When I asked about the importance of her call channel for inbound marketing activities, the CMO of a mid-sized software company told me recently: “We don’t put our number prominently on our website or on our marketing materials, because if we did, we’d get a lot of unqualified calls that waste our salespeople’s time.”
While it can be tempting to remove your telephone number from your marketing materials to prevent low-value calls, it’s important to recognize that it’s not about what’s the best communication channel for your business, but what’s the best channel for your customers. But that being said, the two can easily go hand-in-hand.
With mobile phones becoming much more than a calling device, it’s easy to forget how important the voice channel is for your customers’ experience as well as for growing your business. Embracing an inbound call strategy can give you an edge above those that rely on self-service and automation. These four tips will help ensure you’re getting the most out of your inbound call channel.
1) Reserve the voice channel for those who need it most.
There’s no better way to get to know your customers than by speaking to them directly. The challenge, though, is that every phone call costs a company between $9 and $15 on average, after taking into account the cost of labor. When doing business, some people prefer to call companies, others like to use live chat, and still others prefer email.
Whether you have a state-of-the-art call center or not, tailor your communication channels to the different stages of the customer lifecycle to make sure your sales team is talking to the right customers. Think critically about when calling would be best for customers — and profitable for you — so that you can optimize the phone and drive all voice interactions to your benefit. Typically, the more consideration the purchase of a product requires (either because it’s complicated or important), the more the voice channel will be important. Conversely, the simpler the task or decision, the more customers will want to self-serve.
Maintain a toll-free number so clients can always call you, but be strategic about where you place it. Putting the number at the top of your homepage widens the funnel of incoming calls and lowers their value, especially for mid-sized companies. Consider putting the number at the bottom of your product or pricing pages, or right below your calls-to-action.
Depending on where people are in the buying cycle, they may also be better served by website-based live help tools like LivePerson and SnapEngage. This streamlines phone volume while ensuring clients receive one-on-one attention as needed. Some of these tools have highly customizable rules engines that allow you to target only a subsection of visitors with live chat or live call invitations. (HubSpot customers: SnapEngage integrates directly with HubSpot. Learn more here.)
2) Follow through with your promise to be available.
Once you’ve ensured that you’re only getting the most profitable kinds of phone calls, the next step is to guarantee there’s someone qualified on your end to pick up. Don’t let the call go to voicemail or to an administrative assistant; the person answering needs to immediately be the right one. Consider using a cloud-hosted communications system like Voxox for routing the calls to the right people, based on the customer’s interest or profile. Additionally, you might want to consider establishing an on-call system for your company, especially if you have a small enough team that it’s reasonable for one team member to handle a shift alone.
Everyone who answers the phone should make each customer feel like the most important customer in the world. You can do this no matter the size of your company: The success of companies such as Zappos or American Express for instance, has largely been attributed to the quality of their inbound voice channel and the attention they give to every call. While replicating this requires considerable resources, remember that Zappos and American Express were small companies at some point, too.
3) Track and analyze your inbound calls.
Consider providing different numbers for your business to track the performance of your call channel. Use call analytics services from vendors like Ifbyphone, Invoca, and Century Interactive, which helps you categorize incoming calls based on their interest and quality. You can provide one number for Yelp listings versus one for Yellow Pages or another for Zagat.
From here, you’ll be able to track the success of your advertising expenses while still being able to respond to individual customers. Personalize the numbers you put on your business cards and in your email signature so that you’re giving specific numbers to various categories of potential clients.
You might even consider segmenting your inbound call channel based on service levels. For example, you can assign Gold, Silver, and Bronze categories to your clientele. If a Gold-level client calls, pick up no matter the time or inconvenience. If Silver, designate extended hours that you’ll make sure the call goes through. If Bronze, ensure that you’ll be able to pick up the phone when you’re free, etc.
Any type of stratification like those mentioned above helps you track the performance of your telephone numbers, improve your advertising spend, and provide better customer service. Taking these measures will not only help you maximize your marketing dollars, but it will also help you improve retention and loyalty.
4) Make your customer data work for you.
Getting calls is great, but knowing what to do once you have them is even better. Studies show that salespeople are 15% more productive if they have access to CRM data while on a call. Having access to all of this accumulated and recorded information on-the-go can make a huge difference in the performance of your inbound call channel, especially when routing calls to field or technical personnel.
Be sure that no matter when or where you receive a call you are able to utilize your CRM data. Couple your CRM data with social information to personalize it so that, if you get a call from an existing lead or prospect, you can cater the way you engage callers based on contract values, close dates, or social media updates from Facebook and Twitter.
Look into integrating your CRM with your phone system using Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) adaptors such as AMC or big data solutions such as Klink. This ensures that the call is logged once the conversation is over and that the salesperson is prompted to update the record. Not only does this improve the performance of your inbound marketing efforts, it significantly reduces average handle times and increases customer satisfaction.
With smartphones becoming much more than a calling device, and consumers looking for digital, one-to-one experiences, it’s easy to forget how important the voice channel is for growing your business. Embrace and enforce an inbound call strategy to get an edge over your competitors who rely on self-service and automation. Don’t be afraid to advertise your telephone number, either — it can only be beneficial to your business, just as long as you put it in the right spot!