Managing and reducing costs for your outbound call center seems like a business fundamental. But as an owner or manager you have a lot to juggle—from hiring and training, to managing data and driving sales, to supporting compliance.
The complexities of what’s driving up costs for your sales and lead generation call center may be obscured by the drive to produce more lead conversions, more sales. This is true whether you’re office-based or managing a virtual call center. But profitability means you’re not just bringing in revenue, you’re also efficiently managing the costs of running your operation. To save money on your outbound call center expenses, we need to focus in on the biggest costs.
There are three primary call center costs that occupy the minds of owners and managers striving for efficiency:
Running a profitable outbound call center and managing these critical costs go hand in hand. The goal of this article is to show you how to minimize the impact of each expense so you can not only reduce costs, but improve efficiency. That way you’ll drive better numbers to your bottom line.
To manage and reduce the 3 biggest costs for your outbound call center, we’ll look at…
- How to manage payroll effectively with real-time reporting and historical analytics
- Using workflow automation to maximize costly data [leads]
- How compliance costs are tied to your other biggest costs
- Tools and strategies to avoid the hidden costs of compliance
Outbound Call Center Costs: PAYROLL
The biggest cost for any call center is payroll.
Pretty obvious, right? Lead gen call centers have a staff of agents and managers who are the engine of their outbound efforts—and payroll is, in a sense, the fuel for that engine. What’s sometimes less obvious, though, is how you can add a new level of efficiency to your payroll.
You’re looking for better ways to manage your call center costs. Some call center owners and managers don’t put together cost impact of lost agent time. Every second that passes while your agents aren’t connecting with or converting a prospect is time that your payroll isn’t producing revenue. In other words, it’s not just your agents that are being unproductive—it’s your payroll, too.
Simply put, your outgoing costs aren’t generating enough incoming revenue.
To be as efficient and effective as you can with the payroll that you have, you need to track metrics around your agents’ ongoing activities. Without visibility into all the action taking place on your call center’s sales floor—or spread all the way across your virtual call center—you won’t know what your payroll is actually delivering for your organization. You’ll be left with only your top-line numbers and without the performance data insights that contextualize it.
So, if you’re going to make the most out of your payroll, robust reporting capabilities are absolutely essential.
Call center expert and consultant Heather Griffin says that ideally you have data analytics that empower you with two kinds of visibility: “You’re going to need reporting in real time, so you can catch [bad and inefficient agent behavior] as it’s happening. And you’re going to do it historically so you can go back and coach those behaviors.”
It’s a good practice to schedule automatically generated reports. delivered to your inbox at regular intervals throughout the day.
Improving payroll efficiency in real time by tracking agent performance and managing behaviors
With the right real-time reporting, call center managers can see what’s working for them as it happens. A customizable dashboard can pull in all the performance metrics you want to track, such as which agents are working the phones, talking to customers, and generating revenue. With the right KPIs in your dashboard, you’ll see in real time what your costs are, who’s being effective, and what options you have for improving productivity.
Monitoring agent performance empowers call center managers to take action that positively impacts their efficiency—and, in turn, makes the most of their payroll. “The question is not just what can you see, but what can you DO?” says Griffin. “For example, if I see someone sitting on a dead call, I can enter in and ask them what’s going on, I can listen in on the call to hear what they’re doing. I can send them a message, or I can log them out. So, if I see costly behavior as it’s happening, I’ve got numerous different ways to stop that behavior immediately.”
How historical reporting insights help manage payroll costs
Taking a broader view of performance is another critical management strategy for sales and lead generation call centers. Whether it’s reviewing the individual agent or the whole team, historical reports can help managers identify their teams’ strengths and weaknesses and plan for the future.
Historical data—whether it’s a day, week, or month—identifies areas where agents need coaching. It also indicates shortcomings with the data or dialer. Griffin recommends arming yourself with reports on these four time-based metrics to get a sense of how you can improve performance:
- Talk time
- Wait time
- Pause time
- Wrap-up time
“I always look at these times like a pie chart,” Griffin says. “Talk time tells you their sales ability. Wait time will tell you about how good your dialer manager is, as well as how good your data supply is. The lower your wait time, the better. The higher your talk time, the better. Meanwhile, pause and wrap-up times usually reflect an employee behavior issue.” The distribution of these four metrics will tell a different story about your team’s performance.
Outbound Call Center Costs: DATA [Leads]
“Am I being effective with the money I’m spending on marketing?”
This is the question to ask when it comes to managing your outbound call center costs around data, or the leads you purchase. With the right reporting in your toolset, you’ll know what actions to take based on the dialing metrics you’re tracking.
Getting prospects on the line who are interested in your product or service is crucial to growing your business. And, it’s expensive — whether you’re purchasing legal and compliant leads, or generating your own marketing data.
For most outbound call centers, this data is the largest cost after payroll.
Using data analytics to understand your lead costs
As an outbound call center manager or owner, nothing hurts more than seeing costly leads squandered due to low contact rates.
Who wants to pay for data that you aren’t even reaching? Insightful data analytics can help managers understand the profit and loss of individual lists and list sources so they can make more strategic decision in real time that impact the call centers productivity and profitability. If a list is underperforming, they can turn it off — now you’re not wasting agent time [your biggest expense is payroll!] on data that’s not generating conversations and conversions. Look for reporting capabilities in your dialer, such as Convoso’s List Conversion Report, to help you determine your operation’s true cost per acquisition (CPA) within specific sets of dialing data.
“The best in class contact centers focus on their cost per acquisition at a lead vendor level, and how much revenue comes out of those leads,” said Nima Hakimi, Convoso CEO & Co-Founder. “Your agents, your leads, and the cost of the dialer are the major numbers in determining your cost per acquisition. When you break that down on a lead source level, you know what the ROI is on an hourly basis by both agent and lead source.”
Get in the habit of reviewing essential KPIs and adjusting your strategies based on actual performance of your leads, lists, and list sources.
Dial smarter, not harder
Since leads are one of your biggest expenses, you need to shift away from a mindset of continuously buying more leads and then dialing them over and over. Hakimi said, “Buying more and more leads is NOT going to solve your problems. You’ll hit a wall and you won’t catch up as new leads get stuck and you’re just dialing the old ones. It becomes a big mess.”
The smarter, and more cost effective, approach is to buy compliant data. While more expensive, these leads can be profitable. You’ll be able to buy fewer leads and convert more of them. Alternatively, if you want to grow your business, you can buy the same number of leads, and bring on more agents.
Dialing smarter also involves automating recycle/redialing schedules and outreach cadences.
Get the most out of your data with strategic workflow automation
You want to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to the costs of your data. If you purchase expensive leads and just drop them in the dialer and expect magic to work, you’re missing a few steps. You may get really frustrated, for example, if few of those pricey leads are picking up and your contact rates are in the swamp, or if another company got to them first. Ah… timing.
To combat low contact rates and optimize the value of your data, outbound dialing managers need targeted strategies that addresses lead quality, source, history, agent fit, and any other criteria important to your campaign. You’ll need dialing software with flexible and intelligent workflow automation features that allow you to vary your approach to different kinds of data.
Workflows by data source
“Every single piece of data performs differently,” according to Griffin. “You might be working with high-intent, medium-intent, low-intent, and even old, beat up, low-quality data. For each one of your data sources, you’re going to want to set up a different workflow so that it is worked differently [and appropriately].
“Say that someone went to my website, was interested in the product, filled out the form, and only I own that lead. I can be gentle with that source because they sought me out.” So, your specific high-intent workflow should reflect that gentler approach.
In contrast, if you’re not the exclusive owner of a lead, your workflow will need to reflect the competitive race you’re in to get in touch with that lead. “On a semi-exclusive lead, I might [set the workflow] to call them back to back to back” up to the limit set in the letter of the law.
Workflows by agents
To supplement these dialing approaches that are based on what you know about your leads, Griffin says, your workflows should also consider what you know about your teams. For instance, for the first several attempts at contacting a high-intent lead, “You might only have those calls routed to your 10 best reps. [If you still haven’t reached them] then your workflow can move them to your next best group of reps, and so on down the line.”
In time, ironing out these workflows helps lead gen call centers ensure that their data is truly working for them.
Outbound Call Center Costs: COMPLIANCE
The third biggest cost for many call centers nowadays is compliance. With new and changing regulations arising on such a continual basis, it’s important for call center owners and managers to equip their operations with the strategies and tools that can help them avoid the steep penalties that come with the cost of compliance.
For Griffin, the changes in TCPA compliance and the implementation of STIR/SHAKEN come with a bit of the positive along with the negative. “The good news is that there is software, and there are processes and best practices that can resolve this issue if you’re a legitimate business. The bad news is that it might get worse before it gets better.”
Although these laws make it more difficult for bad actors, legitimate businesses are getting caught up in the outbound calling crackdown. Call centers are jumping through a lot of hoops, adopting new best practices, and getting their legitimate calls blocked or flagged.
Unfortunately, many managers might not even be aware of how much these changes are costing their call centers. Carriers are blocking calls and marking others as a spam risk, consumers are turning to apps that screen calls, and then there’s the immeasurable impact STIR/SHAKEN. What might by obvious to many call center owners and managers is that their contact rates are dropping.
To avoid the costs of non-compliance, and effectively manage the costs of supporting compliance, automation and reporting are once again essential tools.
Caller ID (DID) Management
Effective dialing strategies and an omnichannel approach can help your operation avoid the overdialing practices that can lead to call flagging. Another critical management practice is to rotate your call center’s caller IDs (DIDs) so that you’re only using clean caller IDs. In today’s outbound dialing environment, you need to manage your caller ID reputation continuously to reduce the probability of your calls getting blocked or flagged as a spam risk, thus harming your contact and conversion rates. You might not even know your business’s calls are being tagged a spam risk.
Griffin says, “The pain point for owners with SHAKEN/STIR is that they’re buying data, and don’t even know if they’re not connecting because [customers] are seeing ‘Spam Likely.’ This is one of the unique pain points in telephony—people often don’t even know they’re in pain.”
Advanced caller ID management features built for the age of SHAKEN/STIR can automatically scan all of your numbers and deliver a report that shows which caller IDs are being flagged, blocked, or registering complaints. Then, managers can make informed decisions about which IDs to retire and which area codes might require an influx of new IDs.
Though some owners might initially balk at this extra cost of buying additional DIDs, Griffin says that the consideration is, in the end, quite simple: “When I talk to call center owners, it’s always such a simple math equation. I ask, If you spoke to thirty percent more people, with the same marketing budget and the same amount of employees, what is that output number going to look like? And it’s always massive.”
Once you take steps to boost your contact rate and ensure that you’re reaching more of your data—and keeping the agents on your payroll productive—your contact center needs solutions to eliminate the errors that lead to lost sales.
In a recent survey by Balto, which reached over 1,000 contact center agents, 66% of agents reported that the primary reason they make mistakes while on a call is simple human error. With so much on the line in the realm of compliance support, it’s critical for managers to provide their teams with the technology and tools they need to lower the risk of non-compliant behavior on calls.
Dynamic scripting is one such tool that’s indispensable in keeping agents on message, while also supporting compliant conversations. By delivering a script to your agent that’s tailored to the specific customer and market they are calling in, you can help make sure that your agents account for nuances in regulations that govern their conversations.
Circling back to those other big costs for call centers, dynamic scripting can help managers reduce onboarding costs and simplify training.
Tackling Your Biggest Costs with Today’s Best Outbound Call Center Solutions
In a call center world that’s densely populated with autodialer software options as well as standalone software integrations, not all solutions are created equally. When you’re looking to manage and reduce the biggest costs at your call center, it’s important that you have software on your side that can do it all, combining the responsive reporting, automation, and compliance support discussed above.
Heather Griffin has a wealth of outbound call center experience, as a call center owner, senior executive, and sought after expert consultant. She has tried out many dialers in her career. Here’s what she had to say about Convoso as an outbound call center software solution: “Convoso’s state of the art automation, efficiency, and compliance support helps me manage the three biggest costs in my call center: payroll, data, and compliance. Long gone are the days of even having to analyze my costs. Convoso tells me [what I need] before there are costs—it saves me money before there’s even an added cost.”
To learn more about how Convoso can help you efficiently manage your outbound call center costs and improve profitability, request a demo.