Between the Dials

DCM’s Year of the Contact


Ron Sykes

At the beginning of each year, DCM sets a company goal that focuses on an important aspect of our business. Last year, we declared that 2011 would be the “Year of the Contact.” We as a company were going to focus on contacts in our telemarketing (TM) and telefundraising (TF) campaigns and, more specifically, how could we get better at making more contacts for our clients and our campaigns in the same or fewer number of calling hours. Ultimately, better contact rates equal better efficiency and more cost effectiveness on our campaigns which is good both for DCM and for our clients.

DCM’s Non-Profit and Arts Contact Center (NPACC)

The NPACC (formerly known as the Performing Arts Call Center) is based in mid-town Manhattan and runs TM and TF campaigns for a diverse group of performing arts clients including opera, symphony, ballet, and theater companies. In 2010, we also branched out into doing work for advocacy organizations. It was while running these new campaigns that we found we needed to gain a much better understanding of contact rates and efficiency.

Advocacy work is contact based and contact driven. Campaign goals are based on hitting the overall number of contacts required and, equally important, maintaining the revenue per contact goal. Reaching the overall revenue goal for the campaign relies on meeting the following requirements:

(Revenue Goal = $150,000; Required Contacts: 1,500; Required Dollar per Contact: $100)

In this article, I will discuss what we learned about contacts and dialing speed during our “Year of the Contact.” Much of what we learned in the beginning was based on our experience with our advocacy clients, political and cause-related non-profit organizations. We realized that the same issues at work in these campaigns also were germane to our performing arts campaigns.

Electronic Lead Management and Reporting

Needless to say, none of the advocacy campaign work would be possible without direct and accurate reporting on contacts and revenue. An electronic system is required. As of this writing, all TF and TM campaigns at the NPACC now run on ENCORE, DCM’s electronic lead management system. And, all but two of DCM’s onsite campaigns are also being run on ENCORE.

In addition, we have added a couple of new reports to CenterStage (DCM’s web-based results reporting system) that help us track caller and campaign productivity as it relates to contacts. These reports are available to DCM Account Executives (AE), Managers, and clients. Following a brief overview of one of these new reports, the Caller Analysis Report, I will discuss two contact-related issues we learned or learned more about during the “Year of the Contact.”

Caller Analysis Report vs. Caller Results Report

For many years now, a caller's revenue/hour ($/hr) has been considered the truest indication of his or her effectiveness. The Caller Results Report includes sales or gifts on credit card and pledges mailed, hours worked, and his/her productivity ($/hr). Many call rooms post the Caller Results Report so that callers can see how they are doing. The reason for this emphasis is obvious: our clients and our callers benefit from higher productivity per hour.

The Caller Analysis Report adds 3 important bits of data: dial attempts, contacts, and the caller’s contact/hr. This report also lists the productivity of each caller in two ways, revenue per hour and revenue per contact. Thus, either Advocacy clients or Performing Arts clients can utilize this new tool and have numbers that relate to their campaigns.

We recommend looking over the Caller Analysis Report with your AE and Manager at two or three different points during your campaign (early on, midway, and towards the end). It can be very interesting to see progression and differences in dialing rates and contact rates over time.

1. High Productivity does not always equal High Efficiency

Perhaps one of the most surprising, and almost counterintuitive, conclusions of the Caller Analysis Report comes from comparing the results of the highest producers in one of our campaigns.

Veteran callers* who put up spectacular dollar per hour figures can look a great deal less spectacular when their work is viewed under the Caller Analysis microscope. On TF campaigns, for example, veteran callers who generate higher level donations can hide their inefficiencies on the Caller Results Report. A very high dollar per hour would seem to indicate a top caller, but tracking their dial and contact rates provide the clearest view of how they are performing and whether or not they need to bring it up a notch.

At the NPACC, during one of our first Advocacy campaigns, we had a caller whose production numbers were unimpeachable: highest amount of revenue produced overall, most credit card gifts, best credit card-to-pledge ratio. Yet, in team meetings we were constantly on his case because his contacts per hour were significantly lower than the campaign average. Other top callers, who also spent extra time on the phone cultivating their prospects, still managed to “eke out” higher contacts per hour.

Our top caller always had a wounded look on his face when we talked about this. But, in reality, he had the ability to dial more numbers and produce even better results than he was doing at that time. After our continued emphasis over the next months (and it did take months), his contacts per hour during current campaigns are often on goal. He will never achieve the highest contact rate as compared to other callers (and doesn’t need to), but he has not damaged his top caller status or his production numbers in any way by working a little harder and dialing a little faster.

For campaigns in general, high productivity numbers combined with low contact efficiency means that a campaign may reach its revenue goal but will tend to do so from a relatively small group of lead segments (current renewals, 1 year lapsed segments etc). This may be exactly what is sought in some campaigns. But over time, campaigns like this may reach a ceiling they cannot go beyond or even see some retrenchment in revenue goals due to smaller numbers of patrons participating in the campaigns.

High contact numbers combined with low productivity is not a desirable trend for campaigns in general. There may be times, as the campaign is calling through tougher lead segments, when this scenario will occur. But, over the course of an entire campaign, too many contacts and not enough revenue points to problems in the calling campaigns. This would include callers who are generating too many No’s and not converting the patrons they reach into sales or firm pledges. Achieving a good balance, good or high productivity numbers along with good or higher contact rates, is the way to grow the revenue and minimize the costs in our TM and TF campaigns. It is not always easy to hit that sweet spot, but we found out during the “Year of the Contact” that it is definitely worth the effort to do so.

*Please note that this section is not meant to be a diatribe against veteran callers. We have many such callers here at the NPACC who we value highly. Some of our veteran callers are fast dialers and have both good production and good efficiency numbers. But, in other cases, some of our veteran callers have had to learn new tricks in order to keep up with our new methods of measuring caller production and caller efficiency. Training and maintaining highly productive and highly efficient callers has become our mantra here.

2. Dialing Attempts per Hour and what a slow day really means:

Another issue directly related to contacts is dial attempts. Contacts, in this article and for all of our reports, measures people or households we directly speak to and receive “yes” or “no” answers from. Dial attempts measures the number of calls made by each caller.

Performing arts campaigns can have contact rates that range from 2.5-3.0 contacts per hour on the low end up to 4.0-5.0 contacts per hour on the high end. Achieving those contacts require many dial attempts on the part of each caller throughout his/her work shift.

Another finding from the Caller Analysis Report is that a standard number of dial attempts per hour on DCM campaigns ranges from 35-45 per hour. Somewhat to our surprise, those numbers hold steady whether we are looking at TM, TF, or Advocacy campaigns.

Dial attempts per hour is under 60 per hour, because the majority of callers during the majority of hours they work, speak with at least 1 or more patrons per hour. Add in shift breaks, time spent finalizing orders or gifts on the computer, and the like, and our average dial attempt time turns out to be between 1.3 -1.7 minutes.

There will be periods in shifts or weeks where the dial attempts are higher or should be higher. Slow times (beginnings or ends of shifts) or during media events (presidential speeches or local sports game) may mean fewer patrons are answering their phones.

A common complaint or explanation during a low production shift or week that Managers hear all the time is, “Well no one is answering their phones!” The phenomenon is real—there are times where fewer patrons are answering their phones.

But we now have a tool to measure what happens during those periods. If patrons aren't answering their phones and the callers are staying focused and dialing, the number of dial attempts should rise dramatically.

In one case, we had a TM campaign that underperformed for the week and the callers were attributing it to “no one was answering their phone.” But in comparing the dial attempts from that week with an earlier, more productive week, we found that the dial attempts actually decreased slightly during the slow week. (The number of calling hours was roughly equal.)

The old telemarketing truism about Managers needing to be ‘more busy’ during slow sales times rather than high volume times comes to mind here. We want our callers to enjoy their time working on their campaigns, and nothing is more deadly to a sales person than 20-30 minutes of no contacts. But it is also in these harder-to-stay-focused periods where a little extra dialing can produce a little more efficiency, and ultimately more production.

Our “Year of the Contact” taught us to focus more attention on two of the driving forces behind well-run TM and TF campaigns: Dial Attempts and Contacts per hour. These two forces may not be as exciting and fun as the messaging and training aspects or the sales and production numbers of the campaign, but they are the “engine” that drives each campaign forward. Even when a campaign is going well, it is important to keep an eye on how finely tuned the engine is.

We also learned that we needed to have more direct and accurate ways of measuring those numbers and that is why we created new reports and mechanisms to do so. Maintaining high efficiency (lots of dial attempts and a solid contact per hour) by itself will not produce a successful calling campaign. There still needs to be the art and the salesmanship of all of our great callers as they speak with our client’s patrons. Managers, Account Executives, and our clients, now have the means to measure how quickly and how successfully those important contacts are being achieved as their campaigns progress.

In the spirit of contacts, we would love to stay in contact with you about this issue. Tweet questions with #dcmcontactforum to share contact tips and chat about contacts. 2011 was DCM’s “Year of the Contact.” 2012 can be the year of “Contact Optimization.”

Here’s to making more contacts!


To learn more about DCM and our services please visit www.dcmtm.com or contact DCM’s Vice President of New Business and Marketing, Eric Nelson, at enelson@dcmtm.com or 718-488-5577 x5017.