BellSouth is taking a tried-and-true approach to reach residential customers - door-to-door sales.
Cydcor Ltd., which provides outsourced sales operations, is outfitting BellSouth with authorized agents for the effort. These representatives promote BellSouth services, such as BellSouth FastAccess DSL service, BellSouth long-distance and DIRECTV service.
“This new consumer sales channel has everything to do with competition and the need to be more proactive in getting to our customers,” says Zealous Wiley, BellSouth’s communications manager of Consumer Services. “In today’s hyper-competitive market, we can no longer rely on customers calling us. We must reach out to them and go meet them on their turf.”
Customers are glad to see BellSouth in the neighborhoods – taking a more proactive interest in customers’ communications and entertainment needs, says Wiley. And as products and services become more complex, this channel provides a more consultative sales approach, he adds.
BellSouth launched the new sales channel last spring in Atlanta and has expanded into eight key metros, including Birmingham, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Louisville, Miami, Orlando and West Palm. Plans call for rapid expansion of this new sales channel to all nine states in BellSouth’s service area early this year.
In the Atlanta trial, BellSouth reports that that 20 percent of consumers welcomed agents into their homes, and 35 percent of those consumers purchased additional services from BellSouth. According to Wiley, each representative is knocking on about 50 doors per day. As of mid-December, BellSouth had approximately 70 agents deployed.
Of course, BellSouth isn’t the first telco to rely on face-to-face sales. Excel has been a posterchild for ‘relationship marketing,” relying on people in the community to distribute its services to their friends and families. But as it reorganizes under bankruptcy, VarTec Telecom Inc. - which acquired Excel from Teleglobe in 2002 - recently announced it is abandoning that vast marketing channel it had used to sell communications services to consumers and small businesses.
Meanwhile, Lightyear Network Solutions LLC, which serves more than 300,000 customers nationwide generating annual revenue of $120 million through its professional agent partners, is now zeroing in on coaches, teachers, preachers and other community-connected individuals seeking extra income to sell its services through the Lightyear Alliance.
Cydcor also has been tapped by other telecom carriers, such as Qwest Communications International Inc., AT&T Corp. and SBC Communications Inc.
For example, in 2001, when Qwest executives got fed up with telemarketing, direct mail and television advertising that failed to generate substantially more money, they turned to Cydcor, which tapped people to go door-to-door hawking DSL, PCS and bundled services. Cydcor says within six months it procured 13,000 new DSL customers per month for Qwest. Qwest no longer contracts with Cydcor.
AT&T, too, looked to Cydcor to energize its ailing marketing strategies, particularly after the carrier lost market share due to divestiture. Following research at retail locations, Cydcor determined a lack of product-specific training and focus among retail sales agents was a problem. The company recommended AT&T implement face-to-face sales, and provided the reps for the job. Cydcor concluded its work for AT&T in 2003.
Finally, SBC contracted Cydcor to help it build its first national sales agent program. The system allowed reps to access updated information on customers, services, promotions and billing, giving them more talking points during a sale. The program remains in effect and has more than doubled since February 2003, Cydcor says.
|Teleglobe International Holdings Ltd www.teleglobe.com
VarTec Telecom Inc. www.vartec.com
Excel Telecommunications www.excel.com
VarTec Telecom Inc. www.vartec.com
Lightyear Network Solutions LLC www.lightyearcom.com
Cydcor Ltd. www.cydcor.com
Qwest Communications International Inc. www.qwest.com
AT&T Corp. www.att.com
SBC Communications Inc. www.sbc.com