Contributions to Profit: Track Call-to-Order Conversions
Readers: With this issue we welcome new columnist Jim Gilbert, a catalog and DM consultant and a professor of direct marketing. In this column, which we’ll publish 10 times this year, Mr. Gilbert will offer practical strategies that can help you boost sales and profitability. —Editors
Any time a customer communicates with your company — that is, interacts with you via one of your customer touchpoints — you have an opportunity to increase sales and goodwill. Unfortunately in some cases, it’s also an opportunity to lose sales and goodwill. I can’t stress this enough: You must analyze and consistently monitor all of your customer touchpoints to ensure they’re working to your advantage.
In this article series, we’ll examine your main customer touchpoints. You’ll learn new ways to increase sales and goodwill. I’ll start with the contact center as the first touchpoint to track.
Your CTO Ratio
As a direct marketer, your job depends on making the phone ring. But it’s the contact center touchpoint that truly can make your cash stream sing.
The goal of your contact center should be to turn every call into an order. Thus, it’s mission critical to track your call-to-order conversion (CTO) ratio so as not to leave any dollars on the table.
I’m surprised at how many companies don’t track this metric. Not only should it be examined in total, but also it should be done for every customer service rep (CSR) you employ. Set up tracking methods so you can analyze the reasons people call but don’t buy. Most call center software allows for the CSR to enter a numeric code into the contact history if a call doesn’t result in an order. That numeric code ties into a specific reason for not purchasing. Your system should be able to generate reports based on your CSRs’ input.
If you don’t have the capability to track in your software, you could do things the old-fashioned way. Tick sheets simply are pieces of paper a CSR uses to mark off each call and add a call disposition to each tick mark. You’d then collect these at the end of the shift, and do the math to get the conversion ratio.
Tip: Don’t include customer service-related calls, such as returns and exchange calls, calls to check on back-ordered items, and of course those “Take me off your mailing list” calls. They should be tracked separately, possibly diverted to a different call group or even given their own customer service call-in number.
Here’s a simple CSR training program that can increase conversions: Train CSRs to think on their feet and not just interact with customers and prospects by reading a script. Of course, good call center software with a scripted environment can be beneficial, but sometimes even the best scripting can’t beat a well-trained CSR’s instincts. Hire reps who can work this way, and then mentor and monitor them on an ongoing basis. (And analyze their call times, as CSRs can burn up valuable phone time in too-lengthy, personal calls.)
You don’t need elaborate monitoring equipment. Simply use a cassette recorder and some basic equipment you can buy at RadioShack to record the CSRs’ calls for a day. Split the group into teams of three or four, sit in a room together, and listen to the day’s calls.
Teach reps to actively and objectively listen to the calls, and coach one another on the cues and buying signals that sometimes get missed in real time. If you spot a missed buying signal, stop the tape (encourage all reps to stop the tape) and role-play how they could’ve made a difference in converting the call.
During the training process, set up contests for the CSRs and the training team that generates the highest conversion rates. Train the reps to be gentle with customers (keep a careful eye on your returns). Being overly aggressive to win a contest can be the unwanted end result. Stress the quality of the customer relationship as well as the quantity of orders.
Using this technique at one company, we increased conversion rates by 20 percent. And by fostering an atmosphere of teamwork and healthy competition, we increased the enthusiasm and level of positive spirits in the contact center.
Capture All Demand
Also train CSRs to capture customers’ basic contact data (e.g., name, address) and how they heard about your company, at the beginning of the call in case a sale doesn’t convert. Not only does this unfulfilled demand count on your response analysis, but these potentially are future customers who’ve already shown affinity toward your products and should be included in future mail plans. Moreover, you wouldn’t want to pay a list rental fee for these names later on.
One way to combat lost demand is to offer a down-sell item, a low-cost or discounted product that can be used as a last effort by your CSRs to make a sale. The key to this technique is to ensure your CSRs are properly trained to be aggressive without crossing a legal or ethical line. Of course if a customer wants something that’s out of stock or just has a question, you may wind up upsetting a future customer or creating ill will by giving the down-sell offer. For those callers you may be better off just getting their contact data and including them in future mailings.
My goal for this column is to have it be a forum for exchanging ideas on how to increase sales and decrease direct-selling expenses. How do you combat lost demand in your contact center? What techniques do you use to manage your CTO ratio? Send your ideas and comments to my e-mail address below; we’ll publish them in an article or on our Web site.
Jim Gilbert is the former vice president of operations and direct marketing for a Florida-based catalog company, and is the president of Gilbert Direct Marketing, a catalog and DM consultancy. He is professor of direct marketing at Miami International University of Art and Design. Contact him at (561) 302-1719 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Gilbert has had a storied career in direct and digital marketing resulting in a burning desire to tell stories that educate, inform, and inspire marketers to new heights of success.
After years of marketing consulting, Jim decided it was time to “put his money where his mouth was" and build his own e-commerce company, Premo Natural Products, with its flagship product, Premo Guard Bed Bug & Mite Sprays. Premo in its second year is poised to eclipse 100 percent growth.
Jim has been writing for Target Marketing Group since 2006, first on the pages of Catalog Success Magazine, then as the first blogger for its online division. Jim continues to write for Total Retail.
Along the way, Jim has led the Florida Direct Marketing Association as their Marketing Chair and then three-term President, been an Adjunct Professor of Direct and Digital marketing for Miami International University, and created a lecture series, “The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing,” which he has presented across the country at conferences and universities.