American Express: Improving Outbound Telemarketing Profitability

Background

American Express is a multinational financial services corporation headquartered in New York City. Founded in 1850, the company provides credit cards, check cards, and traveler's checks to customers around the world. American Express accounts for 24 percent of credit card transactions in the United States.

American Express was eager to improve its already successful outbound telemarketing program but was cautious to avoid hurting its strong brand image. By balancing effective marketing tactics with a soft sell, the company hoped to increase conversion and profitability while preserving a positive customer relationship. To find the best tactics for a successful soft sell program, American Express partnered with QualPro to increase conversion rate, card usage, and profitability.

Approach

QualPro’s consultants assembled a team of American Express’s managers and call center employees. Together, the team brainstormed 293 potential improvement ideas designed to improve telemarketing results. Our consultants helped the team narrow the list to 14 ideas deemed practical, fast, and cost-free. Some of these ideas included offering a free gift, changing the opening greeting, and writing a new script.

Our consultants designed an experiment for American Express’s personnel to perform. The consultants created different combinations of the 14 test ideas for the call centers to perform. A screening experiment revealed that six of the ideas had a significant impact and were worthy of further exploration. Other ideas made no difference and could be dropped without hurting profitability or conversion rates. After analyzing the results, QualPro’s consultants created recommendations for American Express to implement.

In accordance with our commitment to driving continuous improvement, our consultants worked closely with call center personnel to guide the process changes.

Results

Based on QualPro recommendations, American Express greatly improved their soft sell strategy. The changes resulted in a 300 percent increase in conversion rates and an $11.7 million increase in profit.