What comes around, goes around – the call center is no longer a cost center

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a client dinner with a major online travel partner. After introductions, the gentleman sitting next to me asked “Have your clients changed their view of the call center recently?” Funny you should ask….

NB This is a guest article by Jack Feuer, CEO of Digital Marketing Works.

I’m lucky. I’ve been involved with digital marketing and e-commerce since 1998 and during the past 17 years, I have seen a lot change and a lot stay the same.

For example, one thing that will not change is that inquiry based marketing – the search box – will always be the best way to target users and drive measurable marketing ROI.

What has changed is the role of the call center.

Back in the day

From 1998 to 2009, one goal of e-commerce was to reduce the call volumes and cost of the voice channel. The mantra was “give the user the information they seek so they won’t need to call your business” backed up by “the cost of an e-commerce booking is dramatically lower than call-center booking”.

Then, in 2009, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone 3GS and, from that point forward, the role of the call center was never the same. The iPhone is  a mini super-computer – yes.  But it’s a phone and when users experience any friction, they will default to calling.  This is even true for those tech-savvy millennials.

Call Center As Mobile Sales Engine

As a consultant, I get to see a lot. I attend and speak at business reviews, board meetings, conferences, client annual meetings, etc.  Each quarter, I produce a Key Trends presentation. Since 2012, like a broken record, I’ve been talking about M&M – mobile and meta.

We realized early that mobile conversion rates will never approach desktop conversion rates. In fact, three years later, we still see mobile conversion rates that average 10-40% of desktop conversion. We were early to identify the need for a call-tracking solution to attribute call revenue from digital media and roll into the overall e-commerce results.

In Sept 2012, I spoke on an Eye For Travel panel at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. I made crazy proclamations such as “voice is the new sales center”;  “call center conversion rates are 30x higher than mobile” “TV advertising is in trouble”.

I was, and continue to be, passionate about the need to track and measure call revenue from mobile media.

Current situation

Three years later, unfortunately, very few travel firms are doing this. Why? There are technical solutions that aren’t cost prohibitive. But some haven’t even tested them yet. As frustrating as this is to me, my experience has yielded insight to help explain this. It’s due to organizational bias.

The e-commerce teams get zero credit for call center revenue and therefore are not motivated to figure this out. The solution is to break down the barriers between departments and reward teams based on overall business results such as, gains in market share or profitability.

The next day, during our meeting, the major online travel partner shared some interesting data with me and my client. Their mobile ad placement drove 100,000 calls to their call center over the last few months! And, they used call duration to estimate that this yielded about $2 million in additional revenue, thereby doubling the media ROI.

As we move to programmatic mobile marketplaces, we will all be under-bidding until we figure how the break down these silos and attribute voice revenue alongside e-commerce revenue.

NB This is a guest article by Jack Feuer, CEO of Digital Marketing Works.

NB2 Image by Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  1. Tom Ferree

    Excellent article. Like so many areas of hospitality management we need to totally rethink how to turn cost centers into revenue centers. Call centers are perfect example. Thanks for excellent perspective.

  2. Blair Symes

    There is a good case study about a resort marketing company doing just what you described: attributing calls from paid search campaigns in order to measure and optimize not just leads, but new business. They use DialogTech’s call tracking software. Here is a link: http://www.dialogtech.com/expertise/case-study/dialogtech-helps-hotelscorp-optimize-paid-search-to-drive-83-more-phone-leads-and-71-more-bookings

  3. Eve Tronson

    Thanks for writing this article! It is exactly what we’ve been preaching for the past few years at NAVIS! We can determine how much offline revenue and leads are produced from digital advertising. For the hotels that care (and if you don’t, you’re crazy) about their voice business, our promotion tracking solution combined with our call center and best practices make millions in incremental revenue for our customers – the ROI ensures it is not cost-prohibitive.

  4. Vishal

    Jacl when you refer to call tracking technical solutions that aren’t cost prohibitive. Can you name a few that are global?


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