WORKSHOP: CASE STUDY - Dogs Trust trials telemarketing house

Francois Le Goff

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Background: Dogs Trust, the new name for the National Canine Defence League, a 112-year-old charity, works to protect dogs from abuse, abandonment and mistreatment in the UK and abroad. It looks after 11,500 dogs a year through a nationwide network of 15 rescue centres.

The charity, which mainly relies on legacies, donations and sponsorship, runs its campaigns through DRTV adverts. Because such campaigns generate a massive response from the public, Dogs Trust recruits a telemarketing agency to handle its in-bound calls. This enables the charity to maximise the impact of its fundraising and awareness campaigns.

In July, Dogs Trust carried out a two-week trial to assess the quality of services provided by the agency dealing with the in-bound calls for its 'Sponsor a Dog' hotline (08457 400 600). The charity asked Anderson Manning Associates (AMA), a marketing agency that was already successfully managing the out-bound calls, to try its hand at handling incoming calls as well, to see if it was able to generate more sponsors than the incumbent.

Aims: Dogs Trust's two-week trial with AMA sought to convert as many callers as possible to the Sponsor a Dog scheme. The agency's aim was to persuade callers to give a minimum of £1 a week to sponsor a dog via direct debit or a recurring credit card payment.

If the caller wouldn't make a commitment on the spot, the agency would instead send out a Sponsor a Dog form for their further consideration.

How it Worked: To assess AMA's effectiveness in handling in-bound calls, Dogs Trust listened in on operators' conversations.

AMA operators were given a script to follow when they were talking to callers. Each operator had to record callers' personal details before introducing them to the Sponsor a Dog scheme.

If the caller was under 16, the operator asked to speak to their parent or guardian, and if they were unavailable, they sent an enquiry letter.

All letters were printed on Dogs Trust letterhead and included a Sponsor a Dog form and a freepost envelope.

To help each caller choose their dog, operators were able to view a variety of dogs of different breeds and regions on screen. They also had a comprehensive list of FAQs at their fingertips to help them answer callers' questions.

If that was not enough to convert the caller, operators could transfer them to the Dogs Trust head office so they could make a one-off donation or get information unrelated to the Sponsor a Dog scheme.

AMA operators also offered to send a colour brochure featuring eight of the dogs available on the Sponsor a Dog scheme via e-mail. This helped the caller make a decision about their choice of dog. This was followed up within 24 hours by a telephone call from the team leader.

Results AMA operators outperformed Dogs Trust's previous service provider, and were awarded a three-year contract. Its operators particularly enjoyed working on the campaign as callers tend to be friendly, enthusiastic and usually keen to sponsor a dog for themselves or as a gift for a friend.

"Achieving a high call-conversion rate is essential to the continued success of our Sponsor a Dog campaign," said Mark Cook, donor recruitment manager at Dogs Trust. "Of course, a high standard of customer service is as crucial. AMA have consistently performed excellently in both areas."

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