As soon as 9 am came around, my palms felt sweaty and there was an unease in the pit of my stomach. Because that was when the call center cranked up the outbound predictive dialer, shuffling calls to every available agent.
This was when I worked as an agent on the call floor. The unsettling feeling arose because the persons on the other ends of the calls kept asking questions I can’t answer, such as “Why are you calling me?”, “Who here has Medicaid?”, and the list continues, stirring up thick clouds of awkwardness.
These situations left me where I felt like saying, "Beam me up, Scotty!" However, all I could do is read my script, which said, "Thank you for calling Hoosier Healthwise. My name is Mark. Either you or someone in your home hasn’t selected a health plan." Then wait for the callers to respond with additional questions of concern.
I did my best to navigate these questions. I often reiterated the last part of my opening script in a slow, downward, and curious tone, which worked most of the time.
After getting the caller to trust me, they usually gave me their Medicaid ID or Social Security number to bring up their file so I can ask for additional information to authenticate the call. If they objected to authenticating the info, I provided them with our callback details and hours of operation. But they usually authenticated the call, and I moved on to enrolling them with a health insurance plan.
Dialer Real-Life Benefits
When I turned a team lead, I later discovered that this outbound predictive dialer had a list of phone numbers collected from Medicaid applicants’ applications and updated monthly. These numbers belonged to the members who signed up for Medicaid benefits but who didn’t reach out to Hoosier Healthwise to make an enrollment.
It was a predictive dialer that would detect when a caller answered and play a message, asking them to hold while an available agent was connected. If an agent were not immediately available, the call would be placed in a queue until an agent was free to take it. If a call went to voicemail, it would leave a message with our hours of operation and a callback number.
One of the call center KPIs was maximizing voluntary health insurance plan enrollments; the outbound dialer was the answer to efficiently achieving it.
Since these phone numbers were updated monthly, other agents and I regularly received calls from members who had already selected their health plans.
Unfortunately, these callers were being contacted multiple times weekly, causing frustration and prompting them to ask to speak to a supervisor.
To address this issue, the call center added a step to its procedures. If a caller had been contacted, but previously made an enrollment, the agent would email both their team lead and the IT technician to request the number be removed from the outbound dialer.
Though the outbound dialer made me feel uncomfortable since I wasn’t aware of who I was calling and would get asked that question repeatedly, I liked it for two reasons.
1. Before we had the dialer, we had to manually dial members’ numbers from a sheet that listed their names, phone numbers, and Medicaid IDs. This gave us complete control over the calls we made, but it was challenging to stay motivated.
Even though we were given extra responsibility, the feeling of accountability didn’t last long, and it became difficult to keep up the momentum. It’s unclear if this was due to a lack of motivation or something else. Regardless, we were grateful for the opportunity, but it was challenging to maintain our enthusiasm.
As I reflect on this situation, the tall cubicle walls, a lack of follow-up from leadership, and the monotony of tasks were vital factors in the decline in performance.
The cubicle walls created an environment of isolation and disconnection, while the lack of support and guidance from leadership exacerbated the feeling of being stuck in a rut. The monotonous nature of the tasks further compounded the issue, leading to a general decline in productivity.
2. It’s strange to think that a caller has never cursed me out in all my years working on the outbound dialer.
Outbound predictive dialers increase call center productivity. By automating dialing out numbers, agents can spend their time more effectively. They don’t have to waste time manually dialing out numbers, which can be tedious and time-consuming. This allows them to focus on the tasks that matter, like meaningful conversations with customers.
However, I wished the call center would have provided us with details about the callers, such as their names and contact information before routing the calls to us, thereby removing the anonymity and allowing us to personalize the calls since we were calling them out of the blue. This would have made the callers and the agents feel more comfortable, leading to more successful outcomes for both parties.
Training the Staff
For contact centers to gain the most from outbound predictive dialers, agents have to be fully trained on them in order to maximize the gains the technology offers.
To better equip our agents to handle calls routed to them through the dialer, I played recorded calls of how seasoned agents would tackle these calls.
We also ran several role-playing scenarios where agents could practice their scripts and understand what to pay attention to when receiving calls from the different phone queues, such as inbound Hoosier Healthwise, outbound Hoosier Care Connect, and more. By providing these insights and practice, our agents were in a much better place to handle any call they received.
We also trained agents on how to professionally and courteously handle objections during a call so that the caller would feel more comfortable moving on to the next step. Namely enrolling the member with a health plan.
We discussed various strategies during the training to help build trust, which was a key challenge in getting the caller to feel comfortable speaking with us. With these skills, our agents were able to build trust, allowing the process to move forward smoothly.
Staff also had to be trained on the technology’s nuances. Like ensuring that the person(s) responsible for the predictive dialer is attentive to the number of calls being made, the number of phone numbers left, and that it is turned off at the appropriate time.
I remember when a supervisor had the dialer on and forgot to turn it off, which resulted in all the remaining phone numbers being dialed out after the call center had already closed, resulting in someone getting into trouble.
Outbound calls are necessary for call centers and businesses to succeed and grow. At the call center I worked in we relied on the predictive dialer to keep agents productive and meet our KPIs.
For other businesses, outbound calling could mean selling auto insurance, where the companies need to generate leads and reach out to these prospects to make sales. However, following proper lead generation methods is essential to acquire and inputting the data into the correct campaigns.
For example, the lead generation form collects the prospect’s ZIP code, name, date of birth, and phone number. If the candidate has a New York area code but has a California ZIP code, the person must be placed in a California campaign to comply with TCPA, TSR, and any state regulations. Your company’s legal department or attorney will keep track of the applicable laws and rules.
Don’t make the mistake of being "penny-wise but pound foolish" by cutting corners. Invest in the right tools, training, and processes to ensure your outbound calls are effective and profitable, as well as compliant, and do not end up costing you more money to keep the lights on.