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July1999


Not The Same Old Script

BY RITA DEARING, TELEDIRECT INTERNATIONAL, INC.

Like any tool, there is a right and wrong way to use a predictive dialing system. The right way increases the success of a dialing campaign by providing agents with scripts to help them achieve three goals: address difficult spots in the conversation; target the call to the specific needs of the individual and lengthen the conversation to increase the probability of achieving the desired result. The wrong way to use a dialer is without scripts, letting agents handle conversations as they see fit.

Traditionally, scripts have been simple paper documents that allowed agents to read a generalized pitch. While certainly an improvement over no scripts, paper scripts were cumbersome and by their very nature, extremely simplistic. Changes to the script required the new script to be printed and redistributed. The solution: screen-based scripts that are displayed on an agent's workstation.

A vast improvement over paper, the real benefit of screen-based scripts was that they made the industry realize the potential of scripting. As long as scripts are presented on workstations, why not, teleservices vendors reasoned, link them to back-end applications so different scripts could be presented throughout a conversation? This turned out to be such a good idea that a whole new class of technology called scripting tools was created.

With these tools, a new generation of scripting possibilities was born. For example, while an agent is reading a generalized script to a customer, the customer expresses objection A, then script A is presented, but if objection B is offered, a different script, script B, is displayed on the agent workstation - each, of course, being tailored to the specific issue at hand.

More recently, predictive dialing vendors have taken this approach one step further by linking script presentation rules to information in a customer database. The result: different scripts can bepresented, on a case-by-case basis, to individual customers. A telemarketer of time share resorts, for example, may offer different scripts to prospects on the basis of their state of residence, gender, age group or income level.

Even more impressive, with this latest generation of scripting tools � now more properly referred to as application development tools � customer-based scripting can be combined with branching techniques. So, for example, script A in the scenario above may differ as a function of the prospect?s age group and income level, enabling agents to meaningfully overcome objections to the offer in a tailored way.

The bottom line: with new application development tools, teleservices managers can finally empower their agents with the capability to maximize the returns for each and every call and thereby optimize the overall success of the entire teleservices campaign.

It should never be forgotten, however, that, like any other tool, quality, functionality, flexibility and ease-of-use must all be considered when evaluating application development tools. Quality can best be determined by consulting with other companies using the system and by examining the vendor?s track record where support is concerned.

Functionality and flexibility are slightly more difficult to assess because it is often hard to know how the tool will be used before it is implemented. But there is one key point � database support � which should not be overlooked.

All application development tools should be able to define the rules by which any given script is presented to the agent at any given time in the workflow. But to do so, the tool needs to interface with databases containing pertinent information. As a result, to ensure functionality in changing business environments, the application development tool must support not only the databases currently being used, but all those that will be used in the future, as well. The only way to meet this requirement is with a nonproprietary tool that supports any standard ODBC database product. This capability will also facilitate utilization of the application development tool to capture data through the scripts: when an agent asks a question, the response can get logged into the script, stored in an ODBC database and analyzed, and then this database can be used for targeting future scripts.

Another critical issue to consider is ease-of-use. Only by making it as simple as possible to match the teleservices campaign vision to the practical implementation of that vision can application development tools live up to their potential as successful expediters. This means that it is absolutely critical to consider how fast and easy the tools allow teleservices managers to implement new scripts, new branching options and new presentation rules.

Take the scenario, for example, of a newspaper publishing company involved in a teleservices campaign to sell weekly subscriptions to their evening newspaper. With proper programming, any tool can be used to create an application that presents differing sales scripts to prospects as a function of their income bracket, age or number of children. But only a tool that enables teleservices managers to easily update these parameters can be truly responsive to changing market conditions.

If, for instance, the newspaper were going to add a special supplement linked to a specific current event, the teleservices manager would undoubtedly want to include that information in the offer. But in the fast-moving newspaper industry, it is very probable that the interval between the time the manager finds out about the supplement and the time of the issue will be less than the time needed for programmers to modify the script. Therefore, to be responsive to the market, a tool is required that can be used by any person, technically oriented or not, and that can be used to effect immediate script or rule changes.

Now, let's say that the supplement was of a sensitive nature, perhaps pertaining to the Starr Report. The teleservices manager may not want to make this special offer to parents with children. So, at the same time that the script is modified, so too are the rules by which the script is presented. Specifically, the Starr script may be presented to everyone except for families with children less than 16 years old; when telemarketing to these individuals, agents may be presented with a different script touting the special children?s section on an upcoming Sunday.

By making it easy to change scripts and rules of presentation - and create new campaigns � teleservices managers are freed to become more creative in the campaigns they create. With their hands no longer tied by a programming backlog, marketing initiatives can be implemented whenever � and as often � as changing business conditions dictate. Want to test a new discount or a new offer, a wording change or a new script on a specific demographic segment? With the right application development tool, a teleservices manager can implement these ideas - and more -in minutes.

An application development tool that does not require programmer intervention will also lower the overhead cost of campaigns and frees companies from hiring high-salaried and difficult-to-find Java or Visual Basic programmers. In addition, there is the opportunity cost to consider. In other words, by being able to launch campaigns in hours, rather than days, the benefits of the campaign can accrue sooner - and for a longer time.

Another issue to consider is how script and rule changes are merged with existing scripting workflow. Some tools require that the dialer be brought down for this implementation to occur. Far more preferable, however, are tools that allow changes to be made on the fly, so that once the change is complete, all it takes is the click of a mouse to have that change loaded. In this way, scripts can be updated without affecting ongoing operations.

Application development tools that require no technical expertise and that dramatically shorten the implementation time of campaigns, script changes and rule modifications are of particular benefit to teleservices agencies. In fact, armed with such a tool, the service agency may even offer fast turnaround as a service differentiator. With this group in mind, some application development tools now offer a value-added feature that allows a service agency to present scripts to remote clients in a view-only mode. This further reduces the implementation time for new campaigns and scripts by shortening the time it takes to get client approvals.

For service agencies and all other users of predictive dialers, the benefit of application development tools comes down to this: the tools empower agents to optimize opportunities by treating all calls in a manner appropriate for the person being contacted. Put another way, the right application development tool is simply the most effective means to the end we all seek: a successful campaign.

Rita Dearing is vice president of marketing for TeleDirect International, Inc. She has been a critical component of TeleDirect’s executive team since January, 1998, when she joined the company as director of marketing, leading all product marketing and marketing communications for the organization. Dearing has experience in both the development and marketing of ACDs and IVRs, which strengthens TeleDirect as it expands deliverables to encompass all aspects of voice and electronic processing in the call center.

TeleDirect International’s Windows NT-based predictive dialing and campaign management solutions enable companies to drive increased revenue opportunity through the call center. The company protects its customers’ business investments by providing solutions that are founded on open systems platforms and fully embrace the open computer-telephony environment.







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