A Tale of Two Direct Response Call Centers

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Two call centers knock heads on a field leveled by real-time data.
Two call centers knock heads on a field leveled by real-time data.

Something was wrong with the call centers, Heather Adams thought. The general manager of buyCalls, an agency that handles multichannel, direct response advertising for the likes of satellite TV provider  Sobongo and Travel Resorts of America, was seeing unexplainable discrepancies in conversion rates. “There's a certain level of response we expect, and we noticed that some call centers were performing well below others on the very same accounts,” she says.

So early in 2012, buyCalls decided to get to the bottom of the issue by testing one of the high-performing call centers, Center A, against one of the lower performers, Center B.  BuyCalls put them on the same security company account and randomly split responses 50-50 between the two. After a few months of testing, Center B showed its stripes. It closed at a rate six percentage points lower than Center A. Their initial testing was through internal IVRs hosted on site at the call centers, though, and there was some back and forth mix up between identifying Centers A and B. Management at Call Center B argued that the comparison was invalid.

BuyCalls was already using an affiliate management platform integrated with a company called RingRevenue, whose interactive voice response (IVR) technology also employs cloud-based analytics to single out customers who bypass click options on digital ads and call directly. The program was designed to address the complaints of publishers that lost pay-per-click revenue as a result, establishing a pay-per-call system to give them proper attribution. Adams remembered that her RingRevenue account manager James Resetco had told her about other capabilities within that program that would allow her to drill further down into which customers were converting or not converting and wh

“We use a program we call RingPools, numbers that we dynamically insert online. Instead of one number on all ads, we'll insert different ones or insert our codes or APIs and use phone numbers to capture variables,” Resetco explains.  "We can cycle through different numbers to capture information on specific callers, almost like you're ‘cookie-ing' a phone number.”

So, five months into the testing, Adams signed up for the RingRevenue analytics add-on and put the heat on Center B. BuyCalls could ensure that both centers in the test were receiving leads that put them on a level playing field. In other words, no more excuses. “We could see, for instance, how many callers were homeowners and how many were renters,” Adams says. “We could determine information about callers in real time by what numbers they pressed in the IVR. The longer the call, the deeper we could drill.”

Getting sunk the deepest was Center B. The refined testing not only proved its poor showing in the earlier testing was not a quirk, but that it was actually much worse. In the second test, Center A converted 30% of calls, Center B only 19%.

The good news for Center B was that the advanced IVR system that sunk them also served as a lifesaver.  Deeper analysis of Center A's stalwart performance provided a roadmap that allowed Center B (as well as other centers used by buyCalls) to pick up its game.

“We found it was not necessarily the fault of the call center,” Adams says. “The RingRevenue IVR filters found that some sales leads were ending up in customer service, for instance, and were getting lost.”

Adams and her team also reviewed several taped calls from both centers and found that Center B's reps were not necessarily poor salespeople, but poor empathizers. People calling about installing alarm systems have often just been burglarized or experience some other frightening security breach. The tapes showed that Center A's reps showed more concern for caller's personal situations. Buy Calls shared the intel with Center B, which took and ran with it.

“They knew there were other call centers competing for the business, so they took the input seriously and made changes.” Adams says. “The test showed us opportunities we had been missing with our old system and that improved the prospects for all the call centers we work with.”

Adams relates that pulling information and making decisions in real time off the RingRevenue platform is easier than she thought it would be. “We can do a quick Excel spreadsheet and pivot it out,” she says. She attributes a $120,000 rise in revenues in buyCalls most recent quarter to the implementation of the expanded IVR programs.

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