Agents and advisors depend on qualified leads to maintain a steady flow of new business.
Notwithstanding veteran producers who’ve built referral-based practices, many of those “warm” and “hot” prospects come from affiliated life insurers, brokerage firms and independent marketing organizations.
These business partners aren’t doing all lead generation — nor a myriad of other activities needed to help close life insurance sales — on their own. Enter the call center: large, off-site facilities that manage in-bound and outbound voice, web and e-mail traffic for everything from lead-generation to appointment-setting.
Demand for these services is fueling a burgeoning market. According to a 2016 IBISWorld report, U.S. call center industry revenue now totals $22 billion, and is increasing at a 2.3 percent annual clip. More than 25,000 businesses operate in the space, and employ more than 484,000 people nationwide.
The industry anticipates further gains as new productivity-enhancing technologies are adopted. Among them: cloud-based computing systems, social media, voice recognition software and broadband-enabled technologies.
One outfit riding the industry’s continuing transformation, TeleDirect Call Centers, counts leadings players in insurance and financial services among its top customers.
TeleDirect is one of more than 100 companies presenting at NAILBA 35 — the 2016 annual meeting of the National Association of Insurance and Life Brokerage Agencies, taking place in Dallas Nov. 17-19. To learn more about TeleDirect’s services, capabilities and market positioning, LifeHealthPro interviewed Jennifer Clemens, a TeleDirect business consultant. The following are excerpts:
LHP: What are you aiming to accomplish at this year’s NAILBA meeting?
Jennifer Clemens: We’re hoping to gain new business with carriers and life insurance brokerage firms. TeleDirect’s services include inbound and outbound call center services; reservation services for people organizing workshops and seminars; plus lead response management services, such as one-on-one appointment-setting. These solutions are much in demand among clients in insurance and financial services.
LHP: How is the TeleDirect call center staff organized? Do the agents cater to specific vertical markets?
Clemens: No. The agents — all are employees of TeleDirect — do either inbound or outbound calling. The center where I work is fully dedicated to inbound and services clients 24-7. The second center, about 15 minutes away by car, does mostly outbound, though about 30 percent of that facility’s phone traffic handles inbound.
Most of our 280-plus agents are dedicated to in-bound calling, our core business. In the insurance and financial services space, we have over 5,000 clients, the majority of them insurance brokerages.
TeleDirect’s Jennifer Clemens says the call center does a lot of outbound business for life insurers, including lead-qualification for MassMutual. (Photo: iStock)
LHP: Can you provide an example of one customer and how specifically you’re handling their call center needs?
Clemens: Yes. We do a lot of outbound business for life insurers. In MassMutual’s case, we take leads that have gone cold and requalify them. Our outbound agents convert or “warm up” about 50 percent of these leads, then send them back to MassMutual.
LHP: I imagine many of these were originally qualified via a response to an e-mail, TV ad or cold call. Are you also servicing qualified prospects through carrier or brokerage websites where prospects can apply for life insurance online?
Clemens: We have a special service for that. Nine times out of 10, we can connect with prospects within minutes — while they’re still exploring pages on the site — and invite them to set up an appointment with a life insurance agent.
LHP: We’ve been talking about agents acting in a customer service or telemarketing capacity. Could you also hire life insurance agents to work with policy applicants directly from the call center?
Clemens: We’re not opposed to offering this service. The biggest problem in moving forward is that we charge by the hour, not on commission, as is the industry’s practice. If a carrier or brokerage firm is prepared to pay by the hour, then we could definitely entertain such an arrangement.
LHP: What’s your hourly rate?
Clemens: We bill clients by the month, but it breaks down to about $27 per hour. This would be for a full-time person working 40 hours a week.