The quality assurance process is crucial to success of your pay per call business. Learn how to identify fraudulent calls and non-compliant partners.
– Quality Assurance Explained
– Duration Billing / Callback Fraud
– Mystery Shoppers
– Incentivized Callers
– Automated IVR Selection
– Dead Air / Confusing Messages
– Non-Compliant Warm Transfer Scripting
– Poor Sales Agents
– Agent Cherry Picking
Quality Assurance Explained
Quality assurance is essential to any call business. Because there are all sorts of things that can happen that can affect your profitability and so just because you don’t think anything malicious is maybe happening that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do quality assurance. Affiliates, networks, buyers, brokers, everyone should be doing quality assurance on their phone calls without question.
First and foremost; it keeps everyone honest. If you know what’s happening on all of your phone calls, you’re probably not going to get defrauded, and if you’re on top of your quality assurance, you can help your partners excel at what they’re doing. If you’re doing a great job with quality assurance you can get your call value up, your conversion rates up, and then get your buyers to pay you more money widen your profit margins, make sure you’re not losing any money due to fraud, all this type of stuff.
Before we dive in, I want you to know that we’re going to look at quality assurance from a broker or a network’s perspective, but this applies to every single company, or person, or affiliate, or whoever that’s participating in the value chain.
If done correctly, quality assurance should be a profit center for you. With calls it’s messy, and there’s a lot of humans involved so there’s going to be problems and there’s no way around those problems except by making sure that you do your quality assurance. Realize that in larger scale operations, you will always find issues. If you’re running a network or you plan to run a network, or you want to start brokering, as you grow into hundreds and then thousands of calls across one, five, ten, 100 campaigns there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for not only fraud but issues.
You want to make sure that you understand what those issues are, how to do the quality assurance for those issues and then stay on top of your call flows. I understand that that’s a lot of work. As your organization grows, regardless of which part of this you’re involved in, you’re going to have to start hiring quality assurance people. They’re really easy to hire and outsource. It’s not very expensive to do. You want to make sure that you’re listening to a good amount of your phone calls so that you can help everyone you’re working with improve their processes.
If you’re an affiliate and you do excellent QA, you’re going to impress networks. When you want to work with other networks, you’re going to be able to say to those networks “Hey, I have a quality assurance process, we listen to a lot of the phone calls, we make sure that all of the traffic is good.” You can share with them your quality assurance grid which your outsource people do for you or your team does. You look like you are really on top of your game. It makes the process of finding new partners even more natural.
You’re going to want to always work with your partners to train and resolve issues. If you find a problem, don’t jump to conclusions that it’s malicious. Because most of the time when people jump to conclusions that something is malicious, it’s really due to stupidity. Since there are a lot of humans involved in Pay Per Call, especially with call centers, there can be a lot of stupidity. Call centers are not hiring rocket scientists and neurosurgeons to answer the phones; they’re hiring the cheapest labor that they can effectively find and train to get the job done at a slightly better than average level.
Understanding that makes it very easy to understand why quality assurance is so important. When you work with a partner and you find that there is an issue with your network, or a buyer, or an affiliate somewhere; you got to talk to them about it. Train them as to why it’s an issue, how to identify it, and work with them and not freak out but solve the problem together in a collaborative way. It creates solid relationships and growth. If one of your buyers doesn’t know something bad is happening and you bring it to their attention, give them the benefit of the doubt and the chance to work with you to solve the problem. If they do an excellent job of communicating and solving a problem with you, you get a great relationship out of it. That’s going to help your business grow.
Most affiliates are not using their own call tracking, which is a major mistake. They can’t even do QA if they want to. Networks are usually under-resourced and have to do QA on both sides of the equation, and so typically they’re not doing as much QA as they should. By doing QA yourself and getting good at it, you can generate a competitive advantage and then as you grow your business, you’ll know precisely how to tackle all of these issues as they come up.
It’s also a profit center for you because in most call flows there’s going to be issues with either the network, the buyer, or with the affiliates, somewhere at some time and so if you’re on top of it, you make more money. Most importantly, it drives payouts up. If you can prove that you are better and your calls are higher quality, it drives your payouts up which then creates more competitive advantage so you can generate more phone calls and high quality calls, a great QA system, then again builds even better relationships.
This is a critical cycle that you have to understand. Before you start working with any company, it’s super important that you understand how quality assurance processes work and we’re going to cover that in this lesson so that you can build these things into your IOs which are insertion orders or contracts. You’re going to want to make sure that your IO and contract address quality assurance issues in it. You’re going to want to get IOs and agreements signed with QA clauses in them with all your partners whenever you work with them. You want to transparently disclose at the top of those contracts and IOs what you will not pay for. Okay? And then, you want to have a conversation with the partner and review that top section that says “Listen, I want you to understand what our QA guidelines are and that we do have an excellent QA system. We will be checking the quality of your calls and these types of calls we will not pay for, and if we catch them, we’re going to deduct them, or we’re going to penalize,” or whatever depending on the side of the operation you’re on.
You should expect no one does it and you should review what is essential to your QA process with every single new affiliate that you onboard even if it’s just sending them a PDF and then chatting with them, make sure they understand, make sure they know, make sure there’s a log of you sending it to them. Then if you ever have an issue, you can always come back and be like “Hey look, we sent you our terms.” Even better if you have a one-pager with QA issues in them. You have the affiliate sign it. They’re going to be in a better position to understand what your rules are and if there’s ever an issue, they know for sure what they’re not going to get paid for.
Should someone go do that and complain publicly all you have to do is then paste that one-page agreement into the forum and be like “Hey dude, you broke this guideline, you’ve signed that you wouldn’t do it. We’re sorry, but we don’t pay people when they commit this type of fraud.” Everyone’s like, “Oh.” Fraudulent affiliates happen, we know it. They had them sign an agreement that shows this, great. It’s a PR thing as well. If an affiliate does something and they don’t realize it’s bad, and they didn’t think it’s bad, they get distraught when you don’t pay them and not paying an affiliate should be your absolute last resort. If you didn’t communicate clearly, you should pay the affiliate.
If you don’t, you’re going to run into issues publicly with reputation, and that’s the last thing you want. So non-payment is your last resort, and excellent communication and transparency in your contracts and agreements will solve these types of things. Lastly, get your own call tracking. If you’re an affiliate, use it because it gives you accountability for everyone involved. It will be a profit center for you. You need it. Otherwise, you can’t do quality assurance, and then you have no control over your destiny, and that’s not a future I would want, maybe it’s one you want, but it puts you at a significant disadvantage if you don’t have it.
Duration Billing / Callback Fraud
What is duration billing fraud and callback fraud? It’s mostly the process of training your agents as a buyer to cherry pick and look for signs of a qualified customer and then tell them you’re going to call them back. If a call center agent says, “Oh, I can’t hear you, sir, let me call you back real quick.” They dial the person back on their caller ID, that call is no longer going through the original call tracking platform and thus will not result in a conversion or a payout event. The buyer essentially trains their agents to steal random phone calls from the people driving them calls because they have realized that the vast majority of people involved in Pay Per Call do an abysmal job with quality assurance. They’re able to get away with this regularly, I mean we see it all the time. When I talk to our customers and their conversion rates have dropped, and they’re not sure what happened, I always tell them, “Listen, let’s listen to some call recordings together.” Hop in and guess what we find? We find callback fraud.
This exact scenario happened to me recently. I was talking to a great client of ours, they’re amazing, and they’ve been growing very quickly and so what happened is because of their growth they haven’t been able to invest a lot in quality assurance. Because most people don’t think quality assurance is a profit center, they think it’s just overhead and a waste of their time. What happens with that is they end up running into these issues, and it cost them a lot of money. One of our clients gave us permission to use this transcript / recording from a fraudulent buyer using this method that they were able to catch use our call tracking technology. Let’s take a look at an example of callback fraud in action:
This call may be recorded.
[redacted], this is [redacted].
Hey [redacted], is there any dental that does 100% dental?
Nope, nope, is there something you need done on the piece right now?
I need some braces.
Do you? Hold on one sec; I’m going to call you right back. We’ll be able to hear you better. Hold on one sec.
This is really simple and it’s not hard to execute. Which means you need to be extra careful and watch out for this type of fraud.
What happened there is the caller called some medical or dental insurance line, and when the caller disclosed to the agent that he needed braces right away, that opens up a whole lot of high-value conversion options for the call center and what he did is hang up the phone and call the guy back. This was a 40 second phone call. It only started counting when the agent picked up the phone, so maybe it was 35 seconds of talk time. I know because the client told me that it didn’t convert until a minute and 30 seconds. In 35 seconds, the call center agent was able to identify the caller was a high-value target, hang up the phone, call the guy back, and get the phone call for free. The call center wasn’t on the hook for paying for that phone call but yet reaped all the value out of that phone call. What we found out is that this buyer was engaging in this activity all the time. Had been for quite some time.
But our client wasn’t able to dedicate the resources to listening to these calls, so they ran into this issue. The thing is if your buyers don’t know that you have a QA process in place, they’re going to try and figure out how to violate it. What we see on average, and this doesn’t apply to every circumstance. But what we see on average is the smaller the call center, phone room, or buyer, the higher the likelihood that they will engage in duration based fraud and the logic behind this is simple. The small call center maybe has ten, 15, 20, 30 agents. If you have that many agents and small groups of them that work on small shifts it’s really valuable for the call center to engage in this type of fraud and it’s super easy to train their agents to do it. Since they’re small, they only rely on a couple of partners to drive them calls, and that means there’s an abundance of people that they can burn over, and over, and over, and over again, alright, as they move through the ecosystem.
For them, it’s a profitable way to do this. You need to understand the size of your buyer and on the smaller ones definitely, do quality assurance. On the other side of that coin, the bigger ones usually do not engage in this type of activity. Because they have significantly more money invested in their infrastructure, they’re employees, growing their business. So for them risking losing quality partners over a little bit of extra profit is not a good business plan for them because if they burn a bunch of quality partners they can’t grow any further and they’re focused on growth and scale. It’s not in their best interest to just smash partners, fraud them, and then have to go out and find more of them.
How do you catch this type of fraud? Well, guess what? You’ve got to listen to call recordings. It’s something that most people don’t typically want to invest their time into. I find it fascinating. I highly recommend you do it because you can learn more about this industry from listening to call recordings then you really can any other way. Once you know more than everyone else, well then you can build things that are higher value, have a better return on investment all that good stuff. The process for catching callback fraud is simply sorting your calls by duration and reporting. You go into Ringba, and you sort your calls by the duration of the call after you select calls that did not convert. We’re looking at all the calls that did not convert, and then we sort them by duration. Highest to lowest. If it’s a minute 30, where the call converts, we’re going to be looking at calls that are a minute and 29 seconds or less.
You listen to all the calls below the payout threshold typically you’ll want to sort them by the buyer so that you can see if there’s a specific buyer that’s doing this. Once you go through a bunch of those calls, you listen to see if they call the customer back. Start longest to shortest, work your way done the list. You can probably ignore five-second calls, eight-second calls, whatever. But the longer ones are going to have a higher probability of fraud. Because they’re going to talk to the customer and figure out within 35 seconds as the example had, or maybe a minute if they have a minute and a half or two, whether or not that call is going to be a conversion and then they call the customer back in fraudulent. You want to find a pattern. If you’re going through a network, they may have multiple buyers, and so you don’t know which buyer the issue is so you’re going to need to collaborate with the network give them the call recording, provide them with the caller ID. Then demand that they quality assure their buyer, and then anytime you find an issue like this, you need to give the evidence to the buyer or the network, and demand payment for it. I will also bill them in my IO penalties if you catch it.
Especially if you’re working with the network and they’re not on top of it, the first time you catch this, you tell them you want penalties in place. The purpose of the penalties is to pay for the quality assurance the network should be doing on your behalf. Maybe they are, but when they catch this, they don’t pay you. Which is a practice that I have not personally seen in Pay Per Call but I’ve seen it at affiliate networks when they breakage they don’t pay the affiliates. This would be considered breakage, if you find a buyer doing something wrong, and then you catch them, they pay the network, and then why pay the affiliate if the affiliate doesn’t know. If you catch this with the networks, you just come back to them and say “Hey, I need you to sign a quality assurance addendum that says that if we catch your buyers doing something wrong, that you’ll pay for it. Whether you go to the buyer or not to get your money is irrelevant to me, I’m the affiliate, so that’s your problem. If I catch you, I want a 50% penalty on every CPA, every call that was callback fraud, or whatever the fraud is to cover my quality assurance costs because you’re not doing your job.”
That’s going to be an interesting conversation with the network, but I highly encourage you to have it. Because you need to hold networks and buyers accountable for their behavior or their partner’s behavior, if a network’s buyer’s doing bad things, they can blame the buyer and say, “The buyer whatever …” But realistically speaking, your relationship is with the network, and so it’s your job to hold the network accountable if their buyers aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. You should do it in 100% of the cases and then escalate if it continues.
What are Mystery Shoppers? A mystery shopper is someone that’s calling a Pay Per Call number and just talking on the phone – just keeping them on the phone long enough that it converts, pretending like they are interested callers. It’s that simple. A lot of affiliates are pretty stupid with this, they’ll call themselves, and then there are recordings of their own voices so that if the network calls them to talk to them about the issue, the voice is the same. Which is pretty ridiculous but I had a network who pinged me about this yesterday about someone that was doing this to report them. That maybe we’d remove them from the communities. When there’s evidence, we do. When someone’s committing fraud, and we have proof of it, we exclude people from communities.
But I think this is an interesting way to go about defrauding because I mean the amount of effort and time it takes to call in and pretend that you’re interested in something, you could spend generating legitimate phone calls, but some people think it’s easier to cheat. With mystery shoppers, it’s a little bit more challenging to catch them. You need to know what you’re looking for. The mystery shopper is effectively getting away with this in the least amount of time that they can. If the call converts at two minutes, or a minute, they’re not going to spend an hour on the phone with the call center agent. They’re going to spend four minutes, five minutes, six minutes on the phone because anyone who’s going to cheat in this capacity is inherently lazy. They’re not going to spend 25 minutes on the phone with the call center agent; they’re going to spend a little bit above the conversion for them on the phone with the agent.
What you want to do is filter by publisher and sort call recordings by length descending, really long call recordings you can play and then jump to the end, and they’ll probably be in some sale cycle and so you know it’s legit. You’ll want to skip to any of the long calls to find out if the sale happened. But realistically speaking what you want to do is look at the range of calls between the conversion duration, which again could be a minute, minute 30, minute 20, two minutes, whatever the affiliate gets paid, and then a reasonable amount of time after that. Three minutes after, five minutes, ten minutes after, it all depends on the average handle time of the campaign. You want to review a bunch of these calls and see if the same voice shows up multiple times from different caller IDs and if it does and it seems fishy, check the phone number, if it’s VOIP phone number, or a Skype phone number, or a Google Voice number, it’s most likely going to be fraud.
Effectively, what you want to know is does the conversion rate match with what the call centers general average is. You’re going to need to figure out on a publisher level what the conversion rate of the calls are for the call center and then compare it to their average across all affiliates. This is a complicated process to figure out. The good news is the vast majority of affiliates that engage in this type of behavior, its just all mystery shoppers. The call center doesn’t have any real sales. It’s effortless to determine if a publisher is sending you a bunch of qualified calls and none of them result in a sale. Well, you have a pretty good idea that there’s a problem there. What you want to do is go to the call center or your buyer, find out what the average back end conversion rate is, you know maybe it’s 20% of all calls result in a sale, or 10%, or even 30, 40, whatever. You listen to your publisher’s calls and see if any of them buy. If you listen to ten calls and not a single one of them buys, you know there may be an issue. You listen to 20, and their conversion rate is 30% well, they should have six sales in there, and if they have zero, you already know it’s a mystery shopper campaign.
What you can also take a look at is the average handle time of the calls by publisher. If the average handle time of the call by a publisher is significantly less than all your other good publishers, but their payout rate is considerably higher, you know it’s probably mystery shopper fraud. What I mean by that is if you have a one minute, two-minute duration and you have 100 calls come in what’s the average conversion rate for the affiliate, out of the 100 calls how many does that affiliate get paid out? Let’s say it’s 50%. Well, if you have an affiliate come on with an average handle time that’s half of what all your other affiliates average handle time is and their conversion rate for getting paid is like 100% of calls, or 80%, when the average is 50. Well, you’re probably getting mystery shopped. Basically what you’re looking for here is statistical anomalies so that you can filter this stuff very quickly. This is hard to do unless you have incredible reporting. Ringba’s reporting is specially designed for you to filter by this type of thing and find these issues. You can even create QA level accounts so you can have outsourcers logged in with no permissions that see specific information so that they can do all your quality assurance for you.
What to do when you find Mystery Shoppers? First, you want to know are they brokering calls and are they a trusted partner. If they’re a trusted partner and they’re running a new campaign you want to talk to them and ask them, “Hey, are you brokering these calls?” They’ll tell you. If the answer is yes, you’ve got to say to them “Hey, these are mystery shopper calls, I can’t pay you, here are the statistics to back up what I just said.” The key is to give them proof. Because if you don’t, you’re going to run into PR issues. If they’re a trusted partner, this is easy they go “Ah, crap. Alright, let me remove the source, let me make sure these calls go away, whatever. Don’t worry about paying me; I’m not going to pay them.” Et cetera. If you know, they’re brokering, and they’re a trusted partner, give them the evidence so that they can give their partner the evidence so that they don’t run into any PR issues either. Transparency is essential any time you have a problem because no one likes not to get paid.
If this is a new affiliate, and this happens a lot with new ones. Give them the evidence and then give them a written note of termination. Don’t just terminate them and not talk to them. That’s how you get a PR issue or a negative review. Hit them up and say “Hey, these are mystery shopper calls. Here’s our QA information. I’m sorry, I wanted this to work, but something’s going on. We, unfortunately, have to terminate your account. Appreciate you working with us. We wish you the best of luck.” That’s it. You don’t have to be a jerk about it. Just terminate them. But be honest, and provide evidence. How do you handle payments in this situation? Well if you can prove that a batch of calls were mystery shoppers statistically, I’ll pay for them. But provide the proof. If some of their calls were legitimate like let’s say you have an affiliate that’s driving a bunch of phone calls some were legit, and some were fraud, you need to figure out which ones were legit, which ones were fraud, and then pay them for the legitimate phone calls. Because if you got legitimate phone calls from someone and some of them were a problem don’t always assume malice, but just because someone sent some crap, you can’t screw them effectively on the legit calls.
Provide them a QA report. “Hey, we QAed your calls. Here are the legit ones, you’re getting paid on those. Here are the ones that weren’t; you’re not. Also, I’m sorry we don’t feel comfortable moving the relationship forward, so we’re going to terminate your account. We wish you the best of luck. Your payment will be delivered on X date.” Pay them when you told them you’re going to pay them. When you terminate an affiliate, don’t use that as an excuse for a profit center if they sent you some legitimate phone calls. I know a lot of networks do this crap and they shouldn’t because what it does is create bad blood on their reputation, all these people then talk about it and then what happens is you get a bunch of bad reviews. People are complaining in communities, and it doesn’t reflect well on your business. If you’re going to do that it’s an incredibly short-sited decision. You’re not thinking about your long term brand reputation. If you want to do this correctly, if someone sent you blended calls and there is some fraud in there, pay them for good, don’t pay them for the bad, and move on with your day.
If you do the QA, you can go to the buyer as well and tell them, if the buyer didn’t catch it you can say “Hey, you don’t have to pay for these calls because we determined they were bad, thanks.” If they’re like “Well, we don’t want to pay for any calls from that publisher then you say “Well, here are the legitimate ones, you need to pay for those.” If you did your QA correctly and you have your evidence no one can argue with you. Make sure you do your quality assurance.
What are Incentivized Callers? An incentivized caller is someone that was promised something for calling. Maybe the advertisement says, “Call and get a health insurance quote, and we’ll send you a free iPhone.” It’s a pretty good deal; it’s not true obviously. It’s probably not happening. They promise free items that don’t apply to drive more phone calls. Sometimes, people don’t catch this stuff and it’s usually only because because customers will callback and say, “Hey, I got my health insurance quote. I want my free iPhone.” When that happens, call centers, call buyers and compliance teams start flipping out. This is precisely why you need to listen to the calls and do quality assurance – especially on new affiliates – to make sure that this isn’t happening.
There are a few different ways that callers can be incentivized. Free items that don’t apply like the iPhone scenario I gave you, points, so if they’re showing ads inside of a mobile application for a game they’re going to be like “Hey, call and get a free health insurance quote and we’ll give you a gazillion free points.” The customer calls they say whatever’s necessary to go through the process. Sometimes they’ll say you have to stay on the phone a specific period and they’re not policing that they want to make sure these calls convert. The person does not get their points, and they call the number back, and they’re like, “Hey, where are my points?” The call center agent’s like “Sir, we don’t give out points.” You have a crap storm – same thing with cash. Cash is even worse. People may forgive the points, but they’re certainly not forgiving the cash. Sometimes people will say like “Hey, call this number get a health insurance quote, we’ll give you 50 dollars.” Or 100 dollars. Or 500 dollars. Or whatever it is.
When they don’t get their cash, they’re going to callback, and they’re going to demand their cash, and then you have a problem. That’s what happens with incentivized callers because the incentives don’t actually exist. Even if they did exist unless you pre-approved this with the buyers, it’s going to be problematic because whenever someone has an issue, or they didn’t get their free item they’re going to call the call center back and start demanding it, and that takes up agent time which is bad for everybody.
What to do? First, you need to know if they are a trusted partner? If you’re working with someone and they usually are good, you don’t want to assume that they’re burning you, you want to talk to them about it. “Hey, we’ve got incentivized callers.” They’re like “Oh man, well I have a couple of people running your offer, what number did it come through let me check.” Maybe they’re brokering. If they’re brokering and they’re a trusted partner, you get them to remove it.
If they come back and they’re like “Yeah, that’s a crappy partner, all those calls are bad.” They’re a trusted source; they’re going to tell you because they want to keep the relationship open. You don’t pay. It’s that simple, but you make sure everyone’s on the same page. If it’s a specific affiliate and they’re new, you remove the affiliate, or you remove the affiliate traffic source, or whatever, and then you terminate the affiliate in a professional way.
How do you handle payments? Again, well if it’s an affiliate then you know all the calls are incentivized, you give them proof, you give them some recordings, and you say “Sorry, we can’t pay for these.” The key here is giving them the proof. Because when you provide them with proof, they’ll go away typically. If you don’t give them proof, they’re going to say “Well you’re screwing me. Prove it.” As juvenile as that may seem, a lot of affiliates think if they cheat the network, or they cheat their partner and get away with it, they should be paid, especially outside of the United States.
You need to give them proof. Communicate that this isn’t allowed and this is why you have it in your IO. You have it in your terms. You make them sign it; you make them review it with your team member, so there are no questions. When this happens, you’re like “Hey, you signed the form that says no incentivized calls. Here are the incentivized calls, here’s a couple of call recordings. I’m sorry we can’t pay you for this. You knew the rules.” They’re like “Alright, whatever.”
If some of the calls were legit if they have multiple traffic sources and some of the calls were legit, again, pay for the legitimate phone calls. Do not be short-sighted and seize people’s payments because part of their traffic was an issue. It’s not about the profit, I can see how making a couple extra $100 bucks, or this guy screwed me, so I’m going to screw him back, or I’m going to keep their money because I can, is a good idea or may feel good. But we’re not talking about feel good here; we’re not talking about punishing the affiliate. What we’re talking about is making sure that your brand is honorable – building a brand for the long term so you can create a sustainable business.
Whenever possible, do not burn people. If people screw you, don’t pay them. But if they screw you but some of their stuff was okay, as much as it is you eating crap pay them what you owe them, they’ll go away, and you won’t have any negative reviews or any issues. This is how problems start. If you don’t pay people it’s the worst case scenario; it should always be your absolute last resort.
Automated IVR Selection
What is it? A lot of campaigns require that callers enter in their zip code or enter in some selections on an IVR, and what some affiliates do is use technology to dial IVR prompts automatically. This can be used legitimately. Let me describe the legitimate way for you. Let’s assume for a minute that you’re working with a buyer and that they have an IVR. Their IDR is text to speech, and it’s crappy, and it just doesn’t sound good. You think it’s affecting your conversion rate. You want to create your own IVR. You go out you hire a professional voice actor; they do an excellent job producing it, it’s got a little music in the background. It converts a lot better. Well, your worst case scenario is going to be if you have to put your IVR in there, which converts well and then drive it to the crappy IVR and then the user has to answer the questions or enter their info twice. That will murder your conversion rate. What you would do in that circumstance is use automated tones as we have in Ringba to dial whatever the user entered into the first IVR into the second IVR. Then you’re not violating any terms and conditions. Then you can improve your conversion rate on the campaign. You probably already know what I’m going to tell you next.
That is, show the IVR to your buyer, make sure they’re okay with it. Let them know what’s going on. Sometimes the buyer will be like “Well can we just use that?” The answer as the affiliate or the network should be not. We created it; this is exclusive to us. If you want to create your own, that’s fine, but this is exclusive to us. You want to make sure you clear it with everybody involved. Usually, that’s not a complicated process. Your conversion rate goes up, everybody wins. The wrong way to use it is to have a caller call in, give them no IVR, and then automatically select the winning IVR combination so that you get paid.
If you do that the network, or whoever’s going to figure it out and you may even have some callers that converted that were good, but you’re probably not getting paid, again, I always suggest pay people for what’s legitimate, don’t pay them for whats not. But if you’re putting a network in a situation where you’re doing something unacceptable, and you didn’t clear it with them first, you shouldn’t be that surprised when they don’t pay you anything. You shouldn’t be surprised. You need to communicate. This can be a legitimate one or a nonlegitimate one. But you need to communicate correctly.
How do you catch it? First, you need to review the percentage of IVR selections on a publisher basis. If you have a publisher and 40% of the time they hit number one, which generates a conversion, or number two which then results in a conversion, and that’s your average all of your publishers should be somewhere within statistical reasonability around that percentage. If it’s 40% and some pubs are at 30 or less than average, that’s probably not an issue. If they’re above average, if they’re at 50 or 60%, perhaps not a problem. You can listen to the calls; it’s probably all good. Maybe they do a better job of pre-qualifying the customer before they send them to the IVR.
If it’s 100%, then you know you’re getting banked. Or if it’s close to 100%, it’s probably not okay. They’re probably using a process like this. What you want to do is then QA anyone higher than average on the selections and see whether their calls are good quality or bad quality. If one of your publishers is at 20%, and one is at 70%, and both are legitimate, by learning what happened on those phone calls, you can usually figure out why the better affiliate is generating more qualified calls and then coach the other affiliate on how to improve the quality of their calls. This right here, in general, should be done on QA on an affiliate/publisher basis so that you can coach the affiliates on how to improve their quality in general. I think IVR selection percentages are a great way to understand who has higher quality traffic, or who are doing a better job pre-qualifying the customer.
Perhaps if you shared this information with your affiliates, and I don’t believe that any network does this, I haven’t seen a single one do, if one’s listening and they do this I apologize. But I have yet to see a network that looks at IVR selection percentages to coach affiliates on how to improve their campaigns. But you absolutely should do that. Because a lot of the times affiliates and publishers don’t necessarily know the quality of their own calls, so they don’t know when to improve, when not to improve. Maybe you tell them, and they’re like “Oh. Well, I can change the text on my ads and my landing pages. Let’s run some tests.” You run some tests, and your affiliate gets a better conversion rate, and they’re like “Holy cow. I’m making a whole lot more money; you’re making a whole lot more money.” All it took was looking at some statistics. Regardless of QA, this is something you should take a look at no matter what because the conversion rate at the IVR means a lot to your bottom line. You should also split test IVRs frankly. We’ll cover that in another lesson.
Dead Air / Confusing Messages
What is it? Dead Air / Confusing Messages means that an affiliate is driving calls to a Pay Per Call offer with a prerecorded message. Maybe it’s bizarre sounds or something interesting, or confusing. The call center agent listens, and the call center agent is unaware that after a minute, they pay for that phone call. Maybe the affiliate does this on a few calls and not all of them. Once they figure out that the buyer or the network isn’t doing quality assurance. Maybe, they send dead air time, and when the agent hangs up, they don’t hang up the phone call. If they do that and their technology can do that then the tracking platform, some of them out there, aren’t able to figure this out that the call is disconnected and then we’ll trigger a conversion and a payout and if a network or buyers aren’t doing their quality assurance well, they get banked.
How do you resolve it? This one’s easy. Listen to the recordings. Spot check your recordings for all new publishers, all publishers frankly, and listen regularly to short duration calls that convert. The sweet spot is within a minute of calls that have converted. If it converts at a minute, all calls between one minute one second, and two minutes or three minutes in duration, you need to check out those phone calls because those are high-risk calls essentially. They resulted in pay out, but there was absolutely no way that call center agent was going to sell on that call, and that’s what you’re looking for.
Non-Compliant Warm Transfer Scripting
What is it? Non-Compliant Warm Transfer Scripting is when affiliates use non-compliant warm transfer scripts before they transfer the phone call into the end buyer. If a network is accepting transfers, it’s up to the affiliate to qualify that call with a call center agent, outsourced agent, partner call center, whatever, to see if it’s legitimate before they transfer it over. Affiliates using non-compliant warm transfer scripts are just trying to talk to the consumer quickly about whatever and then transfer them as soon as possible so they can get credit for it without investing in following the actual compliant process.
You know this is happening when the callers don’t know what they called for; they have no idea why they’re on the phone with the other person. They’ll say something like “Why did you transfer me? This makes no sense.” They think that they’re calling about something else. The callers don’t qualify for the product or service, so maybe the warm transfer center, the qualifying call center isn’t asking all of the questions. Or, they’re transferring people regardless of what they answer which means they’re transferring non-compliant callers. It could be possible that they’re incentivizing callers using free stuff, points, cash, whatever to transfer and then stay on the line for a specific period so that they get paid for the call.
This is a really short-sighted approach to business in general because sooner or later you’re going to get caught. Maybe you work with networks for a while. Maybe get a campaign, you make a little bit of money but if you went through all the effort to set up the warm transfers and generate the phone calls and do all of the nonsense, then realistically speaking just a little bit more effort will get you there compliantly and then you can build a real business for yourself. I think this is ridiculous, but it happens. This is what happens when people get lazy and stupid because they’re going to do all this setup and then try and make a little bit of extra cash until they get caught and their business falls over one afternoon. It’s just not smart to do this stuff. It’s easy enough to make money in this space without defrauding people but it still happens.
How do you catch it? You get a test number from your affiliate; you call it using different caller IDs every single time so they can’t catch you. You listen to the scripting you go through the process. You also review recordings after the transfer happens. You’re looking for confused callers that don’t know why they called or what happened. You’re looking for non-qualified callers where they’re like “Oh no, I’m not 65 years old.” Well, you don’t qualify, they transferred you anyways then?
Or listen for really long handoffs to rack up duration on non-qualified callers. The transferring agent will call in and be like “Oh hey Jenny, how are you today? Oh great. Nice, this is Tyler over at Debt Busters, it’s beautiful here in Pittsburgh today, and I have a wonderful lady on the phone, her name’s Greta. Greta is located in Salt Lake City, and she’s got a dog named Billy, and she’s excited about this phone call today because she needs our help and that’s why I’m transferring her to you.” You can see where they’re like just dragging out the conversation so that I know I could reach the duration conversion amount. I’m like, “Alright Greta, have a good one.” Hang up the phone, and then Greta’s like “Is this the Social Security office?” “No.” She wasn’t qualified at all but the call center, the affiliates still gets paid for it. If no one’s doing quality assurance, this nonsense happens.
Again, this is NOT the way a way to build a successful business. It’s not even really a way to make some fast cash because soon as they do QA, you’re busted, you may not get paid and then it’s even worse, you may sink costs into advertising and setting up this third-party call center, and then you don’t also get paid for it. You may lose money. This is stupid, yet again it happens.
How do you QA it further? You look at the conversion rate for the affiliate; you get them from your buyer. In best case scenarios, you’re able to pass some information to your buyer so that they can give that information back to you with conversion rates on a publisher level. You can do that with Ringba; you can do it with SIP transfers, you absolutely should do it not every tracking platform allows you to. I know that networks are not all doing this. But they should be. Because if you can get a disposition report from your buyer on a publisher basis, you don’t have to reveal to them who those publishers are. It can be a hashed publisher code like we use with Ringba. You know which affiliates are converting on the back end better or not. It gives you negotiating power, but it also helps you whether you’re doing QA or not.
Poor Sales Agents
This is not fraud, but it is a major, major problem in Pay Per Call. What we’re looking for here is poor sales agent performance. When you’re working with a buyer that has 30 agents, or 15 agents, they’re probably not going to be the best call center in the world. Because if they were the best sales call center in the world and had a fantastic training program, they would grow their business beyond 15 sales agents, they would have thousands. If you can do sales with 15 and the call volumes available and you’re better than everyone else so you can pay more for the phone call, well you can scale that operation rather quickly, to hundreds or thousands of salespeople in a call center.
Smaller call centers are going to be more of an issue here. If you’re talking about a small group of independent buyers, or your own self serve buyers, or an independent insurance agent and they’re bad sales people, or they’re not well trained, well, they’re just going to disappear. They’re just going to stop buying calls from you, and that’s going to be the end of it. They’re going to weed themselves out.
If you’re working with a call center, this becomes a problem for you because if the call center agents are weak and they’re not converting the calls, the likelihood you’re going to be able to negotiate for more payout from your buyer is low. You want your buyers to be excellent and have really good training programs in place.
If you send them quality calls that convert well, they can afford to pay you more money if they’re good at what they do. If they’re terrible at what they do, callers may hang up before the two minutes. You might not get paid at all. It’s why it’s essential that you have quality salespeople on the phone because they’ll be better at getting sales out of people that others aren’t. Your duration efforts go up; there goes your payout average goes up, it’s just better for everyone.
People are naturally drawn happy people. They do not want to talk to people who are not happy or not interested in talking to them. Well, a call center is the same. If you have a poor attitude, you’re going to have a significantly reduced conversion rate, and it’s not going to go well. You’re listening to see if the agents are generally positive. If they’re not, or a specific agent is usually not favorable, track it, save the call recordings and send them to the buyer. Tell them that this is unacceptable, it’s hurting your business and their business and if your buyer’s is smart they will take action with a performance evaluation, or retraining or even by terminating them. By giving this feedback to your partners, you are ultimately helping them build a more successful business.
Second, you need to listen to see if they’re creating a relationship and a rapport with the actual caller. That means not just “So you want health insurance? Fine, give me your age.” It’s like “How are you? How are things going? Where you located? Oh, that’s great. I love it there.” Relating to the person, finding out about them, and building a relationship on the phone. The most successful call center salespeople are good at creating a relationship quickly on the phone. Because people are more likely to buy from people they like. If you create a relationship with someone and show a general interest in their lives, typically, they like you. They trust you, and then they’ll buy from you. You want to listen to see if agents are building a rapport. If they’re not creating relationships, save the call recordings, send them over to the buyer and talk about it. “Hey, I want to give you some feedback. We don’t think your agents are doing a great job in building a relationship, here are some call recording examples I want to share with you. I think if we trained them a little better on this, maybe did some role-playing or looked at your training process at the call center there, that we could improve your conversion rate. Which means you’ll make more money.”
If they’re unwilling to entertain that, they’re not a good partner. I would say that nine times out of ten if they’re running a legit business and they’re worried about growth they are not only going to entertain that they’re going to listen and collaborate with you. When the conversion rate goes up, get that information from them and then demand more money.
Are they well trained in general? Do they understand what they’re selling? Do they understand the process? Do they seem confident about what they’re doing on the phone? If they’re not, maybe they’re new. It happens. But if in general, these people don’t seem confident on the phone after you listen to ten, 20 recordings, well then you need to raise that with the call center.
Are they following the script? Is the script good? That’s a great question. As you listen to a few calls you’re going to notice that some repeat agents, especially if you’re listening to long calls, sell a lot more than the others. Those guys may be on script, or they may be off script. What you need to find out is if they’re on script or off script. If the highest closing sales agent, the one you hear repeatedly closing over, and over, and over again in the recordings are on script, then you need to work with the call center to get all the other agents on script. If they’re off script you need to take those recordings, go talk to the call center and be like “Hey, your script sucks. This guy’s amazing, let me help you rewrite it.” Help them. Help them rewrite that script so that they can go better train their agents.
You may have to ask the call center what’s your process for training, what’s your process for scripting, show me pictures, show me screenshots. Or better yet, if they’re a significant partner fly someone out to their call center and go yourself. Have a meeting with them, ask to sit through a training class. Talk to some agents, ask them how to improve. Help your partners get better at what they’re doing. That’s how you’re going to get real wins. That creates one hell of a relationship with your partners. Then you go back, and you’re like “Hey, I helped you with your business. I helped you grow. I can fill all your capacity; please give me agency of record on this.” An agency of record is exclusive. That means that anyone that wants to sell to the call center has to go through you. You own it basically for pay per call. That’s your ultimate goal if you’re going to build a network, an agency, or be a broker is to secure agency of record relationships with call centers and buyers so no one else can sell to them unless they go through you.
Are they generating yes responses? Are they asking people questions that get them to say yes, which is an elementary sales tactic? If you don’t hear any of that, they can improve their scripting and process. Do they attempt to close, like what are the closing statements these agents are using? Do they wait for the customer to say, “Okay, I’d like to buy.” Or do they start collecting the customer’s information assuming the close and walking them through the process? You need to understand if these agents are trained well to close or not. If they’re not, then it’s an area you need to report to the call center so you can help them so that they can improve their quality. Because when quality goes up you can demand more payments or if you helped them grow this you could get an AOR, et cetera.
How specifically do you do this? Does your buyer have a QA grid they use on calls? Which leads you to my next question, does your buyer have a QA process at all? If they don’t, they probably don’t even know where their weaknesses are, and you need to help them with that. If they do have a QA process, they have what’s referred to as a QA grid, or a QA sheet, ask them for one. Ask them for a blank one to see how they do their quality assurance. If things like closing statements or relationship and rapport are not on there or added to for instance, then you can help them by adjusting their QA grid to improve their quality assurance process better.
You need to understand what their process is. Ask your contact or your rep with the call center to tell you, what’s your review on training process look like? What do your agents do? How long is it? Do they sit in the classroom, is there role-playing? What’s going on? Once you hear what their training process is, you’ll know immediately whether it’s weak or not and you can help them. Like I said before, if you find some great recordings of exceptional agents, share those with the call center so that they can use those in their training process and show it to new agents coming through so those new agents can listen and understand how to be an effective sales agent. It’s potent. If you come across four sales agents, again, I want you to understand that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad about the buyer may mean they need some help. They need to improve. Don’t just assume it’s malicious or they’re not good at what they do. Just get more information and then figure out how to collaborate with these call centers so that you can help them improve their process.
Agent Cherry Picking
What is it? Agent cherry picking is when a call center agent will decide in their opinion which may be right may not be wrong, or perhaps it is wrong, maybe it is right. I have no idea. It’s entirely up to the agent’s judgment, and that is which caller is going to convert. What happens is they answer the phone, and if in their experience men close better for them, or they think they do, they hang up on women. Or if they believe someone’s young or from a particular ethnicity or whatever, they hang up the phone because another call with come in and they can be lazy and talk to the person they think are going to convert better, and they burn the phone call. If it’s under the duration requirement, you lose, and frankly, the call center loses too because they lose the opportunity to sell that customer. On bigger call center floors, agent cherry picking is a problem. On smaller call center floors it’s a problem. But, it may not be malicious on either. The call center may not know it’s going on. That’s why you need to communicate with the call center if you discover this.
What to watch for? Immediate hang-ups, not completing the qualifying questions or the script, a bad attitude towards certain clients where the agent is like “Yeah, whatever.” Click. They end the call; they terminate the call. What do you do in this regard? You take down the agent’s name, you look for patterns and repeat issues with that specific agent. You report it to the call center in all circumstances, and in Ringba you look for phone calls that are constantly, you look for buyers that are constantly hanging up. You can see which party hung up the call, whether it was the caller or the agent. If a specific buyer’s percentages are out of whack, like their agents hang up 30% more than all the rest of them, you know there might be some cherry picking going on. Again, you want to make sure that it’s in your contract that agent cherry picking is not acceptable.
What to do? With a buyer, if you’re working directly with a buyer, you want to make sure there are penalties in place. Maybe not on the first one, if you report an agent for cherry picking, perhaps on the first report they pay for the calls but there’s no penalty. Then the second time they pay for the calls, and there’s a 500 dollar penalty or something. But they should pay full price for the cherry-picked calls, without exception. You need to make sure that that’s in your contract and your buyer understands this, and you review that contract information and the IO and all the requirements with your account rep, with your partner over there. Don’t just send it to them and be like “Yeah, they agree.” Not review it. Make sure they understand what’s not acceptable so that you can come back to them in the future and be like “Bill, we discussed this, this is a problem, it’s the third time. We’re going to impose the contractual penalty, okay?” Nothing gets people motivated, like losing money and potentially losing access to phone calls.
That’s why you need multiple buyers on every single campaign, whether it’s a network or not. That if you run into these issues, you can reroute the phone calls and play the take away so that they’ll get their act together. Again, if you see this you report it to the buyer, you request training, or you request removal of that agent from your campaign. You have the ability if you put it into your contract, or even not, you can always demand it, that that agent gets removed from your campaign. If they say “Well, you’re sending most of the calls to us. Well, we only run this one campaign.” “Well, tough crap. We don’t want that agent taking the calls anymore; they violated the rules. If you’ve got to terminate them, terminate them, we don’t care. But we’re going to listen to all the calls, and if we catch them on there again, we’re going to have issues.” That’s why you put these things in your contract. You have the right to remove an agent from the campaign, and if you impose that right and the agent is not removed from the campaign, you can bill the call center 100 dollars per phone call that the agent that was supposed to be removed takes after you impose that right.
You can get really creative with your contract, so you need to think about it, but whatever you put in there you need to make sure it’s transparent and discussed with the call center so that you can hold them accountable. Because really, what this whole lesson is about is just keeping people honest, and then holding them accountable.