Archive for January, 2018

Contact database quality

Posted on: January 29th, 2018 by viktorvarga No Comments

Contact database quality, as with everything else, deteriorates with time. The more you use it, the worse it becomes. How many times do you go through your contact database?

There are three ingredients needed for initiating and handling a productive outbound campaign. First, you need experienced agents on your end of the phone line. Then you need a reliable dialing tool or system to connect these agents to customers on the other end of the line. And of course, you need a reliable customer database. Take any of these ingredients out of the recipe and you are left with a guaranteed failure. Last week, we shared an article about the many dialing opportunities call centers have. Today, we would like to share our views on contact database quality, and how it gradually deteriorates over time.

 

Declining contact database quality

For outbound campaigns it is extremely important to reach as many contacts as possible. This is why agents are expected to attempt as many interactions as they can with customers. In order to achieve this, they normally use the same contact database several times. During the first attempt, agents will reach a certain amount of contacts in the database. Depending on the type of dialer used they mark each contact automatically or manually, based on the result of the call.

Based on the outcome of the call, we can define two groups: ongoing and completed. Ongoing calls are records marked as busy, needing callback, and so forth – records needing further attempts to contact. Completed calls, on the other hand, are reached contacts marked as “Successful” (a sale has been done) or “Unsuccessful” (wrong number, resulting in no sale, and so forth).  Based on these call dispositions, a second attempt takes place, with agents trying to call the previously unreached contacts once again. During the second and subsequent attempts, however, contact database quality inevitably deteriorates. Dialing takes more and more time, and reaching customers becomes harder and harder. From the graph below you can see how this looks like in reality.

Imagine you start a project with a completely fresh contact database. In the first attempt, your agents reach and close 26,67% of the records in the database. During the second attempt, they try to reach the remaining records from the previous round, but how big is the chance that reachability will be on a similar level? From our experience, it never is. In our data analysis, during the second attempt reachability fell to around 14.6% from the original database, which means 19.92% from the remaining contacts from the previous round. And in each and every subsequent attempt it gets lower and lower. In this particular project, agents needed to go through four attempts of dialing in order to close half of the contacts in the customer database.

Contact Database Quality - Statistics - VCC LiveThe statistics used in this example are taken from the analysis of real customer contact databases. The analyzed projects have started with a contact database containing 100% of previously unreached contacts.

As contact database quality decreases, the number of dials needed in order to reach a contact becomes higher. With every subsequent attempt, an agent (or the dialer system being used) needs to dial more numbers before they can handle a call. In the above example, during the first attempt every 3.7 dial was reached, while in the second attempt every fifth dial results in a reached customer. With every subsequent attempt, agents (or the dialer they use) need to dial more numbers before they can process a successful call. The graph below (taken from the same project) shows that, by the fifth attempt of dialing numbers in the database, only one in 13.5 calls was being reached and processed.

Contact Database Quality - Figure - VCC LiveResults taken from actual VCC Live client data analysis

 

The traps of bad contact database quality

Often customers don’t answer calls from unknown numbers or are contacted at an inappropriate moment. Sometimes, customers recognize the number calling them, and don’t answer the call on purpose. But why is it unproductive to keep trying to reach the same contacts again and again?

Relying on low-quality data or can bring a negative impact to your business. Imagine how much valuable time your agents spend trying to contact unreachable customers. If agents are using a manual dialer, this means they are spending too much unproductive time dialing and ringing, generating costs but no revenue. While redialing numbers from the same database several times seems logical enough, it can in fact cause multiple problems:

  • chasing unusable leads: instead of working on leads that can generate actual revenue, agents are busy redialing the same numbers, resulting in no business value.
  • poor data costs: time is money, and wasted time means lost money. If agents are not able to generate revenue, they accumulate hourly and daily costs without any revenue to cover them.
  • losing motivation: repeating unproductive tasks, such as redialing hard-to-reach numbers and listening to ringing tones, can have a demotivating effect on your agents and decrease overall morale in your team.

Of course there are ways to easily handle these issues and optimize your processes. Here are a few examples:

  • predictive dialer: a predictive dialer can process unreached numbers in the background and adapt automatically to your reachability ratio, and save agents the demoralizing time spent dialing and listening to ringing tones
  • keep your database updated: if you cannot reach a number after several attempts, don’t transfer this number to a new database. It is better to either try and reach this contact from another number, or remove it from your database for good.
  • rotate outgoing phone numbers: utilize a solution that allows your dialing system to rotate outgoing phone numbers. In case customers don’t take your calls because they recognize the phone number you are calling from, they might reply if you dial from a new and unfamiliar number.

But of course the best solution is knowing when to stop. There are only so many times you should attempt to contact someone. Implement rules for connection attempts and decide how many times your agents should attempt to reach a contact before moving on. Don’t spend time and money pursuing deals that will probably not generate the success you need to be lucrative.

 

To sum up, decreasing contact database quality can affect the overall quality of your work. And, with reference to the three ingredients mentioned above that make up the recipe of any successful outbound campaign, if you reduce your contact database quality, the quality of your dialing tools and experienced agents will, without doubt, also become reduced.

Three questions about Action Learning

Posted on: January 17th, 2018 by viktorvarga No Comments

Sometimes the right question is worth more than a hundred solutions. This is an account of how and why we use Action Learning at VCC Live to improve the way we collaborate and co-create with each other.

Coaching and Action Learning are methodologies that, over many years, have shown remarkable results in helping with problem solving and conflict management in businesses. According to this year’s CCW Digital Contact Center Priorities for 2018 report, coaching and training improvement are the number 1 strategy for contact centers in 2018! They seem to work miracles when used for agent experience strategy, but how do they achieve this? And why did it suddenly become such an important trend in the business world? At VCC Live, we have actively been using Action Learning for a number of years. In this week’s article, we’d like to share with you how it has helped us to work better and become smarter.

 

What’s so WOW about Action Learning?

  • First things first.
  • Action Learning is an activity in which a group of people and a coach help a problem owner generate creative ideas for solving their problem. Unlike coaching, where the problem owner tackles the issue alone with the help of a coach, Action Learning is a group-based activity.
  • Knowing yourself and your weaknesses well does not necessarily mean you also know how to solve problems you come up against. Often what you need is an outside person to help get you on the right track. The essence of both coaching and Action Learning is that participants ask as many questions as possible, to allow the problem owner to consider their options and come up with a solution. However, Action Learning does not provide ready answers on a silver plate. Instead, it inspires people to think and find out for themselves what’s best for them, based on their own reflections. Involving a group of people with different points of view allows the problem owner to approach the topic from different perspectives. This not only brings a team closer together, but encourages individuals and teams to become more self-supportive and solution-driven. In addition, it also helps:
    • team members learn to take responsibility for their decisions and actions
    • solve actual every-day company problems, providing real and needed support
    • individuals learn to watch out for each other, leave their comfort zone and consider people around them by learning to ask the right questions
    • with individual self-reflection, the self-reflection section that closes any Action Learning session being something that can be taken away and thought about later.

 

What you need in order to really benefit from Action Learning?

You can utilize different models of coaching, depending on your needs, the group you are working with, the topic, and the personality of the person you’re coaching. The key to a successful Action Learning session is empathy, but here are a few more things we at VCC Live have discovered in our own Action Learning sessions:

  • Make sure you use an experienced coach! Even though team members ask the questions, and the problem owner comes up with a solution, it is very important to have the right facilitator in place, to observe group dynamics and eliminate negative influences.
  • Learn to ask the right questions! Questions should be open, with no “yes” or “no” answers allowed. Questions should make people think more deeply, and encourage them to talk without being influenced. Not as easy as it sounds!
  • Know when to separate or unite! If you are trying to solve a conflict between two people, then you shouldn’t have both of them participating in the same session. Choose carefully whether you need a group exercise or individual coaching.

People find it easy to formulate their thoughts when saying what makes them feel uncomfortable. But describing what would make them feel better can often be a challenge. This is because most of the time they handle issues at an emotional level. But situations that are the source of frustration are never truly black and white. We perceive them as such only if we’re handling them emotionally. If we move out of our emotional zones, we can see things more clearly. The guidelines above helped us assemble effective Action Learning groups, and take people out of this emotional “black-and-white” mentality. It motivated them to look for actual solutions to their frustrations, rather than run around in circles.

 

What has Action Learning brought for VCC Live?

Boglárka Hidvégi, Head of the Human Resources department at VCC Live, introduced Action Learning to our company in 2015 in order to help improve communication dynamics. At first, Action Learning was used to solve minor issues and conflicts. But after seeing its benefits and how it was helping team members become more efficient, the number of groups and activities expanded. Today, these groups receive the help they need in order to overcome the issues they are confronted with. They also develop a confident problem-solving and professional mindset.

The magic of Action Learning, compared to similar development training methods, is that after a while it becomes a natural part of the organization and work processes,” Boglárka states. “It develops skills which unconsciously build up in people’s mindsets, and they begin to start using them unconsciously, without even noticing.

Because of its principles based on self-reflection and self-management, Action Learning has allowed our teams to build skills such as:

  • internal and cross-department communication dynamics
  • readiness for self-management, and a boost of productivity
  • conflict handling, and a solution-oriented mindset

As with every other organization, we also always aim to find high-quality answers to any question that arises in front of us. Teaching people the skill of self-reflection and how to ask the right question has been an indispensable tool in this. Since the introduction of Action Learning we have made our communication and problem-solving practices faster and more efficient. We enable people to solve issues self-sufficiently and with confidence.

“Helping people become better in their work is not the only important thing in an organization,” adds Boglárka. “Making sure they feel good and are empowered to change the things that cause them stress is also important. They should feel good with what they’re doing.”

Action Learning has helped us find a solution for many questions: from handling conflicts, through improving processes, and even personal issues. Sometimes, a problem owner realizes that the solution to their problem is beyond their competence, and they need to pass it on to someone else. At other times, the solution can be simply finding the right work-life balance, and once changes have been made, things return to normal. In any case, a real “WOW”-moment is very symbolic of Action Learning. People become committed to the methodology, and enjoy coming to the sessions.

 

We all have different personalities. Sometimes we click, at other times we clash. We all come with a ready set of feelings and emotions, and even when we’re at our most professional, these feelings sometimes come up to the surface and influence our actions. In a business environment, it’s very important to handle these situations with the utmost care and attention. In today’s world, Action Learning coaching has been proven to provide the perfect solution for situations like this. And as a company utilizing Action Learning methodology, we can also confirm this is true.