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Telesales/Telemarketing Gets A Face-Lift
Criticized for interrupting evening meals and business meetings, telesales/telemarketing seemed to be just impersonal telephone calls made from obscure direct marketing lists. Not any more.
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Telesales/telemarketing, one of the more elusive business functions within customer relationship management, is experiencing a renaissance. New and improved changes have taken place during the past two years that have impacted the dynamics of this classic CRM functionality. Let's look briefly at the more significant changes.

Campaign management front ends: Outbound telesales/telemarketing campaigns now are capable of focusing on specific customer segmentation (all the way down to segments of one) and often take into account past customer behavior. Result: more relevant outbound telesales/telemarketing efforts. As an example, several CRM suite vendors, such as Siebel and Pivotal, have integration points and relationships with best-in-class campaign management point solutions such as Prime Response, Rubric and others.

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI): Whilst not entirely new, CTI increasingly is finding its way into telesales/telemarketing CRM software applications. Multiple CRM suite vendors such as SalesLogix and Onyx have integrated CTI functionality into their software offering. You know when CTI is installed since your inbound call to a telesales/telemarketing agent begins with a friendly greeting from the agent who actually calls you by your correct name. The way CTI works is rather simple. Your incoming phone call automatically triggers a cross-reference of your phone number against the telesales/telemarketing company's customer database or the local phone directory, and your customer profile pops up on the agent's screen.

Integration of knowledge management: Increasingly, CRM software vendors such as Pivotal and Vantive are incorporating knowledge management functionality into their software. Knowledge management software allows a telesales/telemarketing agent, while talking with you, to tap into information sources that are directly accessible from his computer screen. This allows the agent to immediately send you (via fax, mail and e-mail) information such as white papers, competitive comparisons and so on. The agent also may access "inference engines" that contain, for example, responses to your question based on historical responses to prior customers. Alternatively, if you are initiating contact with the telesales/telemarketing center via its Web site, you too may have direct access to the agent's information sources as well as to his inference engines.

Better real-time interfacing into e-commerce: Another telesales/telemarketing functionality increasingly available from CRM software vendors such as Point Information Systems and Update Marketing is direct access to e-commerce engines that allow you to order and pay for products/services on-line. Telesales/telemarketing software also has begun to provide "call-me-now" and "chat" buttons which are aimed at assisting the online buying experience.

Weighted, dynamic branch scripting: Weighted scripting allows the telesales/telemarketing company to proactively attach points or percentages to each question in the script based on the question's overall importance. Thus for example, if you display interest in a new product/service being offered, the software will automatically attach a weighting of say 15% to the question. If you have purchased a product/service from the company in the past, that weighting may immediately go up to 20%.

Dynamic branch scripting allows the telesales/telemarketing agent to move you through a script that branches into subscripts based on your responses to their questions. At the third question of the script, for example, the script may automatically invoke "workflow" that connects to an external information source to obtain online credit verification or approval. If credit is approved, the agent may branch into the "special offer" subscript. If credit is denied, the agent may branch into the "send information" subscript.

Whilst fairly new, there are several CRM software vendors such as Clarify and Vantive now offering weighted, dynamic branch scripting within their telesales/telemarketing module.

In summary, today's telesales/telemarketing software, which often is included within emerging CRM software vendor suites, has had a significant face lift over the past few years. Moreover, increased use of campaign management, CTI, knowledge management, e-commerce interfaces and weighted, dynamic branch scripting supported by workflow agents means that telesales/telemarketing is likely to become an increasingly important component within the CRM software suite.

The following provides more detail on the main business functionality provided by best-in-class telesales/telemarketing software.

Auto dialing can be performed within a package as part of an enterprise solution or the enterprise solution can integrate with a third party package for more comprehensive telephony. Also, the user is able to view the contact screen/record before placing the call.

The following programs exemplify comprehensive auto dialing: ExSellence for TeamWorks v.3.0 by Optima Technologies; MarketForce v.5.0 by Software of the Future d.b.a. MarketForce; Marketing Manager v.4.0 by UpDate Marketing.

Call list assembly can be performed via query tool by any number of criteria, such as pipeline stage or product. The call list can then be assigned to a user and logged in the user's to-do list on a specific date for execution. Call lists and queries can be saved for future use as part of a campaign. Also, a telemarketer who is free to make additional calls may select a contact from a "pool" of contacts scheduled for an outbound call campaign. Contacts from the "pool" can be grouped by categories such as administrative, customer service and market research in order to facilitate various campaigns.

The following programs exemplify comprehensive call list assembly: Abalon Customer Management Solution v.3.85 by Industri Matematik; AdvantEDGE v.4.0 by IMA; MarketForce v.5.0 by Software of the Future d.b.a. MarketForce; Marketing Manager v.4.0 by UpDate Marketing; ONYX Customer Center v.4.0 by ONYX Software; Siebel 99 by Siebel Systems; TakeControl v.99 by Firstwave Technologies; TeamPoint v.2.5 by POINT Information Systems; Universell Business to Business v.6.3 by MEI Technology Group; Vantive Sales 8.0 by Vantive.

Call planning provides the ability to plan a call as part of a campaign or as an individual event. Call lists can be assigned and distributed to individual telemarketers or to other users. Also, call planning is supported by the ability to drag and drop a call from one telemarketer to another through an easy-to-use graphic user interface, which displays all telemarketers and their attached calls. This allows the manager to easily reassign calls as he or she deems necessary. Also, the user has the ability to create and assign activities supported by links to information that was sent to a company as well as links to specific contact records.

The following programs exemplify comprehensive call planning: Abalon Customer Management Solution v.3.85 by Industri Matematik; Clarify FrontOffice 98 by Clarify; MarketForce v.5.0 by Software of the Future d.b.a. MarketForce; Marketing Manager v.4.0 by UpDate Marketing; Siebel 99 by Siebel Systems; TakeControl v.99 by Firstwave Technologies; TeamPoint v.2.5 by POINT Information Systems; Vantive Sales 8.0 by Vantive.

Call recording offers the user the ability to record the date, time, priority, call details, contact name, opportunity, time of call, duration of call and to set an alarm. Drop down pick lists offer easy data entry. Users can also record call information in notes as well as record responses in a script. A summary of all responses to a call can be reviewed and checked by a telemarketer to ensure that the information given by the prospect/customer is correct before closing the call.

The following programs exemplify comprehensive call recording: AvantEDGE v.4.0 by IMA; ClientXchange v.8.7 by Client Technologies; MarketForce v.5.0 by Software of the Future d.b.a. MarketForce; Marketing Manager v.4.0 by UpDate Marketing; Siebel 99 by Siebel Systems; TakeControl v.99 by Firstwave Technologies; TeamPoint v.2.5 by POINT Information Systems; Universell Business to Business v.6.3 by MEI Technology Group.

Call statistics reporting provides the user with the ability to select a campaign and to track the amount of time spent on a call, number of calls, attempts, follow-ups and opportunities generated. The user can track statistics by representative, team and subcampaign in a report as well as in a graph. The graphing functionality can be provided as part of the solution or through integration with a third party package such as Crystal Reports, Infomaker and Actuate.

The following programs exemplify comprehensive call statistics reporting: Clarify FrontOffice 98 by Clarify; MarketForce v.5.0 by Software of the Future d.b.a. MarketForce; Marketing Manager v.4.0 by UpDate Marketing; Siebel 99 by Siebel Systems; TakeControl v.99 by Firstwave Technologies; Vantive Sales 8.0 by Vantive.

Incoming calls can be identified by the customer's telephone number or by a support number issued by customer service facilitated by CTI as previously discussed. This identification function will trigger the customer's record to populate the contact screen of the appropriate staff member to which the call is routed. This speeds up data entry and ensures accuracy of information.

The following program exemplifies comprehensive incoming call support: Marketing Manager v.4.0 by UpDate Marketing.

Most software packages integrate with third party CTI programs to support incoming call functionality.

Scripting can be customized with the ability to add and remove questions and to set answer forms such as multiple choice, single answer or free from text. As previously described, dynamic branch scripting assists in the automation of call support. This type of script helps the telemarketer move through the call more efficiently using triggers, which automatically populate the user's screen with the next question to be asked based on the prospect's response to the previous question. Each response can be automatically scored (e.g., 1 to 10) for purposes of lead qualification. The total score is known as the "weighted average response." The user can choose to skip questions without having an impact on the weighted average score. Business rules can route the lead to an appropriate next step or the telemarketer can assign the lead manually (e.g., representative or pipeline position).

The following programs exemplify comprehensive scripting: Clarify FrontOffice 98 by Clarify, ONYX Customer Center v.4.0 by ONYX Software, Pivotal Relationship 99 by Pivotal Software; Siebel 99 by Siebel Systems; TakeControl v.99 by Firstwave Technologies, Inc.; Vantive Sales 8.0 by Vantive .

One of the best
Clarify Front Office 98 offers user features in contact management, account management and customer service as well as various functions in sales force management, marketing, executive information and telesales/telemarketing. Clarify FrontOffice 98 was selected as one of ISM's Top 30 software selections in its annual The Guide to Sales, Customer Service and Marketing Automation.

Clarify FrontOffice runs on MS-Windows 95, 98, MS-Windows NT, Solaris, HP-UX and AIX.

  • Call list assembly. Users can assemble call lists via queue function. Different call lists can be assembled by queries using different criteria and then assigned to a sales representative. Afterward, the call list can be sent to a user's To-do list with a specific date for completion.
  • Auto-dialing. Not available with current release. Ability to interface with predictive dialers and softphone tools.
  • Scripting (e.g., dynamic branch). Users can access the Script Manager, which features a dynamic branching tool in which each answer to a script question is given a qualification rating. Afterward, the dynamic branching tool automatically presents the prospect with the next appropriate step in the script. The qualification rating is used to determine the commercial viability of the prospect.
  • Call recording. Users can record notes on each call, indicating the reason for the call, whether inbound or outbound, product or service indicated, the length of the call, time call occurred, customer contact and any free-form notes the user wishes to record.
  • Call planning. Users can track action items such as item ID, type, status, priority, due date, start date, complete and owner during a phone call. They can set an Action Item to schedule and assign calls. By hitting the Telephone icon, users can access the history of each call. The program can also integrate with the third-party distributor and Automatic Call Distributor, to automatically report on the outcome of each call.
  • Call statistics/reporting. Users can track by opened leads, closed leads, average time, research time, total phone time, total work time and present these statistics in a graphical display via a runtime version of Actuate. *
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