Holidays Arrive Early -- Really Early -- Via Voxify

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A smiling snowman staring you in the face is hard to ignore, especially when it's 90-plus degrees outside.


With the holiday shopping season so important for retailers, automated call center agent provider Voxify Inc. conducted a direct mail campaign this summer offering merchants a last chance to sign up for its services before the season begins. The Christmas-in-July campaign appears to be tapping into the anticipation many merchants feel about what is traditionally their biggest selling period of the year, since it has seen a 9 percent response rate among companies so far.


Voxify, Alameda, CA, develops speech applications for customer service centers that are called Automated Agents. The 4-year-old company's clients include Hammacher Schlemmer, Restoration Hardware and Ticketmaster.


Retailers are one of the company's largest target segments because they have the highest number of call center agents, said Hollis Chin, director of marketing at Voxify. In addition, retailers are under pressure to provide more services to customers, are operating with constantly tighter margins and "their whole year is made or broken in six weeks of the year," Chin said.


As a result, Voxify thinks retailers have a strong need to reduce call center costs while still handling calls in a customer-friendly way. That is where Automated Agents come in. Voxify promises that its agents can answer the widest range of call types, including locating a store and booking a transaction. Voxify says its Automated Agents average a 90 percent completion rate.


To get the word out to retailers and give them a chance to put Voxify agents in place in time for the holiday season, the company created the Christmas-in-July campaign.


"In July, retailers are working away, getting ready for Christmas," Chin said. "We wanted to get their attention by celebrating Christmas now."


The first element of the integrated campaign was a boxed mailing with a snowman ornament to 857 names from 210 companies. An in-house list provided the names.


In general, "the more contacts that you have within a company, the greater the response," Chin said. So while in this case it was important to send the box to the person in charge of the call centers, it also helped to send it to others in the organization because "sometimes there is a little conversation that happens between people," she said.


The company sent an ornament in the shape of a snowman holding a box because it "personifies the idea of a helper," Chin said, and, by extension, Voxify's Automated Agents. An accompanying Christmas card invited recipients to call a toll-free number and listen to a two-minute demo of a Voxify Automated Agent. The card also indicated that anyone who called and listened to the demo would receive a $20 gift certificate from Hammacher Schlemmer.


An e-mail reminder went to the same list a week later, followed by a phone call reminder the week after that.


"I believe that it is the combination of the three different mediums that gets somebody's attention," Chin said, adding that she has successfully used integrated campaigns that employ direct mail to target specific segments for years.


Of the 210 companies contacted, 9 percent have listened to the demo so far, and 3 percent of the 857 individuals approached have responded. Voxify is following up with everyone who responded to book meetings.


Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.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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