Telemarketing as we know it is dead and may it rest in peace: the calls at dinnertime about random products and services, the hard sells, the arm-twisting donation pleas.
We owe it all to federal telemarketing restrictions that have made it extremely difficult for brands to use cold calling as an outbound marketing tactic.
Between the Do Not Call Registry, FCC regulations prohibiting brands from making calls to mobile numbers without a consumer first opting in and the steady decline of landline phones, it has become nearly impossible to reach consumers through telemarketing campaigns, let alone generate warm leads from phone interactions.
A Big Win for Consumers
In response to these changes to the technology and regulatory landscapes, contact centers have changed their ways and consumers have been the big winners.
The low return on investment has forced brands to move away from calling random prospects on purchased phone lists and toward proactive, service-based strategies that create upsell opportunities and build customer loyalty.
Less Invasive, More ConvenientToday it’s all about delivering the right experience to current customers. And this shift in outbound marketing has allowed brands to move beyond the phone to communicate with customers in ways they prefer.
These interactions are more productive because they’re less invasive for customers and more convenient. In fact, they’re so much less invasive that most consumers don’t relate these tactics to old-school telemarketing because they now understand that there are reasons for the interactions.
Evolving Communications Channels
Today’s contact centers are evolving the concept of telemarketing by leveraging text messaging, phone calls, emails, social media and other means of communication to build stronger relationships between their customers and their companies.
These service-based strategies are non-invasive and convenient — and they offer a glimmer of hope for industries where customer service has traditionally been lacking in the eyes of consumers.
The Shift to Helpful Information
For example, utility providers now call customers to let them know about outages and provide estimated repair times. Airlines send text messages notifying passengers of flight delays or gate changes. Healthcare systems email appointment reminders along with rescheduling or cancellation options.
What’s more, brands may call customers to let them know that a preferred product is back in stock or a new service is available.
In fact, reminders and other helpful product or service information have become a cornerstone in the new world of telemarketing and are especially beneficial when implemented as part of an omnichannel strategy.
Proactive Means More Profitable
Proactive texts and emails — and other agentless campaigns — are also a win for companies because they can help curtail the number of inbound calls. Routine questions about billing changes, price increases or impending weather conditions, for instance, can be answered proactively, pleasing customers and allowing companies to hedge against high call volume.
These types of communication also reduce the wait time for other inbound customer queries. That means customers hear less of the typical, “We are experiencing a higher than normal call volume. Please stay on the line…”
Goodbye Complaints, Hello Relationships
In these ways, the contact center is transcending the stigma of a complaint department to become a strategic arm of the business, positioned on the front lines of customer relationship management.
Text messages will evolve from being simple reminders to allowing customers to click a link to receive a phone call if they need to change appointment times or are interested in a particular product or service.
Harnessing Social Media
In addition, brands will connect with customers on social media like never before. For example, if a customer follows a company on Twitter, the organization might tweet a special offer giving that customer the chance to purchase a new product before it is available to the general market.
Or if a customer on Facebook “likes” a picture of a product that’s out of stock, the brand might call that customer to let him or her know that it’s back in stock. Every channel represents a new opportunity for brands to implement proactive outbound marketing campaigns that are both non-invasive and effective.
Bottom line, when brands offer those kinds of purposeful communication, they can meet ever-increasing customer expectations by turning their contact centers into proactive, outbound telemarketing channels.