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Every now and then, we speak with a blood donor who really drops a bombshell of reality on us all at once through our conversations.

Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME) Vicki Monsour recently had a conversation with the family of a blood donor who, as she sadly found out, was deceased. He was a young man who was actually a big advocate of donating blood and had helped out many folks with his own blood donations; this was something the family mentioned to Vicki as their conversation transpired. As Vicki continued to talk with the family and show empathy about the situation at hand, one of the family members asked how they could use their son’s death as a way to encourage others to donate blood. They even mentioned that in lieu of flowers they were kindly asking friends and family members attending the service to make a blood donation at the local blood center in honor of their son, since it was something he truly believed in and made a practice to do himself. It takes an amazing group of people to keep other folks in mind during such a tragic time.

This conversation really resonated with Vicki, even as she hung up the phone. Vicki is a Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME) that takes extreme pride in her job at Incept recruiting blood donors. She herself has experienced tremendous personal loss in her life and understands the need for blood and how the actions of blood donors help families with terminally ill family members. She actually brought this call to my attention after being touched by the family’s gesture.

Why Giving Blood Truly Does Matter

As human beings, we are all going to die. That sounds so morbid and simple to just say like that, but the sooner we accept our mortality the sooner we can truly live. That being said, people should be able to live a healthy life in this day and age. We shouldn’t have to worry about a losing a loved one to cancer. We shouldn’t have to wait on pins and needles in hopes that a parent’s heart surgery went well. We should all be able to have a serene and last moment with an ailing family member when their time has come and be able to say a meaningful goodbye. At the end of the day, it really is blood donors who make it all possible.

We always tell people their blood donations have the power to save up to three lives apiece, which is true. But sometimes that isn’t the case. Sometimes sickness can prevail over treatments, and our biological bodies act more like failing machines, as they break down and deteriorate. If you are a blood donor, at the very least, you can take pride in the fact that your blood donation might have kept someone alive long enough to say goodbye to their spouse or kids. Your blood donation might have helped alleviate some of their pain while they were hospitalized during their final days as well. Your blood donation has the power to improve the physical living conditions of those who are sick and dying. Isn’t that something to consider when donating blood?

You aren’t always just saving lives when you donating blood. Sometimes you are granting time and extending life to someone who might not be on this Earth for much longer. You are giving them and their families that opportunity for real closure. That is a truly inconceivable gift to most folks who haven’t been in a position of losing a loved one to a terminal illness.

It is funny, because when we talk to a blood donor who donates due to their own family members having received blood in a time of need, you can hear it in their voice. They give because they relate to the cause. They unconditionally understand the importance of being a blood donor and sometimes even get emotional talking about the act of donating blood, because they do it in a way that posthumously honors their deceased loved ones. They continue to carry their love for that person through the act of giving life to others.

Everyone has their own reasons for donating blood, but hopefully now you can better understand that donating blood isn’t just a way to get out of class or something you do on your lunch break. It is a way to remember a loved one and keep their memory living on.

Why do you donate blood?

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The trick to making every call your best call is treating each call with the same amount of enthusiasm. Listen to your donor, and fully take the opportunity to address any and all concerns, as well as truly hear what they are saying. Have you ever received a call and felt like the person on the other end wasn’t listening to you? Most people will answer yes to this question. We don’t want our donors to feel that way about us.

Relating to the donors you speak with

We want to truly take the time to make the person on the other end of the line feel special and important. We can do this by fully listening to the donor and using our acknowledgement skills to let the donor know we heard them and we understand where they are coming from. After all, we ourselves have lives – whether you have young kids at home, a club you belong to, a full-time job, a few part-time jobs, classes to attend – anyone can relate to a busy schedule. It will help your call to let the donor know you understand their situation.

Relating to the donor will help you strengthen the relationship between the donor and yourself; it allows the donor to see you as a person too, not just someone calling asking them for something. Relating to someone allows you to develop a bond and create that one-of-a-kind situation for the person on the other end of the call. Truly treat them as if they are the only person you will call today.

In a world as busy as ours where the hustle and bustle of everyday life often overcomes the simple things like communication. However, we have the opportunity to take time and have a conversation with a donor, someone who has so generously given a part of themselves to help save the life of another. The person you are talking to is someone who helped save another person’s parent, or sibling, or friend. By truly taking the time and thanking the donor, as well as listening to the donor’s concerns and helping answer any questions they have, you will create a great call. If you treat them with respect and truly do your best to help them and help strengthen the relationship with their blood center, you will be able to make that call one of your best calls.

When working at a contact center, it’s hard to remember that each call is just as important as the last call you made. It hard to separate each call and take the time to listen and understand what each individual person is asking or saying. It’s our job to do just that; to take each call as though it is the only call you will make today; as if this is the most important conversation you will have. Then and only then will you be able to make each call your best call.

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This blog post comes to us from Team Captain Cesar Vanderpool. Cesar is a master at being able to level with donors and retain them by using active listening skills and showing empathy in his calls. Here are some tips from him on the importance of showing empathy to donors who might have not had the best experience donating.

“I can’t donate blood. Last time I did, they missed my vein, and I got a black-and-blue spot.”

This is a common response that Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) face when trying to recruit a blood donor. At this point, it is up to the CME to change the donor’s perspective on donating blood. Donors who have a bad experience are the ones who need the most conversational care. It is very important to be apologetic and empathetic toward these donors. Being apologetic lets the donor know that we actually do care about their experience beyond scheduling an appointment to donate with us. If someone has a bad experience and it goes unnoticed it basically shows the donor that we only care about their blood and not their well-being.

Being empathetic lets the donor know that you care. The first way to show these things is not only apologize, but also to listen and engage yourself with that donor. You should always ask questions and listen to the donor’s full experience. You almost want to ask enough questions so that the donor paints a picture of the experience for you to visualize in your head. This makes you more conversational, and it makes it easier to relate to the donor. Simply having the conversation lets the donor know that their opinions do matter to us. Relating to them makes them feel more comfortable that maybe they aren’t the only one who has ever had a bad experience. By being apologetic and empathetic, it makes the final stage fall right into place. This is the step of actually retaining the donor.

The importance of showing empathy: retaining the donor

If you don’t properly do these things, it could cause the donor to not want to donate with us again. During the retaining process it’s important to let the donor know that we do have trained professionals on our staff, and mistakes like this do happen, but it is not typically a recurring issue. No one would want to donate if they felt that they would have a bad experience every time. One way to help lighten the mood for a donor is to tell them they should have this same conversation with the phlebotomist who is taking their blood during their next donation. Explaining these types of things with the phlebotomist will let them know that they have to take extra care of you, because they know that you are worried about a recurrence.

Once you’ve gotten the donor comfortable with the notion that we do care, their opinions are valued, and we want to make things as comfortable for them as possible, go into the importance of donating. Throwing facts at the donor (such as each donation can save up to 3 lives or that their platelets only have a shelf life of five days) makes the donor feel important. Show the donor that despite them having a bad experience the good outshines the bad. There are lives being saved. Even throwing in fun facts (like the blood is going to your local hospital so you actually are helping in your community) makes them think that they are doing more than donating; they are saving lives.

All in all, these are the more difficult donors to retain. By showing them (or in our case, telling them) the significant value and the importance of what they do, blood donors will feel better about the experience and, ultimately, keep them donating.

Saving lives is the name of the game!

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With it being National Blood Donor Month all of January, we really wanted to focus on more of what we do at Incept: blood donor recruitment using telerecruitment methods. Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) have thousands upon thousands of conversations each week with current donors, lapsed donors, prospective first-time donors, as well as donors who would be good candidates to convert to apheresis donors who ultimately donate red cells, platelets, or plasma depending on their local center’s needs.

Whichever type of recruitment you are doing, whether it be for whole blood, a double red cell donation, platelets or plasma, one thing I have found out to be repeatedly true and useful is to really convey to the blood donor just what their blood is being used for. The challenge of blood donor recruitment is the fact that we aren’t selling anything. We are asking someone to give up their own personal time and part of themselves. It is up to us to upsell the fact to blood donors that they are indeed saving people’s lives with each and every blood donation they make. This is an incredibly enduring and tireless effort that we must continue to make.

Most people never think of what would happen if there were no blood donations. How would there be more cancer survivors without the platelets of blood donors? How much harder would burn victims’ treatments be if not for the generous gift of plasma from a blood donor? How would a car accident victim make it through an emergency surgery without the multiple donations of red cells by generous blood donors weeks before? What if the small percentage of Americans who take it upon themselves to be lifesavers just quit donating blood? How much do our blood centers have to beg and plead for us to understand that it literally takes thousands and thousands of people donating to keep a healthy blood supply in America, a place where 41,000 blood donation units are needed every single day.

One of my favorite ways to thank a donor is to tell them this: “We want to say thank you for donating blood. You really are helping us save lives. While your body will replenish the fluid we take, you will not be able to get back the hour you spend donating, so, if anything, we recognize that and appreciate you joining us to give.” That is the truth. My body will make back whatever is taken from me when I donate blood, but no matter how much money I pay nor how much I wish or hope, I will never get back the time I spend donating blood in this life. Am I okay with that?

You bet.

Express gratitude to your blood donors for the time they take out of their lives to give.

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One of my areas of expertise is calling and recruiting blood donors country-wide to donate in their local communities after scheduling an appointment with me.

Being a Conversational Marketing™ Expert (CME) that works for the Saves (non-profit) side of Incept can have its own challenges. You aren’t only trying to work around a stranger’s personal (and often unknown) schedule, but in some cases you are actually trying to convince someone to save lives as a first-time donor. This means you are literally persuading someone to have a needle stuck in their arm and then proceed to have a pint of bodily fluid drained from them. It is all for a good cause, but it can be a test of conversational skills.

It is good for blood centers and blood banks to embrace telerecruiting methods. It gives the blood center the chance to focus on the donation process and the literal act of taking care of their donors and leaves it to us to continue to build and strengthen the relationship with those same donors on their behalf. When recruiting blood donors, a CME will hear some reasons for not donating more than others, and there will be situations where we have to make a best judgement call in an attempt to strengthen the relationships with the donors. Accordingly, I’ve compiled a list of the three challenges and responses that will help any blood bank with their recruitment over the phone.

Handling Questions and Objections From Blood Donors

  • Why do you people keep calling me so much? This is a common question from donors. The reality is that many blood centers need hundreds of blood donors every single day to be able to maintain their current supply and meet the needs of local area hospitals. Explain this to the donor. Do it in such a way that you acknowledge that your organization might call them on a frequent basis, apologize for it, but be adamant in explaining why you are calling them currently. When you take the time to do this, you usually can even hear the donor respond with a sense of understanding in their voice. It makes for an easy transition into a trial close to ask the donor to donate.
  • I had a bad experience at the center last time I donated. It is always important to acknowledge and apologize when a donor says they have had a bad experience donating blood. Donors usually aren’t discouraged enough to completely stop donating, but it can make them more hesitant when it comes to scheduling. Use these opportunities to engage the donor, and offer them a different center or even a local mobile drive to see if a different location would make them feel more comfortable. This technique gives you a chance to still be assumptive in assuming the donor is going to donate, just at a different spot than normal. The key to these situations is acknowledging the bad experience, thanking them for even donating and being a current donor, and encouraging them to try again in a comfortable manner.
  • I don’t know what my schedule looks like, so I’ll have to get back to you. This is one of the most common reasons why a blood donor will not donate. This is the perfect chance for us to acknowledge that while their schedule is probably full, we can set them up a few weeks out. The great feature we have for their benefit is the fact that we will give them a reminder call twenty-four hours before that. You want to schedule within a ten-day window if you can, usually. We have done many tests, and all the data shows that a donor is much more likely to go in if the appointment is set within that time frame.

Stay tuned for more tips on recruiting blood donors!

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We love social media here at Incept. We really like interacting with our friends (and especially blood centers) from our own Twitter handle, @InceptSaves. Twitter recently followed in Facebook’s steps and went public, offering shares to private investors. Many people consider Twitter a very comprehensive source of what is going on in the world. Many people on Twitter stay up-to-date on world news through their feed and by watching different trending topics. Since part of our business deals with helping blood centers with their donor recruitment, we thought we’d take a look at who is using Twitter effectively and efficiently and give them a shoutout!

We Like The Way You Tweet

  • Suncoast Communities Blood Bank (@SuncoastBB) – Suncoast Communities Blood Bank is a blood bank that serves Sarasota area hospitals with the blood they require to treat patients. A big shoutout goes to Suncoast for stepping up their donor recognition, as well as educational efforts to help spread knowledge of donating blood.
  • Puget Sound Blood Center (@Bloodcenter) – Puget Sound Blood Center really impresses us with the way they interact directly with their donors online. They literally tweet “Thank you” to those donors who have donated with them and are keen to share donor and donation recipient experiences on their feed. Puget Sound Blood Center helps serve the western half of Washington state hospitals.
  • Be The Giving Type (@Bethegivingtype) – Be The Giving Type is a blood donor campaign set up to help spread awareness about blood donations to people all over the country. It is a campaign that is supported by LifeSource, Central Blood Bank, Geisinger Blood Center, and Virginia Blood Services. They are fairly new to Twitter, but we have a feeling they will be growing their following quickly! They have done a great job of sifting through blood donor content online to help educate their audience and, in turn, are poised to become effective curators on the topic.

Nicely done, blood centers!

Want to interact with us on Twitter? Tweet at us at @InceptSaves.

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Here at Incept, one of our values is never satisfied. Along with this value, we use the philosophy that we should always improve everything. This is why if you speak with any our Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs), they will tell you that when recruiting a blood donor, they always try to schedule an appointment within the next ten days out. The reason they do this is because we have found that the closer the appointment is to the date of the call, the greater the likelihood that the donor will show up for their appointment. For example, if a donor schedules an appointment for tomorrow, they are more likely to show up for their appointment than a donor who schedules an appointment for three weeks from now.

We know that donors schedule an appointment with pure intentions, which is why our Conversational Marketing™ Experts (CMEs) would never deny a donor an appointment that would be the most convenient for the donor’s schedule. With that being said, we know that things come up that are out of the donor’s control. It seems that these days we find our schedules fuller with each coming day. And I hate to say it already, but the holidays are right around the corner. This means everyone’s schedules are going to get even tighter. This is why when the donors don’t have preferences, our CMEs jump at the opportunities to schedule them to donate as soon as possible.

When a donor comes in sooner, it means that patients receive the blood components that they need to save their lives even faster. When always improving everything results in saving more lives, it is easy to see why we are never satisfied.

To take this concept one step further we realized that we had the opportunity to increase our productive donor rate. Our productive donor rate is calculated by comparing how many donors scheduled an appointment to how many donors gave a successful donation. This opportunity came in the form of direct mail. We know that our donors are busy, and we also know that they aren’t all able donate or schedule to donate within the next ten days. But we realized that we could help remind the donors who have scheduled their appointments more than ten days out via postcard.

The postcard reminder is sent a week prior to their appointment and includes their appointment date, time, and location. This prompts the donor to take a look at their schedule to make sure that they haven’t overbooked themselves. The postcard also provides a reschedule phone number for the donor to call in the event there is a conflict in their schedule.

The results of this test have shown that our productive donor rate increased by approximately 3%  just by sending a postcard reminder to donors who have an appointment scheduled further than ten days out. So if you ever find yourself thinking that you have done all that you can, I encourage you to challenge yourself to be never satisfied, because in the end you will find that you can always improve everything!

In what other ways do you identify improvement opportunities?

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Here is a guest blog from veteran Incept Employee, Jeff Wein.

Hi, My name is Jeff Wein. I have been an employee with Incept Corporation for nearly 4 years now. I have had the pleasure and opportunity to help out with many different things here at Incept. Whether that be coaching, listening to calls, training, or even making calls, all aspects of this job require that you take your time while doing them. It kind of plays into the age-old saying you may have heard your grandmother proclaim: “Make sure you do it right the first time!”

As conversational marketing experts here at Incept, one of our primary everyday jobs on the Saves side of the Company is that of blood donor recruitment. In short, we place calls to and receive calls from blood donors who have donated before in attempts to secure their support again.

Often I’ve had team members ask me, “Jeff, where do you draw the line? How long is too long to take on a phone call?” On average, a great call can typically be handled within 3-5 or 5-7 minutes depending on the context of the call and the age of your contact. Don’t come across hurried or in a rush unless you are legitimately in a rush to provide assistance to your customer. The most important thing to remember during each call is to offer the best customer service you possibly can, and the rest will follow suit! Results, appointments, and positive numbers will all fall into place when you take care of your donor and exceed their customer service expectations.

Here at Incept it’s important that we always take however long is necessary. Something we always want to keep in mind is that not only are we a professional organization but we represent, on a daily basis, clients that are much bigger organizations than our own. And each of them have a professional image to uphold. One thing we pride ourselves in is our ability to offer customer service excellence through the strategic use of conversational marketing.

What this means is that we need to go into our cubicles each day with “The situation dictates” in the forefront of our minds. This saying serves as a reminder that each and every person we get the opportunity to talk to has a different situation, and each must be handled delicately and specifically.

Through the use of active listening you always want to offer the contact peace of mind that you are not only hearing what they have to say, but that you also understand. This will give you the ability to respond relevantly to each donor’s issues and handle them to the best of your ability. So keep in mind no matter what that even when we don’t get the appointment, we want to be sure to take whatever time necessary to make the donor feel important. We are here to assist an accommodate them, even if that means taking a “No” today. Always take every “No” in stride and with a smile on your face, because we want each contact to be left with a welcoming environment in our call so they want to talk to us again.

So with all that being said you’re still thinking, “Jeff, you never told us the one thing we asked: How long is too long?” To that I will say one last thing: Focus less on the numbers and the “front end” of things, and just do your best in each and every call. At the end of the day, customer loyalty and strengthening relationships are the desired outcomes of our work here.

Not necessarily how long it took you to do it.

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Flexibility seems like a simple word, but in the workplace this ability can make all the difference. Being able to work with others and around what they need to do while still doing what you need to do is a good skill to have. Have you ever gone into work expecting to do one thing or call one program but find out you will be doing something else or calling something else that day because of outside circumstances? Of course you have, and of course you do as you are instructed.

The best thing to keep in mind is that what you are doing – be it calling a certain program, on-the-fly coaching, putting together a last-minute training – in the end you are doing what’s best for the company. You are helping make your supervisors your customers by being flexible. Flexibility means being willing to do something different from what is expected, for the good of someone or something else.

In your life, you will find many opportunities where it is best to be flexible. The best way to handle any change is with open arms and eyes. Don’t get upset about something that is thrown your way that will help better you, better someone else, or better the company as a whole. By showing your bosses that you are flexible and willing to do what needs to be done without complaining, your dedication and willingness to help out will be obvious.

Flexibility is not just dropping what you’re doing to do something else; it’s being willing to help out a teammate or employer but doing what they need help with currently. Keep an open mind and remember that when you are asked to do something, it is for a good reason. And whoever is asking this of you needs your full support. Sometimes opportunities will change, so do your best to be open-minded in these situations, and it will take you a long way.

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You’re being pressured from all directions to collect not only more units but the right type of units, by location, by day, and based on the ever-changing inventory needs of the blood center. Additionally, the staff you have in place has probably never been trained on the sales skills necessary to make every interaction a strong one.

How do the most successful blood centers handle these competing priorities?

Taking an approach by which we use our strengths to our advantage at Incept, we propose letting clinical staff reinforce the message that our trained team of sales people have delivered. How do we recommend you do that?

  1. Examine your donor base. Look at counts of current donors, lapsed donors, and super-lapsed donors by blood type and by previous procedure type. This will allow you to strategically decide what procedure you need from what donor type and ensure you have the quantity of donors you need to reach your stated goals.
  2. Set your strategy. Generically speaking, it would look something like this:
    Of course, your conversion strategy needs to change as your inventory needs change, but having your entire team on the same page is critical to success. Remember, if a donor says no to automation, you should always default to a whole blood request.
  3. Look at your contributors. I, of course, recommend using tele-recruitment to drive your conversion strategy. But that starts with training! Spend several hours educating your tele-recruitment staff on each procedure, where it is used, how long it takes, and the benefits to the patient and the donor.
  4. Create a compelling script to educate your donor and convert them to the procedure needed. An example of a conversion script for platelets would be something like this:

Because you are a/an [insert blood type], the component of your blood most needed is platelets. Platelets are the part of your blood that is used most commonly for patients undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplants, or dealing with weakened immune systems. The process of donating only platelets takes longer than a traditional donation; however, because we take only the platelets and give you back your red blood cells, we are able to draw 5 to 6 times as many platelets than we are able to collect during a normal whole blood donation. Platelets are highest in demand at this time, and because you are an ideal candidate, we’d love for you to help area patients with a platelet donation for your next visit. We are currently scheduling at our [insert center] for [insert next two available days]. Which of these days works best for you?

Now you’re ready! You have your strategy, a trained staff, and a compelling message. Start dialing! Choose your tele-recruiters who have high sales aptitudes. Track their results separately to ensure quality and performance. The best way to grow your platelet donor base is through conversion and allowing your sales team to do the conversion. This will enable your clinical staff to reinforce the message, answer questions, and make the donation process an enjoyable one so that you gain an automated donor for life!

Try this conversion process and watch your results increase!

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