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Direct Response Marketing

Support Services: Get Out the Shotgun!

23 Nov, 2009 By: George Smith Response

George SmithTake the shotgun with you to your inbound telemarketer. Regardless of if the vendor is an interactive voice response (IVR) or live agent shop, tell them they are about to get married — a “shotgun marriage.”

Dramatic? Yes. However, the marriage between IVR and live agent methods is absolutely necessary for most marketers’ pocketbooks. Here’s why.

Some may remember the method of paying for live agent services by “unit of work” (i.e., a specific cost for each piece of information collected). Thus, historically, marketers knew how much each phone call would cost.

Most traditional live agent telemarketers have now switched to the “taxi” format (i.e., a cost-per-unit of time). As additional upsells and other options are added, telemarketing costs increase with the fervent hope that the additional revenue for these presentations would rationalize the added telemarketing costs. This led to the apparent salvation — IVR.

Marketers have rushed to IVR to step the caller through the ordering process. Does IVR work? Absolutely, provided the caller is willing to play the game. However, not every caller is willing to order via IVR.

Some consumers just can’t use IVR, while others won’t because they dislike the impersonal concept. Instead, they want to speak with a human being. If you’re using an IVR vendor now, you can prove this by going to the vendor’s version of the “Drop Out” report. This report shows the number of calls still active through each step of the order process. If your vendor does not offer such a report, then find a new vendor … quickly.

What you will most likely get with IVR is 20 percent (or more) of callers terminating prior to actually starting an order. As callers become frustrated with the time it’s taking to order or because they have a question during the call process, there will be continuous dropouts.

The rush to IVR was obviously due to the much lower cost compared to live agent telemarketing. On a per-minute basis, IVR typically costs 15-20 percent less than live agent services. To be fair, IVR vendors have valid additional costs that are added (e.g., database lookups, transcriptions, etc.). Accordingly, the actual cost comparison to live agent telemarketing is closer to 40 percent. This is still a considerable cost savings — however, at what expense?

What’s lost is the order. The media has been paid for, the consumer has called, and now, that consumer, who wouldn’t — for whatever reason — use the IVR, cannot order by phone.

The solution is simple; the benefits, potentially gigantic.

Although most IVR vendors will state that it’s not necessary, it is advisable to allow the consumer to “opt out” to a live-agent service. Yes, the orders achieved from this transfer will be more expensive, but at least you have orders.

In turn, if your campaign could or should work with IVR, force your live-agent service to interface with an IVR vendor. Be forewarned that, depending upon the vendor, you will be counseled that the “other” service is unnecessary. To maximize your order conversion, you really need to seriously consider both IVR and live-agent servicing.

Within a few years, virtually every call should begin with IVR. An IVR can screen out customer service requests and, if necessary, explain the offer in a consistent, professional manner before attempting to complete the transaction in either an IVR or live-agent service.

The true benefit of the combination will be increased revenue, thus maximizing the value of your most expensive cost: media.
Don’t forget your shotgun, as you may need it when approaching the telemarketing vendors to do what is best for their customer, the marketer.

About the Author: George Smith

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