Every outbound call center I’ve known is in business to make a profit. But they don’t always know the best dialing strategies to drive that profitability.
In my experience over many years of working with lead buyers and lead sellers and all kinds of business verticals, the most effective outbound calling strategies simultaneously improve performance efficiencies across leads, agents, and managers, and see the results in a better ROI.
In this article, I’ll focus on how to improve call center efficiency and profitability by focusing specifically on lead efficiency. We’ll look at boosting contact rates, analyzing the right reporting metrics to calculate your true CPA, using smart dialing strategies, tools for managing caller ID reputation, and maximizing the power of lead efficiency.
Measuring Call Center Efficiency: Are You Looking at the Right Metrics?
I’ve talked to hundreds of businesses about how to increase call center efficiency. No matter your company size, the most helpful advice I can give about improving lead efficiency is to understand your true cost per acquisition (CPA), not just your cost per lead.
CPL vs CPA – Know your true Cost Per Acquisition
Many call center managers zero in on their cost per lead (CPL) numbers. I agree that CPL is important. After all, who wouldn’t want to pay less for leads?
But CPL is just one piece of the puzzle. What’s more critical to overall call center efficiency is knowing your true CPA. The best-in-class contact centers focus on their CPA at a lead vendor level, as well as how much revenue comes out of those leads.
Unfortunately, many outbound contact centers don’t actually measure true CPA – they only look at it on a cost per lead basis. They’re making strategic decisions about how they’re operating their call center, but they’re not seeing the whole picture. And that can be a costly mistake.
Think of it another way: If I opened a restaurant and set menu prices based on the food costs, but didn’t take into account what I pay the chef, the cooks, the waiters and waitresses…I’d be out of business.
Metrics Lead the Way
The smartest path to increasing call center efficiency is to really understand what’s going on with those leads by persistently monitoring real-time reports that show you specific, active lead metrics.
Agents, leads, and the cost of the dialer are always among your biggest call center costs, and so will be the major numbers in determining your true CPA. But you also need to break that down on a lead source level — and in real time — so you know what the ROI is on an hourly basis, by both agent and lead source.
Using Cost Per Acquisition to Understand Call Center Efficiency
Here’s an example of the difference it can make to your bottom line when you measure your true CPA.
There was a credit repair lead gen company out of Atlanta that was buying leads from several different sources. Some leads cost them $0.50 per lead, while another lead source charged $1.00 per lead. The $0.50 leads were converting at about $37, whereas the $1.00 leads were converting at about $52.
So, the company thought they were getting a higher return on the $0.50 leads.
The problem was they didn’t have a way to factor in other relevant costs: the call center agent’s time trying to convert the leads and the cost of the dialer.
They were making critical decisions about their call center’s operations based on only a part of an equation, an incomplete picture.
Once we got them working with Convoso’s real-time analytics to calculate their true CPA, they determined that their agents were spending 50% more talk time trying to convert the cheaper $0.50 leads.
With this new data they shifted their budget to the $1.00 leads and increased their profitability by about 40%.
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Smarter Decisions with the Right Analytics
The best way to improve lead efficiency is to arm yourself with real-time call center reporting and analytics so you can get insights at both the list and list vendor level. These insights empower smart decisions and more effective call center strategies right away. As a result:
- You’ll stop wasting agent effort on low performing lists
- You’ll increase effort on higher performing lists
- You can redirect your budget to vendors offering the higher performing lists
John Gallagher, numbers guru and call center KPI expert, gives a great example of why you want to analyze your call center lead metrics from a more comprehensive perspective in order to drive increased call center efficiency.
“You pay $1000 for a list that converts into $15,000 in revenue and it takes 100 leads, which is $150/lead in revenue. Another list bought for $1000 converts into $30,000 in revenue, but takes 400 leads. In the second case, your revenue per lead is very low at $75/lead.
Now factor in your agent’s time in terms of how much you’re paying them per hour to get that conversion. And, you have to look at your manager’s time. In this way you get a more accurate picture of total revenue when you look at the value of your lists and leads. Then it becomes really apparent where you should spend your time, and where you want to invest in the future.”
Watch the video where John talks about metrics to improve efficiency and profitability
Smart Dialer Strategies: Are You Using These?
Even if you pay for high-intent, high-quality leads, without a smart predictive dialer strategy and the right call center lead management tools for, you’re still a long way from increasing your call center’s efficiency and making the most of your leads. And that good money you spent for quality leads may be a waste.
To truly drive success, you also have to make an effort to apply effective outbound calling strategies to your campaigns. Start with these.
1. Stop Overdialing
The problem call center operators run into is the impulse to call and call and call. The same number. Over and over. There’s no way around it: That’s overdialing. And it’s not the right path to success.
When call centers buy more expensive, higher quality leads they sometimes resort to calling those leads as much as possible to try to “get their money’s worth.” But the real trick to making the most of those leads is not how many times you call them. You need to be more strategic than that, and less predictable.
When I talk to a call center manager, I want to know how they’re working those leads. How are they recycling their leads? Most people’s dialers are not set up to effectively convert leads. They just keep dumping the leads in and dialing away.
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.
2. Use Workflow Automation and Omnichannel Outreach
Outbound contact centers need to dial smarter, not harder. At Convoso, we always encourage our customers to break up the pattern of just persistently calling leads and hoping somebody answers. The more you call somebody, the less likely they’re going to answer the phone. That’s just the reality. You also need to look at how many times a lead goes to voicemail. Because, at some point, you want to stop calling that lead.
A better dialing strategy is to instead use automation that moves that lead into another list and perhaps call it back 30 days from now. And maybe again in 60 days.
The optimal strategy takes advantage of automated workflow dialing to build an outreach cadence with omnichannel capabilities. For example, you might start with a phone call, followed by an SMS message, then an email. This significantly increases the chances of contacting the lead.
3. Manage Your Call Volume
Meanwhile, nothing kills a contact rate quite like call blocking and flagging. With robocalls running rampant and carriers taking enforcement matters into their own hands, outbound call centers need to pay close attention to the health of their phone numbers to ensure that their calls are getting through—and getting through without being labeled as spam.
To avoid getting labeled in the first place, outbound call centers need to distinguish themselves from the fraudsters that are spamming consumers. Breaking up patterns and sticking to smarter cadences as I discussed above is a great start. But a well-managed call volume is also key. I tend to recommend that businesses, whenever possible, stick to a rule of placing 50 calls per area code, per carrier, per day. When combined with automation, omnichannel, and the tools we cover below, the right call volume can drive up your contact rate, increase overall call center efficiency—and deliver new profits.
Why Leads Are Key to Call Center Efficiency
Hopefully by now, I’ve driven home the point that you need to shift your mentality away from buying and dialing an increasing amount of data. Leads costs are one of your biggest outbound call center expenses, which is why we look at CPL and CPA so closely in the first place.
Once you understand your true CPA and you’re implementing smart dialing strategies, you’re on your way to increasing call center efficiency and making the most of your leads in your outbound dialing campaigns. In turn, you should see your contact and conversion rates increase.
What’s more, even though quality, compliant data is getting more expensive, you can still be profitable with this updated approach. Then, one of two things will happen as a result of your newfound lead efficiency:
1. You can buy fewer leads while converting more.
2. You can buy the same amount of leads, but add agents and scale your call center operations.
“Redialing strategy is huge. We spend a lot of time finding out the correct redial strategy schedule. By making sure that you have good lead providers as you continue to do these optimizations, you can actually scale back your lead buying because your contact rates are going up so much that you’re able to convert just as many, if not more sales with fewer leads.
“If we’re talking about call center profitability, lead costs are one of the biggest expenses. So being able to grow your agent force numbers-wise, but scale back your lead purchasing—you can actually spend less and make more money.”
Exactly. The key to profitability for any outbound call center is to lower their costs, while increasing conversions.
Good Leads and Strategies Increase Outbound Productivity—and Make Happy Agents
With good quality data and lead management, your agents will have more conversations and convert more leads. These happier agents not only produce more (driving higher revenue), but they tend to stick around longer (lowering turnover and training costs).
It’s a story we’ve seen at Convoso over and over again, including recently with Dynamic Insurance Solutions. Matt Bowers and his team’s contact rates were getting crushed by Spam and Scam Likely labels. When they switched to Convoso though, that all changed.
For Dynamic, once they were dialing with smarter strategies and clean caller IDs on Convoso’s system, the same thing described above happened: not only were they contacting and converting more customers, and suddenly able to hire more agents, they were spending less on leads. Bowers told us that they cut their per-agent lead costs by 60%.
And that’s not all, either. When sales agents when from waiting an average of 20 to 30 minutes for a transfer to just 3 minutes, they were more prepared. Most importantly, they were happier. Bowers says that you can’t overlook the role of morale in creating a more profitable organization:
“Acquisition cost matter, but I think agent morale and agent preparedness is every bit as important as that…It really doesn’t take long to figure out that if you’re talking to more people consistently, your agents are better prepared to take a transfer, and in a better mood to sell. [As a result,] your acquisition cost goes way down.”
The Dynamic Insurance Solutions story underlines the real power of lead efficiency. Ultimately, it’s at the heart of running an overall more efficient, profitable call center. And it’s at the heart of building a better place to work, too.
The Top Tools For Increasing Outbound Call Center Efficiency
The most successful call center strategy for improving efficiency is one that increases contact rates. Call center tactics and strategies are huge on their own. But contact rates really go up when you match the right approach with the right tools. Here are some of the tools we recommend to help improve the effectiveness of your dialer and the efficiency of your call center.
You don’t want your DIDs to get flagged as a spam risk. As discussed above, your dialer should limit the number of calls placed per caller ID and rotate multiple Caller IDs per area code. Plus, when you get new DIDs, it should make it easy to be sure they weren’t used previously and marked as spam. With the explosion of call blocking and call flagging, you really need a tool – such as Convoso’s ClearCallerID™ – to track the status of your DIDs before they impact your KPIs. Without it, you may not even realize that your contact rates are down due to blocked caller IDs before it’s too late.
Intersperse your dialing strategy with a sequence of outbound text messages, emails, and voicemail drops.
Configure your dialer with a custom schedule to redial at different time gaps based on the outcome of the call. For example, a new lead is called instantly, but if there’s no answer, set the schedule to try again in 10 minutes, then again in 1 hour, then again in 3 hours, etc.
Keep agents from burning out by using highly accurate answering machine detection (AMD). While accuracy is the most important quality in an AMD solution, you should also have the ability to alter settings to favor more false positives or false negatives, depending on the quality of your lists.
Smart Voicemail Drops
Automatically leave a series of different pre-recorded messages based on when and the number of times the call goes to voicemail to make it sound more personalized and get more people calling back. For example, on 3rd dial with voicemail leave an introductory message, skip the 4th time, and on the 5th attempt with voicemail, leave a final reminder message.
Metrics & Reports that Improve Lead Efficiency
You can’t improve what you can’t measure. Tracking lead efficiency requires you to stay on top of specific, granular metrics beyond just CPA and CPL
How many leads were transferred? What’s the revenue from those leads? What’s the actual ROI on it—meaning what was the cost to convert those leads? You want to track which agents are producing how much revenue on an hourly basis.
In our blog “16 Essential KPIs for Lead Gen Call Center Profitability” we outline the key metrics to guide your day-to-day management decisions and boost call center ROI. In addition to CPA and CPL, here’s a summary of the top lead and list KPIs tracked by most successful outbound call centers.
TOP LEAD KPIs
A short term, daily snapshot related to the efficiency of the leads.
Lead Conversion Rate
The percentage of calls/leads resulting in a successful sale or transfer. A low conversion rate increases your cost per lead and impacts your company’s overall revenue.
TOP LIST & LIST SOURCE KPIs
The key to understanding list quality and how well your campaigns are performing. It also indicates whether your agents and software are reaching the right leads at the right time. Your dialer needs to dial fewer leads while delivering the same number of qualified leads to your agents, so you’re spending less to earn the same or better results.
Average Talk Time
If talk time is higher than average on a list, make sure it’s converting.
Total Revenue and List Profit-Loss
Use a List Conversion Report to view profitability of different lead and agent costs per List. Analyze the right metrics to know data quality of your data by combining revenue, billable hours, and the number of dials to determine list performance and lead source trends. Get statistics such as the number of dials, average talk time, the number of sales or transfers, percent of voicemails, etc.
Outbound call center expert and consultant Heather Griffin explains the value of a List Conversion Report for her contact center clients:
“This report will show you who you’re talking to and if it’s working. I can see if a list is burnt because our contact rates are super low. I can see a list that’s converting. And more importantly, I can turn off lists where we talked to a lot of people and it didn’t result in sales.”
Outbound call center managers need to access reports and metrics all in one dashboard. That’s why we developed flexible customizable dashboards where admins can pull in the metrics they need most for their operations.
By this point, it should be clear just how important lead efficiency is to overall call center efficiency—and profitability. Once you’re making decisions based on your true CPA and using smart dialing strategies like those above, you’ll begin to not only make the most of your leads, but also drive rapid growth at your call center.