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Using call analysis, funeral service company digs up dead data

With insight from its phone call leads, Arbor Memorial was able to find out that calls accounted for 1.5 times more sales than online-based leads.

The funeral service business isn't a market that first comes to mind when thinking about customer relationship...

management. How can you manage customers who are shopping for a service they only need once?

Despite this apparent conundrum, Toronto-based Arbor Memorial, Canada's largest funeral service provider with 90 funeral homes and 40 cemeteries throughout the country, has been using Dynamics CRM to manage customers. Recently, the company began using DialogTech, newly integrated with Dynamics, for phone call analysis to gain a clearer picture of which lead source is more likely to plan its own funeral -- or, to put it another way, more likely to turn into a sale.

"Sixty percent of our business comes from prearranged sales," said Jeff Loretta, marketing CRM specialist at Arbor Memorial. "There are lots of benefits to that. The customer gets locked in at today's price, and down the road, everything is paid for."

The other 40% of Arbor's business comes the way most people expect funeral services to obtain customers: on an as-needed basis.

Yet, rather than waiting for customers -- or more appropriately, the customer's family -- to come in for services, Arbor Memorial uses many outlets to obtain leads and customers, including trade shows, booths at area malls, online and print advertising and, in provinces that allow it, cold calling.

"We had some branches import the phone book and start autodialing," Loretta said. "We are able to use the DialogTech integration to match up numbers we dial in the Yellow Pages and organic search phone calls with existing contacts."

We've seen clearly over the past month that phone calls turn over to appointments a lot quicker than online.
Jeff Lorettamarketing CRM specialist, Arbor Memorial

The end result for Loretta and Arbor Memorial is data that turns its business upside-down: Using call analysis, they are able to dig up and bring data and insight to life that was previously dead.

"We've been having the conversation about which leads close faster: online or telephone?" Loretta said. "We've seen clearly over the past month that phone calls turn over to appointments a lot quicker than online. Our sales as a result of phone calls are 1.5 times our online sales."

While Arbor Memorial was able to gain some insight previously by using Dynamics and DialogTech independent of each other, the integration of the call analysis software with Dynamics CRM has made it easier to access data in more detail.

"Previously, before the integration, we'd have to log onto DialogTech and search their system to find the calls we wanted to listen to," Loretta said. "Now, with the integration, it's all right there. And the calls aren't stored on our CRM, so it's not taking up our storage space."

The integration of the call analysis software with Dynamics also solved another problem that made it difficult for Arbor to gain knowledge from its lead data: Arbor's sales reps didn't want to give up valuable lead secrets.

"The information we had to go on until now had been anecdotal. We'd rely on sales reps to code in their lead source or where their calls came from," Loretta said. "Fifty percent of the time it was true, but a lot of the time they didn't want to tell us where their sales were coming from so the secret didn't get out. What the application does now, is any time a phone call comes in, it will cross reference the number and look for existing contacts in the system."

A customer like Arbor Memorial is exactly who DialogTech had in mind when it created its call analysis software.

"In e-commerce, we've been optimizing the 'Take a thing, put it in a basket and pay with a card approach,'" said Jonathon Schuster, vice president of product management at Chicago-based DialogTech. "There are certain things that method just doesn't work for."

Those things, Schuster added, typically were expensive, purchased infrequently or complex -- all criteria that could apply to purchasing funeral services.

And because a customer may have more information going into the sales process, the phone conversation is all the more important.

"Everyone thinks phone calls are going away, and that's not happening," Schuster said. "Those phone calls have moved further down the sales funnel. What that means for businesses, is any data or opportunity they have to personalize or focus those calls is needed, because it's more critical to convert into a sale because the customer is already right there, ready to buy."

DialogTech previously integrated with Salesforce, and its integration with Dynamics went live on Dec. 6. Pricing for DialogTech can range from $125 per month for small and medium-sized businesses to $1,000 to $5,000 per month for enterprise, varying based on customer needs and call volume.

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