Dialing Isn’t Dead
Dialing Isn’t Dead
Some smart companies are using outbound calling to enhance customer relationships and provide a better experience. Yes, a better experience.
By Donna Fluss
Federal legislation in the U.S. altered the dialing landscape a few years ago, for the benefit of consumers. The legislation did not kill dialing, as many people believe, but instead established guidelines for enterprises to reach out to their customers. Companies are permitted to call customers with whom they have an established relationship and have already conducted business. Most companies had not previously invested in proactive customer care, despite the fact that existing customers are often the most receptive. Success depends on the company taking the time to build a good relationship with its customers.
Dialing is not dead. Rather, it is going through a metamorphosis from a disruptive activity that disturbed many dinners to a relationship-oriented function intended to build and enhance loyalty.
USING DIALING TO ENHANCE RELATIONSHIPS
Enterprises are looking for creative ways of building customer loyalty and enhancing relationships. Surprisingly, dialing is playing an important role in facilitating proactive customer care, a fast-growing source of new revenue for enterprises.
A few months ago, my 13-year-old daughter received a birthday call from one of her favorite retailers. The caller wished her a happy birthday and invited her to visit their store to pick up a free gift. (She had filled out a form in the store a few months before, which allowed the retailer to contact her.) At the store she received her free gift, but we also purchased additional items. The call was highly successful; it achieved the primary goal of building the retailer’s relationship with my daughter — their target audience — and also in generating incremental revenue.
The figure below reflects 16 types of relationship calls. A few of these call types are related to collections and fraud, business necessities that are not pleasant for anyone on the receiving end, but the majority of the applications are intended to improve relationships with existing customers. As you can see in this chart, all of these categories — even the collections and fraud calls — improve a company’s profitability and most are intended to improve the customer’s experience, as well. Of course, how the calls are executed will determine if they achieve their goals.
CALLS BUILD PROFITS & ENHANCE RELATIONSHIPS
The most profitable calls generate incremental revenue and enhance relationships, such as special occasion calls (like the birthday one made to my daughter), loyalty calls that notify customers of upcoming events, or promotional announcements that communicate information about upcoming sales. Enterprises that want to take advantage of these types of calls must invest in activities that build the relationships with their customers that allow them to call — this is customer relationship management (CRM) in action.
Appointment reminders, such as those from doctors and dentists, are very helpful for patients, even though they are made primarily to help the calling party. Most people, like me, write their appointments in their calendar, but often forget about them until receiving one of these reminders the night before. These calls are essential for doctors and dentists and other professionals who schedule appointments in advance, as they generally cannot charge patients or clients who forget and miss their appointments. At the same time, they are helpful for clients who need the services but sometimes forget. Everyone wins.
DEALING WITH NEGATIVE PERCEPTION
Companies that choose to use dialing must be sensitive to the public’s negative opinion of disruptive sales or telemarketing calls. Besides the fact that a company can and should be fined by the Federal Trade Commission for calling people on the Do Not Call (DNC) list, enterprises should have be judicious in the use of any dialing because of the negative press this activity has received in the last few years. Most people do not know the details of the legislation and believe that once they sign up for the DNC list they will never be called again, even if they fill out a form that gives a store permission to contact them, for example.
Keep in mind that most people do not read the fine print on these forms. Therefore, all companies that make proactive customer service calls should train their staff to properly handle customer complaints and to apologize when customers believe that they were inappropriately called. The staff should make it easy for customers to remove themselves from any future calling campaigns and not fight or argue about their right to call.
There are a lot of consumers who do not want their dinner or family time disturbed by what they perceive to be telemarketing or sales calls. But proactive customer care is a high-value activity that can improve corporate profits and enhance relationships with customers. Enterprises that want to use dialing productively must go to great lengths to make sure that their customers welcome these calls.