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How to get response handling for DRTV right

How to get response handling for DRTV right

Well-executed response handling makes the difference between financial failure and success for direct marketing activity says Elaine Lee of ReynoldsBusbyLee.

Lee stresses the importance of excellent response handling when testing DRTV (direct response TV) as a new channel to market. Here’s Lee’s guide to response handling for DRTV.

The brief

This is an important document, setting out what you expect from the in-house or external call centre. It provides a framework for initial discussions which can be fully agreed nearer the start of activity. Include dates, service level agreements (e.g. answer rates), targets (e.g. call-to-conversion %), reporting requirements, scripting/training dates. Plus other key metrics (e.g. % orders using credit cards or gift-aid donations).

If the activity may be rolled out to additional products, from tactical to rolling activity or other countries, explain this in the brief and ask providers to consider this in their proposal and preparations.

The call centre(s)

Call-handling arrangements are complicated – sort them out well in advance. Key factors include staffing levels, operating hours, language skills and, of course, cost.

In-house vs external
Doing it yourself is a false economy unless you have the right skill set for inbound. This is very different to customer service and outbound sales. Your call centre must have experience of DRTV plus the capacity and operating hours to handle call spikes – if an ad runs at midnight will someone be there?

Single vs multiple
For larger campaigns, splitting calls between centres and /or providers can keep them on their toes. And offer a ready-made disaster recovery set-up if lines to one call centre fail.

Local vs offshore
Moving call handling offshore can cut costs, but you must also consider the principles listed elsewhere in this guide. Poor customer service can destroy a campaign or brand – some off-shore centres are good; others are not.

National vs International
If your campaign spans several language groups, you must choose between a single call centre with good multi-lingual skills (these do exist) or multiple operations. There is no easy answer: a single supplier can simplify campaign management, yet local knowledge may raise conversion rates.

Costs depend on call volume, whether this is a test, opening hours, languages and complexity. Contracts can be: cost per call, cost per order or cost per agent-hour.

Call forecasting

A tight media plan will allow you to forecast call volumes by day and time, and predict the number of agents required. A strong call to action will generate sharper call spikes, requiring more agents. Expect your media plan, and call volumes, to change during the campaign at short notice. Choose a call centre with the appropriate skills and experience.

Live agents vs IVR

Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR)
The cheap alternative. For callers who are requesting a brochure or catalogue; this may be the most cost-effective route. For more complex activity where building a relationship with the customer is important – IVR may not be the appropriate solution.

Live agents
The best option if callers are placing orders – conversion rates can be 70% higher than IVR. And that figure excludes other sales opportunities (up-sells, cross-sells etc.) that only an agent can recognises during a call.


Structure and content
A good call script is vital. You have been contacted by a customer who is in the mood to buy - make the most of this opportunity. The script should be clear and control the call flow. All calls must flow well for both the customer and the call agent – make it logical and avoid questions irrelevant to the sale.

Up-selling, cross-selling...
Good scripts facilitate up-selling, load up and cross-selling, which can be the difference between success and failure for a campaign. But don’t flood your script with bids to generate additional revenue – any additions must be relevant and affordable.

Training call handlers
Get involved. You are the best person to represent you and your brand. Building a relationship with the call agents will help them represent you when talking to your customers and give you better feedback. Training should be ongoing – aim to refine call handler behaviour as you go along.

Phone numbers

Number type
There is a wide choice of numbers for DRTV campaigns (e.g. 0800, 0808, 0845, 0870 – even premium 09 numbers). Choose wisely. For example, 0800 numbers may lower barriers to calling but will attract hoax calls, reducing call-to-conversion rates.

By channel
We recommend one phone number per TV station for easy, tracking of calls and conversion rates. Such information can be fed back into the next media plan. Allocate a different number to your website (if you have a URL on the advert) to distinguish callers who have looked online first for more information.


Performance monitoring
Give your call centre a report template to complete each day. This should show call volumes, as well as whether each call led to a sale (including up-sells, cross-sells etc) or request for more information, or was a no sale or hoax. Requesting a covering note summarising highs or lows can ensure the report is properly checked before despatch!

Media Reporting
DRTV requires performance reconciliation by media channel


Data transfers
If your call centre is expected to capture orders and forward them to you to process, make explicit how and how often. Data transfers must comply with national and international laws (see below, Legal issues).

Database Management
Client may require that the agency house part of their database as a look up or reference tool.

Reference Codes
Make sure that any reference codes are clearly defined prior to campaign launch.

Legal Issues

Data protection
Different countries have different privacy laws. In the UK, key legislation is the Data Protection Act. If your customers are in EEA but calls are dealt with elsewhere, you must tell them. Ensure file transfers (see above, Reporting) meet legal requirements.

Distance/telephone selling
Again, each country will have its own rules for sales made over the phone, such as the Distance Selling Regulations. If you record calls, make customers aware in advance.

One-step vs two-step
In some EU countries (e.g. France) selling directly on inbound calls is illegal. In these markets a two-step approach – capture details; call back later to sell – must be adopted. Beware; the likely lower response may make them less attractive for DRTV.

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