Expert View: Direct response TV - Handle your callers with care

Recent surveys have shown that charities can get a better response from donors by switching their spending from direct mail to new media.

A good example is direct response television: television ads that elicit an immediate response from viewers, usually by telephone. DRTV can transform donor communication, but organisations using it need to avoid some common pitfalls, particularly when it comes to response handling.

Although text and online formats are important, the phone remains the key channel for responses to television campaigns. Many charities already make outbound calls to try to convince donors to give more or add Gift Aid to existing donations, but handling inbound calls from DRTV requires a very different skill set.

A TV campaign is an immediate call to action. It's emotional and can be short-lived. When a TV commercial is broadcast, 75 to 80 per cent of calls are received within three minutes. Callers typically don't wait for long and, to maximise response, they must be connected to agents within 15 seconds. If not, they either call again - adding to the calls queuing and reducing call centre performance - or hang up for good.

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. If you are working with outsourced centres, spend time with the agents who will answer the calls. If they understand your campaign and empathise with it, this will come across in the calls.

Careful scripting is also vital. Scripting ensures consistent call handling and optimises call duration by managing the flow of the call. In some cases, scripting has produced a 25 per cent increase in callers that brought in five times the regular monthly on-screen ask. Real value can be added here.

Planning for response handling should not finish 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 is ready to receive personal data from an external source.

Finally, decide what you want to learn from the campaign and how you will track the response. When working with a call centre, ensure that it captures the data you need.

 - Elaine Lee is a founding partner of business consultancy ReynoldsBusbyLee

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