Scott Payne, CEO of SDP Solutions, sits down with Mike Peronto, Director of Lead Marketing at Cardinal Financial Company, to discuss lead management best practices. Their conversation includes topics from dialers and their setup and integration to user adoption and distribution of records.
Mike Peronto and I have been working together for a number of years now. We worked together at Nationstar Mortgage then we ended up working at Velocify for a number of years as an account specialist and an account manager.
Mike, will you now do a quick introduction?
My name is Michael Peronto. I've been working in both the contact center and lead management space for over 10 years now. A little bit of history on myself, I've worked in the mortgage industry for about 10 years for different call centers. I worked for Velocify for about 4 or 5 years and really my specialty in regard to my day to day functions are in regard to the distribution of leads, the acquisition of leads, as well as the setting up of different contact centers with the different companies that I've worked for historically.
There is not another lead management mastermind as good as you as it relates to really figuring out some really creative ways of doing things both in, whether it be CRM or dialers, which we'll talk a little bit more dialers today.
Will you share little bit about what you did at Velocify, what you started out doing and what you were doing there?
I started with Velocify and I'd actually worked with Velocify when they were Leads360 before as an administrator. They brought me on and had me do consulting work for their largest clients. When I started several years ago, they assigned me to some of their biggest, both mortgage and private education clients. We would have weekly consulting meetings with them, go through their different distribution and prioritization strategies, and really make optimizations and tweaks to either their contact strategies, the technologies they used, et cetera. Once I got done with Velocify, I went to work in the private mortgage industry. I've worked for several different lenders, including Fairway Independent Mortgage. Right now, I'm at Cardinal Financial Company as the director of lead marketing. I probably onboarded about 30 different customers on the CRMs, and 3 to 4 customers on the contact center solutions, dialers specialty.
I met Mike back when he was at Nationstar. I was having some issues with the system and getting the system to work. Our first interaction was, you called me at like 4:00 PM as we were trying to figure this out and we ended up staying on the phone off and on for about 8 hours that day, trying to figure it out: 2:00 in the morning my time, midnight back in California.
Mike, you actually just mentioned something about the longest customer service call. Will you talk about that?
The longest customer service call on record is actually 5 hours and 40 minutes, and 1 second. I think we got pretty close to that on our call. I don't think ours was recorded, but that is one of the longest customer service calls on record.
Ultimately, I came on to Velocify shortly after and worked really close with you, with the enterprise accounts, and really working through issues we were having. You were kind of a higher-level tier support person, and really educated on the system, and really good at what you did. There are a couple of topics to cover. Mike Ashlyn said, "Man, we're really good." Or Ethan said, "It'd be really good to have Mike on to talk about the dialer space," because there's not a lot of information out there today as it relates to how to integrate CRM with a dialer.
You have done this a couple times, through how a dialer can fit into the lead management strategies and what people are using today. Typically, we think of lead management as you get a lead, you call it, might call it four or five times, and then moving into nurture. You can really put some power behind more strategies that relates to when you put in the dialer in place.
Mike, will you talk about some lead management best practices, starting off with dialer, and some of the reasons why you decided to move to a dialer away from the standard kind of CRM integrated dialing solution?
Most companies, when they decide that they want to move to a dialer, they are brought into a situation where they have a set number of employees, but they need to reach more customers. Typical CRM systems, they are a one-to-one relationship where you get a lead record that comes in, you can text and email it and place one phone call at a time. We've found organizations are looking to increase their sales in whatever way possible. When they move to a dialer solution, they're really looking at a couple different things that they're looking to add. One of them is obviously more horsepower. If I have a set number of agents that I can work with in an eight-hour day, I want them to talk to as many people as possible.
There are different types of multi-line dialers, progressive dialers, that are out there that allow you to have one agent but making multiple phone calls at a time. Additionally, different CRM systems have different types of reporting that's available to them, and some of them are better than others. A common situation is that they're really looking for real time metrics and analytics on what's happening on the sales floor today. We've found even with some of my own onboardings, different teams that we believe were working all hours of the day, that they weren't working on certain hours of the day, real time statistics for inbound calls, what is our SLAs, et cetera. That is a common reason for moving to a dialer. The third thing is, most of these dialer companies that are out there have multiple channels that they support.
A CRM typically has telephony, whether it's one-to-one dialing, emails and texts. When you move to a dialer program, you have multiple omni-channel channel capabilities. That brings in where you can bring in chat into your dialer system. You can bring in social media. There's quite a few systems that are out there that have linked to social media. And I think that's really the three things that are important for this process. More horsepower, better analytics on the sales floor, and omni-channel routing capabilities and customizations with your own CRM.
Mike, will talk a little bit about the chat feature and how that works?
With online chat, we've seen really throughout the last three to four years, the customer basis has been shifting from a typical, "Hey, call me on my phone," to online resources. Whether it be social media, we've seen customers that have engaged on Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook, to just having chat on your webpage. To give you an idea here, 44% of the people surveyed in the US do prefer today still to be contacted over the phone. There's approximately 23% of consumers that are comfortable and willing to engage with chat. Whether it's an AI bot or a live person on live chat, we've seen fantastic analytics when moving to the live chat channel. It's something that, as you get to the newer generation, the millennial generation, they're much more comfortable using things on their phone. It even kind of adds credence to, adding SMS to your strategy as well. SMS has a 95% read rate, which is pretty phenomenal when you think about it. It just goes to show that people are moving more and more to doing their business online and being comfortable with it.
On one of my recent podcasts, specialization was talked about, where there are reps that are just specialized in certain parts of the process. As it relates to chat, you have a set team that works that chat bot or the chat functionality.
Will you talk about how you make sure that people are getting a response immediately?
Depending on the type of organization you have, you have two different components. My specialty is in the mortgage industry, but I have dealt with clients that have used chat that don't have the particular licensing component of chat. I actually recommend that you have a team that works chat only. Number one, because there are certain employees that are not as good typing things grammatically. They're not very good communicators via email. Also, when you have them working chat, you can have them working other online channels as well. You can have them doing social media, have it be integrated into your chat engine. I found that to be a lot more effective than having somebody do multiple channels at the same time. We make about 83,000 dials a day, anywhere between 1 million to 2 million dials in a month and now, probably about a quarter of a million dials in a month, 250,000.
Mike, will you talk a little bit about the work to set the dialer up because the implementation and integration of technology can be challenging?
When you make the decision to actually set up a dialer, there are multiple components that are involved. It's a huge task. I could say on average it can be anywhere between 60 to 90 days from beginning to end to set up a dialer platform. There are multiple parts of your organization that are involved. If you have a training division, you've got to get the training division trained on the technology. You have to have IT involved, because there could be certain network or infrastructure upgrades that need to be made to your organization.
One of the biggest tasks that I think we had with setting up our own dialer system is mapping out our entire, I would say, call trees. You've got different inbound numbers, you have different inbound call flows. You've got to gather the recordings. On top of that, once you have your call trees mapped out, you also have to map out how that's going to directly integrate with your CRM system. When that's all completed, you've delivered it to the company, and you work in tandem with them to set up the integration. You have to do downstream testing, so you have to do validation on every single set of the call flows that you've created. You have to do testing on what a sales call would be, what a customer service call would be. You have to port numbers. It really is a large task. That being said, there are very large gains that we've seen since moving to the dialer.
Using the CRM that we know very well, will you discuss what it looks like from an integration standpoint and how the dialer and the CRM are communicating in their workflows?
To give an idea of a typical workflow, records come in, and they get posted into the dialer. We make an immediate call within anywhere between four to six seconds. I've had some times where we have posted records in from our own website, and my phone is ringing before the website is actually saying that, "Hey, we've gotten your submission." So that's pretty impressive when you think about it. When you're going through and looking at a CRM and a dialer integration, the record comes in, posted to the dialer. Once the call is completed, whether the agent has talked to the consumer, or even if they've left a voicemail, then the information from that call is written back to the Velocify record. Depending on the outcome of that disposition, that determines through different API calls whether we move it further down in the call strategy, we make more calls, or obviously if we take an application, then the calls would cease to that consumer, and then there would be follow up calls down the road.
With implementing a new type of technology, you're going to have issues. Will you talk a little bit about some of the challenges you have experienced in going through this so that if others consider it, they can be a little bit more prepared?
When you're setting up any different kind of system, you're moving from one system to another, you're always going to have different challenges with whether it's internal employees, and sales managers with that migration. A couple of things that we've had, or at least my own experience is, most of the shops that I've done implementations of dialers on, we've moved from what we consider a ownership lead model, where a loan officer actually owns a lead for the entire lifetime, beginning to end, including the calls in between, to a shared model.
We found that to be a challenge when we moved over to a dialer. With that, those challenges are easily overcome when you move from an ownership to a shared model, because they end up just seeing increases in sales as they continue to use it. With that, as they're making more money, it tends to kind of tamper down those issues.
The ownership model can work in certain systems. I found that the shared lead model tends to work the best, because it helps to improve your contact strategy. You are making sure that you are calling those leads or emailing and texting those leads at the exact point in time that you have set up in your strategy, versus really relying on an individual to do that.
When you think about it, that kind of makes sense. When you're in an ownership model, let's say that owner of the lead is sick for the day. Nobody's calling that consumer. In a shared model where everybody's sharing those leads, we make sure that if this lead needs to be called an hour later, once an hour later comes along, that lead is dialed. It is a challenge. It's not a large portion of your employees that will have this issue. For us, it was less than 5%. It is that we did experience some of the other challenges is just making sure that management is was all on the same page when you moved to the dialer. You want to make sure that you have meetings with your managers. You tell them what to expect, both from an employee perspective and from their own perspective.
Doing the training for the dialer can be a huge hurdle. I did the training in person. I traveled to multiple different locations. If you have different locations, some people tend to do an online model where they go to meeting trainings. When you're moving to the dialer, it's just very important that both your managers and your employees are very well trained to understand the basic functions of the dialer, as well as some of the things that they may experience that are different than what they've experienced today. Getting the resources necessary for tech upgrades can be a challenge for an organization. Certain companies that I've worked for, some of them have had great infrastructure. We've actually needed no tech upgrades in terms of servers and equipment.
Other ones, I've had to do some rather large server upgrades, just to handle the bandwidth of bringing on a dialer system. If all your calls are going through the system, you're taking up a significant amount of internet resources. It's just important that you meet the system requirements for that dialer. Any sort of integration with a CRM is tough. You want to make sure that when you choose to go to a dialer system or any omni-channel solution, that you are reaching out to the CRM company that you're doing it with, and just making sure that they understand some of the basic requirements of what you're looking to do. To give you an idea, we make hundreds of thousands of API calls to our CRM system today. They make hundreds of thousands of API calls to our dialer a day. Most of the time, it's not an issue, but it's just important that you bring that up, so that way you guys are both on the same page.
Some of the challenges and implementation was talked about, but now will you talk about what result it has had on the business and what benefit is has had, moving to this model for your business today?
Going back to what's really happening in real time on the sales floor, that has proven to be invaluable to our sales management. Before, if you're almost in a vacuum where you believe that they're working but you can't actually see what they're doing in real time when you're recording, that has been absolutely valuable to us. It's helped our managers to make staffing decisions. It's helped them to see what their employees are doing. It's also allowed them to see how many calls are waiting in the queue. Then it allows them to say, "Hey, you over there, I see you're over there making coffee. Why don't you get on the phones? There's live people in the queue that want to talk to you."
We've seen increases as high as 15% in units month over month. Our contact rates have gone up between 5% to 10%, and our ads rate has gone up about 10% as well.
Let's say there’s a new lead from a lead provider. On average, for the first five days, it’s about ten outbound calls made to the lead.
Mike, will you talk about what type of engagement, like text communication, is used?
Not only do we call them that many times, but we do send text messages. During the first five days, we send them two text messages and we try not to spam them as much with the texting, because texting, even though it's a great sales tool, is a very personal sales tool, because it's on your phone, it's real time.
But if a consumer opens up an email, it can trigger an open to whatever CRM you're looking for. We have seen great success with that being called in the dialer.
There's lots of different solutions for these dialing platforms, so Mike, will you talk about some things that people should be on the lookout for when searching for this type of solution, like omni-channel routing?
When looking for a dialer solution, you're looking for a solution that can do omni-channel routing. That includes both phone, SMS, chat. You want to make sure that you have as much of an ability as possible with that solution to do customization to your third party CRM.
I have found it extremely helpful to be able to write my own API calls within the dialer platform directly to my CRM system. Not all dialer integrations with CRMs allow that. Some of them have a built-in integration that they have, but they control the source code. I found that to be almost invaluable to me. When you purchase a platform, I do recommend that for the first year of service that you buy a service package that includes a technical account manager. I've found that with any new platform, even if you are very comfortable with CRM systems and dialers, if you're introducing a new platform, having somebody who is an expert from that organization by your side, through both the onboarding and even the first six months afterwards, is absolutely invaluable for you. From a contractual perspective, I recommend only signing for a year to start, just to make sure you're dotting your Is and crossing your T's.
I have yet to have a dialer platform where we've had to cancel a contract, but it's just something that I do recommend in that process and also that it meets your basic requirements. When you're going through building a requirements doc for a dialer platform, you do want to sit down with the different key stakeholders, including sales management, your top salespeople and making sure that it meets and checks the boxes of the things that you're looking for. Whether it's real time analytics, the ability to route the calls on the fly based on your own customization rules, and just being able to see live on the sales floor.
Will you talk now about how you handle the compliance piece of calling it auto-dialing because there are some considerations to make?
Most of the dialers out there, I would say meet all the requirements of a TCP solution. Right out of the box, most of them will have just the settings built in that make you compliant with TCPA. That being said, you want to make sure that you test those solutions. You want to make sure that you play the abandonment message. If you abandon a call, you want to make sure that your abandonment rates, that there's some sort of a threshold that you can set that says you can never get past the 3% abandonment rate. That's actually a very good feature to have in the dialers, where you can actually say, "Hey, do not get past 3% abandonment rate." Dialers will actually throttle themselves down until the abandonment rate lowers itself, and then once you get to a lower percentage, then it continues to throttle.
Compliance when you move to a dialer is very important. It does put you under a little bit more scrutiny from the different regulators, so you want to make sure that you have, once you've completed your dialer implementation, you've done all your testing, that you have good documentation of how your dialer performs for all types of calls that you receive, both inbound and outbound. Additionally, you want to make sure that you have the prompts that play that state that the call is being recorded.
Lots of improved conversion rates, as we heard, but can we dive a little bit into the cost of the dialer solution?
When you make the transition to a dialer solution, we actually moved from a single contact center solution with one-to-one dialing to multi-line dialing. We actually didn't see much increase in, we'll call it system cost. Where saw our overall increase in costs was actually in our dialer minutes. As you make more calls, you obviously incur more permanent charges. The bulk of our increase was actually in that regards. To give you an idea, it can be, in terms of the difference from what we were using before to moving to a dialer, it was anywhere between 10 to 20 thousand additional per month.
Mike, will you talk a little bit about user adoption and tips, tricks, and best practices you have used in the past as it relates? You rolled out CRM, you rolled out LLS in the mortgage, you have also now rolled out a dialer, so through these types of implementations, you should discuss best practices that you found around user adoption. Got to nail user adoption out of the gate with just a couple of very important tips and tricks.
Number one, the most important thing is, do not renege on doing the proper training. When we go through the training, we had multiple things that we had available to our end users. We had an online video training, did training in person and we had training documentation available to them. I cannot stress enough that spending the time to do it with all users in your organization, including managers and your individual salespeople or customer service agents, training is going to be key in order for them to properly use the tool, make less mistakes, and see your ROI as quickly as possible.
Number two is showing them the reasons why you're moving to a different platform. You'll get these questions where they say, "Hey, we were using this today. Why are we moving to this platform over here?" Showing them some of the different data points really helped them. Showing them real life situations where we could improve their sales experience as opposed to manually dialing, moving to an automated dialing platform, it makes their quality of life easier. They talk to more people. Through that, they're going to make more sales. Once you go through and you implement the dialer, it's important to look at some of the different employees that you have that have shown improvements with the tool, and really putting a key focus on them and saying, "Look, this person used to be selling this amount of units, now that we've implemented this platform, they are selling this many units," and really using real life examples to show the improvements of that tool.
Additionally, you do, whenever you go through this process, want to get the key stakeholders involved with the design of the platform. There's going to be some things that you're to want to do to make it a better system for you, but it's important to talk to the top salespeople, because they're going to be using it daily. Your managers, your executives. When you're going through and creating these workflows, you're all on the same page as to what's going to happen, from both an end user experience for your sales agents, as well as your customers.
Mike, will you now talk about your favorite part of the current CRM you use, the distribution of records, that makes you excited to jump in every day?
The CRM that we use is Velocify. I would say the most exciting thing that it has to offer is the ability to do distribution of records. Being able to move leads in real time to different sales teams or different customer service agents is almost invaluable. Being able to make API calls whenever I want to and the sales process is very important along with just the ease of use. Being able to log in, make it quick and easy. I think Velocify is a very simple tool, and I think most sales teams should use it.
You have had a lot of experience with integrating with the loan origination system. For mortgage, that's loan origination. There's a number of other types of POS systems out there that are integrated with his CRM. Will you give couple of tips and tricks that you found along the years as it relates to integrating with your LLS and simple things you have done?
When you have a loan origination system, point of sale system, whatever it may be, it's very important that you have those two systems talking to each other as much as possible. That can help you with compliance and can help you with reporting. If one system has better reporting than the other, you can push that data into that other system to be able to do some better reporting on it. I would say, really, the power behind having those two linked is that you can use different distribution and prioritization strategies within your CRM system based on information from your loan origination system. Some things that I've seen, if we've pulled a credit report, and the loan officer hasn't followed up within a certain amount of days with a consumer, then we put that as a priority call at the top of their prioritization queue in order to make that follow up call. There are other things you can do in terms of the follow-up process with consumers, whether you have scheduled appointments or a missed appointment, you can go through that process. From a loan origination system, it helps to have those two systems in sync, from both a reporting standpoint, lead prioritization standpoint, as well as downstream, you may consider redistributing records that aren't completely sold to a different loan officer who has a higher propensity to sell that loan file.