With less than 30 days until Election Day here's a PolitIQs you'll certainly want to read - The Truth About Phone Bank Pricing

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Dear Friend,

By now most campaigns have finalized their media, digital, and mail budgets and are looking at options for phonebanks. Those without enough volunteers turn to phone consulting firms and are sometimes confused by the fine print in the proposals. Where do they get these numbers?  

While there are many different pricing models, the fundamental costs, and thus the basis for billing, is in phone rep dialing time. Very few phone firms own their own call centers and instead base their charges to campaigns on one of three formulae:  


  • Marking up a call center estimate on contacts per hour.  
    These firms take the scripts to a big call center house, get an estimate on the contacts per hour, and simply mark up that cost.  For example, if the call center says a completed two question ID call costs $.65, and the phone consultant’s business model calls for a 30% gross margin on all work, then the firm charges the campaign about $.93 a contact.  The gross margin is about 28 cents a contact.

    This system is simpler for the phone firm, but there are dangers for the client. When phone consultants pay “per contact”, the call centers  and their phone reps have a financial incentive to code responses differently than they might otherwise.  A “wrong number”  could become an “undecided” and so on.  And when the script calls for a longer, interactive call in conversational tone—such as a “Make a Plan to Vote” script, there is a tendency to hurry through the questions in order to log billable calls.  Moreover, when a campaign needs a project in the field overnight, having to rely on the call center to read the script and estimate pricing adds another layer to the process and can cause delays.

  • Billing the client on a unit cost per contact, but paying the call center by the hour. 
    In these situations the phone consultants pay the call center an hourly rate and use their own cost estimates based on their experience with different types of scripts and universes. The consultant assumes the risk that their projections are accurate. There is no incentive for the call center to rush through a script or to tweak the call reports to claim more “billable contacts”.  This process also allows for quicker price estimates and program launch.

  • Billing the client an hourly rate.
    This cycle some phone consulting firms are turning to an even simpler model of a cost per hour of calling. Campaigns typically pay $30 to $32 an hour for phone rep time (and lower rates for higher volume). This is an attractive option for campaigns when contact rates are difficult to estimate because of script length and complexity or the concerns about the phone universe. Generally, the phone consultant accepts a lower gross margin on the work  because they have less financial risk.

At Chism Strategies, we offer Options 2 and 3 to our clients. And we strongly recommend to campaigns and consultants who decide not to use us that they should avoid hiring any firm that uses the first pricing model. There are too many perverse incentives for the phone reps or their employers to miscode data or hurry though scripts.   

If you would like a detailed comparison of these three phone pricing structures just click here.

And as always, we invite you to join our voter research conversation on Twitter @ChismStrat.

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Chism Strategies is America’s leading direct voter contact firm. We are innovators, grounded in the best social science research, with decades of experience in the field to mobilize voters and change public opinion.


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