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Live inbound leads: using your outsourced contact center to respond and qualify

Your website, marketing, advertising campaigns and salespeople drive leads via inbound phone calls, web forms, email or even live chat. Your sales staff could respond to these “live” leads, but is that the most productive use of their time, and is it the job they’re best suited for? Or is your outsourced contact center a better option, given their infrastructure, people and processes. And where does CRM fit into the process?

Preparing Your Contact Center to Succeed

For a variety of reasons, an outsourced contact center may be a better choice than your inside sales or marketing staff. Your salespeople are good at converting qualified leads into sales, while your contact center is good at being a first-responder and qualifying inbound leads—so it may be a smarter allocation of resources to have the contact center handle this important process at the top of the sales funnel. Not only are their agents trained to qualify leads, the contact center has a technology infrastructure that includes a CRM system already in place—an infrastructure designed to enable them to handle a large volume of calls, emails and chats. The contact center also has a proven workflow for efficiently qualifying and advancing leads while conveying the personality of your brand.

Once you decide to use your contact center, you can ensure you get the most benefit by integrating your CRM system with theirs. Web-based systems are made for this kind of integration and collaboration, but you can also work with a contact center’s on-premises system. With integrated systems, the agent at the center sees the same screen as your staff and can update customer records and leads in your CRM database in real time.

Drilling down further into operations, if you’re using an integrated system, you should build custom screens to enable agents to qualify leads efficiently. It’s a good idea to solicit advice from the contact center on such decisions as how best to sequence the fields, what items to put in drop-down lists, and how to minimize free-form writing. As experts in this function, they can suggest ways to make the process more efficient for them and more useful for you.

Scoring the lead via answers to a carefully chosen set of questions makes it easy to determine whether or not a lead should be forwarded to the sales team. Is it a dead lead—a tire-kicker who still requires a response but perhaps not as much attention? Is it a lead that needs nurturing? Or is it a hot lead ready to be sold? Determining the type of lead will determine how the agent responds and what the next step in the sales process should be.

Playing to the Strengths of a Contact Center

Contact centers have some advantages over an in-house sales and marketing staff in responding to inbound leads. They include:

Optimizing the Sales Process

Once you’ve decided to have your contact center qualify leads, you should work with them to measure, analyze and optimize the top of your sales funnel. By matching responses against your ideal customer profile, you’ll be able to refine your ability to quickly and accurately score leads. Optimize the qualifying process by experimenting with the questions agents ask, how they’re presented, and even how many are required. Be sure to establish baselines and define goals so you’ll be able to track progress and measure success.

By relying on the contact center to qualify and score leads, you free your sales staff to focus on the bottom of the funnel and spend their time doing what they do best: working up pricing, negotiating contracts and closing business. Note also that the right CRM system makes the entire process seamless, so that prospects aren’t aware of any separation between the outsourced contact center and your company.

Your marketing department has its hands full generating leads and building your brand image—that’s their core competency. Your sales staff should be busy converting prospects—that’s their core competency. And the core competency and most valuable role for your outsourced contact center is qualifying leads. Assigning them that responsibility lets everyone do what they do best, and increases the efficiency and effectiveness of your entire sales and marketing process.

Wendy Shooster is Co-CEO of Global Response, a Florida-based outsourced contact center.

Categories: Account ManagementCustomer CareQuality AssuranceSalesTraining
Tags: brand carebrandingcall center effectivenesscall center efficiencyCRMcustomer relationship managementcustomer satisfactioncustomer serviceoptimizing salesoutsourced contact centertraining