Wildlife Federation Targets Upsells With Customer Data

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As a nonprofit organization, the National Wildlife Federation relies strongly on membership donations to sustain its financial health. But it also generates revenue through catalog sales -- with products ranging from clothing to curtains -- and children's magazine subscriptions.

However, competing for children's attention with other media, such as television, the Internet and other publications, is a challenge, so NWF has a system to attract the attention of adult customers to build brand awareness as well as the subscriber base.

Using the SMART customer service system from Communication Data Services, the NWF more effectively upsells and cross-sells products to its magazine subscription customers.

CDS, a division of Hearst Corp., serves as the fulfillment house for NWF publications (Wild Animal Baby, Your Big Backyard and Ranger Rick) as well as publications by other organizations. It mines customer data so that when customers call to subscribe to NWF magazines, they are connected to a customer service representative who presents a relevant cross- or upsell based on information such as which titles they purchased in the past.

NWF, Reston, VA, determines what items to offer and which customers to pitch. CDS, Des Moines, IA, sends weekly activity reports and monthly reports summarizing the success -- or failure -- of a particular selling campaign.

For a given week, CDS sends a report on how many offers were made, what the offers were and how many were accepted by customers. In addition, it reveals the best day of that week. It also notes whether the purchase was a gift, the dollar amount and payment method of each transaction.

"We can see revenue and how we're doing, and that will tell us if we don't want to offer this, if we want to change the offer or if we maybe want to change the criteria on how we [target customers] for the upsell," said Karan Sage, NWF retention manager, circulation marketing.

The system lets NWF almost personalize the upsell, Sage said.

"The upsell to the other titles is where it really benefits all parties involved," she said. "It's the specialization that you can get in terms of which people will be extended offers. You're getting a pool of people who are your best candidates rather than a pool of everyone. And CDS' computer will know the past history and if there's a higher potential from this customer versus a previous customer in whether or not they will take an upsell. Their system does all the calculating for us."

Sage said she has been pleased with the results. In one particular month, 4,189 offers were extended and 272 were accepted for a 6.5 percent acceptance rate. Also in that month, one particular offer was accepted 13.4 percent of the time. Offers are typically NWF magazines for which callers don't have a subscription, but sometimes are items such as videos.

"It is an excellent tool to get people interested in the other magazines," she said. "Usually a buyer stays focused on the reason for the call and may not be aware of the other things that are available. The magazines are our greatest assets, and getting them the exposure really helps circulation."

Sage said that outsourcing these processes to CDS lets the federation collect this type of data on its customer interactions.

"You wouldn't get reporting like this [inhouse]," she said. "You might get a customer service rep to put a mark to say 'yes, I offered an upsell and yes, they accepted the upsell.' It would be very difficult to have the person write down what the upsell was unless somebody had a cheat sheet in front of them with all the offers and they just had to check a box."

It also gives Sage an objective look at the results. In one report, she noticed that an offer she was monitoring closely hadn't been presented to callers. She e-mailed her contact at CDS and learned that no one met the criteria for the offer during that week.

"Those are some of the red flags that we would look for," Sage said. "And sometimes I might tell them to forgo some of the other items in a particular title that week and go with another because it's doing so well."

Though the CDS customer service reps have customer information related to NWF buying history, they don't have access to customer data from NWF's catalog and membership segments. Sage said they have to advise customers to call other toll-free numbers for those areas and risk losing those customers when redirecting the calls. However, NWF is using its work with CDS to bring its separate businesses together.

"Right now, we're asking certain people if they would like to donate money to NWF through an upsell," she said. "It's new to CDS, and it's new to us in terms of publications. It's not new to this organization in terms of membership because they solicit that all the time. We're trying to tweak it and see how we can make it work."

Marji McClure covers CRM and analytics 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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