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arrow 7 Insights and Actions to Improve Your Customer Service Call Center Experience
arrow Direct Mail Best Practices

Ernan RomanWe have just completed another round of research to understand the impact of poor Customer Service Call Center experiences. The results are scary.

The research was conducted in conjunction with The Huffington Post. The results are alarming for two reasons. First, because it is remarkable that in this age of “Customer Relationship Marketing” and other “customer centric” practices, only 32% reported a positive Customer Service Call Center experience.

The second troubling finding was that many people feel they are treated as “hostages” by companies who know their customers have no other choices or can switch only with difficulty… and treat them accordingly.

The fact that “hostage marketing” was reported by so many research participants is remarkable in this “age of CRM”. Preliminary findings appear below.

Based on these findings, we hope the 7 Insights and Actions to Improve Your Customer Service Call Center Experience will be helpful, (see below).

Some other news: we were pleased to be interviewed in the US Postal Service magazine, Deliver regarding direct mail best practices. Please keep direct mail in mind as a powerful component of your integrated mix. The best practice tips appear below.

With best wishes,


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Research Findings: Customer Dis-service and Hostage Marketing

The customer service experience is getting even worse.

Results from our recent Huffington Post research regarding people’s experiences when calling Customer Service Call Centers indicates serious problems.

Only 32% report that their Customer Service Call Center experience was positive. For the balance: 47% had a negative experience and 21% were neutral.

This quote reflects the widespread frustration: “I daydream about suing them. From the product to the reps, they just don’t care about their customers.”

Especially troubling is the finding that customers are treated poorly because companies think of them as “Hostages, unable to go elsewhere”.

Consider these 5 quotes:

  • “If I wasn’t on a fixed income, I would pay the fees and break my package contract with Comcast … horrible”.
  • “I still give them my business, but only out of necessity.”
  • “I’m stuck with their service.”
  • “AT&T is the only game in town; I just have to deal with them”. “If I had a choice other than Comcast, I would take it.”
  • “I would be done with most of these companies if I had any choice in the matter”.

Let’s look at the impact of these negative experiences on 3 critical business metrics. Decreased likelihood to buy from the company: 64%. Creates a negative perception of the company: 85%. Decreased likelihood to recommend the company: 77%.

Based on the quotes above, it appears that more than 64% would report a decreased likelihood to purchase from the company if they were not “hostages” with few or no alternatives.

There were astounding benefits to providing a positive Customer Service Call Center experience. An increased likelihood to buy from that company: 94%. A positive perception of that company: 94%. Increased likelihood to recommend that company to others: 86%.

Given the significant impact of a positive experience, it is incomprehensible that companies are not investing in appropriate training and resources for their Customer Service Call Centers. All of our experience in improving the performance of Customer Service Call Centers indicates significant improvements to revenue (for case studies, click here).

Given that it’s 7 to 10 times more expensive to acquire new customers versus selling existing customers, companies should view customer service centers as profit centers. As long as they continue to view them as cost centers, they will look for ways to cut costs.

In a blinding glimpse of the obvious (BGO), companies should realize that this is the most expensive and self-defeating way to “save money”.

7 Insights and Actions to Improve Your Customer Service Call Center Experience
Based on the research findings, following are 7 insights and action items to improve your Customer Service Call Center experience:
  1. Do not view Customer Service Call Centers as cost centers. These are revenue centers. In their rush to cut costs, companies must consider the financial ramifications of losing customers due to poor post-sale experiences.
  2. Customers’ post-sales experiences have significant impact on repeat purchase likelihood and willingness to recommend the company.
  3. The damage from poor Customer Service Call Center experiences is significant. Companies need to consider how many millions of dollars this is costing them.
  4. Do not cut back on Training, Quality Control procedures and investment in Customer Service Call Centers.
  5. Remember that it’s 7 to 10 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to sell an existing customer.
  6. Keep in mind that, per the research data, positive Customer Service Call Center experiences solidify the relationship between the customer and the company.
  7. Companies should focus on the quality of customers’ experiences with their Customer Service Call Centers, regardless of where they are located. Plenty of horror stories were reported regarding in-house, U.S. Call Centers as well as outsourced centers. The important takeaway is that customers expect quality post-sale care regardless of where the center is located.
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Direct Mail Best Practices

USPSDeliver Magazine
Open Secrets – A Refresher Course
Mary Carlington

This article appeared in the USPS magazine Deliver.

At a time when the corporate world seems increasingly obsessed with digital solutions, legendary direct marketer Ernan Roman has some compelling news for brands: Recipients actually want your traditional mail.

Roman says that prospects and customers have been so overwhelmed with e-mails in recent years that the deluge has turned off many of them. It has also made them more receptive to mail.

“This started four years ago, and it has reached a crescendo over the last three years,” says Roman, a 35-year marketing veteran who heads Ernan Roman Direct Marketing in Douglas Manor, N.Y.

Of course, despite the good news that customers are asking for your mail, you still have to persuade them to open your envelope. To help you do this, Deliver turned to Roman and fellow direct marketing legend Herschell Gordon Lewis, who started his career making gory films like “Blood Feast” and “2000 Maniacs” before turning to ad copywriting. Not surprisingly, both men know how to get attention.

Here are a few tips they have for those trying to capture mail recipients’ eyes:

Understand what mail is good for. Make sure recipients are expecting something they can use. Customers of Roman’s clients tend to prefer direct mail for important communications “that are relevant to the preexisting relationship,” says Roman. He adds that “the customer is going to get cranky if you start chopping down trees for a message that doesn’t have substantial value.”

Fulfill personal requests. Use preference information from opt-in campaigns to your advantage on the outside of the envelope. For instance, Roman’s company recently completed a campaign that encouraged viewers to name their favorite TV programs during the opt-in registration process. Using the consumer provided information, Roman segmented the company’s list and sent personalized promotions to the fans of various shows.

Keep the envelope clean. Generally, when sending high-level business information, keep your envelope simple — an address, a restrained logo and a personalized return address are all you need. Don’t muck up the envelope with extra text, big logos or artwork.

Help recipients make quick decisions. If the product is relevant, but a commodity, says Roman, informational graphics and copy can help recipients prioritize the mailing’s importance: “We’re saving them time by letting them know about the product or offer on the outside of the envelope.”

Use the right words. Many overused words insult recipients’ intelligence. Lewis eschews the words “free” and “personal,” which, at best, have little meaning — and at worst, incite consumers’ cynicism and even anger.

Avoid the “bulk-mail” effect. Lewis recommends doing whatever you can to ensure that your envelope doesn’t look like one of millions, whether it’s an unconventional font or an eye-catching color.

In this age of consumer-driven marketing, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy that always will or won’t work. You have to know your consumer well before you splash the envelope with promotional copy — or not.

Downfall of Deception

DM veterans warn against trying to fool today’s consumers

Despite stereotypes about marketers’ willingness to say anything to win customers, the truth is that marketers are increasingly acknowledging the futility of trying to dupe consumers in these digital times.

Sure, you still get the occasional attempts at deception — the car dealership mail designed to look like an official IRS letter; the financial service company that prints “Important Information About Your Account” on an envelope containing only a credit-card promotion. However, most marketers realize that, in an era of unprecedented consumer power, untruthful messages only undermine customers’ confidence in their brands.

These tactics haven’t completely died out yet. “In 2008, the brand is more important to direct marketers than it ever was before,” says Neil Feinstein of True North Inc. “In 1978, we didn’t care about the brand. We cared about the sale. The check in the mail created a sale. In 2008, that check in the mail creates a (mad) customer.”

Feinstein adds that “as a consumer and a creative person, when I get a subscription notification that [looks like] a bill, I’m hugely furious.”

Marketing veteran Herschell Gordon Lewis says that in direct, as in branding ads, heavy competition can fuel chicanery. In an industry where clients sometimes pit direct marketing agencies against one another on the same project, competitors may begin to think only in terms of response. “Long-term relationships are in eclipse,” says Lewis.

But marketers who forget to consider both sales and relationships aren’t doing their clients any favors, say experts. They are also giving fuel to those considering legislation to allow recipients to opt out of direct mail.

With talk about “Do Not Mail” legislation increasing, marketers can ill afford to anger mail recipients — especially when all most recipients are asking for is the truth.

You can download the DMA’s ethical guidelines at


Click here for additional customer relationship management solutions case studies.

We wish you the best of luck in using the Voice-of-Customer-driven 3-Step Marketing Process to achieve double-digit response.

    To read previous newsletters, click here.
    For additional case studies, click here.

Ernan Roman Direct Marketing | 3 Melrose Lane | Douglas Manor, NY 11363 | Phone: 718.225.4151 | Fax: 718.225.4889
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