P&G Extends Olay Sampling To Automated Inbound Calling

For the first time, Procter & Gamble is using inbound teleservices for consumer sample requests on its Olay Daily Facial product, an effort aimed at complementing its Web sampling and traditional offline sampling activities.

The 1-800-TRY-OLAY hotline is featured in Olay print advertising and may be incorporated into future radio and television commercials. However, instead of human operators, Procter & Gamble is using speech-to-text technology to handle consumer sample requests automatically.

The technology hears spoken responses from consumers replying to questions posed by a recorded voice. It translates the spoken response into text data, which it stores for fulfillment purposes.

In the Olay Daily Facial sampling campaign, consumers who call the hotline answer a series of questions, such as their age and whether they have allergies, to determine which of three versions of the brand are right for them. “Hydrating,” “clarifying” and “soothing” versions of the lathering skin product are available to consumers.

“It really allows us to get the right customized sample for the person's skin type,” said Dan Hamilton, Procter & Gamble's interactive marketing manager for the Olay brand.

For mailing addresses, the system uses telephone number detection to identify consumers' addresses if they call from their home phone. If not, consumers can give their correct telephone number verbally or by using the keypad on their touch-tone phones, or else verbally give their address, in which case the system can recognize most common street names.

Procter & Gamble projects that it will distribute about 200,000 samples of Olay Daily Facial through telephone requests. The company began the telephone sampling in February to coincide with a relaunch of the Olay Daily Facial product that introduced the three new versions.

Procter & Gamble has fulfilled consumer sampling requests online for a few years and has had success with that method, Hamilton said. But the company wanted to offer a telephone option also, both for the immediacy of the phone option to consumers as well as offering an alternative contact point for consumers who are uncomfortable ordering online.

At 75 cents to 85 cents per call, the speech-recognition system also provides a cheaper alternative to live inbound teleservices.

Ciber Inc. provided the speech-to-text application for the campaign while West Interactive, a business unit of Omaha, NE-based West Corp., provided the telecommunications infrastructure for handling high volumes of inbound calls.

Doug Scalia, business development executive for Ciber, said he suggested the campaign to Procter & Gamble because he saw speech-to-text as a good method to handle sampling requests. Scalia said he was familiar with the technology from his time in promotions prior to his arrival at Ciber.

“I saw it as a potential for alleviating costs while providing self-service applications,” he said of the technology. “Our customers can use it in a marketing fashion.”

Procter & Gamble pays a per-minute rate for use of the application, much as it would if it used a live call center. P&G pays an extra fee if the consumer leaves an e-mail address, an option available at the end of the call.

Ciber recommends against using speech-to-text for e-mail address recording because the system has a hard time deciphering e-mail addresses when they are spoken, Scalia said. Procter & Gamble pushed for it anyway because e-mail is integral to its marketing for the Olay Daily Facial brand, he said.

For e-mails, the system simply records the information for later transcription by a live agent, Scalia said. This method is also used when the system cannot recognize the spelling of a person's name or address, though there is no extra charge in this case.

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