Telco Boosts Telemarketing Efficiency With Targeting

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Canadian telephone company SaskTel has created more targeted telemarketing campaigns through new technologies linking its call centers to its data warehouse.


"There was a realization that we needed to do target marketing to be efficient, as we're being pushed more and more to show a return on investment at the campaign level," said Lorne Hill, market manager of knowledge management at SaskTel. "We can't just blast out telemarketing and direct mail."


SaskTel, located in Regina, Saskatchewan, is owned and operated by the province of Saskatchewan and provides local service to about 400,000 households and businesses there. Its agents make about 25,000 outbound calls per month in an effort to sell such products as long-distance service, Internet access, voice mail and cellular telephone service.


To make those calls more productive, the company recently implemented technology that allows it to use a targeted approach that blends the information it has about customers and their purchasing history with demographic neighborhood data to create campaigns more likely to have a high success rate.


A few years ago the company had a monopoly on long-distance service in the province, but since 1996 a host of other providers have entered the market, which contains about 1 million people. In the wake of the competition, SaskTel has evolved its campaign strategy from customer retention to customer acquisition for its various offerings.


SaskTel has been using the Valex


campaign-management software from Exchange Applications, Boston, to coordinate its telemarketing efforts, along with some new data-mining tools from IBM and other technologies.


The Valex software automates the process of determining when to pitch certain products to certain customers, and selects call lists based on customer behavior or certain event triggers. It then transmits the lists directly to the company's call centers.


"The level of granularity and the quality of the campaigns we're able to turn out now is a lot different than what it was a year ago," said Hill.


The enhanced targeting also has proven fiscally viable, he said. In terms of return on investment, which the company can gauge for individual cells of each campaign using measurement tools incorporated into the Valex software, some campaigns have achieved results three to four times better with targeted groups than with random groups.


In addition, Hill said the speed at which the company can turn around its campaigns has allowed it to become more flexible and responsive to changes in the marketplace.


"From a marketing cycle time, our department was the bottleneck [before the implementation of Valex]," said Hill. "The product people, the solutions people, the advertising people were all waiting on us to provide the list, particularly with telemarketing campaigns. Now we have them in the market in a matter of days, and that's changed from what used to be a matter of weeks."


Previously, campaigns had been planned on a quarterly basis, he said, and sometimes an idea that looked right in the planning phase at the end of one quarter was stale by the time it was implemented at the end of the next quarter.


Using the new structure, some telemarketing campaigns are automated so certain events can trigger a next-day marketing response. For example, when customers cancel a service with SaskTel, their names and numbers are automatically distributed to the call centers overnight into a list of reacquisition calls to be made the next day. The company uses a 70-seat outbound center in Regina for outbound calling and also has two centers with a total of about 350 seats that handle both inbound customer service and outbound telemarketing.


Another feature that Exchange Applications designed into the Valex package at SaskTel's request is a mechanism that aligns customers into optimal marketing programs, so SaskTel doesn't pitch them repeatedly for product after product. The company tries to limit its telemarketing contacts to one per person per quarter.


"With the number of products we have, we could easily flood the market with too many messages if we're not careful," Hill said. "We know that there's a fine line between the calls being perceived as loyalty-enhancing and a nuisance, and we want to make sure we're on top of that."


The Valex software also marries telemarketing to SaskTel's direct-mail campaigns by distributing mailing lists to the company's three mail houses and providing coordinated phone lists to the centers for follow-up campaigns, which generally trail the mail drops by three to four days.


Hill said he hopes to soon apply the technology to e-mail campaigns as well, so lists would be distributed in a coordinated fashion to all three communications vehicles. Although the technology is in place to do so, the company is seeking to determine the acceptance of e-mail marketing messages among its customers before it rolls out any e-mail campaigns.
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