by Peter B. Wylie, John Sammis, and Kevin MacDonell
(Download a printer-friendly PDF version here: Time on call and pledges P2)
Back in January of this year, the three of us posted a paper based on calling data from one higher education institution (Time on the call and how much the alum pledges). You can go back and take a look at the paper, but its essence is the strong relationship we saw between time spent on a call to an alum, and whether or not that alum made a pledge and how big the pledge was.
We weren’t bowled over by these findings, but we were certainly intrigued by them. In this paper we’ve got some more data to show you — data that provides “corroborative testimony” for that relationship between calling time and pledging. And we’ve got something a little bit extra for you, too.
We’ll start by tipping our hand just a little. We looked at calling time (in seconds) only for those alums with whom contact was made, and the result of the last call was labeled either “NO PLEDGE” or “SPECIFIED PLEDGE.”
Tables 1 – 3 show the calling time in seconds for the three schools (X,Y, and Z) that we looked at. Notice that we divided the alums called at each school into ten groups (called deciles) of approximately equal size.
Table 1: Median Talk Time, Minimum Talk Time, and Maximum Talk Time by Decile for All Alums in School X Who Either Made a Specified Pledge or No Pledge
Table 2: Median Talk Time, Minimum Talk Time, and Maximum Talk Time by Decile for All Alums in School Y Who Either Made a Specified Pledge or No Pledge
Table 3: Median Talk Time, Minimum Talk Time, and Maximum Talk Time by Decile for All Alums in School Z Who Either Made a Specified Pledge or No Pledge
These three tables convey a lot of information that we think is worth looking through carefully. On the other hand, sometimes it’s just easier to look at a quick summary. And that’s what you’ll see in Table 4 and Figure 4; both show the median talk time (in minutes, not seconds) by decile for the three schools.
Table 4: Median Talk Time (in Minutes) by Decile for All Three Schools
There’s not much difference among the schools in terms of how much time their callers spent on the phone with alums. Schools X and Y look very similar; School Z callers appear to have been just a bit “chattier.”
Now let’s look at the pledge money that was received from alums in the three schools by our time on the call deciles. It’s laid out for you in Tables 5-7 and Figures 5-7.
Table 5: Total Pledge Dollars and Mean Pledge Dollars by Talk Time Decile for All Alums in School X Who Either Made a Specified Pledge or No Pledge
Table 6: Total Pledge Dollars and Mean Pledge Dollars by Talk Time Decile for All Alums in School Y Who Either Made a Specified Pledge or No Pledge
Table 7: Total Pledge Dollars and Mean Pledge Dollars by Talk Time Decile for All Alums in School Z Who Either Made a Specified Pledge or No Pledge
These data are not tough to summarize. There is an obvious and strong relationship between time spent on the call with alums and how much the alums pledged. If someone pressed us for specifics, we’d say, “Look at the total pledge money received for deciles 1-3 (the bottom 30%) versus deciles 8-10 (the top 30%) for each school.”
Here they are:
- School X: $6,850 versus $164,485 (24 times as much)
- School Y: $25,032 versus $93,355 (3.7 times as much)
- School Z: $3,554 versus $220,860 (62 times as much)
So far we’ve confirmed some of the findings from our January paper. But what about the extra we promised?
You’ll recall that the alums we looked at in this study were ones who had (on the last call made to them) either agreed to make a pledge, or who had told the caller they would not make a pledge.
Take a look at Tables 8-10 and Figures 8-10. They show the percentage of alums at each decile who chose either option.
Table 8: Percentage of No Pledges versus Specified Pledges by Talk Time Decile for School X
Table 9: Percentage of No Pledges versus Specified Pledges by Talk Time Decile for School Y
Table 10: Percentage of No Pledges versus Specified Pledges by Talk Time Decile for School Z
As is often the case with data analysis, we sort of happened upon what you’ve just seen in these table and charts. We were looking at outcomes that were related to call length. We didn’t plan to look only at alums who either said they’d give a pledge or, “Nope, can’t help you out.” The thought just occurred to us as we were looking at lots of different possibilities. But look at what popped out. It almost appears as if we fudged the data. But we didn’t.
Some Concluding Thoughts
Here are three:
- We’ve now looked at call time data from four quite different higher education institutions. At this point, it would take a mountain of evidence from other schools to dissuade us from this notion: “The longer student callers talk to the alums they are soliciting, the more likely those callers are to obtain bigger and bigger pledges.”
- We are far from ready to tell call center managers: “Tell your callers to try to keep the alum on the phone as long as they can. If they do that, both your pledge rates and pledge amounts will go up dramatically.” It would be nice if things were that simple, but, of course, they are not. Some alums are quite willing to give a healthy pledge, and the last thing they want to do is yak on and on with a kid who went to a place they graduated from when people used rotary phones. Some callers are naturally chatty and engaging, as are some alums. Others are not. Humans beings are complicated creatures and they vary enormously. One size fits all advice is almost always unhelpful for dealing with them.
- That said, we do think this relationship between time on the call and pledge rate/pledge amount is worth a lot more investigation. A good example. Not long ago, Kevin (a call center manager himself) said:
“I’m always interested in identifying ways to predict which of those people who’ve never given us anything before will finally make a pledge. I’m going to start looking at the talk time of lifetime non-givers from last year who ended up making a pledge this year. I bet the talk time for those who converted will be a lot longer than for those who didn’t.”
Great idea. Let’s hear some more from you all.