$.55 cent ID Calls and Other Lies by Brad Chism

By at October 18, 2012 | 12:20 pm | Print

$.55 cent ID Calls and Other Lies by Brad Chism

Brad Chism, Zata 3

Political consultants and campaign managers are accustomed to living with shades of truth. But with three weeks to go, we bring you an unvarnished explanation of phone bank pricing.

Call Centers

Nearly all of the quality national and regional phone consulting firms have the same business model. We don’t own call centers ourselves—we have longstanding ties to the high end call centers who are handling commercial work about eight months a year. (Most of the low end call center business migrated off shore years ago so that in general, the call center quality is better.) We use this business model because we are political consultants and don’t want the year round expense of the call center overhead and staffing issues.


Nearly all of us charge by the contact, with the price varying according to the length and complexity of the script. We estimate the contacts per hour and price accordingly. So the number of questions we ask that require an operator to keystroke the response affects the contact rate. Also, the length of time we spend describing a candidate before we ask the question also affects the contact rate. The client’s decision on whether we talk to any voter in the household or to have a conversation with only one specific voter impacts the contact rate. And with most business processes, there are economies of scale so volume also impacts price.

Two Very Different Ways to Make Money

Phone consulting firms can make money one of two ways: The first model is to pay the call center by the hour and charge the client by the contact. The phone consultant looks at the script and estimates the contacts per hour, and prices according to a desired gross margin. In this model, the phone firm takes the risk—the calling lists could have lots of bad numbers, people could be answering the phone at lower than expected rates, or the script could be a dud. When this happen the phone firm eats the loss. But there are fewer surprises for the client. Zata|3 uses this model.

The second model is to pay the call center by the “contact” and mark up the price according to the desired gross margin. There’s no risk to the phone consultant with this model. If the call center says they can call a particular script for 39 cents a contact, and the phone firm wants a 35% margin, the firm charges the client $.60 for each contact.

Why The Second Business Model is Bad for You

In the second pricing scenario, MARK IT UP NO MATTER WHAT call centers, who have no connection with the campaign have an obvious financial incentive to rush through a script. More contacts mean more money for them. Also, coding errors increase –the call center has an incentive to code an “early hang up” which is usually not billable, as an “undecided” so that they can book more revenue. In the end, the data is less reliable.

You Get What You Pay For

Brad Chism, Partner and Senior Strategist of Zata|3 Consulting. Zata|3 helps elect Democrats and advance progressive causes by integrating telephone voter contact programs with a campaign’s other messaging. Zata|3 offers a full range of automated and live calling programs, from the initial ID call to the final GOTV message. Other services to reach your targeted voters include: SMS (text) messaging, Zata|Forum™ Telephone Town Halls, Zata|Pulse® Interactive Automated Surveys, and, coming soon, web-based Zata|Live™ Video Forum Town Halls.

Zata|3      458 New Jersey Avenue, SE                  Washington, DC 20003    
(202) 386-6024           www.zata3.com         info@zata3.com

Management & Strategy

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