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Telemarketing in Ecommerce: The “Forgotten” Secret to Larger Baskets and Customer Satisfaction (The Quick Guide).

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In the past years, telemarketing has become a – forgotten and then rediscovered – key element in the ecommerce business. The telemarketing professional not only may take orders (which would not happen otherwise) and help solve customer problems – he or she is quite literally the voice of your company. In this article you will discover ways to get the most from your telephone staff.

Use This Checklist to Analyze Your Telemarketing Program

To evaluate the efficiency of your telemarketing operation, ask your telemarketing supervisors these questions:

  1. How often are individual telemarketer reviews given regarding calls observed through the monitoring equipment? (Weekly reviews should be minimum.)
  2. How often are phone sales training sessions conducted? Do they cover product benefits, cross­ selling, up-selling, our-of-stock replacements, etc.? (Again, weekly training sessions should be minimum.)
  3. Are outbound phone calls made to regular customers? How often?
  4. What outbound phone effort is being made to follow up on initial inquiries in which no immediate sale is made?
  5. Are scripts being used? How often are alternate scripts tested against the control script(s)?
  6. What analysis has been made to review potential interactive/rule-based scripts, cross-selling, up-selling, out-of-stock replacements, objection handling, winback tactics, questions/responses, etc. ?
  7. Has “rifle selling” been tested against mass campaigning for premium products? (Outbound phone calls to qualify; promos sent only to receptive prospects; outbound calls to close.)
  8. What back-end analysis of the telemarketing effort has been made? (Closure rates by customer total revenue, size of orders by customer total revenue, script comparisons, rifle vs. mass marketing, part-time vs. full-time telemarketers, commissioned vs. hourly, etc.)

Unfortunately, the replies to these questions by most telemarketing supervisors/managers often will be “never, seldom, or have not considered it.”

Management must understand that a telemarketing operation actually can make or break their business. Professional ecommerce telemarketing can keep you ahead of the competition within your market, whether you are into B2C or B2B. Ecommerce selling must be distinctive, personalizing your corporate marketing effort.

Making the Most of Your 800 Number

If your ecommerce company has a toll-free number, you have the capability to perform valuable marketing functions. But it takes personnel, training and insight into your company’s marketing requirements. Four prime areas for maximizing the sales efficiency of your 800 number follow:

  1. If you want people to call your 800 number only with orders, this must be prominently displayed throughout your website and any other advertising. State that this number is for orders only. List a separate number for customer service. Feature your 800 number on your online order form, and in all your ads. Highlight the order-by-phone convenience in your copy. People respond positively to this service, especially for impulse purchases. Often orders made by phone, due to upselling and cross-selling tactics, surpass online-only orders in their basket value.
  2. You might offer phone customer service through a separate 800 number. Having trained individuals ready to answer questions and tackle problems can benefit you in several ways. Your public relations receives a boost. The degree of buyer confidence will increase, and with it the inclination to make repeat purchases from your company.
  3. Whenever possible, close the sale on the initial incoming call, even when the respondent is only calling with an inquiry. Experience has shown that about 20 percent of incoming calls are about product information, price shopping, etc. This is where your training program really pays off. To keep costs down, you should attempt to sell on a majority of these calls. Awareness is there, interest is there – all that is required is a close.
  4. To determine whether the 800 number truly increases sales, you should conduct A/B split testing. Run a control group (no phone support, online only ordering) versus the group with the usual marketing piece plus the 800 number and measure the difference in results. Assuming a properly run test, any difference in response would be attributed to the 800 number. You also might conduct an A/B/C test, with the A/B portion as above. The C would be involve the consumer paying for the phone call. (Some companies have found that their customers are willing to pay for the call. You should consider testing this option, especially if your country’s 800 rate is expensive and consumer call rates are virtually free, as in most of Europe.)

Effective Script Preparation for Phone Sales

The interaction between buyer and seller on a personal, one-to-one basis is extremely fragile in telemarketing. You will achieve the most success when this dialogue is structured into a script to ensure consistency, quality and standardization.

With this script, each prospect hears the same, carefully worded message. Human error is reduced and a reliable basis for projecting results of test efforts is achieved.

Successful scriptwriting must be clear, concise, conversational and convincing. The copy must:

  • Avoid vague claims, half-truths and hard-sell tactics which only turn off prospects
  • Anticipate questions or objections that require additional data
  • Elicit and encourage response from the prospect

The following are six steps in preparing an effective telemarketing script:

  1. Set a limit in length. Govern this by the type of decision-maker you are contacting, and by the dollar value of the item you are selling.
  2. For outbound calls, ask for the prospect by name. Verify that the desired person is actually on the phone.
  3. Identify your live agent. Immediately upon contact with the prospect, your seller should identify himself or herself, the company, and the purpose of the call.
  4. Highlight the key benefits of the offer. Be sure this is done clearly and concisely.
  5. Script the answers to questions the target prospect may ask. Anticipate points that may need further explanation, as well as potential objections and problems.
  6. Present the offer as an “either/or” choice. Do not make the selection too broad but present a couple of options whenever possible.

This procedure gives the communicator the necessary flexibility to establish a relaxed tone and style and determines the prospect s level of interest quickly.

Test and revise each step to achieve maximum efficiency. You can test the effectiveness of your script within panels of 50 to 500 calls, depending on your conversion rate and statistical validity you would like to achieve.

Live monitoring of calls lets you control the quality of your live agents’ messages and make corrections in the script. Modifications to questions and answers, style and tone can be made as the calls progress. The immediacy of the phone allows for fast testing and retesting.

Within a few hours, you can analyze and evaluate results by keeping accurate records. You will know percentages of interest, disinterest, types of questions and objections, and the need for additional information.

You will know which selling points work. And this can be further tested using A/B or multivariate testing techniques. Final scripts should be in an interactive format that allows fast, easy handling by live agents.

And if something is still not right, you can do a mid-­stream test, make the necessary modifications and continue your selling effort.

A Quick-Hitter Promo for the Phone Room

There are times in the life of an ecommerce when things just do not seem to go as planned. One of the most terrifying is when you are faced with response rates that are just below what you had expected.

Let’s say it is week number two or three after your huge email campaign, and order volume is 10 to 20 percent below what you had planned for. You are not sure if this signals a general weakness in the product selection appeal or email distribution issues or some external influence like a major national election.

For purity of analysis, you are tempted to “wait it out” and read the results in another week or so. But the dollar volume is just weak enough to force you to reconsider future campaign budgets.

Is there anything you can do to increase dollar sales volume for a short period of time until the bigger question of current campaign’s performance is resolved?

If you can do a substantial volume by phone, the answer is yes. Use an “add-on-item/get-a-discount” promotion to spike average order size in the phone room. Here is how it works.

After the customer has completed his order online, the sales representative phones him or her and announces that today is a very special day: if the customer adds another item, any item, to the order, there will be a 20 percent discount on the lowest-priced item in his order.

The time to handle this explanation and promotion is generally under one minute – and the average order size can be increased by as much as 25 percent! For many companies, adding any item will cover the cost of the extra minute, as well as the discount.

This promotion can be turned on and off at will for short periods of time. It can recapture some of the lost dollar volume without affecting analysis of campaign response rates. Because it stimulates added item sales, this technique tends to build volume among the modestly popular items in your ecommerce. And it is broader in its appeal and easier to execute than selling specials on specific items.

This could become your all-year tactic: confirming orders and upselling them by phone. (Consider contacting first those consumers who have largest basket value and from there go down.)

Get More Profit from Each Call

Because the phone is a uniquely personal, “hot” medium where human contact is quickly and easily established, it is not difficult to initiate profitable upsell and cross-sell programs.

Items listed by category in a computer database can easily generate other suggested purchases. An operator simply keys in the item number of the purchase, and the computer responds instantly with another suggestion.

A shoe purchase naturally suggests socks, stockings, or boots. Or there may be a “special” on a “better” model or version, a “deluxe” packaging, a matched set, or two of an item for only a few dollars more.

Some marketers have experimented with “bargain sales” of slow-moving or leftover merchandise, which is easy to describe, or which appears prominently in the online promo used for the initial order.

Each additional sale per call substantially lowers the overall order cost, and these possibilities should be examined carefully considering your product line. An additional profit of only a few dollars can completely underwrite the cost of the entire order in many cases.

How to Rate Company Performance (As Well As Its Phone Performance) by Measuring Incoming Calls

One definition of a customer is “someone who buys your products more than once or who is willing to go through the experience again”. If you find this definition acceptable, you also will find that your incoming calls will break down into two major categories, which you can track.

  1. Short term revenue-related calls.
    a. Orders
    b. Sales inquiries: “how much is…, tell me about…? do you have…? I have this need, so can you… ?”
    Orders are immediate dollars. Sales inquiries can be converted into immediate dollars by trained phone representatives. Inquiries that are not able to be sold immediately but are captured as names should convert in the short term at a high rate – up to 35 percent – on subsequent phone follow-up.
  2. Long term revenue-related calls.
    c. “Where’s my order?”
    d. Product problems: “It doesn’t work! How does it work?”
    e. Administrator problems: product not what I expected, product damaged upon receipt, never received, bill incorrect
    f. Complaints (usually an unresolved problem)

If you do not correct these problems as they arise, you will “create” complaints and lose long-term revenue customers! By measuring each of these categories on an ongoing basis and taking each as a percent of the total incoming customer calls, management can get a good barometer of overall company performance.

For instance, a general rule of thumb for mature companies is: if they have 50 to 60 percent short term revenue-related calls and 40 to 50 percent long term revenue-related calls, they generally are well-run organizations.

Whether or not this particular pattern is considered good or bad depends on your standards. The point is that you have specific data to interpret. A quick look at the example below tells you that for every order you are getting 0.6 “where’s my order?” calls.

Obviously it could be one of several problems: low inventory, slow order processing, a promise of delivery time that cannot be met. But the importance of categoric measurement is to furnish a control that provides a measure on which to base standards and determine the impact of short- and long-term revenue.

Total Calls1,000100
60% of Total
“Where’s my order?”25025
Product problem606
Billing problem888.8
40% of Total
Incoming phone calls evaluation worksheet.

A “Person-to-Person” Method for Reactivating Customers

There is just no substitute for the truly personal connection in any sales environment. This includes the ecommerce, where friendly, accommodating, knowledgeable phone live agents and responsive, sincere, helpful customer service reps can be the lifeblood of long-term, repeat sales – the most profitable kind.

Even the most humble ecommerce site with the simplest layout can be brought dramatically “to life” with a personalized approach to customer service. Including photos of your customer service staff on your website is valuable in creating the feeling that your company is warm and helpful. Adding copy (and a phone number) that suggests that these people are waiting to be of service enhances that feeling.

The importance of friendly and responsive customer service reps is obvious, but they can be used m a proactive as well as a reactive way. You should have enough people on staff so that each one can take about an hour a day to call inactive customers and ask how they may be of service.

The rep should have the customer’s order history available when such calls are placed, and should inquire if additional merchandise of a similar or related nature is required. If your customer service reps can actually make sales, that is ideal.

Even if they cannot, you still can learn plenty about your customers’ behavior this way. Complaints customers never bothered to communicate (but that drove them away) about delivery, merchandise, price or other problems may surface.

Of course, you must have the customer’s phone number to place the call, but you should request phone numbers routinely on your online order form (“in case we have to call about your order”).

If your customer service representative makes a sale, grant a commission or bonus for reactivating the customer. In fact, give him or her a bonus for any sale made, whether the customer is active or inactive. Perhaps a regular customer stops placing an expected order if an observant, conscientious phone rep makes a well-timed call, this could keep a customer on the active list – a service well worth paying for.

How Excellent Telephone Communications Can Give You a Competitive Edge in Customer Service

Today’s consumers have more – and less. They have more discretionary income, more concern for product quality and more demand for excellence in service. But they have less time than ever for shopping. This has created a golden opportunity for ecommerce marketers. As the industry grows, one way to gain the competitive edge is to provide excellent customer service.

By live people and phone instead of convoluted FAQs, interactive phone menus, bots or automated emails.

The foundation of good telephone communications is knowledge of how people listen and learn. According to one study, 55 percent of what people learn is gained through body language. Forty-five percent comes from the tone of voice. Only five percent is accumulated through spoken words.

It is a shocking revelation that when a customer picks up a phone to place an order or inquire about fulfillment, more than half of what he or she would ordinarily use to process information, draw a conclusion or develop a feeling is unavailable.

This is why it is imperative that the phone staff identify and fully develop the tools available to them. One of the most important of those is the tone of voice. To develop an excellent phone customer service voice, one must understand the five elements which influence tone:

  • Attitude
  • Smiling
  • Volume
  • Rate of speech
  • Inflection

Attitude, more than any other factor, influences how the phone staff sounds. Unfortunately, when staff members consider their job, they often describe the functions they perform, and convey the mistaken attitude that “the customer is an interruption of my job.” This can blemish every phone conversation.

When the staff understands that the customers are the essence of the job, that will be reflected in sales conversations and generate positive customer reaction.

Smiling is the second most influential factor in the sound of the voice. When a person smiles, it raises the soft palate at the back of the mouth and creates a wider space in the front. This allows the sound waves to fluctuate more freely, making the voice more melodic.

Many telemarketing firms are so convinced of the value of smiling over the phone that they have installed mirrors above sales staff desks.

Smiling sets the tone of the call from the start, making the caller feel at ease, welcomed and appreciated. Make no mistake, the customer on the other end of the line can always tell whether the salesperson is smiling.

Volume is of third importance in voice tone. Making the voice louder or softer can help control the conversation. To help calm an irate or upset customer, the voice should be lowered. Speaking louder will help regain the attention of a customer who is confused.

Rate of speech is the fourth factor. Speaking a bit slower can help calm an angry customer or clarify a point. Telephone staff should beware of speaking too quickly, particularly when giving instructions. This can be interpreted as a lack of concern.

Inflection is the final voice factor. No customer wants to speak to an employee who talks in a machine­like monotone. Yet, when phone staff have to give the same instructions or answers repeatedly, the chances of this happening increase.

Customers hear this as a negative statement saying, “I’ve said this 100 times and I’m tired of repeating myself.” Proper use of inflections can eliminate this problem.

When giving instructions or asking for information, the customer service person should concentrate on emphasizing key words. This generates customer interest and insures that the correct information is received.

The best technique for honing excellent phone customer service skills is to have the staff record themselves and note the uses they are making of these factors. Repeated recording and critiques will lead to improvement.

A second method is to have staff members role play phone conversations among themselves, giving each other feedback on their effectiveness.

Excellent telephone customer service can make the critical difference between satisfied and continuing customers or customer dissatisfaction and lost business.

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About Me, Rafal Lipnicki.

the direct / performance marketing consultant with a strange sounding name


Not your usual "guru" but a real-world performance marketing & innovation consultant based in Europe and an experienced senior executive at leading multinational companies.

What and Where.

I am a consultant for hire, working remotely and on-site all over the world (but Europe is always preferred). See my consulting services page for details.


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