Telephone Upsell Boosts Cell-Phone Loyalty Program

A test by Shared Technologies Cellular to market its new loyalty program rang up success, as more than half of the customers who ordered the prepaid service by telephone bought an upsell.

The loyalty program, dubbed Club Connect, offers to keep prepaid cell phone customers' service continuously active for a monthly fee. With prepaid cell phones, if a customer allows the service to expire by failing to purchase additional minutes, the service is discontinued and can be a hassle to reactivate.

The company began testing the loyalty program this spring with postcards sent to some of the 300,000 or so former customers in its database. The company dropped 9,000 postcards during the four-week test. The program is now in full swing.

Postcard recipients were offered two options. The first was that for $9.95 a month, they could have guaranteed continuous service and make all phone-time purchases at 39 cents a minute, with free long-distance included. A second option was given when consumers called the toll-free number listed on the postcard: For $19.95 a month, consumers could receive one hour of phone time per month and half off purchases of cell phone accessories in addition to the benefits in the $9.95 offer.

As an added incentive, the postcard offered a free gift of 30 minutes of phone time to those who signed up for either option.

Shared Technologies Cellular, which operates call centers in Hartford, CT, and St. Louis, also tried to market to new and current prepaid cell phone customers when they called to pre-order more minutes for their cell phones. Telephone agents offered present customers the same deal offered to the former customers in the postcard.

About 63 percent of those who received the upsell signed up for the program, said James Rivette, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Shared Technologies Cellular, Wethersfield, CT.

“I think it's pure convenience,” Rivette said of the loyalty program's success as a telephone upsell.

Combined, the postcard and telemarketing upsell campaigns yielded 1,200 registrations for the loyalty program during the four-week test. The loyalty program has been in full swing for about six weeks, and the company has sold about 4,000 memberships total.

About two-thirds of registrants chose the $9.95 option during the test. That percentage has remained steady during the full rollout, Rivette said.

Shared Technologies Cellular has not determined yet how many postcards it will drop during the full campaign, Rivette said.

The company's call center managers had input into the postcard campaign. Shared Technologies Cellular designed the postcard inhouse and consulted with call center personnel who had had one-to-one contact with customers, Rivette said.

“They knew better than anyone what kind of people they are,” Rivette said.

The company decided to go with a bright pink postcard to stand out in the crowd of mail consumers receive. The postcard urged consumers to “Stay connected!” for 39 cents a minute.

Shared Technologies Cellular has segmented its database of former customers into three groups: those whose service lapsed within the last six months, the last 18 months and the last 24 months. The company is still trying to determine which group is most responsive.

The loyalty program was the brainchild of company chairman Anthony Autorino, Rivette said. Some of Autorino's friends had given their parents the company's prepaid cell phone service, in many cases for emergency purposes, and he was concerned that the parents would forget to keep the service turned on.

With the Club Connect program, their service is always maintained, even if they run out of minutes, Rivette said.

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