Monthly Archives: January 2008

Listen Up! (IVR Optimization)

Speaking of the role Marketing should play in Operations, here’s the first article I have ever seen in a Marketing context about optimizing a VRU / IVR.  This challenge is really very similar to optimizing a web site.  You have path, and traffic down branches of path.  You have bounce rates and exits.  You have the same “choices with correct context” issue that is the heart of designing good navigation and inline link text.  You have usability.

Fact is, a VRU / IVR is a technical interface to humans, just like a web site is.  And just like many web sites, it was probably built and programmed by some engineers without a lot of direction from Marketing or Customer Service.  There’s really no reason at all why the folks optimizing the web site should not also optimize the phone system too – especially if they do a good job with the web site!

I optimized my first VRU in 1991 at HSN.  This was very new technology back then, and our customers were kind of shocked by it.  Nobody used it.  When I finally found an engineer who could print out a “path map” and I went through all the branches, I understood why nobody used it - confusing choices, unclear language.  Sound familiar?  Only 2% of customer orders were being processed through the VRU.  And besides, customers like talking to live reps.

A real Marketing through Operations problem.

First we worked with the engineers to redo the branching and change the language so the VRU was smooth and easy to use.  We pushed high frequency paths to the top of the stucture and sunk the low frequency stuff, eliminating steps for most transactions.  Sound familar?  I also felt the close on the transaction was ambiguous, so we built in a clear “confirmation” the order had been placed correctly.  Sound familiar?  How long did it take online carts to include a confirmation e-mail?

But then the Marketing problem.  Lots of people had used the VRU and thought it sucked.  How do we get them to give the new unit a chance?  How do we get them to actually like using it?

Next, we gave the VRU more personality.  We named it Tootie and had it toot a horn at the end of the order placing process – just like the hosts did (back then) on the live TV show.  An “audio confirmation” if you will.  So now the VRU does something the live reps can’t do – give customers a “Toot”.  That helps address the “liking to use” issue.

But we still have the problem of trial – how do we get people to try the revamped interface out?

Fashion programming is what the core customer eventually migrated to; we knew this from previous hard analysis (not surveys or gut feel).  If we could get these high order frequency customers to use the VRU, we’d get a significant jump in usage.  Fashion shows were very high velocity and because sizes and colors are frequently involved, certain SKU’s can sell out quickly.  So we had the hosts in those shows talk on air about how if customers used the VRU they would beat out everybody else ordering through a live rep.

In other words, “If you really want this product, you better use Tootie” - the “persona” we created for the VRU.  Hard customer benefit.

Within a very short time, we had 20% of customer orders coming through the VRU, on it’s way to 80%.  Saved the company an absolute boatload of money – and made customers happy in the process!

How did we know they were happy?  Hard analysis (% best customers using VRU, % of their orders placed by VRU) and surveys of course, but we had a better indicator than these metrics – the number of Christmas Cards Tootie received each year.

That’s right, customers sent holiday greetings to the VRU.

How many greeting cards did your VRU / IVR receive last year?

Seriously though – what other customer-facing, technology-driven business processes can you optimize?  You already know how to do this from the web site experience.  Let’s create a list.

And here’s another link to that article – Listen Up!


Geo-Demos that Work

Great Local Marketing Campaign 

After my post on PRIZM Clusters, I got a decent amount of hate mail from people who did not completely read or misunderstood the post.  I don’t think geo-demographics are useless; I think they work quite well for the applications they were designed for and make sense – when there is something specifically geo-centric about the task at hand.  My problem is not with geo-centric models, it’s with Marketers using these models for purposes that don’t make sense.

Here’s a case where using geo-demos makes a ton of sense, and includes a fantastic customer-centric marketing execution for good measure, where the marketing plan is strategically and operationally integrated into the business model.

The company is Duncan Roofs.  Now, if you have ever thought about the way neighborhoods are formed, you understand that many of the homes in a particular area were originally built at the same time.  You also know that the households in a neighborhood generally share the same socio-economic status - disposable income and so forth. 

The first variable – age of house – has a direct correlation to needing a roof.  Since roof shingles generally have a life of 20 years, you get cycles of roof replacement in a neighborhood every 20 years, give or take.  In other words, it’s likely that if a roof needs replacing in the neighborhood, other roofs nearby need replacing.

The second variable – income in neighborhood – goes to acting on the need to replace the roof.  If the homes in the neighborhood are owner-occupied and there is disposable income, a roof in bad shape gets replaced.  There is too much downside with a bad roof to ignore, if you have the money to replace it and you own the house.

So what we have is location predicts not only the need to replace a roof, but also the likelihood to act on that need.  Rock simple, classic geo-demo stuff.  “Place” is a true driver in this model, not just some kind of tag-along data that’s nice to know but not strongly predictive.

Enter Duncan Roofs.  The day before they do a job, they have folks go through the neighborhood hanging an envelope on the door of each house with this package inside – a letter and a fridge magnet impregnated with cinnamon.  Smells real good!  But the copy in the letter is the killer part of the campaign (click to enlarge if you want):


Let’s tear apart why this copy and campaign work so well.

Tomorrow morning we will be replacing the roof at (address in neighborhood).  Our crew will begin work at 7 AM.  They will be as quiet as possible, however by nature, our work is somewhat noisy.  Please accept this cinnamon Teddy Bear refrigerator magnet as our apology for any inconvenience we might cause you. 

Notice this letter does not open with a sales pitch, or “About Us” or any of that crap.  The open is about me; it provides timely and directly relevant information for me.

After I get past the “surprise and delight” of the cinnamon magnet, I get a piece of information that is directly useful to me.  Instead of “What the hell is that racket” in the morning my reaction will be “Oh, that’s the roofers that gave me the magnet.”   This information is highly targeted and directly relevant to me – and I might even chuckle about it when the noise starts.  It sets up a very positive image of the company in my mind; they are service-oriented and respectful.

We hope you will use Teddy to hold notes on your refrigerator and think of us when you or someone you know needs a new roof.

The first part of this sentence is probably there just in case you were clueless about what the magnet was for and how it could be used.  Appropriate in tone once again, the magnet is not emblazoned with their logo; that would spoil the “for me” part and make it less likely I would actually use it.  The magnet does have their name / phone number on the back, hidden from view during normal use.  More importantly, the second portion of this sentence directs your mind to ask a question: By the way, do I know anybody that needs a roof?  Hmm, just the other day Jerry was saying….

Perhaps you will have the opportunity to observe us at work.  If so, I trust you will be favorably impressed with our efficient and professional work habits. 

In other words, “Hey man, we’re tearing your neighbor’s roof off!!  Come check it out!”  They literally invite you to market their company to yourself by visiting the job site.  Now, you don’t know it yet, but Duncan has a business model that matches the brilliance of their marketing.  They literally put on a huge show like you have never seen before on a roof job – it’s highly orchestrated, almost ballet-like in precision.  Not just a few guys grunting with scrapers and hammers, they show up in 3 or 4 trucks with 20 – 30 guys and literally give you a new roof in one day.  They have to – the marketing is already kicking in, and they have a lot of jobs to do after this one!

Clearly, if you were “in the market” for a roof job, you would be compelled to go check them out, right?  After all, getting a new roof is not small change and can be extremely disruptive, not to mention quite likely to trash your plants and property if not done with some care.  If you are in the market for this kind of work, there is a lot of upside for you to literally “watch the demo”, if you know what I mean…

If you have any questions about our work, our foreman or myself will be happy to answer them.

There are folks swarming all over the place – all dressed in uniforms, all polite down to the last person.  All of them have permission to talk to you and of course refer you to the “foreman” – you were invited to talk with the foreman in the letter, right?  It’s a machine – people standing there watching and blown away by the speed of the job, and several “foreman” basically working the crowd for leads – in a respectful way.  They ask, “Do you have any questions?”  Execution, execution, execution.  Planned straight through; everybody knows what’s going on and what role they play in the marketing machine.

Definitely not a Meatball Sundae.

Give us a call for a free estimate.  You’ll be pleased with the professional service and unbelievably low prices.

More business model.  Of course you don’t have to show up to see the job, you can just call us.  I don’t know much about replacing roofs but I bet the way they do these jobs in a single day has something to do with their pricing.  In other words, they have such a pipeline coming from this marketing campaign that they “make it up on volume”, if you know what I mean.  Labor is obviously the highest cost is a roofing job, so something about the way they do these jobs and the “culture” they have developed (employee retention?) allows them to charge less than many other roofers.  Not to mention the customer benefits of getting this messy, noisy job done in one day…

Place your trust in a third generation business that has been serving this area since 1918 and stands behind our work for the life of the roof.”

This is all the “badge” stuff from your home page – you know, the Trust seals, BBB, guarantee, and so forth.  It’s a persuasive and very clean close with no backpedaling or asterisks.  Interesting that the phone number is not below the sig, I wonder if that is intentional to keep the close a bit softer.  The phone number is quite obvious up at the top of the page, so I don’t think they are losing anything here – but wonder if they A / B’d phone number location?

Given the quality of this idea and marketing execution, that would not surprise me a bit.  I imagine the roofing guys running Yellow Pages ads are absolutely getting skunked by this incredibly targeted and tightly executed campaign.  The campaign hits exactly where the demand is with surprise and delight and throws in a theatre act to boot.  Not to mention doing a job that normally can take a week or two in one day – that’s a hard core benefit to the consumer.

All this “Brand” carries though to their web site, where the Methodicals can find out the details of why they are the best choice.  I would kill the scroll box, of course.  The fact they don’t put a URL in the letter is kind of interesting; another potential test but I think there is probably a good reason – they don’t want to kill any momentum the letter generates by introducing potential distractions or raising new questions.  For potential customers who are web-oriented and would naturally just go looking for a web site, a Google search on “Duncan Roofs” brings the company up as the first 5 entries!  So they’re not really losing out by messing up the close with a URL – they want you to go see the show!

Duncan Roofs has reinvented one of the oldest business models around from top to bottom and execute perfectly.  The campaign is timely, relevant, customer-centric, word-of-mouth, and social all rolled into one.  Yep, those ideas work offline too.

Your thoughts on this campaign?

*** Where Are Your Brand Manners?

Here’s an article giving quite a few examples of companies taking the route I covered in the CMO: Strategic Seat is CCO post.  Interesting that the majority are direct marketing companies and at one, customer service reports to Marketing.  This Marketing department views their job as “service to the customer”.  Now that’s a Marketing department I would feel at home in.

Marketing is indeed a much greater force to be reckoned with when it is strategically and operationally integrated into the brand promise and product offerings and not just a Meatball Sundae.  But somebody has to think that through and make it happen. 

How about you?

Here’s the link:  Where Are Your Brand Manners?