Call Center

Outbound Calling is Not a Numbers Game

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Although outbound calling stats to vary by industry, campaign, and offer, they may look something like place 100 calls, reach 50 contacts, verify five prospects, and make one sale. At this point, you have a formula and calling becomes a numbers game.

To sell more, you make more calls. You can increase the efficiency of existing staff or throw more people into the calling pool. In either case, the result is decreased efficacy—because quality invariably decreases.

Peter Lyle DeHaan

Consider a comparable formula for the motion picture industry. I’m just guessing, but it might look something like: Make ten movies, five lose money, and one becomes a hit. Now they have a formula.

Do they reason, “Let’s crank out as many flicks as fast as possible to more quickly reach that predictable blockbuster?” Hardly. Instead they focus on quality. No self-respecting studio sets out to make bad movies quickly.

Instead, they strive to make each be the best that they can (given the parameters they have to work with).

I’m reminded of Will Smith’s movie, “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Smith plays down-and-out Chris Gardner, a homeless single parent working at a payless stockbroker internship.

He’s competing with 19 others for one possible job. They’re tasked with making cold calls, trained to work up a company’s organizational structure to eventually reach the top and make the big sale—which seldom happens.

Gardner’s personal situation prevents him from working as many hours as the others vying for the position, so he begins working smarter. Instead of his peers’ numbers focus, he adopts a quality perspective, giving his all to close the top man on his list—and succeeds.

Quality trumps quantity.

Without exception the calls I receive indicate a quantity over quality mentality, giving me a front row seat to the “numbers game.”

These call centers are seemingly pursuing the dual strategy of rushing new people online—as evidence by appallingly poor training outcomes— and pushing staff to do more, faster. Here’s what I experience:

  • The dialing rate is too high, and I hear dead air—or am disconnected.
  • The agent can’t pronounce my name.
  • They request “the person in charge of…”
  • They read a script with no enthusiasm, devoid of personality.
  • They talk too fast.
  • They mumble their name and the company.
  • There is often a tumultuous roar in the background.  (If inbound operations can keep the noise down, why can’t outbound operations?)
  • The connection quality is often poor (which is seldom an inbound issue).

Before you commend yourself for avoiding these issues, I challenge you to make a thorough investigation—because if you’re innocent of these infractions, you’re certainly not been calling me.

Read more in Peter’s Sticky Series books: Sticky Leadership and Management, Sticky Sales and Marketing, and Sticky Customer Service featuring his compelling story-driven insights and tips.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.