Selecting a Call Center for Your DRTV Campaign

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As you're aware, poor conversion in the call center can send a good DRTV campaign to the grave faster than anything else. You can have a killer creative and a bumper crop of calls, but if your calls are getting sucked into a telemarketing black hole, you'll never make it work. With over 3,000 telemarketing firms throughout the United States who can you trust?

With the ongoing flood of entrepreneurs hitting the spot radio and long form television advertising ranks, the need for more high-conversion call centers is increasingly important. As a marketer, you've spent thousands of dollars in R&D and production to make sure that your advertisement has the kind of electricity to generate responses from mass audiences. With retail distribution as the end to the means, many of you look to use DRTV as a break-even vehicle to brand your products.

Traditional thinking says that if a company reaches break even through front-end sales and creates consumer need, then the marketing objectives are accomplished. In some cases I could agree with this. But too often I see marketers leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table because the process used in selecting a call center is misguided.

Many marketers who seek a good call center need to spend more time asking the right questions that uncover the most important answers. Would you believe there are some telemarketing companies whose conversion rates exceeds 40 percent on "soft offer" (no mention of price) television campaigns with average sales prices ranging from $89.95 to $120.

Choosing a high yielding call center comes from exploring three primary areas. First, delve into the screening process the center uses to select its people. In a competitive marketplace, the strength and effectiveness of an organization comes from people, especially where access to technology is universal. Highly specialized technology is not, and will not be a substitute for managing the workforce; it just makes the workforce that much more important for success. Southwest Airlines, for example, isn't a subscriber of any big computerized reservation system nor does it employ process technology that's unique. It simply offers a low cost, no-frill service at prices that its competition has difficulty matching. These cost effective strategies come from hiring and managing an effective workforce. By focusing on its employees as a core competency, Southwest has kept a competitive edge that has helped it win the airline Triple Crown award for service nine times.

Like Southwest, those telemarketing companies who use customized screening tools to select telemarketers increase their rate of success immensely. Without a sophisticated screening process, the selection of telemarketers is more of an art, and less of a science. With an ongoing flow of data, screening tools can be sharpened weekly and monthly to increase the odds for success. The result can be fewer turnovers, less resources and ultimately the increase in revenues.

A question that a marketer may ask is what percentage of applicants the company hires. If you're requiring high-conversion rates and the telemarketer employs 70 percent to 80 percent of all the applicants, I would question the effectiveness of the workforce.

The second area that I would investigate is the whether the compensation system rewards success, and how frequently and accurately success is measured. Effective telemarketers' common mantra is "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." If people are to be used to gain a competitive advantage, they should be given information on what is required to achieve success. When sales agents are given hourly and daily reports on their key metrics, they are empowered and take ownership stakes. The telemarketing companies who operate within this virtual "dash board" environment can identify problems sooner, make changes quicker, and ultimately deliver more quantifiable results. The implementation of accurate and timely reports will form the basis that will support an effective compensation system.

High-yielding call centers understand how to create compensation models that reward for individual performance without setting up internal competition. Internal competition stifles constructive feedback and can undermine the entrepreneurial spirit. If winning is a result of someone losing, then how can internal competition add value? Remember the feeling that you got the last time you lost. As I mentioned earlier, the reason that some call centers convert at 40 percent is because they've implemented these systems and philosophies.

The last area to be aware of while making your decision is training. The most effective call centers initiate product training programs before employees are hired. The measure of someone's work ethic can be measured prior to employment through these programs. My belief is that if a sales agent can't pass the product knowledge tests to get employment, then chances they won't be a very productive employee.

Sales agents who actively use the products they sell make far more compelling sales presentations. These living, walking, breathing testimonials get consumers excited about the thought of making a purchase. Successful DRTV campaigns are usually profitable when upselling, cross-selling and auto-shipping conversion rates are maximized. Ongoing training after employment that includes product knowledge, role-playing, uncovering need, feature and benefit selling and overcoming objections is crucial for ongoing success.

Like the old saying goes "If you want to know how the empire is run, meet the emperor." As icing on the cake, a call center walk-through will help you confirm your choice of center. This visit will allow you to feel the tone and tempo of the call center. Employees that are well-paid and enjoy what they do exude a certain passion and enthusiasm. If you can take the time to gather more information and carefully explore certain areas of a call center, you're odds for success increase considerably.

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