Country Singer Uses Virtual Voice for Inbound Sales

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Old-time country music meets high-tech teleservices as singer Cristy Lane's promotion company, which sells her CDs via DRTV advertising, is automating its inbound direct response lines and cutting costs in half.


LS Records and LS Advertising, Nashville, TN, saw per-call costs drop from $5 with a live inbound teleservices provider to $2.50 when it tested an automated interactive voice response system.


The IVR system, provided by Advanced Interactive Sciences, Palm Harbor, FL, uses intuitive speech recognition technology to answer customer questions and read a script to simulate a live conversation. IVR systems generally are used for customer service functions, but AIS offers them for use in sales as teleservices users seek ways to trim costs.


Lane is a country and gospel singer whose career took off in the mid-1970s with singles such as "One Day at a Time." In the 1980s, her husband and promoter, Lee Stoller, began promoting her music via DRTV with success and has continued to use the channel since.


Stoller said he stumbled upon the AIS system nearly by accident. He got interested in alternatives to live phone response because inbound service was growing cost prohibitive, he said.


"I was exploring around and wondering why somebody hadn't come up with automation services," he said.


Stoller said he was surprised one day when he called to order a flashlight he saw on a DRTV ad and encountered a "virtual representative" -- a speech-recognition IVR provided by AIS. He asked his assistant -- his daughter, Cindy -- to find the company responsible for the technology. That led him to AIS.


For the past month and a half, Stoller tested the automated system against his old live teleservices agency. He sought sales numbers roughly equal to what he experienced using live representatives. Instead, Stoller found that the average order per call rose to $36 from $26 using the automated system. After the successful test, he decided to use AIS' automated response system for all inbound calls.


The current DRTV campaign for LS Advertising has a main offer with three upsells. The main offer is a two-CD set of Cristy Lane music for $14.99 plus $5.99 shipping.


The automated rep then goes into the first upsell, asking customers whether they want to buy extra two-CD sets as gifts at the same price. Then it launches into the second upsell, offering the 12-song Cristy Lane CD "Songs of Passion" for the cost of shipping, $4.99.


The third upsell is for Lane's "Country Classics" at half-price for $9.99. One positive of offering upsells via an automated representative is that the automated system gives a consistent pitch, whereas live reps can vary in quality, Stoller said.


Inconsistency in delivery of live inbound teleservices is one problem such automated systems are designed to address, said Ed Barbara, AIS executive vice president of business development. An automated inbound system also eliminates hold times and abandonment because it can accept thousands of calls simultaneously.


One potential problem involves consumers who prefer a live voice. The system is set up so customers can ask to speak to a live agent, Barbara said.


Stoller said he is sold on automated inbound sales. He thinks use of automated rep systems for inbound sales will be the norm in the future.


"I've been in the business 25-plus years and done all the cables, all the magazines," he said. "I'm a 100 percent believer in this."


Scott Hovanyetz covers telemarketing, production and printing and direct response TV marketing for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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