The Mail/Call Center Connection
If you are looking for new ways to improve the results of your control mailing, you may be surprised to find the answer at your call center. A few small adjustments to your telephone approach sometimes can accomplish as much or more than a change in the copy or design of a winning mailing.
Keep in mind that the net return from your mailing is the function of five things:
* your gross response (inquiry) rate;
* the percentage of inquiries that actually become orders;
* the average sales value of those orders;
* the percentage of sales revenue you actually collect and;
* the revenue you keep after paying for returns and customer service costs.
That said, here are 17 ways you can boost each of these factors with the help of your call center.
Raise Your Gross Response (Inquiry) Rate
Consider the following two phone-based tips to motivate more readers to respond to your call to action.
Add a phone number to every mailing. When you can capture orders over the Internet for free or by pre-paid postage for well under a dollar, you may wonder why you should use the phone at all, considering the cost per call is often several dollars. First, you lift your response rate when you give your customers as many options as possible. Second, some people feel more comfortable ordering when they can talk to a live person who can answer their questions. Third, your recipients can call the moment they feel the urge, while a pre-paid envelope usually sits overnight on the kitchen counter where it can get put aside or thrown away. It costs more to include a phone option, but the extra revenue from those additional orders will almost always justify the cost.
Test a "soft" offer. If price objections are suppressing your response rate, try removing the price from your mailing with a call to action like "Call for more information." Marketers frequently test this approach in DRTV campaigns, and sometimes see call volume double or triple over a hard price-point offer. You may find a skilled sales consultant can overcome your customers' price objections better than a sales letter or lift note.
Increase Your Order-to-Call Ratio
Keep in mind that not every call or Web hit ends up in a sale. These tips can help you convert a greater number of inquiries into paying customers.
Conduct call center training yourself. No one understands your product and customer base better than you. Visiting your call center lets the consultants ask questions and learn more about the product, which will help them convert more calls into sales.
Turn your sales consultants into satisfied customers. Provide samples or trials of your product whenever possible, so that your consultants can share their own experiences with and enthusiasm for the product over the phone.
Familiarize your call center team with your mailing, not just your offer. A well-crafted mailing with detailed product photos is a powerful sales tool your consultant can refer to when making a sale. Make sure to give your call center enough samples of your mailing to place one at each station.
Encourage your customers to use the phone. Roughly 80 percent of calls from a solo mailing will end up in
orders, depending on the offer. The percentage of Web hits that end up in sales is usually much less. With this in mind, encourage your customers to call, either by making the phone number more prominent in the layout, or introducing it with a phrase like: "For fastest delivery, call 1-800 ..."
Track tests with dedicated numbers, not printed codes. Asking a customer to locate a code number is a poor way to start a sales call. To eliminate this order-killer, use dedicated phone numbers to accurately track the results of each cell in your test matrix. It's not uncommon for a call center to provide as many as 100 different toll-free numbers for a large test. Each dedicated number will trigger the correct price and terms to "pop" on the consultant's screen, leading to a smooth sales presentation.
Test call centers. Testing can improve call center results the same way it improves mail results. You will soon find that all call centers are not the same. Once you are happy with your center's performance, test various sales scripts. Sometimes a small change can resolve a recurring customer objection.
Boost the Average Order Size
If someone orders a $100 product and you upsell $50 in accessories, you increase your revenue 50 percent. Even better, that extra revenue comes at almost no additional marketing cost, so you increase your actual return by close to 100 percent or more. That's the power of upselling. The following tips will help you leverage this power.
Don't just offer your upsells, sell them! Craft your telesales script with the care you put into your sales letter. For example, "We also have a butterfly attachment, would you like it?" is not a strong pitch. Instead, "Our butterfly attachment targets your pectoral muscles like a laser. It slides on and off in just seconds, and it's covered by the same lifetime warranty. Can I add that to your order?"
Try removing your upsells from the order form. You may find that listing your upsells on your order form gives customers the chance to make a "no" decision before they call. Let your consultant introduce your upsells and see if it increases sales of these items.
Add your upsells to your brochure. By including your upsells in your photographyeven if you don't mention them in the copyyour consultant can refer to them to help make the sale.
Add more upsells. Some campaigns offer as many as seven upsells during the call. Limiting your upsells is like leaving money on the table. If you find that your upsells are making the calls too complicated, combine several upsells into one "deluxe package."
Offer a continuity. Continuities often are the best upsell of allwith one order you generate a continuous stream of revenue month after month. A continuity is an obvious choice if you're selling ingestibles, collectibles or cosmetics. For other products, consider a series of tapes or videos related to your product.
Add a third-party upsell. If you're having trouble developing upsell products, consider related goods from a third party. If you sell golf clubs, try upselling another company's golf balls. If this is not an option, look to travel or shopping clubs, which often are sold as upsells by direct marketers. Before moving ahead, make sure you are dealing with a reputable company, and check with your call center to confirm that your offer complies with FTC
regulations regarding upsell scripts.
Accelerate Cash Flow
Payment plans are a great way to increase response to high-priced offers, but they delay your revenue for months and often lead to bad debt. Here are two ways to move customers from an advertised payment plan to a single payment.
Just ask. If you simply mention the reduced paperwork and the fact that the customer's credit card offers a built-in payment plan, you can encourage many customers to make a single payment. Reward one-pays. You may find it's worth offering an inexpensive premium to encourage customers to switch to a single payment.
Reduce Returns and Customer Service Costs
Wrong information given during the call is a frequent cause of costly customer problems. This is another reason why using a skilled sales center and insisting on detailed training is so important. Here is another way to reduce
returns and customer service calls.
Add a post-close to your script. A simple five-second phrase at the end of each call costs you almost nothing and can reduce common customer complaints. For example: "Please be sure to read the instructions before assembling your product." Convey your problem to the call center and train your consultants to follow up on the post-close to make sure your customers know exactly what they are supposed to do.
Every Bit of Response Counts
In all these ways, working with your call center may give you the edge to improve results to your current controland give it the fighting chance it deserves.
Steve Pittendrigh is founder/CEO of InPulse Response Group, a Phoenix sales center working with such direct mail marketers as Bose and Thane. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.