While exploring the customer journey, it’s easy to focus exclusively on digital applications. You want to make it easy for the growing number of multi-channel customers to find information that they need right when it’s needed, and you know that consumers are using the internet to research products and services before making important buying decisions. What you can’t lose sight of is the fact that many consumers still depend on telephone conversations to get information needed to make those decisions. As much as technology has advanced, it’s not yet time to hang up the phone.
Why Customers Call
Once you’re familiar with the journey that consumers now take from researching products to pulling out their credit cards, it’s not too difficult to identify points at which some buyers may turn from digital platforms to the telephone:
- Research: Consumers may dial a phone number if their online research isn’t delivering the information that they need. They may find incomplete or inaccurate information on some websites, causing confusion that is best cleared up by talking to someone knowledgeable firsthand. They may not purchase during this phone call, but the fact that they consider your company the trustworthy expert capable of delivering information and clearing up confusion is a good thing. Provide solid information now to drive future sales.
- Consideration & Comparison: As consumers start to compare leading brands and competing products, they may call to ask any lingering questions that haven’t been answered online or to ask about promotions, discounts and other purchasing matters. They’re close to making a purchase, so this is the best time to interact with them on the phone.
- Deciding & Purchasing: At this point, consumers are ready to make a purchase. They may want to place their order with a live agent to ensure accuracy, or they may still have some questions about shipping, delivery, ongoing fees and other product-specific issues. They will need to connect with experienced agents capable of processing orders or correcting mistakes in orders placed online. At this point, some consumers may call because they couldn’t place their order online for one reason or another. If you get too many of those calls, there is a problem that you need to fix online.
Thus, the most common reason for customers to call is assistance. While online ordering is convenient and many consumers now purchase through websites and mobile applications, there are still many who prefer to speak with a live agent before or during the order placement process. This is especially true when a consumer considers purchasing from an unfamiliar website or company. The lack of a phone number or other contact information is often considered a red flag for a potential scam. In this case, the mere presence of a phone number can assure new customers that your business is legitimate and your website is safe for orders.
Coordinating Digital Platforms with Phone Service
It’s important to provide a continuous customer experience across all platforms, and that requires coordination between your phone agents or call center and your website, blog, social media accounts, and mobile apps. Consumers may start their journeys online – in most cases mobile – and then call you for added information before going back online to continue their journey. While they may not place an order while on the phone, that contact is critical to securing their order online when they have completed their journey.
To help you pull your phone support into the overall customer journey, follow these suggestions:
- Make sure that phone representatives are familiar with all information presented online, including promotions that are offered only to online customers. This ensures that they know what consumers are talking about when they call in with questions about online material, and it ensures that accurate information is added to support the customer’s needs.
- Add your phone number to your website, blog, mobile app, and social media accounts. Put it in prominent places, including the top header, rather than leaving it to the Contact Us page.
- Make sure that your phone number is clickable from mobile devices. If you don’t have a responsive web design or your site won’t support this functionality, correct that immediately. And if you’re using Google Adwords adding a phone number is dramatically increasing your ad rank.
- Encourage phone contact just as you encourage clicks to your website or visits to your blog. For instance, you may end your blog posts with a line that tells readers that you can be reached at a given phone number for additional information.
While many consumers may spend most of their time researching and comparing products online and many prefer to make purchases through websites, they will pick up a phone when they have the most urgent questions. When they’re frustrated with the buying process, can’t find the information that they need, or are desperately trying to make a fast purchase, they will pick up the phone rather than spend more time reading and watching videos online. This means that your phone agents will have many customers on the line at the most critical points in the buying journey, and that makes phone service a powerful marketing tool.