Reliant Interactive Media Corp., a Tampa, FL-based infomercial marketer, reduced by roughly half the number of telephone sales it normally loses, thanks to a financing arrangement with bank holding company MBNA Corp.
Under the plan, the firm’s customer service agents extend credit over the phone to consumers who lack sufficient lines to use their credit cards to complete purchases. Typically 10% to 15% of credit card orders processed by phone fail to receive necessary authorization from the cardholder’s bank.
In a recent campaign called AsSeenOnTVPC.com that generated $40 million in sales within four months, more than 22% of the orders forcomputers and accessories were financed by MBNA. The average order was $1,379.
Phone agents first use the Internet to verify if a customer has sufficient credit to buy a product. If that product’s cost exceeds the customer’s credit limit, the agent suggests he or she try another card. If this doesn’t work, customers are offered a loan.
The agents offer lines of credit for as long as 36 months. They collect data necessary for loan applications, such as work history and Social Security number, and submit it online to MBNA.
About 10% of customers receive instant approval. Another 30% are released from the phone, given an MBNA account number and contacted if an MBNA rep approves the loan.
All inbound calls are generated from 30-minute infomercials that air mainly during late evenings and weekends. Cable TV networks carrying the AsSeenOnTVPC.com promotions include Bravo, CNBC, Court TV, Discovery, PaxNet, Sci-Fi Network, TNN and Travel.
During a recent six-week period, Reliant’s infomercials generated an average of 2,590 calls per week and 499 sales per week. The ratio of orders per calls topped 19%.
Although the infomercials also generate traffic for Reliant’s Web site (www.seeyouonline.com), all orders are processed by customer service agents by telephone or online text chats.
Eventually some customers will be able to process credit card orders themselves online, but Reliant will continue to use telemarketing so customers can ask questions, says company president Tim Harrington.
Reliant’s inbound phone and online Web site text-chat responses are outsourced and routed to two customer interaction centers in Phoenix operated by Aftermarket Co. “What we do for Reliant is almost like an outbound format but on an inbound call,” says Steve Syatt, spokesman for Aftermarket.
Besides running credit checks while talking with customers, agents also upsell larger monitors, additional computer memory, accelerated shipments and extended service warranties. “A phrase we frequently use,” says Syatt, “is: `May I make a suggestion?’”
The AsSeenOnTVPC.com campaign’s upselling conversion rate for additional computer memory exceeds 23%, and runs about 11% for larger monitors and 10% for extended warranties.
Reliant makes outbound follow-up calls from in-house call centers in Dallas and Tampa in as little as 15 minutes. The calls include “downselling” less expensive computer systems to consumers with limited credit lines. “All the leads are downloaded on a daily basis for us to convert the [previous] financial declines and inquiries to sales,” says Harrington.
Reliant recently started mailing videos with condensed versions of the infomercial to consumers who responded to the campaign by calling but didn’t place an order. “We’re mailing the videos at a cost of $1.50,” says Harrington, “but we don’t have any results yet.”