In a previous article named “Are You Getting Your Share of the U.S. Hispanic Market?,” I shared that the estimated U.S. Hispanic purchasing power is an impressive $1.2 trillion, a number that is estimated to increase to $1.5 trillion by 2015 according to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA). However, Latinos in the U.S. remain uninsured in great numbers.
At his juncture it is evident that “Obamacare”, the oft chosen label for what is officially known as The Affordable Health Care Act, is an unmitigated disaster. In the pantheon of public relations and marketing debacles, this one tops the charts along with “New Coke.” As a humbled President so cogently put it in a recent press conference: “It didn’t work.”
Part of the failure reflects a common premise that many marketers fall prey to: that the Internet is the end all for communicating with consumers. The fact is many products and services — which include healthcare, financial services, and weight loss – require high touch; that is, the ability to speak directly to another human to address questions and concerns.
In the case of the government program, this is especially true of U.S. Hispanic consumers, who weren’t even given enough or sufficient Spanish language options and/or culturally relevant and sensitive channels on the federal site. However, there are other critical reasons why employing telephony and live operators in certain situations are paramount not only for Spanish language marketers – but for the marketplace in general.
While the prevailing wisdom may be that nobody wants to talk to a telemarketer, it is simply not true in all cases. A marketer of payday loans, for example, was making their offer exclusively online, believing that this was the most efficient and effective way to close transactions. However, once they were convinced to try a toll-free 800 number with the word CASH in it – thus making it easy for their consumers to recall – they saw firsthand the power of telephony. In the case of the payday loan, this financial instrument was a matter that was profoundly personal. People had questions. They wanted to be reassured. So while one might think there would be privacy concerns or callers might be embarrassed, in many cases this was simply not true.
No Substitute for Human Interface
The reality is that to a lesser or greater degree, a website cannot convey empathy as well as a live human being on the other end of a telephone line can. In time, leveraging an online presence and telephony, the aforementioned payday loan company has grown to be the leader in their category. But this kind of high touch doesn’t just apply to healthcare and financial services. In an October 2011 article that appeared in Business Week (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/businesses-just-want-to-hear-your-voice-10202011.html) , Bill Chase, the director of online marketing for Nutrisystem, reported that just 2 or 3 percent of those who click on an online ad end up buying their 28-day weight loss program, whereas 20 percent of those prospects that pick up the telephone and speak to a representative result in a sale. Anyway you look at it, that’s an exponential difference. As Chase relates, “It goes against my principles as an Internet guy, but we can close a sale more often by having people call.” His admonition suggests that, in select cases, there is no substitute for human interface; a lesson many marketers would be wise to reconsider.
While the ability to track through “clicks” on a website is helpful for understanding how consumers are navigating information, it lacks the ability to derive true qualitative data. With call tracking, marketers can record calls, listen to them, and discern what questions and objections their consumers have.
In the case of the Obamacare site, for example, three astute young coders from San Francisco quickly determine that the fundamental information consumers wanted – what their new health insurance was going to cost them – was buried deep within the government site. Working evenings and weekends, the trio launched HealthSherpa.com in a matter of days, whilst spending a few hundred dollars. The first day their site received 4.7 million unique visitors. Clearly they had accomplished something the federal government couldn’t over the course of two years and tens of millions of dollars, not to mention incalculable political fallout.
Yet it is clear that not everyone possesses the kind of keen insight of the HealthSherpa trio. The Feds could have possibly avoided the embarrassment of being trumped so easily had they considered using call tracking. This tool would also allow them to determine key demographic information from their consumer base as well.
With call tracking a marketer, using a reverse append on the inbound phone number, can glean household information that will indicate the demographic nature of the calling party including such things as household income, home ownership, the presence of children, and so forth. This information can then be used to refine messaging and target future audiences. In the case of a high touch or consultative inbound call, call routing can also be leveraged to take advantage of multiple call centers. Calls can be routed so that they align with the capacity of a given telemarketing center. In the case of Spanish-language marketing this is vital because most call centers geared to handle inbound calls are limited in the numbers of seats they maintain. By using multiple call centers a marketer can ensure that no calls are dropped and then see which centers are performing the best in terms of resolving issues and closing transactions.
So while the Obamacare snafu may be an expensive lesson for the Administration, it is a cautionary tale that all marketers can learn from. As the government marshals its resources to course correct, advertisers would be advised to think about what the appropriate channels are for two-way communication with their consumers. While the Internet is without question continuing to revolutionize our world, it was Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, who said: “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
Eddie Treizman is the Director Hispanic Market for Dial800. Dial800 provides easy-to-remember toll-free numbers, call tracking, and call routing to help customers generate more inbound calls, and gain invaluable insight that increases sales. Eddie Treizman can be reached at (800) 248-2166 or at http://dial800.hispanicmarketadvisors.com