My Twinn Boosts Close Rate With At-Home Agents

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Closed sales during My Twinn's holiday 2000 catalog campaign increased 30 percent compared to the previous year's total as the doll marketer instituted a work-at-home inbound sales agent program.

The company hired call center outsourcer Alpine Access to take orders generated in response to its holiday catalogs, which were dropped last year between September and December. Alpine Access, Golden, CO, has since become My Twinn's primary provider of call center services.

However, Alpine Access owns no call centers. Instead, agents work part time from their computers at home using dial-up modem connections to the company headquarters.

Alpine Access hires and trains a different group of agents for each of its eight clients. In My Twinn's case, 450 agents took hundreds of thousands of calls during the peak of the holiday season. Customer service calls were also handled.

My Twinn, Englewood, CO, dropped a different catalog during each of the final four months of 2000. Vice president of customer service and sales Gail Hickert said the combined total of catalogs dropped numbered "in the millions."

During the 2000 campaign, My Twinn's sales force experienced a turnover rate that was 80 percent below the attrition level experienced during the 1999 holiday campaign. This resulted in agents with more experience and less money spent on training, Hickert said.

My Twinn uses an in-house list and rented lists for its catalog campaigns. The cost of a typical doll order is between $129 and $169, not including clothing and accessories.

Most of the orders taken during the holiday 2000 catalog campaign were received via the company's toll-free number, which is listed at the bottom of virtually every other page in the catalogs. My Twinn catalogs also include the company's Web address, which accounted for 5 percent to 10 percent of orders during the 2000 holiday season.

Alpine Access agents are not handling online orders for My Twinn. However, Hickert said My Twinn plans to have the agents receive customer e-mail by the start of the holiday 2001 campaign.

My Twinn established parameters regarding the agents who would be hired for its campaign. The company wanted agents who could relate to the target demographic, which includes well-educated, 30-something mothers in high-income families. Alpine Access placed ads in Colorado's major newspapers - the Denver Post and the Denver Rocky Mountain News - asking for candidates who fit the description.

"We were intrigued by the idea of the at-home agent, by the ability to more closely match the demographic of our customers with the demographic of our agents," Hickert said.

Alpine Access agents must be able to use their phone and the Internet simultaneously, either by using a DSL or cable connection or by having two phone lines. Agents audition over the phone and train over the Internet.

Agents are never required to visit the company headquarters. Alpine Access president Steve Rockwood said he has met only about a dozen of his employees.

"Until I have video phone agents, it shouldn't matter what they look like," Rockwood said.

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