I predict a riot
November 21, 2006 2:47 AM   Subscribe

I've been asked to look into a predictive dialling system for a small team of outbound telesales agents who're bored of listening to the phone ring for 6 hours a day. Does anyone around here have any experience of the different systems available; implementation pitfalls, advantages and disadvantages of each?

We've about 6 guys & galls on the phones in this company, and it seems like they manage to get about 1 1/2 hours of actual talk time in a given day. They're all commission based, go-get-em types and keen to spend more time actually talking to our customers.

Before I get shot down in flames here I should point out that there no cold calling involved - they're selling B2B in a vertical market - but ~80% of these guys day is spent listening to the phone ring out and thats no fun!

I've heard that some systems can end up making endless 'ghost' calls which is no good, to be avoided at all costs I'd say, as this is a small company with a decent reputation among its customer base.

Oh, and what I know about telephony could be written in board-marker on the back of a postage-stamp, as if that wasn't immediately obvious. Any stories, good or bad, regarding peoples experiences with this kinda techology are invited. I'm in the UK if this helps;
posted by whoojemaflip to Work & Money (6 answers total)
While the suspiciously cold-call nature of the question, despite your assurances, means that I'm unwilling to give any suggestions specifically on how to make more calls, I will make some comments based on my experience as admin (IT) support in a mostly commission-based working environment.

Your solution, whatever it is, will most likely require either co-operation between agents or some form of specialisation that will alter their various potential for commission in different ways.

Neither of which will work, due to the nature of commission jobs.

I found, time and time again, that a commission-only employee will gleefully waste an hour of someone else's time in other to save themselves five minutes. They're probably doing it with you right now. They compete amongst each other for the commission, either directly by poaching customers or simply as a pissing contest.

Solutions to problems in a commission environment typically only work if the agents think they're getting some sort of advantage over the other agents (in which case they're happy to do the work). My suggestion is perhaps to showcase a range of non-telephone communication technologies (eg; Instant Messaging or SMS services) and let the agents come to their own conclusions as to what might work with the people they deal with.
posted by krisjohn at 3:57 AM on November 21, 2006

Yeah, really looking for an experience based technical view on this - I'm well aware of sales office dynamics & motivations.
posted by whoojemaflip at 6:02 AM on November 21, 2006

Speaking as someone who has implemented predictive dialing in a small B2B niche market (SEO keyword sales for realtors), you will piss off 99% of your potential customers.

Here's how predictive dialing works. You load a database with numbers from your prospects list. The prospect is called, and they get an on hold (or nothing, or ringing) message until the rep finishes jawing with their neighbour, chewing gum, or wanking off ... to which means that 99% of them will go, "Oh, sales call... *click*" and the other 1% will go, "Shit, my credit card company AGAIN?! CLICK!!!*

What will happen from YOUR point of view is that you'll implement the system, and about three hours later, your reps are going to come to you bitching that the dialing system is broken because every time they pick up the phone, the line's dead as the customer has already hung up.

If you'd like to save them some energy, the only two technological solutions I'd reccomend is that you somehow interface your prospects database with an autodialer so that the reps can just click a phone number to dial (implementation varies greatly on phone system, not all support this feature) and that you block outbound caller ID... because no matter what you say, in a vertical B2B sales market, yeah, you're identifying prospects and cold calling business owners, to whom there are already too few hours in a day.

Your sales reps are just bitching because they're sales reps. Get over it, tell them to get their ass back on the phone, and forget about predictive dialing uness you're a collections agency and already have pissed off customers where you're in an enforcement role rather than a sales role.
posted by SpecialK at 6:13 AM on November 21, 2006

Predictive dialers sound inappropriate for your purposes. They are meant for high-volume call operations, where a large number of the calls aren't going to be able to be completed.

Also, to work effectively they need a large number of phone reps standing by to field the calls with little/no delay.

You've described a situation where the calls are well targetted, and where there are relatively few agents. At first blush, it seems a poor fit.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 6:26 AM on November 21, 2006

Yes, the delay between the pickup and the start of conversation, caused by the predictive dialer, always puts me on guard that it's a boiler room operation. Generally if there's that one-second delay after I say hello and a change in the line noise after the delay, I hang up... the call is never any good.
posted by zek at 6:35 AM on November 21, 2006

What you're talking about, I think, is some form of what is referred to as Third Party Call Control. For that you need to buy, or build your own, application to run on top of some form of Application Engine that will provide the telephone network plumbing.

A UK company called Ubiquity provide an Application Service Broker that uses the SIP protocol. These things are complicated, so expect expense, either in terms of time or money.
posted by veedubya at 8:59 AM on November 21, 2006

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