There was a time when outbound communication was primarily driven by voice and dialler technology. Today, outbound communication has evolved to take place in the digital space via a broader array of channels, including SMS, mobile apps, and email. The availability of powerful multi-channel customer engagement tools today means that a broad array of sectors, from education to transport and utilities to telco, are now able to communicate with their customers more flexibly and effectively than ever before.
However, generally-speaking, an outbound campaign will only truly be effective (to the point of achieving ROI) when the intended recipient is contacted via their preferred channel, and is therefore as likely as possible to be well-received and result in a positive outcome for the business.
Defining an omnichannel outbound strategy
An outbound omnichannel strategy is an essential part of a business’ arsenal, and increasingly important in today’s crowded marketplace, where businesses often struggle to stand out. To have an impact on a consumer base that is constantly bombarded with marketing messages, a business must offer its customers a personalised, unified customer experience via the most appropriate channel. For instance, if your campaign targets different tiers of customers for different offers, each tier should be targeted with the appropriate messages, via the appropriate channel, when and where they have the highest chance of seeing the offer.
For example, although using a live agent for a call is the most expensive means of contact, it is likely to be the most effective way to close a large deal with a high-spender. A live agent will generally provide a much better level of conversion than outreach via SMS or email. However, depending on the objectives of the outreach, a business must weigh this against the fact that automated outreach will usually be far less expensive and may offer broader reach.
How does this strategy generate business value?
An intelligent omnichannel outbound strategy can improve ROI in three principle ways:
By improving agent efficiency: The very nature of call centres means that time can be quantified into a hard ROI; if outbound agents are spending lots of time calling customer phones only to be put through to voicemail this may not be a financially sustainable method of outreach. If outbound contact is planned and scheduled intelligently, however, allowing agents to reach customers rather than hitting voicemail, this is more likely to result in a positive ROI. However, the use of automated channels such as SMS and email can also produce results more cost-effectively, without placing any major burden on call centre staff.
By helping to drive revenue or preventing lost revenue: An effective omnichannel strategy has the power to increase or protect revenue. However, this will look very different depending on the vertical that implements it. On the one hand, a B2B sales organisation can align its method of contact with the expected likelihood of returns from that contact, in order to drive revenue directly. A business might choose to place a personal call to a ‘high likelihood’ conversion prospect but send a broader spread of automated contact to lower-value prospects. On the other hand, a hospital might send SMS reminders to their patients about upcoming appointments. The patient can then confirm or cancel the appointment by replying; in this example, outreach will help to reduce waste (missed appointments cost the NHS almost £1 billion in 2017). Alternatively, a hospital could use a live agent to talk a patient through necessary measures prior to surgery in order to reduce the number of costly appointment slots that are wasted by missed appointments or through lack of appropriate preparation.
Through increased customer satisfaction and loyalty: Delivering information or value to a customer proactively saves the customer time, increases customer satisfaction, and has been shown to improve customer loyalty and willingness to engage with businesses that offer a positive customer experience. In the case of a retail outlet, this might take the form of proactive notifications of package delivery status so that individuals can ensure that they are home when required. Alternatively, a gym might notify its customers when it is due to close for refurbishment to avoid its customers wasting a journey. In each of these cases, the ROI is realised in improved brand equity, and a reduction in the likelihood the customer will become disgruntled and go elsewhere.
Overall an effective outbound strategy will make use of all channels to achieve a business’ goals. In order to achieve ROI from their omnichannel outbound strategy, businesses must ensure they integrate the outbound technology that best serves their business objectives, and then ensure they have the right skills available to use that technology effectively.
Ashish Koul, President, Acqueon