Integrating Call and Chat Centers into Your Direct Marketing Campaign

By Jeanette McMurtry

Whether you staff or outsource online chat or call centers, you need to integrate the messaging and tone of your direct‐marketing campaigns with the experience and service that happens when a customer actually calls you. And even today, many still use the phone. So you need to include phone numbers in your direct‐response mechanisms.

Here are some tips to making sure this part of the sales process moves smoothly and closes the sale you started with your direct mail campaign:

  • Keep in mind that every person is a call center or online chat representative, but most don’t realize it. You need to manage these points of customer contact very carefully by outlining how you want your phones and emails to be answered, the tone you want for your brand correspondence, the process for getting answers to questions, and how you end the call so that you can encourage further action and follow‐up. Having scripts and reviewing protocols in staff meetings is an important way to manage your live brand communications.
  • However consumers choose to engage with you via online chat, phone, email, or some type of online response mechanism, don’t underestimate the importance of responding quickly. Consumers don’t have patience to wait online or on hold to buy something. They’ll disconnect and go somewhere else.
  • Even though most people use cellphones and don’t use toll‐free numbers much, still offer one. Giving customers many options for contacting you helps make sure they do, and toll‐free numbers still carry a sense of added credibility.

Making use of phone time in direct marketing

Being accessible to your customers in part means having staff by the phones during the hours customers are most likely to call and making sure they don’t sit on hold long. Research shows that the shorter the wait to get what they want, the greater the chance of getting the sale.

Make your on‐hold messages matter. Don’t just use them to keep promoting the products you mentioned in your direct‐response campaigns; use them to keep customers happy. Tell them how to reach you via email or web if they don’t want to wait, and be sure to tell them how long to expect to wait.

Keep your wait times relevant to what you perceive to be an acceptable amount of time. Depending on the nature of your product and customer, that time limit is probably less than two perceived minutes. A perceived minute is the time period a customer on hold thinks he has waited for a minute — and that time typically comes out to be more like 40 seconds when you measure it on the clock.

If you want to hire a call center, look for some that also do online chat so you can integrate all your messages across channels.

Capturing useful information about each caller

One of the most important functions for your call center is to field inquiries or orders from new customers as they respond to your various direct‐response campaigns. These callers are hot leads that you need to gather information from. Ask how they heard of your company, and document the conversation to help with future issues that may occur and to add to the profile of the customers you talk to.

Telemarketing: To call or not

Direct‐response phone efforts in the past worked well and generated a good response because live callers tend to say yes more than they do to other channels. However, with all the regulations, privacy concerns, and Do Not Call Lists in play today, this is an increasingly difficult channel. Add the popularity of online chat versus customer service calls, and you have even more reasons not to make direct calls.

Here are some tips if you choose to include phone calls in your direct‐response mix:

  • Call only those consumers with whom you have a relationship. Cold lists produce cold results and waste a lot of time and can be a big turnoff to consumers who feel you’ve invaded their privacy. Many businesses today call people who have engaged with them through social media or who initiated a relationship by requesting information about their business or the industry in general. If your content marketing plan offers customers a free white paper, research report, checklist, or how‐to guide, it’s acceptable to many if you call them shortly after they’ve downloaded it to see whether they have any questions or would like a product demo. If you make such calls, be sure to tell them why you’re calling and make the call about their questions first and your desired next steps, such as product demo or free consultation, second.
  • Staff your call center with trained, competent salespeople. You want people who can represent your company in a professional and engaging manner. Don’t just let them wing difficult calls. Anticipate customer issues, comments, complaints. Prepare a response script and train each employee how to deliver the messages that script so your team responds professionally and consistently.
  • Prepare a good call script and adapt for various scenarios. Craft messaging for when customers call you, when you call customers, and how to respond to various concerns, complaints, and issues. If you have defined your ESP, your call scripts should address this as much as possible.
  • Call to follow up. No matter what business you’re in, assigning a team member to call each customer after a service visit or product purchase is a great way to build rapport and loyalty.
  • Consider closing each call with a survey‐type question. You can change this weekly or monthly or however often you want to. Doing so lets you learn about customers so you can better define your ESP and messaging.