In a recent blog post, Melissa Joffrion provided some insight into the program components that should be considered before outsourcing an appointment setting campaign or launching one internally (view her post What You Should Consider Before Launching an Appointment Setting Telemarketing Campaign). In addition to the program components that make an appointment setting program successful, there are also a number of program logistics that require attention to ensure the program is set up to run efficiently and effectively. Regardless of the appointment type (qualified vs. foot-in-door or in-person vs. phone) you are hoping to generate, detailed below are a few process related topics to consider:
Appointment Scheduling Process – How will you actually schedule the appointments you are generating? Sounds like a simple question, but there are a number of options to consider, and it is probably the most important part of the program.
- Use of specific scheduling timeframes and parameters. For example, blocks of time, such as weekdays between 2:00pm and 4:00pm, may be made available by the appointment takers (the people designated to take the appointment) to provide the appointment setter some guidelines and options. Specific parameters, or rules of engagement, may also be incorporated such as ensuring no appointments are scheduled for the next business day or making sure same day meetings are not scheduled back-to-back or on Friday afternoons after 3:00pm, etc. Parameters can be set for the duration of a program or changed week to week based on the needs of the appointment takers.
- Use of Microsoft Outlook or a sales force automation tool. Scheduling appointments directly into someone calendar based on their actual availability can be highly effective, however the appointment takers involved must accurately maintain their calendars (which may be harder than you think). Specific rules of engagement are also very important with this method.
- Use of an unrestricted scheduling approach. The most ideal scenario for the appointment setter, this approach allows appointments to be scheduled at will based on what works for the prospect. While this approach provides the most scheduling flexibility, it can put pressure on the appointment takers to ensure that all meetings are being kept.
When deciding on the scheduling process that will best meet the needs of your program, please keep its complexity in mind. Remember someone will be actually be on the phone with a prospect when scheduling an appointment time,.too many rules can make that process challenging and slow (and you definitely don’t want to turn someone off at this point in the cal).
Appointment Scheduling Buy-In – Once a scheduling process is determined, it is critical that the appointment takers understand and agree with the process. Ultimately, they are accepting the responsibility to make the necessary availability an ensure appointments are not missed.
Confirmation Process – Prospects often miss or forget scheduled calls (even when they are interested). Having an established confirmation process can significantly decrease the number of missed appointments, which is crucial since many appointments are hard earned. Here are a few tips on an effective confirmation process:
- Immediate email follow up or meeting request with details of the appointment. When possible, it is beneficial to let the prospect know who will be following up with them (including contact information).
- Reminder emails. Scheduled email reminders (a couple days before the meeting) can be highly effective. They also provide a response mechanism for the prospect if a reschedule is required.
- Reminder calls and voicemails. While similar to email reminders, reminder calling provides another vehicle to ensure the prospect is aware of the upcoming appointment.
In my opinion, the most effective confirmation process includes all three of these elements.
Rescheduling Process – Who will handle the rescheduling of appointments? Even with a good confirmation process in place, prospects will still miss scheduled calls or have the need to reschedule appointments. Rescheduling can be handled by the appointment setter or the appointment taker. While the scheduling process may play a role when deciding who should handle the rescheduling, it is simplest when the appointment taker handles the reschedule. It eliminates back and forth communication between taker, setter and the prospect (which can become confusing, especially if a prospect needs to be recontacted and is difficult to get on the phone) and no one knows the appointment takers availability as well as they will.
Point Person and Feedback Process – It is extremely beneficial to have a point person oversee an appointment setting program, particularly if there are multiple appointment takers involved. A point person can play a key role in making sure that the appointments are happening (by overseeing the flow and assignment of all appointments) as well as collecting appointment feedback. Appointment feedback is critical. Whether it is related to the scheduling process or the appointment outcomes or how the appointments are being positioned and qualified, having a single source of feedback with a centralized view of the program makes it easier to apply the learnings and improve the effectiveness of the appointments.
As you can see there is a lot to think about. When in doubt, keep it simple.