Teleservices: Picking Up Where Agent-Centric Predictive Dialing Leaves Off
ALLEN TAIBL, TELEDIRECT INTERNATIONAL
When predictive dialers first appeared on the market, they were an ideal solution for
companies searching for ways to increase agent productivity. By keeping call center agents
on the telephone as much as possible, operational overhead was reduced. Call center
managers reasoned that because agents were making more calls per hour, they could also
make more sales, more appointments, more of everything they were supposed to achieve.
As the teleservices industry and associated technology have matured, however, it has
become apparent in the final analysis that this agent-centric approach -- while highly
effective up to a point -- is lacking. The reason is that with a focus on agent
productivity, actual business results take a back seat because companies are forced to
view agents in a vacuum, isolated from the rest of the enterprise and its objectives.
It has also become evident, in a world where teleservices have become increasingly
critical, that what is needed is a fresh approach based on a set of business goals,
defined as a campaign. As a solution to a business problem, a campaign may, for example,
detail sales, marketing or survey objectives -- and ways of meeting those objectives --
for a targeted group of customers.
Integral to this paradigm shift is the understanding that campaigns are not restricted
to any one medium, but may include outbound calls as well as direct mail, advertising,
public relations, and the inbound calls that result. In other words, to optimize overall
bottom-line results, the campaign-based teleservices model places call center agents and
predictive dialing as individual elements in a much larger context. As a result, where the
agent-centric teleservices approach focuses on calls per hour, the campaign-centric model
emphasizes the agent's productivity in terms of hourly sales, profits, appointments,
The challenge in implementing teleservices programs that focus on a comprehensive
campaign rather than agent performance alone is in creating and implementing the umbrella
application that integrates the agent and dialer with all other front- and back-end
systems associated with the campaign. This tight integration is essential to effectively
manage the flow of all campaign processes across all activities associated with the
The list development process is a good example. Obtaining a list of names, addresses
and telephone numbers for the target market is typically the starting point for any
campaign. This list is then "cleaned" by comparing it against other data sources
to increase the probability of successful transactions.
While these activities represent the first steps in launching a campaign, list
development can also be an ongoing process in the campaign-centric teleservices model, as
data garnered during the campaign empowers the company to better target its market. With
this approach, list cleaning is a dynamic process that continues throughout the campaign,
so a campaign management application should not only facilitate list cleaning at the
outset, but throughout the campaign, as well. In this way, a teleservices campaign manager
can be empowered to update lists on-the-fly without affecting ongoing operations of the
Similarly, while the scripts used by call center agents need to be developed before a
campaign is launched, they may also need modification throughout the campaign. The same
holds true for the business rules that govern how calls are handled.
Consider, for example, the scenario where customers call to order a hypothetical
alphanumeric pager service from XYZ telephone company in response to a direct mail piece
offering. After several days of responses, back-end reports from the campaign management
application may indicate that most callers are from specific Zip codes in the larger
geographic region that had been targeted with the original mailing. As a result, the
company decides to target these Zip codes with a follow-up telemarketing effort that
offers the same alphanumeric pager service.
Then, in the course of conversations with prospective customers, it becomes apparent
that many of them already have pager service through a competitor. The script is quickly
modified to offer a discount to prospects who replace their existing service with service
In other words, to optimize the success of a teleservices campaign and its components,
it should never be a considered a static process. Rather, each campaign and each element
in each campaign is dynamic, evolving throughout the campaign process as new data are
acquired and integrated.
As a result, the essential key to a successful teleservices campaign is an
infrastructure that supports automated on-the-fly integration of data and applications
throughout call campaign processes so that updates and modifications can be made to any
facet of the campaign without bringing down that campaign.
Integration provides other key benefits, as well. In the campaign-centric teleservices
model, for instance, a telemarketer who receives an order from a customer can enter that
order directly into the script and the application will then send that order,
automatically, to the customer information system that creates a new record for the
customer. All information in the record can then be immediately verified online with the
customer. If an appointment must be scheduled for a service installation, then the
back-end system checks schedules and presents the agent with a list of available
installation dates, which is then confirmed with the customer -- all within the context of
the script. Or, if a merchandise order is placed, that order can be automatically
forwarded to the manufacturer, who confirms, online, the availability of merchandise and a
shipping date so the agent can ask the customer if the terms are acceptable.
In addition to automating the back-end processing of the customer contact, a
campaign-centric teleservices approach can also track results for the campaign and use the
results to modify the calling parameters. For example, in a campaign where appointments
are scheduled for installation of cable TV service, the system can be configured to book
installation within a given time period only. Once the installation calendar is full for
this time period, the system will automatically stop placing calls in that area until new
appointment times are available. In this way, customers are not frustrated with long
installation delays and are less likely to cancel orders.
Throughout the process, as appointments are scheduled, the campaign management
application can also automatically schedule agent recalls to the customer five days after
the installation appointment to track customer satisfaction. On the back-end, the system
can then generate reports detailing the entire process for each install, along with
statistics evaluating the success of the campaign as measured by the total number of
installations and the satisfaction scorings reported by customers during the callbacks.
By comparison, an agent-centric approach applied to this same scenario would have had
agents continuing to dial numbers and make appointments with no regard to schedules. As a
result, appointments would get slotted further and further out, and as lead times until
installation increased, so too would customer dissatisfaction and the probability that
appointments would be canceled. In addition to integrating all campaign processes, a
campaign-centric approach does so intelligently, so that automated processes are executed
according to a predetermined set of business rules. These rules define what kind of data
need to be gathered, what actions need to be taken with the data and what action agents
need to take in response to the script presentation during the customer interaction. If a
sale is made, for example, the business rule may dictate that a new database record is
created. At the same time, the rule may direct another application to track that sale and
all associated variables such as cost, item color or quantity in an entirely different
The result is that with a campaign-centric teleservices model, all elements of the
campaign are interwoven, creating a web of interactions that mutually support the
successful fulfillment of the objectives for that campaign. With automated processing
directed through business rules, the campaign is focused only on results.
In short, the campaign-centric teleservices model picks up where agent-centric
predictive dialing leaves off because it empowers companies to effectively define their
objectives, the steps required for meeting those objectives, and the means for ensuring
that those objectives are attained.
Allen Taibl is senior vice president and the chief technology officer at TeleDirect
International, Inc. in Scottsdale, Arizona. He joined the company in 1996 after serving as
an executive director at AT&T Bell Laboratories. Mr. Taibl has over 35 years of
experience in the data and telephony industries.