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Blended and Outbound Call Centers: Outbound Campaign Management and Execution

The fifth installment of this series offers call center managers the components of managing an outbound campaign and executing on strategic intent.
NOTE: This series will explore various aspects of Outbound and Blended Call Centers. While every attempt to give general terms and general examples is being made, the reader should be aware that specifics may be different for every type of call center, business operation or strategic purpose of the center. This series is meant as a guideline for those seeking to learn more about Outbound and Blended Call Centers.
Once your call center has established a solid grasp of developing a campaign, it is important to have a full understanding of how to both manage the campaign and execute it on its strategic intent. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the management of dialer campaigns.
There are some key components of campaign management that cannot be ignored. Some are common sense and others are hidden truths. It is common sense that a “fresher” or a newer campaign has a higher likelihood of generating more contacts. But the question is, when do you determine when a current campaign has been exhausted and it becomes counterproductive to continue to run? This is where the “hidden truths” become more important, and less apparent.
To determine the best way to manage a campaign for your outbound or blended center’s dialer, text messaging or IVR based dialing, Operation must determine where the point of diminishing returns exists. In the past, a campaign’s “spin rate,” or the number of times it was run through the dialer, would determine when it should be retired. However, a good indication that the point of diminishing returns has begun is when all that is left of a particular campaign is the list of numbers that cannot be contacted for some reason or another. Many within the Strategy team will enforce that everyone in the campaign must be contacted - however that is not a realistic expectation. An older campaign with fewer records left means that the dialer will need to work harder to contact the remaining contacts, often resulting in a very high idle time for the agents waiting for those connects. This is an example of why the Operations team needs to have a prominent seat at the Strategy table, so these very real truths can be discussed as part of the campaign development.
A common strategy used to manage the diminishing return of repeated contact attempts is to measure the following:
  1. Starting Records – the totally number of accounts that a campaign has at the start of the campaign
  2. Dials – the number of attempts per account in the list
  3. Contacts – the number of contacts. This would include right party, wrong party, answering machines and other automated responses (wrong number, disconnected, etc.)
  4. Right Party Contacts – the number of contacts that have resulted in speaking to the right person or intended party of the campaign 
By having a complete understanding of these measures and tracking them, Operations will be able to determine the point of diminishing returns on dialing attempts. If the number of dials is increasing drastically in comparison to the number of accounts available to dial, then this is a good indication that the dialer has to work hard to achieve a contact and that you are reaching the point of diminishing returns. When Operations introduces a new campaign, or begins a new repetitive campaign, the metrics should be tracked closely so that it can be followed for similar campaigns in the future. 
By comparing the following lead indicators, Operations will be able to track and proactively use them to manage new or recurring campaigns:
  • Number of dials in comparison to the number of available accounts. This will show when a campaign is starting to come to end of life.
  • Number of contacts in comparison to the number of available accounts. This is another lead indicator that will show when a campaign is coming to end of life. A good rule of thumb is that if a campaign has reached a penetration point where 70% of the available accounts have been contacted, then the list should be retired.
  • Number of RPCs in comparison to the number of contacts. This shows the effectiveness of the campaign. When a campaign is built it uses some form of data mining to determine who should be contacted. The RPC to Contacts measure shows the effectiveness of the campaign.

Campaign Execution

Once a campaign is in the dialer and running there are some aspects of execution that must be kept in mind. For a dialer to pace properly it requires adding at least 10 to 12 agents with competent dialer skills to the campaign. If the number of agents goes below eight, then the ability of the dialer to pace properly is lost and it becomes very difficult for the Real Time Analyst (RTA) team to manage the dialer client experience metrics. As a result, abandonment rates will go up or agent idle times will go up; both have a negative impact on the campaign execution. Ideally, for a campaign to be run in a predictive mode, the more agents there are available the easier it is for a dialer to manage pacing. The same can be said for the size of the campaign, the greater the number of records the easier it will be to manage.
Because using the predictive dialing mode means that the dialer will “over dial,” or call more numbers then required so that statistically it will determine when the next customer will answer, thereby proactively offering calls to the agents, a campaign must be of sufficient size in record count to sustain the number of agents placed on the campaign. A larger campaign requires a more efficient dialer. If we think about the actual process a dialer must take so as to offer a call, the reasoning for this becomes apparent. When a dialer is making calls it will encounter busy signals, answering machines, disconnected numbers, no answers, etc. The dialer will also have to cycle through all of these to find a live person to offer to an agent. For this reason, if there are large number of agents and a small campaign, the time the campaign will remain in the dialer until it has been exhausted will be minimal and agent idle time will be high. So, large campaigns and large outbound agent pools work best for efficient predictive dialing. As discussed in the first article in this series, different modes of dialing should be considered as part of the campaign development as well as the size and strategic intent of the center.
In a blended call center, as discussed in previous articles, the RTA needs to balance the needs of the dialer and the needs of the inbound calls. Campaign execution becomes an intricate part of this balancing act. The ability to provide that balance becomes achievable when the campaign is an efficient campaign. Constant review of the dialer metrics and comparison of dials to contacts to RPCs will allow the RTA to ensure that they can make informed decisions about when to retire a campaign.
The final aspect I would like to cover here is Right Time of Day Dialing (RTD). Based on an analysis of the time in which RPCs are achieved per campaign, an effective operation can then schedule different campaigns based on when the RTD for that campaign is. This will have the impact of raising the number of RPCs to contacts, as there will be less wrong party contact. Good campaign execution requires a good analytical team that is able to review the raw data from the dialer to ensure the efficient operation of the dialer as well as when the best time to utilize each channel based on desired result. A significant amount of discussion can be had about RTD, however it is out of scope for these articles.
A blended/outbound call center should consider a comprehensive study of its processes to ensure that their inbound hours are reflective of the needs of their clients and the strategy. The blended/outbound center should also plan to determine when the best time to dial a campaign is. In this way they can achieve deeper penetration rates and RPC conversion rates.