January 2008 - Channel Crossing: Telemarketing

Maximizing ROI With On-Demand Virtual Call Centers

By Matt Fisher

It has happened to all of us. You call to make a purchase by phone, only to get a busy signal or be placed on hold waiting for the “next available operator.” Ultimately, your patience wanes until you hang up in frustration-forgoing your purchase altogether. What is the cost to a company for that dropped call? Millions of dollars spent on media buys and loss of revenue, not to mention potential damage to brand and customer loyalty.

Though it seems simple enough, traditional facilities-based call centers generally fall short when it comes to capturing every call. It’s estimated within the industry that a typical call center will have an “abandon rate” (or percentage of dropped calls) anywhere from 10 to 15 percent.

Capturing every call that a media buy generates can be the most significant challenge within any DRTV campaign. After all, call volume within the industry is inherently unpredictable, full of volatility and large spikes.

The best shows are tackling the challenge by turning to on-demand, virtual call centers made up of home-based customer service agents. Designed with the DR industry in mind, these call centers can scale from tens to hundreds of agents answering calls within minutes. Companies that use agents in physical call centers simply don’t have the same flexibility or speed to scale in real-time.

It’s bringing flexibility and pay-per-usage to the direct response market. Therefore, even when a show’s performance substantially exceeds expectations, every call gets answered. Alternatively, when a show substantially underperforms, DR companies are only paying for the calls answered.

There are other advantages. The virtual contact center model is not limited to agents who live within a 50-mile commute radius of a call center. Instead, there’s a pool of thousands of agents across the country, which allows the selection of only the best skilled and certified agents for a specific show. Also, because home agents are generally very happy with the flexibility of working from home, competitive pressures for wage increases aren’t an issue.

Home agents offer an extremely high-quality customer experience. Eighty percent of home agents are college educated and 75 percent have prior sales experience. Many are work-from-home parents who wouldn’t otherwise work if it required them to go into an office, but who are highly skilled. And, because these agents are home-based, they have the flexibility to handle an influx of calls during peak periods such as late in the evenings or on weekends. More important, home agents don’t require minimum four-hour shifts. They are perfectly happy answering calls in 30-minute blocks.

The bottom line is this: On-demand, virtual call centers are dramatically increasing profitability and conversion rates for the best DR shows in an extremely cost-effective way, with a level of customer service that exceeds any other call center option. The shows that don’t adopt this model will simply be uncompetitive.

Matt Fisher is vice president of direct response of LiveOps in Palo Alto, Calif. He can be reached at (800) 411-4700.


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