Red Cross Will Centralize Management of Outbound Campaigns

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Pushed by the need to replace equipment that wasn't year 2000 compliant, the American Red Cross is installing new technology that will eventually help the foundation streamline business practices and centralize management of telemarketing campaigns throughout the country.


The changes will begin with the installation of predictive dialing technology from Melita International, Norcross, GA, which the American Red Cross will pilot in two of its 37 call centers this summer. Ultimately, the technology will enable the call centers to be centrally managed while permitting each center to dial its own lists, placing only local calls.


"It allows them to create a virtual call center while still allowing the calls to be placed locally," said Tom Buiel, vice president of U.S. sales for Melita. "What it does is it ensures that everyone at all the call centers is working at the same efficiency peak. While there would always be supervisors on site to work with training and developing agents, this system allows the management of the dialer to be done from one location."


For the American Red Cross, this centralized structure was a primary benefit of the new technology because it will allow the organization to restructure its approach to outbound telemarketing.


"This gives us more flexibility on how to handle campaigns. It allows the agency to direct an overall strategy and maintain a system-wide strategy that is more consolidated," said Joyce Williams, national director of donation services. "It's just one part of a plan through which the American Red Cross plans to standardize business practices. Things that could change could include how donor lists are managed, system management, job responsibilities."


Internal discussions about organizational changes are still in the early stages.


In the short term, the organization expects cost savings from purchasing and maintaining hardware and software for one location to be the most noticeable benefit.


"We will be able to better distribute our resources," said Williams.


Following evaluations of the pilot tests of the system in two centers this summer, the system will be installed in another 10 centers by next January. The 12 centers in which the system will be installed use predictive dialing technology that is not year 2000 compliant, said Williams. The organization hopes to eventually broaden the system to the remaining 25 centers, which currently do not use predictive dialing.


The organization expects to attract donations of 1 million units of blood out of a total 6 million this fiscal year ending in July. With the new software, a gradual increase in the amount of units of blood pledged through telemarketing campaigns is expected, but Williams does not foresee telemarketing accounting for more than 30 percent of the organization's blood donations. The bulk of the donations come from co-sponsored blood drives organized in connection with a host of partners ranging from schools to clubs and religious groups.


The Melita predictive dialing system also has pacing algorithms designed to eliminate the dead air following the initial connection in outbound telemarketing associated with nuisance calling.


The pacing features include one that allows agents to delay receiving their next call from the dialer if they expect the current call to last longer than the average call length, and conversational pacing, in which the dialer recognizes where an agents is in a script, and adjusts outbound dialing accordingly.
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