quickly and easily recorded and collated.    

      Positive Prospects

      Customer communications is becoming an increasingly important differentiator for businesses of all sizes and across all sectors of the economy. In seeking to optimise it, businesses need to find a way of driving operational efficiencies, delivering enhanced agent productivity and keeping compliant as they reach out to customers and deliver customer-focused campaigns. Equally, they need to find a way of quickly scaling their efforts as and when required and making best use of data, while most important of all, keeping customers engaged and happy. The best of today’s predictive dialling solutions will help to deliver all of this and more. That’s why it is a technology whose time has come.

      Niels Richthof, Senior Solutions specialist, Enghouse Interactive

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