Market your specials with automated call systems

Sept. 19, 2004

Your phone-order takers tell you they upsell every customer, but for some reason, those special pizzas just aren't moving like you'd hoped.

Perhaps those employees aren't as thorough as they claim to be.

"We like to think that our people suggestive sell because we tell them to, but the truth is, they don't," said Hap Squire, a five-unit Pizza Inn franchisee in Divine, Texas. "When it's busy, like on a Friday night, they'd rather not sell anything other than pizza. They're more like, 'Leave me alone, thank you.' "

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Squire purchased a CallWorks machine to do the upselling for him. Now when his customers call, they hear a 15-second message marketing that day's specials, and they're placed in cue to speak to the next available order taker.

"When we first put it in, we had an immediate increase in sales of appetizers," said Squire. "It really markets well."

Now Squire focuses his marketing messages almost solely on bundled deals, such as one featuring pizza, ice tea and wings for around $20. Some of his stores consistently sell 150 of those weekly.

Mike Wick, president of Houston-based Message On Hold, said Squire is using his call answering machine perfectly. His message is short, centered on a family-focused deal that fetches a fair — yet profitable — price.

"Most customers won't flinch at a $19.99 price point if they feel they can feed their whole family for that," said Wick. "I've seen other operators who want to put a message for $9.99 pepperoni pizzas on their call catchers, but we strongly advise them not to do that. Bundled deals work best"

Service enhancer

Rick Stanbridge, CEO of Fidelity Communications, said a key objection he hears from operators considering a call sequencer (the common name for a phone answering machine that markets to callers and handles their calls in the order received) is that their customers want a human on the other end of the line.

"I too believe that having people answer the phone is the best method," Stanbridge said. "But the reality is this: With the dollars they have to spend on personnel, they typically do not get the high-caliber person who has the necessary phone skills for good customer service.

"Also, the machine never forgets the marketing message, but humans do."

And though it might seem ironic, Stanbridge said research has shown time and again that customers like call sequencers when some basic criteria are met.

They appreciate suggestive selling, he added, as long as the pitch is delivered quickly. Squire said he's heard some interminable ones. "Some stores I call ... it's like listening to a chapter of 'War and Peace.' "

Wick said customers respond better to affordable specials, not budget busters.

"We try to help an operator raise his per-ticket average just 50 cents. When you do the math on that, it's huge," Wick said. "We don't help people hit home runs, we teach them how to hit lots of singles."

Topics: Marketing , Operations Management , Telecommunications

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