The Secret to Successful Outbound Contact Is Sincerity and a Few Small, Logical Steps



It's common for contact centers to do double duty, handling inbound and outbound activity. Done correctly, outbound interactions can strengthen the customer experience, accelerate revenue, and reduce inbound service requests. All that's needed is a sincere desire to better serve stakeholders and the ability to make a few operational improvements. This is how one organization in the financial services sector did just that.

Congressional Federal Credit Union (CFCU) is a full-service financial institution serving the House of Representatives and Capitol Hill. CFCU maintains a strong presence in the Washington metro area, operating five branches. It has more than 47,000 members, many of whom are located across the country and around the world, which means its contact center plays a vital role.

Membership at CFCU has been growing steadily. But like any financial institution these days, there is also a noticeable decline in the number of personal interactions with members. The reason for the downward shift is hardly a surprise: As more financial transactions and processes move online or become streamlined and automated, the less need there is for direct engagement between members and credit union staff. This trend is especially troubling for CFCU because credit unions take great pride in their service-focused cultures and strong relationships with members.

"CFCU decided that outbound contact was the key to countering the effect of fewer direct engagements with members. But it was very important that members welcome the effort and clearly see how they might benefit. In other words, telemarketing was strictly prohibited," said Stuart Wallace, service and solutions development manager at CFCU. This meant that CFCU had to make better use of all of the data it had to gain new insight on member behavior and responsibly anticipate their needs. CFCU also knew this was not a one-time project; it would have to be an ongoing systematic approach, which upped the ante on certain criteria, such as speed and convenience.

Because my company, ASA, specializes in advanced analytics, data wrangling, and business automation, CFCU asked us to help. The following are highlights of what its contact center has accomplished as part of a broader strategic initiative to become data-driven. CFCU is successfully using outbound contact to engage members in meaningful dialog and deliver valued-added service.

Purposeful & Proactive

Contact is always the second step to some other activity, such as a courtesy follow-up to a marketing promotion or operational notice. This ensures members are never burdened with random calls. By being purposeful and proactive, CFCU shows it cares. It also avoids possible confusion and potential problems associated with impending changes.

CFCU decided to change hours at one of its branches. It reached out to all members who used that branch in the previous six months explaining why operating hours would be changed. CFCU also made sure members knew about non-branch options, such as mobile and online banking and remote deposit capture.

Although the number of members who needed to be contacted was small, many expressed surprise and appreciation that CFCU was being that proactive, and overall, the effort was seen as positive. In fact, the small number could easily lead some organizations to underestimate the value of the effort, but CFCU knows that members have a lot of other choices for where and how they do their banking, and it's this level of service and attention to detail that sets CFCU apart and keeps members loyal.

Predictive

CFCU also uses outbound contact to reinforce awareness of special offers. For example, offering loans based on creditworthiness is standard practice for any lender. CFCU takes it a step further, using predictive analytics to also determine which members will actually accept the promotion. This allows it to go much deeper into a target audience and generate more loans without increasing risk and still adhering to fair lending laws.

Narrowing outbound contact to only members who are likely to move forward with a loan is a win-win-win: members are protected from unwanted contact; contact center resources are not strained; and marketing ROI is maximized.

The power of predictive analytics is clear. Identifying which members would react positively to outbound contact as the second step to an email marketing campaign for auto loans resulted in nearly three times more business than when no outbound contact was made. More importantly, the contact center worked smart; calls were made to less than 15 percent of email recipients yet generated more than 45 percent of the revenue for the campaign.

Professional & Polite

Interaction with members must always be professional and polite. This means that in addition to a valid reason that presents some value to the member, consideration is given to other aspects, such as when contact is initiated. CFCU never calls members in the evening.

"CFCU feels strongly about not doing anything that might be viewed as telemarketing. Instead, we look for specific opportunities to proactively reach out to members and provide solutions tailored to their financial needs. The ASA platform allows us to do exactly that. Our agents have everything they need to effectively interact with members right at their fingertips," Wallace said.

People + Platform

CFCU acknowledges two major factors for the overall success of its outbound efforts: a talented staff and the opportunity management platform that the staff uses. Giving experienced service agents a holistic view of members that includes account information, notes, and quick access to supporting documents has proven invaluable. Scripts aren't just a no-no at CFCU, they are also unnecessary. "Even though the purpose of outbound contact is clear, and agents are well prepared and good at thinking on their feet, they often need additional insight or details as the conversation progresses," Wallace explains. "The ASA platform provides everything they may need to be successful. It also makes collaboration with other areas convenient and consistent because everyone works with the same information."

At first glance the opportunity management platform looks like a CRM system or sales funnel. But closer examination reveals it's much more, serving all lines of business, management, and the C-Suite for tactical and strategic actions. There are three distinct aspects that set it apart:

  • At the core is a smart data hub and refinery that systematically brings silos and disparate data sources together, transforming raw data into valuable information and establishing a single source of truth.
  • Data is rigorously analyzed and continuously mined for opportunities that are tailored to support specific business objectives.
  • Information is then proactively delivered across the enterprise to member-facing staff and management alike, serving as the catalyst for smarter actions and faster, more confident decisions.

Because the platform is an actual system and not just a best-practice or communication style, everything is tracked and measured. This helps in numerous other ways, including compliance, training, and of course, determining the ongoing ROI, which is significant.;


Bill Gossman is president of Advanced Software Applications (ASA), which specializes in predictive analytics, decision science, and opportunity management software and services. He can be reached at bill@asacorp.com.