Discounts, Partners, Sales Recovery Can Hike Profits

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Study the way your inhouse or service bureau call center handles catalog orders and customer care calls. Have you maximized the potential of every inbound call that comes through your switch? Have you used outbound calling to recover and increase a lost sale, and at the same time increase the lifetime value of a happy customer?

It is easy for a percentage of orders to get lost in the shuffle as you concentrate on processing the influx of orders that occur with a catalog drop. And this small percentage of orders can add up to significant short-term and long-term dollars. In addition, it is easy to lose out on additional sources of revenue by not taking advantage of the customer who is in the buying mode. Here are a few ideas that help many catalogers capture as many potential sales as possible.

'Thank You' Sales

Most catalogers have an upsell or cross-sell involved in their telemarketing scripts. But some catalogers offer a "Thank You For Ordering Today" type sale that allows their telephone service representatives to choose from a short list of specials. These special items are typically reduced significantly from the regular sale price, yet still provide a solid profit margin.

It is not uncommon to see conversion rates of 20 percent or more on such offers with an average ticket of $25 to $30, especially when your telephone representative is given a commission on these special offers. For a cataloger who takes 500 orders per day, this could result in a cool $1 million in additional sales per year for a mere 30 to 45 extra seconds per phone call. And keep in mind, this is done in addition to your upsell and cross-sell offers.

Supplemental Call Center Income

Many catalogers also take advantage of offering other companies' promotions at the end of their sales or customer service calls. This may involve a simple yes/no question that results in a transfer of the call as a qualified lead to another call center. Or it may involve reading a paragraph of information and asking for the sale.

These special promotions may be for discount clubs, travel clubs, long distance service or even magazine subscription offers. Payment could be in the form of a percentage of every sale, a flat rate for every script read or even full payment of the toll-free line charges accumulated over the 800 numbers used for the promotional upsell.

It is common to get conversion results in the 15-percent to 20-percent range, and these offers do not have to be read 100 percent of the time. In some cases, the offers are only read during non-peak times of the day or month.

Recovering Lost Sales

There will always be a percentage of orders that cannot be completed because of an invalid check or credit card received by mail. In addition, since many companies still do batch credit card processing, a substantial number of telephone credit card orders may come back unauthorized. Most companies simply send out a letter stating that the customer's order cannot be processed. Others send nothing at all. But there are companies that use this as an opportunity to save sales and increase the lifetime value of the customer.

This outbound call needs to be completed in a diplomatic way since it could be embarrassing for someone to be told their credit card is invalid or their check would not clear the bank. This is why it may be best suited for your customer care group.

What is the value here? If a $20 million cataloger can salvage 1 percent of sales this way, it would mean $200,000 worth of orders. This value can be multiplied many times over if the customer gets a positive experience from the sales recovery call.

These are only a few of the processes that can be put in place to increase your bottom line without much effort. Many of these processes can be turned off during peak volume times if desired and turned back on again when service levels are in the desired range. So now you can realize increased efficiency of your call center during low volume/off-peak times of the day or month and add real dollars to your sales efforts.

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