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A Detailed Guide on Automated Calls

  • Januari 28, 2019
  • 11 mins read

A proper channel of communication is the very lifeline upon which the success or failure of a business depends. However, personalised communication might not always be possible, and in a few scenarios, it need not be either.

An automated phone call serves as an instrument for information dissemination, and also provides a way to simplify complex B2B and B2C transactions.

Businesses which are currently operating in multiple domains are consistently looking for systems that can facilitate efficient and seamless interactions. It thus comes as no surprise that the strategy of using automated calls as a reliable mode of communication has begun to grow in use and popularity. Feel free to skip ahead to any of the following sections:

 

What are automated calls?

As the name itself suggests, an automated call is essentially a form of communication in which a pre-recorded voice message is relayed to a prospective or existing customer. The purpose of this message can be as varied as seeking feedback, setting up reminders, promoting an event or conducting a follow-up. These calls can be made to a huge number of people, individually or simultaneously, at a predetermined time.

Automated calls is made much easier with APIs. Exotel’s Call API helps automate your outbound calls. Integrating REST voice APIs can trigger calls to your customers based on customised events.

 

Steps to make an automated phone call

A lot of businesses wonder how to make automated phone calls because they are unsure about the infrastructural, human and resource-based costs that it would incur. They are also a little apprehensive about the potential benefits of adopting automated outbound calls and messages as a telemarketing strategy.

However, automated calls to customers are easy to make and simple to use. All you need to do is:

  • Register yourself on a platform like Exotel that offers the auto-dialler software.
  • Prepare a profile of the customers you want to target and upload their numbers in a spreadsheet, a database or any other contact management system.
  • Filter out the numbers registered in the ‘Do not call’ lists to ensure that legal compliance is maintained.  
  • Record the message you intend to relay. This can either be done in a human voice or via a text-to-speech format.
  • Set conditions on when the calls need to trigger. For example: when a delivery fails.
  • (Report) Review your outbound voice broadcasting system log details. Find out how many calls were answered live and how many were sent to voicemail. In case of the latter, an alternate message can be recorded and delivered.

Whether you are setting up an automated calling system for schools for payment reminders or are making automated appointment reminder phone calls, the sheer effortlessness and proficiency of the entire process is bound to help you deal with various communication challenges.

 

What are the features of automated calls?

Making automated calls to cell phones is considered to be a wise way to facilitate productive and fruitful interactions. This is because they carry a variety of significant features like

  • Low setup costs: No special equipment needs to be purchased to make automated calls. Neither is a rampant infrastructural change required to be brought about. Thereby, the associated setup costs are low.
  •  Scheduling calls: Automated calls can be scheduled at a predetermined date and time. This gives you the space to make adequate preparations and schedule a call in accordance with the resources available to you.
  •  Unlimited channels: If you want to make automated phone calls for business, having multiple channels can prove to be highly advantageous. The same number can be used to make parallel campaigns while their details are being stored on the dashboard.
  •  Dynamic reporting: Consider that the system is being used to record automated voice messages for feedback. The dashboard will provide real-time data about who was contacted and what feedback was received. These reports enable a detailed and thorough tracking of outcomes.
  • Reduced operational costs: The operational costs of the business are likely to come down as except for setting up calls, there is no requirement for manual intervention whatsoever. This implies that the cost of manual labour will reduce by almost 64%!
  • Integration with CRM: With CRM integration, the expected outcome of the automated calls can be measured easily. This form of measurement further allows a business to form a comprehensive and detailed communication strategy.

At this juncture, it becomes important to analyze if making automated calls to customers is indeed the best way forward. In order to do this, one must compare it to another vital tool of communicating with customers – Short Message Service (SMS).

 

Why automated calls are preferred over SMS campaigns

Automated calls, as previously discussed, use a pre-recorded message to interact with people, which can either be one way or two way. A two-way call prompts recipients to respond by pressing certain keys on their cell phone. The exact same provision is available in SMS campaigns as well, except, that the response needs to be typed in text.
Here are a few attributes of both these instruments, which can help you make an objective comparison:

  • Higher response rate The response rate for automated calls is much higher than that of sending an SMS. A message may or may not be replied to, but a call is more likely to be answered.
  • Greater reach The automated call system has a greater reach as compared to an SMS campaign. This is because even semi-literate customers can respond to a call but they may not be able to read and respond to an SMS. Therefore, the sample size of SMS campaigns is narrower while calls have a wider domain.
  • Better information broadcast An automated call can convey a significantly greater amount of information than an SMS campaign. The content which can be transmitted in just one minute of an outbound voice broadcasting system is substantially higher than what can be packed into one SMS.
  • Less expensive: Owing to a better response rate, the price of making calls via auto-dialler software for a call center is lower. On the other hand, an SMS campaign is more expensive in terms of the basic costs incurred.
  • Better engagement Automated calls are more engaging as compared to text messages. This is why the success rate of using an automated calling system for appointments is much higher than an SMS because being dynamic, it immediately captures the customer’s attention and encourages a response.
  • Real-time reporting: In comparison to SMS campaigns, the usable data generated by automated calls is higher. While SMS campaigns can only give you information about open rates, automated call reporting is much more exhaustive. This can be instrumental in deciding if one wants to go ahead with the same form of messaging or make appropriate changes to it.

As a result, when it comes to automated calls vs SMS campaigns, making automated phone calls for business would prove to be a more effective alternative than an SMS campaign, especially when you are catering to a large audience. This is primarily owing to their quick and responsive nature.

 

How do businesses make use of automated calls?

Businesses can use automated calls for any purpose that follows a simple, guided process. For instance, automated calls can be used to deliver urgent information, make announcements, send OTP, collect feedback, etc. Here are some ways in which businesses are using automated calls.

To educate their target audience 

Customers often like to hear about new product launches, upgrades, new services, seasonal sales etc. Automated calls can help businesses achieve precisely that! However large your customer base is, you can educate your entire audience simultaneously without hiring and training thousands of new agents. 

For example, if you’re running a limited time offer on your e-commerce website, you could make automated calls to say:

Hello from [Company name]. We understand that choosing between the two new pairs of shoes can be difficult. So, we’ve made sure that you can have both! Yes, just for today, [company name] is offering buy 1, get 1 free on women’s shoes. Shop now at [www.companywebsite.com].

To send voice OTP

Verification is an essential step in many processes like applications, payments, renewals, etc., and OTPs have grown to be the most simple and secure method to do so. While most businesses today send OTPs via SMS, sometimes, the customer might not receive it, be visually impaired etc. In such situations, automated calls that send a voice OTP can be immensely valuable. 

For example, voice OTP for online transaction authentication can be:

Dear [customer name], the OTP for the online transaction you are making is 123456. If you did not request this OTP, please contact our customer service immediately. 

To collect feedback

In any customer service organisation, feedback is critical for growth. It is also important for internal metrics such as CSAT or NPS scores. Earlier organisations used to have a team to make calls to a small sample of customers to collect feedback. With automated calls, you can gather feedback from every customer instead of a small sample.

For instance, if you’re a car service station, you can use automated calls to collect feedback this way.

Hello! Thank you for trusting [company name] with your vehicle. We hope you are satisfied with our service. We would like to know more about your experience at [company name] to help you serve better the next time. Kindly take a minute to give us your valuable feedback. 

  • If you were extremely happy with your experience, press 1
  • If you were satisfied with your experience but think it could have been better, press 2
  • If you are unhappy with your experience, press 3

To run surveys

Just like you would request feedback after a service, you can also conduct research or run surveys through automated calls. An automated telephonic survey is an easy and efficient way to connect with your target audience and accelerate your market research. You can reach a larger sample without spending extra time.

For example:

Greetings from [Company name]. You are a valued customer of [company name] and we would like to understand your needs to serve you better. Kindly take a moment to answer the following survey. 

How frequently do you shop online?

  • If you are a frequent shopper, press 1
  • If you shop occasionally, press 2
  • If you shop rarely, press 3
  • If you have not shopped online ever, press 4
  • To repeat the options, press 5

For what products do you prefer online shopping the most?

  • For groceries, press 1
  • For electronics, press 2
  • For beauty and hygiene, press 3
  • For books, press 4
  • For others, press 5

For payment reminders

Payment reminders are a vital part of the collections process. However, the most commonly used methods can be inefficient — customers can miss SMSes and feel an agent calling to remind them to be intimidated. An automated call offers the best of both worlds.

For example, if you need to remind a customer about their upcoming credit card payment:

Payment reminders are a vital part of the collections process. However, the most commonly used methods can be inefficient — customers can miss SMSes and feel an agent calling to remind them to be intimidated. An automated call offers the best of both worlds.

For example, if you need to remind a customer about their upcoming credit card payment:

Dear [customer name], this is a payment reminder from [company name]. You have an outstanding balance of Rs. 12345 on your credit card ending with 6789. The due date for this payment is [due date]. Please pay on time to avoid penalties. You can go to [www.companyname.com] to make your payment online.

 

How various industries use automated calls

From increasing agent productivity to conveying information effectively, various industries use automated calls in specific ways to suit their needs. Let’s take a look at a few examples below.

3PL or third-party logistics

Automation is the future of the logistics industry. It helps to not only improve operations and productivity but also ensure better customer service. Some of the common ways in which 3PL companies use automated calls are:

  • Updating customers of their shipping/delivery status
  • Delivery scheduling
  • Reminders for cash-on-delivery orders
  • Delivery OTP

Banking

The banking industry makes a large number of outgoing calls every day for new customer sales, cross-selling, upselling etc. However, the conversion rates are often minimal. Automated calls can help increase agent productivity, and improve effectiveness, by identifying interested prospects early on. Banks use automated calls to:

  • Educate prospects and confirm interest in new products
  • Offer upgrades to existing customers
  • Send voice OTPs
  • Remind customers of due dates, upcoming payments etc.
  • Inform customers of upcoming scheduled downtimes etc.

E-commerce

Customer service is crucial in the e-commerce industry, and automation helps ensure the seamless functioning of marketing, communication, shipping, and even follow-ups. There are numerous areas in the e-commerce industry where automated calls can be used. Some examples are:

  • Reminding users about an upcoming sale
  • Inviting subscribers to an exclusive sale
  • Collecting feedback on shopping experience
  • Updates about shipping and delivery
  • Reminders about abandoned carts

Insurance

Timely information is critical in the insurance industry. Customers can miss out on significant benefits even if they are a day late to renew their insurance. Businesses can prevent this with automated calls for:

  • Premium due reminders
  • Maturity date reminders
  • Updates about new plans and offers
  • Information about top-up plans

Telecom

Telecom is an industry with few players servicing an extremely large number of customers. In this industry, it is especially difficult to call every customer with updates manually. Automated calls can help with this:

  • Bill due date reminders for postpaid customers
  • Recharge reminders for prepaid customers
  • Information about change of plans
  • New offers and upgrades
  • Educational material about being cautious of scammers

Government

Great use of automated calls recently was by the Government of India to educate citizens about COVD-19. Similarly, national, state and local governments can use automated calls to inform, educate and engage citizens in numerous ways. 

  • Alerting citizens in case of a natural disaster or emergency
  • Educating them about vaccines or safety measures
  • Informing them about their rights and duties
  • Verifying their name on the voter roll
  • Clarifying misinformation

Hiring and recruitment

Recruitment companies have to deal with a large number of potential candidates for any given role. To expedite the evaluation process and simplify hiring, they can use automated calls. The common ways in which they use automated calls are:

  • Candidate filtering through surveys
  • Pre-screening with aptitude tests
  • Reminders for interviews
  • Rescheduling interviews

Ed-tech and educational institutions

With most education — schools, colleges, higher education and professional education

— going online, regular updates have become more critical than ever before. Educational institutions need to keep not just students but also parents informed. Automated calls can help with that.

  • Reminders about classes and schedules
  • Alerts about change in schedule
  • Announcements about test/exam results
  • Invitation to participate in extracurricular activities
  • Fee payment reminders
  • Feedback on online classes

 

Automated calls best practices

Just grappling with the question of how to make automated phone calls does not normally suffice. One needs to figure out the perfect way of making their automated outbound calls and messages campaign successful. This is why many companies have been consistently experimenting with different forms of broadcasting tools which can enable them to make automated calls better.
In fact, organizations across the world have begun to craft and deploy various techniques in order to facilitate making efficient automated calls to customers. Such efforts have collectively resulted in the development of certain best practices which majorly include:

  •  Conducting a detailed research on who the target audience is and customizing the message accordingly.
  • Localizing the message according to the audience profile. This includes gauging their literacy level and using their preferred language.
  • Giving clear and specific instructions by making the pre-recorded message as precise as possible.
  • Sticking to a call duration between one or two minutes. Anything lesser or longer would be intrusive.
  • Finding a good time to make calls. This should entirely be based on the availability of the customers to see a good response rate.
  • Setting up automatic retries if the customers don’t answer in the first go or leaving them concise voicemail messages.
  • Carrying out a thorough analysis of the feedback received and making appropriate modifications.
  • Making sure that no calls are made to customers who have listed their numbers with the national ‘do not call’ registry.

Adhering to these practices would ascertain that your outbound voice broadcasting system remains cost-effective and sustainable for a long period of time. Additionally, this would also make sure that your attempts at automated calling are well-received and highly successful.

 

How leading innovators use Exotel’s automated call feature

Swiggy

All of us know Swiggy! They are an online food hub that delivers food from local restaurants to the customer’s doorstep. However, the company was facing major problems as a number of times restaurants weren’t able to realize that a new order had been placed. It was the responsibility of Swiggy to remind them about the order but calling every restaurant manually was proving to be a challenging, if not an impossible task.
This is where Exotel came in!
Swiggy used the automated phone call feature to notify the restaurant that a new order had been placed. This didn’t just help improve operational productivity but it also helped reduce delivery delays. Delighted by the success of this venture, Swiggy tasked Exotel with confirming Cash-on-delivery orders. The customers received an automated call which prompted them to reconfirm the order by pressing a key on their cell phone. Not only did this boost work efficiency but it also assisted in eliminating bogus orders.

Ola

At one point of another, we have all used Ola! It is a leading cab aggregator which was facing the difficulty of informing its drivers about the new features and offers it introduced from time to time. Calling the drivers individually was going to be an expensive and unmanageable affair. Therefore, Ola was on the lookout for a seamless and smart solution.
They used Exotel to make automated phone calls in order to inform the drivers about Ola’s new offers and features. This helped the company ensure that their drivers were consistently kept in the loop about all new developments.

The way forward

The process of making automated calls to customers has now begun to progress by leaps and bounds. Their affordability, sustainability and relevance are the three major pillars upon which their success rests. Being simple to implement and easy to rely on, they have helped many businesses enhance customer communication. In the future, as the number of everyday interactions will continue to grow, automated calls to cellphones are bound to keep providing valuable and viable solutions.

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