Outsourced Telemarketing: Data Collection Best Practices

By Melissa Hinrichs

Capturing data during a telemarketing call seems straightforward, doesn’t it? The telemarketing agent simply types in what the customer says. However, when it comes to analyzing data and running reports from that data, it becomes evident that the more streamlined the data capture process, the better the data is. Here are four basic steps I follow when setting up the data capture process with any new telemarketing program.

1) Understand Client Expectations: The first rule is: Never assume anything. Assumption can be a killer for all parties involved. Make sure you clearly understand what data elements are required by the client. In addition, make sure you clearly understand every data field that will be required, the file layout format requirements, the data capture limitations, and the fields that can be overwritten with updated data during the telephone call.

Set up a meeting with a client or make a phone call to clarify some of these answers if necessary. A client will respect you for caring about their data enough to take the time to ask.

2) Set Up Data Capture: Once you have identified the data capture requirements, make sure you set up your program so you are able to limit any possibilities of mistakes during the data capture process. While this may seem to be a time killer in the beginning, it will save you time in the end. There are many ways to try to limit the possibility of errors. Here are my recommendations:

  • Drop-Down Lists:It’s helpful to limit fields to specific answers, such as yes/no or a list of choices. This enables the telemarketing agent to move through the script more quickly and also helps ensure that the captured data is accurate. One example is providing a drop-down list of relevant or acceptable titles to choose from to prevent getting VP of Sales, Vice President of Sales, Sales VP, or some other combination. Check with your client and create a single list of standard titles.
  • Field Requirements: This can mean many things. For instance, for required fields, make sure the agent must provide an answer in those fields. If it’s a field that should only be a number, restrict it to a numeric field so agents can only enter a number. In addition, if the data field has a length restriction, limit the data capture field length. This will ensure that data isn’t truncated, and it saves valuable time later spent trying to figure out how to fix the data on the back end.
  • Rules: Determine what capitalization rules the data must follow, and then make every field require the proper use of capitalization. It looks sloppy if you have some fields in uppercase, while others are both uppercase and lowercase. Take a close look at all drop-down lists or pre-populated fields to ensure that you’re following consistent capitalization rules.

3) Create Checks and Balances: The program is now up and running and the data is captured. Great! You’ve set up everything so the data should be captured correctly, so go ahead and send the data to your client. Wrong! As much as I wish that all data collection processes resulted in perfect data, there always seems to be occasional errors. As data specialists we must catch those errors before the client catches them for us.

The best thing is to set up a system to double-check the results. This step takes place after the raw data is extracted from the telemarketing database and before we send data to a client. It’s best to do this double-check on a daily basis. If you find an error on day one, you can create a systemic fix that potentially prevents that type of data entry error from occurring again.

Ask the following questions: Are there answers in a field that should be blank? Are there answers missing in fields that should be populated? Are all the required fields completed with the relevant data? Doing a careful double-check on a daily basis helps ensure that data errors are not passed on to a client.

4) Deliver the Data: Bravo! You’re ready to deliver the data your client has been waiting for. There are three key pieces of information when delivering data:

  • Is the file type comma-delimited, tab-delimited, or in Excel?
  • What is the deadline for the data to be submitted?
  • Will the file be submitted via email or SFTP?

When you’re working with a new client, it’s a good idea to find out the answers to these questions before you start the telemarketing program. This helps ensure that you’re not scrambling to access this information at the last minute. In addition (and particularly with more complex data files), it is always a good idea to send a sample data file for the client to approve before sending actual data.

When it comes to the world of data, following these four steps ensures the delivery of good clean data.

Melissa Hinrichs is director of client services for Quality Contact Solutions, an outsourced telemarketing organization. Melissa leads a team that ensures that client data and reports are delivered on time and without errors. With more than twenty years of database management and reporting experience, Melissa loves helping her clients make better business decisions by providing them with relevant data and reports on a daily basis. Reach Melissa at melissa.hinrichs@qualtiycontactsolutiosn.com or 516-656-5125.

[From Connection MagazineJuly/August 2016]

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