Offering Phone Support: The Store Owner’s Dilemma

Phone-SupportDeciding if and how to offer phone support is one of the hardest things I’ve wrestled with as an eCommerce entrepreneur.  I’ve tried half a dozen different approaches and I’m still not 100% satisfied with how I’ve incorporated it in my business.  It’s a really tough issue, especially for small independent merchants with limited staff.

Today I want to share the bumpy road I’ve traveled regarding phone support and how I’m approaching it today, and offer tips for how to best incorporate phone support into your own business.

The Benefits of a Phone Number

There are a lot of great advantages to offering quality, personal phone support:

It’s a great way to learn:  Especially early on in a new business, there’s no better way to understand your customers than by talking to them directly.  You’ll learn all sorts of things about them through casual conversation that would never come up in an email.

Faster service:  Few things resolve an issue or get a question answered faster than a phone call.  It’s a great customer experience.

Easier to build rapport:  Talking directly with a person allows you to build a rapport and then turn a potential lead into a life-long customer.

Builds trust for high-priced items:  Selling $4,000 diamond-studded fingernail clippers?  You’d better have a phone number!  The more expensive the items, the more likely your customers will want to talk to you before pulling the trigger.  (Plus, wouldn’t you want to find out who was spending $4K on nail trimmers?)

 

The Downsides of a Phone Number

But there are plenty of problems as well, especially for bootstrapping entrepreneurs and small teams:

It’s expensive:  Providing good phone support is downright expensive (from a staffing perspective), which isn’t necessarily a problem if you have rich margins or high per-order profits.  But if you’re selling smaller items, or working with thin margins as a drop shipper, it can be very difficult to offer phone support and still be profitable.

It’s hard to outsource well:  How many times have you had an incredible outsourced phone experience?  Yeah, me neither.  Usually it’s a terrible experience that leaves you thinking less of the company you called.  If you’re going to do it right, you’ll need to keep your phone support in-house.

Dealing with low-value calls:  If everyone who called asked a few well-thought-out questions and then placed an order, offering phone support would be a no-brainer.  The problem is that for every “ideal” phone customer, you’ll field numerous calls that aren’t necessarily a good use of your time.  People will call to ask about items you don’t have. They’ll ask dozens of questions and then order from the competition, or they might disable your productivity with a meandering conversation for the better part of an hour.

Requires constant monitoring:  If you’re bootstrapping your store alongside your 9-to-5 (well done!), it’s next to impossible to provide real-time phone support.  And even if you’re working full-time on your store, chances are you’re wearing a ton of hats and are working on many other tasks.  Taking calls throughout the day makes it hard to focus for long periods of time, breaks your concentration and makes it more difficult to be productive.

 

How I Initially Handled the Phones

When I started my first store, Right Channel, I loudly advertised my phone number and personally answered every call that I received.  And it was terrific!  I learned a tremendous amount about my customers’ needs and problems, and really grew to understand the market and products.  Plus, my customers received top-notch personalized service, which helped build my store’s reputation.

As time wore on, however, I started to reconsider phone support for all of the reasons listed above – especially when I realized that the vast majority of my revenue (85%+) was being generated via orders placed online.

By deciding to stop accepting phone calls, I lost less than 15% of my revenue and freed up a substantial amount of time to market the business and better serve existing customers.  It was a classic 80/20 scenario and was a much more scalable model for my then-solo operation.

Phone-Sales-Chart

 

Phone Support vs. Customer Service

I think it’s crucial to clarify at this point that I believe offering outstanding customer support is absolutely essential for eCommerce success. To many, I imagine this may appear like I’m “gutting” the service department in favor of efficiency, which is definitely not a sustainable long-term business strategy.

But I don’t think customer support can be defined with something as narrow as offering phone support.  To me, great customer service means offering a quality product and solving problems quickly for the customers you’ve chosen to do business with.

While I decided not to offer broad in-bound phone support, I was focusing on other areas to make sure I was offering quality support.  Things like sending out free replacements for defective items, upgrading packages to express shipment and quickly replying to emails.  I was intentionally choosing not to do business with a small segment of my customers (those who needed to call in), but was making sure to offer top-notch support in all other areas of the business.

 

How I’m Handling Phones Now

Over the years, I’ve tried just about every type of phone situation you can imagine to offer phone support in a cost-effective way.  I’ve put a toll-free number on the website that went to voicemail so I could call customers back.  I’ve had a toll-free number that went to a voicemail asking customers to email us (which I don’t recommend).  I’ve also gone cold-turkey and completely removed the phone number from the site.

After changing things up countless times, here’s what I’m doing today after experimenting for years with our phones:

For Right Channel Radios

At Right Channel, we sell radio equipment and accessories that have a lower average order price.  Because the per-order profit is on the small end, we don’t offer a general sales number where customers can call in with questions.

Instead of investing in phone support that isn’t scalable, I’ve invested heavily in creating an extremely detailed website with tutorials, pictures and in-depth product descriptions to help shoppers make informed decisions.

I do, however, have a phone number for business clients, as they’re more likely to order in bulk.  And if we have regular customers call us on this business number, we’re happy to help/accomodate them via the phone.

For TrollingMotors.net

TrollingMotors.net is a slightly different beast.  Because we sell high-end trolling motors that can cost as much as $2,000, we have a general phone number customers can call.  Offering phone support isn’t any less expensive, but the fact that the per-order profit is much higher makes this something we’re able to profitably do.

Additionally, because the items are more expensive, a much larger percentage of customers want to talk with someone before or during purchase.  So if we didn’t offer a toll-free number, we’d see a significant portion of our sales dry up.

Limited Phone Hours

For both businesses, our phone lines are open only in the mornings between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. MST.  After a lot of back and forth, we’ve found this to be a good compromise for offering phone support but not allowing it to consume our entire day.  This way, our team can focus on operations in the morning and work on longer-term projects that require more focus in the afternoons without being interrupted.

Who’s Answering the Calls?

For the first few years of business, I personally answered calls for both businesses, so I’m very comfortable doing that.  But once I brought on my first state-side employee (here’s looking at you, Pat!), he took over those responsibilities.  So while I’ll occasionally cover the phones when he’s out of the office, it’s a trusted team member who manages most of those calls.

Before Pat came on board, I considered hiring a call center to help me but I decided against it – and I’m glad I did.  I think it’s extremely difficult to train third-party contractors to provide quality phone support, especially if your needs go beyond basic operational issues (returns, order placement, etc.).  Personally, I’d rather have no phone number than offer a subpar outsourced phone experience to my customers.

 

Tips for Your Own Business

As you’re wrestling with this beast called phone support, here are a few tips from my experience that should help:

Know What Percentage of Sales Come From the Phones

This is absolutely crucial to understand for your business.  If only 5% of your revenue comes from the phones, eliminating your toll-free number is probably a no-brainer.  But if you’re generating 70% of sales via phone orders, you’ll need to be very careful with the changes you make.

You can, of course, track this manually.  But what I prefer to do is to set up two Google Analytics profiles – one that includes ALL of my sales data and one that filters out sales data that originates from our location in Bozeman, Mont.

Because we place most customer orders via the website, all of these “phone orders” will be filtered out of the revenue report in the second profile.  Comparing the difference in revenue between the two profiles is a quick way to determine how much of your revenue is being generated by the phone.

Locate Your Number Strategically

Slapping your toll-free number in 80-point font on your homepage probably isn’t the best approach, as you’ll likely be flooded by callers asking any and all random questions.  Instead, be a little more strategic to increase the number of high-value calls you get.

At TrollingMotors.net, we were repeatedly getting calls asking about repair parts (which we don’t sell) and from customers inquiring about warranty issues (because they thought we were the manufacturer).  So to help increase efficiency, we listed four options on our “Contact Us” page.

If the visitors needed help with one of the issues we didn’t offer, the link they clicked would quickly address that issue and point them in the right direction.  If they needed to order – or needed help with an existing order – they’d see a page with our phone number.

TM-Contact-Us-3

Do It Well – Or Not at All

Unless you’re offering a VERY basic product that doesn’t need much explaining, it’s going to be difficult to outsource your phone support.  Sure, you can have a call center take orders and pass along return information to you.  But if your customers need much more than that, they’re going to be frustrated talking to someone who’s working off a script.

Your best bet?  Either skip the phone line all together and provide email support or bring it in house.

Beef Up Your Website and Email Support

If you won’t be offering a phone number, you’ll need to have exceptionally good email support.  As someone who used an Excel worksheet to track customer support issues when I got started (I can’t believe I’m admitting this), I’d highly recommend using a help desk.  I currently use Zendesk, but I’ve been impressed by HelpScout recently and would recommend them as well.

Without phones, you’ll also need to invest in an incredibly detailed and value-adding website.  That’s because most customers will simply go elsewhere if you’re not available to answer questions directly and your website does a poor job of supplying the information needed.  For more insights on beefing up your website, see this case study on redesigning an online store.

Which Toll-Free Service to Use?

Currently, we use RingCentral … and they’re all right. Not great, but all right.  Their interface is pretty complex and confusing, but once you get things set up, everything seems to work fairly well – unless you’re on a Mac.  If you’re an Apple guy, RUN AWAY from RingCentral, as their OS X soft phone is absolutely terrible.

I’ve heard good things about Grasshopper, although I’ve never used them myself, and Phone.com and Phonebooth.com are some other options.  My friend and fellow store owner Pete Sveen did a great write-up comparing these four phone services over at Think Entrepreneurship that’s definitely worth checking out.

 

What Do You Think?

How do you handle phone support in your business?  Think I’m missing out by not offering full-fledged phone support?  I know there are a ton of opinions on the issue, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

 

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Comments

  1. Billy Murphy says:

    Good article.

    This used to be one of the things I’d look for in a site I was buying. If they didn’t have a phone number, I’d figure I could pick up a xx%/month increase in sales just by having someone to answer phones(since we had someone in house). If they did have a number, a lot of people didn’t answer the phone, which as you mention is even worse. A lot of the ones on flippa didn’t have numbers since they’re run by a lot of people who do it as a side hobby and have a full time job and can’t answer the phones. If they did have one, we’d just call the number a handful of times throughout the day and if we never got an answer we’d factor that in a little bit to the price we were willing to pay.

    • Andrew says:

      Wow, good to know Billy! If I ever put my sites up for sale, I’ll make sure to slap a phone number up and be vigilant about answering calls – especially if you’re still in the market! :-)

      Were the sites you were looking at selling higher-ticket items, or smaller ones? And do you offer phone support across all your stores regardless of the price / profit level per order?

      Regardless, it’s definitely a good factor to consider during negotiations if you’re in the market to buy a store. Thanks for the tip!

      • Billy Murphy says:

        Average order was usually a few hundred bucks. We did offer phone support across all our stores, but looking back I would have preferred that time went towards making a much better site as you mention in your post. We just kept buying/starting more stores, and answering any/every call that came in on them, when we should have been creating an authority site. I’m sure our conversions suffered by using that strategy. As you mention, the majority of sales are coming from online(without phone support needed) so even if we converted 100% of our sales over the phone, but our online conversions were half what they could have been, the math tells me I was an idiot for not focusing more time on converting the traffic we were getting.

        • Andrew says:

          That’s a good way to think about it from a math / conversion rato perspective. At the end of the day, having a super high-value website is infinitely scalable whereas sales phone support isn’t.

  2. Whilst we only do digital sales over at Obox Themes, we’ve decided against doing telephone support. We do get asked occasionally for it, but not often enough to warrant a different approach. We have a very robust support forum for technical support, as well as an extensive FAQ and knowledgebase and direct access to myself or another member of the team for pre-sales support.

    Would a telephone number and telephone support enable us to get more sales? Possibly but we’ve never included it as yet so it’s hard to know.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks for sharing, Gavin! Would be interesting to test to see how much sales you’re giving up, and how much work it would be to provide support via phone given your business model…

  3. Mike Chrest says:

    Andrew,

    I find my 1-800 number is not expensive at all . I have it going to my cell phone with a national long distance plan. I find that it is invaluable as my customers have lots of questions and some want to order over phone or check on shipping ect. Pretty sure I would be losing business with out it. In Canada the cost to have a bare ( no landline) 1-800 is about 5.95 a month plus long distance.

    Also another though 1-800 numbers lend legitimacy to your business WAAAAAYYY more than trust mark , as a customer knows you are only a phone call away.

    Mike

    • Andrew says:

      Hey Mike! Thanks for the comment. I wasn’t very clear in my post. When I said expensive, I wasn’t referring to the cost of the technology or phone lines. I was referring to the human / time cost involved with offering phone support. Having a trained, local in-house employee to answer phones is the “expensive” portion of what I was referring to. :-)

      But you’re right – an 800 number does add legitimacy to be sure. We found that simply by having the 800 number on our homepage that online orders – not phone orders – but just the boost to online orders increased about 10%! So it is very powerful.

      • Mike Chrest says:

        Andrew,

        I understand there can be some time involved and if you running other businesses it can be a bit much. I always find I get more out of the customers calls than what i put in, for example I always try to glean as much info from a client when they are asking me questions i ask lots too, Like how did you find my site ( through Google , PPC ect) or how do you find the site to use is there anything I can go to improve it. Helps me make improvements and increase customer satisfaction.

        Mike

  4. Carole Rains says:

    With practically everyone using cell phones now, is it really necessary to get an 800 number as opposed to a regular number? I shop online a lot, and don’t care at all if a company’s number isn’t toll free, but don’t know if that’s the common sentiment. I’m about to get a dedicated number for my ecommerce site, so this article came at the perfect time.

    • Andrew says:

      Good question! I’ve actually thought about that, too. Today, I think the 800# is less about the cost incurred and more about looking “official”. Because you’re right – 90% of people calling aren’t going to pay any difference. But personally, when I see a shop with a local number only, for some reason it comes across as less professional. Just a carry-over from an older era I guess….

  5. Nice piece. I have gone down most of these same paths. Since one of our sites sells safes and a large portion of our customer basis are concerned about items being American made and they will call just to see if we answer, we decided to continue to provide phone support 8am to 5pm on that site.

    We have run into many customers thinking we are the manufacturer and want customer support. “I cannot get into my safe” – “what is my combination” – :) To help curb this we have set up a answering system to answer the most common questions (ie “if you have lost the combination to your safe, press #1, if you need to place an order press #2, and so on). We provide them with the information they need and provide speaking to a human as the last resort. This has really helped us weed out any calls that are not related to placing an order or product questions.

    We have also put a link on our contact us form to help people locate the manufacturer’s contact information. We have found most people just end up calling us, thus the answering service information. We also use RingCentral as well…and yeah, not wonderful, but not terrible.

    Does your site publish the phone hours? Or do you just have a answering service list out the hours of phone operation?

    • Andrew says:

      Hey Janel! Good to see you here in the comments, and thanks for sharing. :-)

      We’ve actually done similar things with TrollingMotors.net for the phone system in terms of addressing common questions by asking them up-front. The manufacturer one is one we deal with all the time, too.

      We do publish our phone hours on the website, so people know ahead of time. But we’ll, of course, also let people know we’re closed in the afternoons (for phones, at least) if they call after hours.

    • Desiree says:

      Hi Janel – on one hand I’m glad we’re not terrible! :) Please let me know if there are any issues I can help with. I’d love to make your experience with us better.

      Thanks.

    • James says:

      From a customer perspective, I have personally found that calling up and getting a machine to lower the value of the experience, so I would suggest there is a trade off here.

      In this way, perhaps it is important to limit the amount of options before reaching the option of talking to an operator. If possible only covering the most commonly asked questions. As an extreme example, I think if I had to listen to ten different options, I would hang up by that point.

      Another way to improve the experience might be to somehow frame the experience at the beginning of the call.

      For example, “because we are extremely busy please choose from one of the options or hold the line for an operator”.

      I’d also be interested to know what would happen if you framed the experience as:

      “Because we are extremely busy, you can press one for the operator or hold to hear two/three very common options/questions to help us out”.

      • James says:

        Actually, should be like this…

        “Because we are extremely busy, you can press one for the operator or to help us out, hold to hear two/three questions that we get 90% of the time”.

  6. Leighton says:

    I loved your suggestion about addressing common questions before they find the phone number–sounds like a great way to save phone time for both you and your customers.

    You mentioned that outsourcing phone support hasn’t worked well for you, and I was wondering if you’ve tried using a dedicated virtual assistant to answer phones? If so, what has your experience been with that?

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks Leighton! While I’ve had VAs interact with customers a handful of times, I’ve never tried this as a long-term approach. The times that the VAs did interact, it wasn’t a good fit. They often didn’t feel comfortable talking with someone in a sales / service capacity on the phones, and the customers could usually tell they were chatting with someone overseas and asked questions or raised some issues.

      So not to say it can’t be done, but especially if you’re a small niche shop it can be hard to do well without raising some eyebrows and potentially making both parties (VAs and customers) either unhappy or uncomfortable.

    • Andrew says:

      And BTW, congratulations on releasing your first podcast episode – awesome!

  7. Erik Rohman says:

    Great article Andrew! It should be worth mentioning that a local phone number is very important if you are interested in capturing sales via mobile device searches. While it seems almost counter intuitive for an eCommerce business to list a local number instead of a toll free number, giving your store a brick and mortar “feel” can go a long ways when trying to get those tablet and smart phone purchases.

    Also I have read that Google is looking for “local business presence” on your site. Maybe you can comment on this aspect of having a phone number on your site?

    I know that my webmaster/marketing team is very keen on local listings even though I am pure eCommerce. Especially when it comes to banner ads for mobile devices.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks Erik!

      Funny, I just commented above on Carole’s comment about how I thought an #800 number was more professional, but I can see where you’re coming from if local is a key component of your business. Unfortunately, local search is definitely not one of my areas of expertise, so I’m not sure I can comment on that with much authority. We sell almost nothing locally. As in, maybe 2 orders per year. :-)

      • Erik Rohman says:

        The way phone and tablet search engines work is they default to local area search. Many pre configured laptops do as well. With mobile phone and tablet shopping growing at such a fast pace it’s definitely a factor to be considered.

  8. Joe says:

    Great advice Andrew,
    When my first store took hold and started to really go there were four of us running the operations and we were all answering the phones as well as the other day to day stuff like order processing etc. As we neared our busy season our business was growing very fast and the incoming phone calls got so intense we had to quit answering them for 2 months out of our busiest time of year. We panicked and just put a message on the answering machine saying…

    “due to current order volumes we are unable to take your calls at this time. We will resume taking phone calls after the new year.”

    It makes me laugh when I look back at it now because I can’t imagine how it must have sounded to people calling in. When we started listening to the messages there were a lot of WTF comments. It was a great problem to have but certainly caused some problems. If I could do it over again I would have just pulled the number down from the site until I was staffed properly to handle the call volume.

    That said, I feel our call center is a major asset. You can learn more in one day of taking phone calls about your customers than you can after months of taking orders online.

    • Andrew says:

      Awesome story, Joe – I love it!

      I’ve also had some “what was I thinking” moments with the phones, too. Like when I had a phone number on the homepage that lead to a message saying “Thanks for calling! Sorry, we don’t have a live sales person. Please email us.”. Terrible, terrible service and approach. Luckily, that didn’t stay up for too long. :-)

      Glad the phones are such an asset for you! It’s true – you can learn so much talking directly to the customer.

  9. Brad says:

    Great post. This is a topic I’ve always wanted someone to cover.

    To throw out another vendor option I use FreedomVoice. $10/mo and you can forward an 800 number to your cell or have it go straight to voicemail, which is what I do.

    Additionally, I’m not a huge phone guy, so I’ve found Live Chat to be a very useful alternative for basic questions etc.

    It definitely seems like a useful exercise to try and measure the number of calls that are related to basic support, and those which potentially lead to a sale. Then you can decide whether it’s worth the time and effort.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks for the comment, Brad! We’ve also measured the number of calls that lead to a sale as well as a proxy for how many high-value calls you get, and it’s a good way to help make decisions.

  10. Brian says:

    We dynamically add/remove our phone number from the top of our site depending on what category the customer is in. If they are in a low value section that requires a lot of technical questions we remove the phone number. If they are in a high value section then we show the number. It has greatly reduced our phone calls. Spending 15 minutes on the phone selling a $25 item just isn’t worth it.

    We currently use RingCentral. I believe it is like $35 -$39 for unlimited inbound toll free calls to one phone. We currently have multiple phones. We saved a lot of money when we switched and dropped ATT.

    • Andrew says:

      Wow, nice! That’s a great idea. I’ve never gotten quite that fancy, but for a while we experimented with putting a phone number in the checkout process. Obviously, someone with something in their cart is more likely to make a purchase / need legitimate phone support, so we decided it’d be a high-value place to put it.

      Have you been happy with RingCentral?

      • Brian says:

        RingCentral has been good for us. They have had a few price increases since we signed up but other than that it has meet our needs and is easy to manage. They have a great Iphone app so you can use your Iphone as your main phone and do VOIP calling.

  11. Shabbir says:

    Hey Andrew- great post as always! On my site, I have a phone number, but I don’t get too many calls – maybe one or two a day. I use Google Voice and forward the calls to my cellphone using an app called Talkatone. It’s pretty straightforward, and I guess it’s fine for this stage of the business(in the 4th month) where I’m getting maybe 1 or 2 sales every week or 10 days.

    I must say I am envious of Billy when he can manage to buy, improve, and flip sites like they’re pancakes! I’ve got his post open in the next window :).

    Cheers!

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks for sharing Shabbir! Glad you’re seeing some traction with your new site. :-)

    • Roberto says:

      Hey Shabbir – It looks like we use the same MadWire optimized template, but of course customized to our brands and colour schemes. Your homepage looks great and it seems you’ve spent some good time with the web agency to make it right. We’ve started with them just a month ago and so far happy with them… but I’d like to exchange opinions with.
      You’ve made some great improvements to the template that I’m going to replicate on my store, but I’ve noticed that you’ve still some issues that affect that template that we asked them to fix (e.g. search page results, post a review with cut layout, listing by popular brands with misaligned layout, etc.). I’ll be happy to show what we’ve done there and share with you the full list of tweaks to the MadWire template… some of them can have a quite high impact on conversion considering we are speaking about reviews and search results.

      In relation to the topic of the blog post. We do use and publish in the header a phone number… but right now we don’t get too many calls also because still at an early stage and with a quite limited traffic. As Andrew was suggesting we’ll keep it there at the beginning considering it’ll be beneficial to understand by phone the needs of the clients and if the volume of calls increases at that point we’ll probably look at one of the solutions proposed in this thread.

      Thanks for the great post.

      Roberto

  12. Thanks for the tips.

    I haven’t started my online store yet but I’m in the process. After reading this, I’ve decided to not have a phone number in my online store at first.

    • Andrew says:

      Actually, I think having a phone number early on – especially if you’re in a new niche – is invaluable to understanding your customers and your market. So you might want to reconsider, at least for the early stages as you’re scaling up your business. Good luck!

  13. Tim Huff says:

    Thanks for addressing this topic, Andrew. I’ve been using grasshopper.com for several months now and have had good experiences with the service; easy to set up and use, with fairly reasonable pricing. However, I haven’t been getting many calls and was thinking of dropping it. After reading this article, I’ll be doing that first thing tomorrow.

    • Andrew says:

      Good to hear about GrassHopper! One thing to think about before dropping it completely – when we had a phone number on our site, it increased conversions by 10% for just the online sales (excluding phone orders!). So if you get very few calls (ie it’s not much work), you may want to keep it up if the conversion boost is noticeable for your online sales.

  14. Hey Andrew, let me know if I can ever help out with any Grasshopper questions. Happy to put you in touch with a few customers if you’d like to hear direct from them too.

    • Andrew says:

      Will do. Thanks Taylor!

      One random question: How’d you come up with the name “Grasshopper” for your service? :-)

      • It was a combination of reasons we changed to Grasshopper. For one, our old name – GotVMail – was not great for marketing. We spent a lot of time explaining what it was and what it meant. Also, Grasshoppers can take large leaps, do well despite being small, and are always on the move. We wanted a name that reflected how we thought our phone system could propel you forward as a mobile entrepreneur.

  15. Peter says:

    Hi Andrew,

    great post and information – again! I want to add Skype as a great service. After testing several services with good and bad experiences similar to yours, we landed up with Skype. The iPhone app is great and the service is inexpensive depending on country. You can check it out here: http://www.skype.com/en/offers/skype-number/

    Thanks again for your great contribution to the world of eCommerce.

    • Andrew says:

      Thanks Peter! Yeah, Skype can be a good solution as well. The one thing that was really a deal-breaker for us with Skype is their Voicemail setup isn’t ideal. I can’t remember all the details, but we had problems we routing calls due to not being able to enable / disable voicemail when we needed.

      But I definitely use my Skype-In number and outbounding call on it all the time. :-)

  16. Desiree says:

    Hi Andrew.

    It’s always nice reading blog posts by customers!

    I’m very sorry that the mobile app for iOS is sub-par. Would you mind shooting me an email (when you have time) with any issues or recommendations you have?

    Thanks!

    Desiree

    • Andrew says:

      Hi Desiree,

      Thanks for following-up, appreciated. It’s not the iOS app that’s the problem – it’s the Softphone app for Max OS X. The problems with it are pretty widely documented online, and we’ve experienced issues where it simply stops working and won’t accept calls.

      If you’re able to chat with the developers and get it fixed, that’d be wonderful. If so, please let me know…. :-)

      Andrew

      • Desiree says:

        Yikes – unreliability is not fun! Yes I will make sure to push this to our Development team as it’s pretty important! How long have you been using RingCentral?

        Desiree

  17. Carole Rains says:

    Hi Andrew,
    As a follow up to my earlier comment, I launched my store on Sunday, and set up a Google Voice number specifically for the business. (I had called Verizon about adding another number to my plan, and their rep actually suggested this instead.) It costs nothing, and the calls come in to my cell phone. I have it set up so that incoming calls to my business number show up as Rustic Artistry, so that I know to answer professionally, and not just with “hello”. Only drawback so far is that since the calls show up as my company name, I can’t see who the caller is. But for a new company with only me answering the phone, this is an easy and economical way to handle it.
    Carole

    • Andrew says:

      Sounds like a good solution, thanks for sharing Carole! And good luck with your newly launched store. :-)

  18. garrett says:

    I offer phone support for my internet business. I think it is essential to give out a number in case a customer has problems. I honestly don’t get a ton of calls, but i think just having the phone number there gives customers some piece of mind before they make the purchase.

  19. Anouk says:

    Hi Andrew!

    I agree with you when you say that you have learned from your customers by taking phone calls! Last year, I have started my first online store in Québec, Canada (currently closed, now working on another project) where I was selling hair treatments. I used Shopify for my store and I put my own cell phone number on my website. I thought that no one would call (it just hair care products, after all) but my first sale was actually from a call I received! The same day, I got another call and sold $60 from it!

    But the most incredible thing was that while my business was targeting women, actually people who called me were…men! By speaking with them, I’ve learned that a lot of young and older men worried about hair loss and were interested in my products. They provide me a lot of information about their problem so it was very interesting as a business owner.

    Definitely, having a phone number to speak with customers is a must. Do it! At least when you start.

    Your ebook was one of the best I’ve read so far when I started and I recommend it to my friends who want to start an online store.

    Aurevoir!

  20. Marie says:

    I know this is an older article, but hoping to still get some perspective. In the beginning our store got tons of phone orders, but as the years progressed over a decade they became less and less. It got to the point where we would only get calls with people checking the status of their order (which they could do online), asking for coupons/discounts or wanna-be competitors that asked where we sourced products so they could buy wholesale from those vendors. At this point we decided to take the phone number off the site completely. It was a time waster and we weren’t losing revenue by doing it. However, we do get inquiries rarely for people that want to know our phone number. I never quite know how to respond to those people without sounding rude about not having phone support. (I had two customer recently asking to speak to someone by phone and after talking to them they both wanted a coupon/discount for their purchase. (We have a link on our main page that takes them to the current products on sale/discounts). It’s so frustrating.

    • Andrew says:

      I hear you Marie! It’s a challenge. Fortunately for you, sounds like the phones aren’t crucial for your business as sales didn’t drop off too much when you stopped offering them. In terms of what to tell people, I’d just honestly let them know you don’t offer a phone number and only accept orders online. Some people will be upset, but if you’ve decided it’s what works best for your business and model try not to worry too much about them.

      Best of luck!

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