There are some who will tell you that outbound has no future and that customer acquisition has moved on, they will point to growing numbers of people on TPS and the fact that the modern day multi-channel environment means a customer can instigate the sales approach should they be inclined to do so.
But before we condemn the thousands of people working on outbound projects in the UK, and even greater numbers around the globe, to a gloomy future first we should look a little closer at what has actually changed in the industry as a detailed inspection shows a number of thriving outbound operations who are growing their teams. Perhaps the people who say outbound has no future are the same people who said CDs and vinyl have no place on the high-street; you only have to look at the resurrection of HMV to show that those who reflect and react can prove to be resilient.
It is certainly true that the number of people registering with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) has increased significantly in the last few years but many of those people did so to avoid unsolicited calls from companies who they have no associated or affiliation with. People registered on TPS still receive outbound calls from those companies who they have given permission to and from companies who they are a customer of which means there are huge numbers of customers who would welcome an outbound call from a company they know and to talk about a product or service that will actually be beneficial to them.
Only last week I received a call from my credit card provider, they were calling to talk to me about an insurance product that protects my gadgets and personal belongings without affecting my house insurance and protecting me from premium rises should I need to make a claim. As a family with 3 tablets, 2 mobile phones, and consoles to keep children entertained the product was ideal for me and after arranging for a call-back in a week’s time, to give me time to consult with my home insurance provider, I took the product and can say that I am pleased that my credit card provider invested the time to call me and make me aware that this product existed. I certainly would not have thought to look for it online, via their web-chat service or by looking through statement inserts and as such without the call I wouldn’t have found it! After the call I was invited to take part in a customer satisfaction survey which showed me they cared about my experience and not just about chalking another sale on the white board!
The experience I describe is a perfect example of a company who had a genuine relationship with a customer, tailoring what they knew about the customer to offer a product that the customer might value, making a skilled and friendly call and allowing the customer time to think before calling back when they said they would and allowing the customer to make the decision. They also had a brand to protect and existing value in the customer they were speaking to which influenced how they made the call and ultimately gave them more than one way to deem the call a success.
Those companies who have the right product and are willing to trust their customers to make an informed decision without having to apply tough sales techniques certainly have a future in the world of outbound and I would go so far as to say that their future grows rosier by the day as others who cold-call with abrasive, un-trained staff who have tunnel vision for their commission find it increasingly hard to make ends meet and eventually leave the market.
Looking to the future the outbound industry should reflect on the 3 Ps of performance; people, products and processes. If you can pull a call recording and listen to it in front of our clients without wincing then you have the right people. If you can generate sales through description rather than prescription then you have the right product. If you can manage a team consistently with your customer at the heart of every decision you make then you have the right processes. If you can tick those 3 boxes then have confidence that your customers will welcome your call and have confidence that you can grow your market share by operating a successful outbound team.
Photo by Mike Bitzenhofer licensed under Creative Commons