It Had to Happen: The Video Sales Force

I like talking to call center operators. It could be because I’m a divorced empty-nester and I’m just lonely. Truth is, I take inspiration from these under-appreciated human beings. You can scream at them about their company’s crappy service and outrageous prices, call them names, and accuse them of insulting your intelligence. But no matter the extent of the bluster, they remain calm, contrite, and on message. (“Sir, I promise that I won’t leave you until your problem is resolved.”) Their only annoying habit is incessantly asking if they’ve satisfied you. On second thought, the absence of such sentiment is probably the reason I’m divorced.

But we Baby Boomers are now outnumbered severely by Gen Xers and Millennials who grew up “tech” and are much more comfortable taking care of business by punching keys on devices instead of engaging with living organisms. If I’m right, and that’s the future, Pitney Bowes’ corporate digitization is heading in the right direction.

Senior executives of the company, which is in the middle of a five-year plan to sail beyond its offline identity as “the postage meter company,” were in New York this week for analyst meetings. I caught up with Greg Van den Heuvel, SVP of customer engagement solutions, at a cocktail reception and asked him how the transformation was going. “I’ve gotta tell you about our EngageOne Video program,” he said.

Video? Pitney Bowes? Van den Heuvel started telling me about personalized, interactive videos that could be emailed or accessed via QR codes that people were watching for up to 40 minutes. I wanted to ask Van den Heuvel how many bourbons he’d had, but I didn’t.

EngageOne Video, which Pitney Bowes rolled out this week, has already been tested by insurance companies, industrial suppliers, and video game marketers. They employ “virtual presenters,” actors who address customers by name and invite them to use interactive features to, for instance, find out why their utility bills are so high or what their insurance policies will do for them if their garages burned down. It’s automated call center stuff, but with more of the control in the hands of the customer, plus options to talk to live representatives.

“We have a customer, Security First Insurance, that got 50% opens on these videos in emails,” Van den Heuvel said. “You ever read your whole insurance policy? Nobody does. But people come on and input their individual concerns and three quarters of them watched for four minutes or more. The cool thing is that if people see they have holes in their policies, they can interact with the virtual presenter or go to the website or choose to talk with somebody about it.” It’s video, he said, that works as a direct sales tool.

EngageOne staffers sit down with clients to identify their key selling messages and tips from their best salespeople to develop scripts and interactive responses. And the presenters address people by name. “We video the actor reading off names. They can do 3,000 in an hour,” Van den Heuvel said.

Me, I prefer hearing my name pronounced, even if poorly, by Sandy in Little Rock or Surendra in Bangalore, over the phone. (I always ask them where they are and “How’s the weather out there?”) But I’m not the future. You can check out more about Pitney Bowes’ new venture on this video. It’s a bit long, but check out the “personalization section” and one of the case studies in “service tour.”

Pitney Bowes, mail facilitator and video producer. Who knew?

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