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Response handling for DRTV – getting it right

Howard Lake | 11 July 2008 | News

Elaine Lee of ReynoldsBusbyLee, the multi-channel response-handling providers to the charity sector, stresses the importance of excellent response handling when testing DRTV as a new channel to market.
Recent press has suggested that, to increase response, charities should change the way in which they communicate with donors – and that key groups such as 40 to 60-year olds may be better reached by switching spend from direct mail into new media. One of which is DRTV.
DRTV can transform donor communication for charities. But only if the organisations testing its use understand how to avoid some common pitfalls, many of which involve response handling.
By its very nature, a TV ad can generate a high volume of responses in a short space of time. Yet all too often the question of how to deal with these responses is considered only when the creative team ask for a phone number or SMS code to appear in the advert. This can be a costly mistake. I have heard of situations when calls start arriving into a call centre without the call handling team knowing the campaign is even running! Obviously this lack of preparation would have had a significant impact on the results.
Ideally, response handling should be discussed at the start of campaign planning. Think about your target audience and how they would prefer to communicate their support for your cause. Younger audiences in particular can hardly be parted from their mobile phones these days so a text option is essential! Others with web access may prefer going online.
But phone remains a key channel. Many charities already work with an outbound supplier to run an outbound calling programme – upgrading donation values or adding gift aid to existing donations. But handling inbound calls from DRTV is very different, and requires agents and call management with a completely different skill set. Your existing call centre may not possess these.
TV also drives a very immediate call-to-action. It’s emotional and can be short-lived, so you have to be ready to respond at once when it comes. For instance, when a TV commercial airs 75-80% of calls are received within three minutes. Callers typically don’t want to wait to connect in a call queue – it’s a real “moment in time” thing.
As a result, and to maximise response, they must be connected to agents within 10-15 seconds. If not, they either hang up for good or they call again, adding to the calls queuing and reducing call centre performance. Experienced suppliers will answer your calls quickly and well – it’s not unreasonable to expect centres to answer 95% of all calls offered. Losing response by being under-prepared and inadequately resourced is a cardinal sin.
When callers do get through, the first contact is critical. It’s the start of your relationship with your new donor so it has to be excellent, and provide warmth and personality. When working with outsourced centres, the secret is spending time with the agents who will answer the calls prior to campaign launch. Train them, and explain what you do and why you are fundraising. If they understand this and can empathise with you, they will convey this in the calls.
Controlling calls through careful scripting is also vital. Scripting ensures consistent call handling and optimises call duration by managing the flow of the call. Scripting allows more calls to be answered and ensures that the ‘ask’ is made with the right positioning, and at the right time – when the confidence of the caller has been gained.
For one of our clients, scripting produced a 25% increase in callers that gave five times the regular monthly on-screen ask. Real value can be added here.
It’s important to get ./guidance on other factors affecting likely response to your campaign. It may surprise you to know that not all response will be genuine. For instance, 0800 telephone numbers provide an opportunity for children to ‘play’ with the telephone without running up a bill, so expect an element of hoax calling and general enquiries.
Response handling does not finish at the moment when the calls have been answered. The data collected from the calls must be transferred securely and correctly. Work only with suppliers who are experienced in doing this in accordance with the Data Protection Act.
Make sure your in-house team are ready to receive data from an external source, and have in place the necessary security controls for transferring personal and sensitive data. Planning and testing of data transfers should take place well in advance of the first call being received.
And finally, before you begin, you should consider what you want to learn from the campaign and how you will track the response to achieve this. When working with a call centre, think through the data you need to capture and how you will use it develop recommendations for future campaigns. Then ensure that your call handling script collects all the data you need.
Your test campaign will mean spending significant amounts of money in creating the ad and buying the media airtime. Getting response handling wrong, often by failing to appreciate its importance until too late, can be disastrous and effectively mean you have wasted that creative and media money.
Be acutely aware that if your call centre doesn’t have enough agents to handle call volumes at peak times, you will lose donations. Similarly, if the agents aren’t properly trained and don’t understand key success drivers – for example, regular giving via paperless Direct Debit and Gift Aid – you will lose donations or reduce donation values.
The good news is that there is plenty of experience out there to guide you through to a successful campaign. TV presents a real opportunity both on its own, and as part of an integrated multi-channel marketing campaign, in which it can significantly lift results. One RBL client saw a 10% lift to response simply by adding an “As Seen on TV” flash to their direct mail packs.
Used correctly, TV can open up a new channel to market and reach new target audiences. It can allow quick-response, tactical campaigns that take advantage of an opportunity at short notice. Repeat activity run through a good call centre that’s been well briefed can be operational within days – although booking cost-effective media could be your limiting factor.
Response handling set-up and managed well can really bolster revenue generated. Well executed activity will reassure callers and donors that you are efficient in your administration, allowing a higher percentage of their donation to reach the projects you’re tackling.
With recent news from the Charity Commission that 10% more of the UK population, since 2005, are giving money to charities, finding new ways to reach these new donors and, make them feel valued at their first contact, is more important than ever.
RBL assists charities with every aspect of their telemarketing campaigns from planning and call centre selection to scripting and reporting. For further information on response handling, please contact Elaine Lee