Test Turns Customer Service Calls Into Profit

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Though online marketers generally view customer service calls as an unnecessary expense, new research by online marketing laboratory MarketingExperiments.com suggests companies can make money from inbound customer service calls that formerly resulted in refunds or canceled subscriptions.

The research, published in Marketing Experiments Journal, outlines how MarketingExperiments, Atlantic Beach, FL, saved subscriptions and upsold new services by training call center operators and providing them with special tools and incentives. Over a week, operators fielded 662 inbound customer service calls and averaged a profit of $3.45 per call. The save and upsell success rate was 14 percent.

MarketingExperiments' research brief offers guidelines:

· Give agents incentive by using commissions: This may let you pay agents a lower hourly wage while encouraging them to make more money.

· Make incentives fair to everyone. If some reps are unable to field as many calls, base contests on percentage of saves and upsells instead of sheer volume. And pay contest incentives frequently (perhaps even daily) so everyone feels like they have a good chance to win.

· Give customers a reason not to cancel. Incentives will be unique to each business but may include discounts, additional products or services and other value-added elements.

· Use compelling upsells. Don't expect agents to sell many additional products if the offers themselves aren't well-targeted to your customer base.

· Refine scripts used for saves and upsells over time. Ideally, your agents will learn these well and not sound like they are reading.

· Customer information should be automatically transferred from one product to another to allow for quick and easy upsells.

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