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Have we reached the next stage of telesales evolution?

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21st Sep 2015
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In many people’s minds, the word 'telesales' has become an unpopular term; bringing to mind cold-calling and pushy, unhelpful offers from brands they’ve never heard of. 

It’s certainly true that, in days gone by, companies who conducted telesales often contacted their customers with irrelevant and unwelcomed deals that failed to impress, subsequently doing more harm than good to the customer relationship.

However, as customer service comes to rely ever more on digital tools, something strange is happening; companies are coming back to telesales – and with good reason.  

Proactive retention through prevention

By the time a customer phones a company with an issue, in many cases, it’s already too late to retain their business. But by using advanced analytics to identify issues before the customer, businesses can take a more proactive approach and deal with a potential problem before it even arises.

For instance, if two phones in the same house were on contracts from the same company, a proactive call to offer phone-to-phone discounts is likely to add value to the customer – and those kinds of calls are usually very welcome. Furthermore, by making this offer proactively, before the customer finds a competitor doing the same deal, it is possible to increase brand loyalty.

In a similar way, a company could look back on its customers past behaviour and offer timely deals. For instance, if a customer has been on holiday in August for each of the past two years, it’s likely that they will be doing so again this year. This gives a great opportunity for a phone provider to upsell an overseas call package – both delighting the customer with improved offerings (that could actually save them additional charges) and creating additional revenues for the business.

The key element in this new era of telesales is to give your sales agents the insight they need to make the right offer, to the right customer, at the right time. A personalised and unexpected call will be greatly appreciated by the customer if it offers a genuine sense of value.

Planning for peak times

Inbound inquiries can be an expensive business. Processing emails, phone calls, tweets and letters can be a time consuming job, let alone finding the right solution to each issue. At peak times – such as at the end of the month when bills are issues – this problem can reach critical levels, with huge numbers of customers looking to deal with problems or concerns.

To prevent a rise in this volume, businesses have started to pre-empt possible influxes in inbound calls by proactive calling their customers to warn or explain these changes to them. By preparing themselves accordingly, actions can be taken to reduce the amount of inbound calls during a specific period, which alleviates short-term pressures and deliver a better overall service in the long-term.

For example, if a company was planning on increasing bill payments in six months’ time, proactive steps can be taken in the lead up to that time including informative calls, new staff training and increased team capacity to help spread the workload across a broader length of time. By investing time and money early, it is possible to mitigate the cost and negative consequences later down the line.

Finding the sale in inbound enquiries

This approach to telesales can also be used effectively when dealing with inbound calls. Typically, when a customer contacts a company, they have a problem and are looking for a solution. If the solution is quickly and accurately delivered, the customer is likely to be delighted by the service they’re receiving and will carry on with that service provider. But when problems are persistent or can’t be fixed, customers are more than ready to take their business elsewhere.

However, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that these types of inbound inquiries, if managed correctly, can be excellent opportunities for companies to successfully implement a tailored sales approach.

For example, when a customer buys a new smartphone, they may then want to terminate the contract after a few months. This termination could be for a variety of reasons, such as an attractive deal from a competitor or a change in the customer’s situation. In the past, companies would have simply terminated the contract, often cashing in on the buy-out fee, with little regard for any wider opportunities.

However, handling this type of enquiry in the right way can move the conversation from a complaint into a sales opportunity by addressing the underlying issue and offering improved, different or renegotiated offerings over the phone. This is a win-win: customers welcome the solution they’re looking for without the hassle of switching service provider, and the brand keeps its customer.

Pick your moments

The new era for telesales is only possible if brands take a far more intelligent approach to proactive calls. As we continue to move into a digitally-led, more demanding society, companies need to move away from short-term sales and acquisitions to longer-term relationship building. Used smartly and selectively, telesales have the potential to boost the bottom line and strengthen the customer relationship.

Cormac Twomey is senior vice president, EMEA at Convergys.

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