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Marketing Services

The Support Report

1 Aug, 2008 By: Doug McPherson Response

Experts in teleservices, fulfillment and shipping, and payment processing explain what DR marketers need to know to raise profits, lower headaches and ... much more.

The way Matt Fisher sees it, a trend is brewing. A trend that, if ignored, might kill off some companies in the support services industry — a trend that may very well revolutionize support for direct response.

"I'm definitely seeing a trend that's starting to take hold in the world of DR — a lot of DR companies are moving to a lifetime value," says Fisher, vice president and general manager of DR at LiveOps, a call center headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif.

Lifetime value (LV as some call it) has been defined as the total dollar value of your average customer over the entire period that they're likely to buy from you. Fisher and other analysts say the DR companies that focus on the long-term relationship with customers will be the ones that thrive in the future.

And Fisher believes support services companies can and are playing a larger role in helping DR companies achieve more lifetime customers. "Continuity is becoming more and more important and many DR leaders are realizing that call centers are the point of first touch with the customer," Fisher says. "So it's key for those in support services to understand the goals and needs of the customer in that first acquisition so that they keep coming back to buy again."

Vicky Walz, vice president of client services for Convergys Corp., a teleservices and relationship management company in Cincinnati, says as consumers become more savvy and sophisticated, DR marketers need to appeal to the customer's desire for value, especially during an uncertain economy.

"The lifetime value of a customer should be considered with the offers and upsells, It may be better for a marketer to limit the number of upsells during the first interaction, and build a loyalty program that shares future upsells with that consumer," Walz contends. "The key is to test the tipping point — too many upsells can turn a would-be lifetime customer into a consumer who tunes out."

And so the key question support services folks must consider for their DR customers is this: what's going to drive their long-term success?

It's a question teleservices, packaging and shipping, fulfillment and payment processing pros are now turning their attention to with a renewed vigor.

Teleservices Teams With Technology

In teleservices, technology continues to play an increasing role in helping DR companies succeed. Specifically, analysts say "software as a service" (SaaS), which delivers software over the Internet, is becoming increasingly popular because it simplifies deployment and reduces customer acquisition costs; it also allows developers to support many customers with a single version of a product.

What's more, SaaS eliminates the need to install and run applications on the customer's computer, and that means the customer doesn't have to worry about software maintenance, ongoing operation or support. Gartner Consulting, a research company in Stamford, Conn., predicts that by 2013, at least 75 percent of customer call centers will use a form of SaaS in their contact centers.

Fisher says LiveOps' virtual call center, which includes more than 20,000 commissioned independent home agents, leverages the Internet to better manage and operate call centers. "In DR, it's all about spikes and having an agent there at the right time," Fisher says. "Doing things this way gives us the ability to select better agents and staff according to each infomercial. Matching agents with products helps agents get a better feel and understanding of the product."

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