Adding Phone Support For Your E-commerce Site Is Absolutely Necessary
When you are setting up an e-commerce website, you may think that providing a phone number is an unnecessary expense and bother; however, there are many good reasons for including a phone contact. Among them are trust building and providing excellent customer service. Both of these are very necessary components to successful e-commerce. In this article we will discuss some of the ups and downs of offering phone support for your e-commerce site. We will also discuss some valuable alternatives for doing so. Read on to learn more.
Why is it important to have a phone number for my eCommerce site?
First of all, there are many people who are still very wary of making online purchases. This is especially true of very costly purchases. One of the ways in which these people determine whether or not a website is legitimate is by checking to see if it has both a working phone number and an actual, physical address listed. There are quite a few people who will not trust you with their banking information if they can’t talk to you on the phone and see where you are located.
These are customers you’ll lose up-front if you don’t have a contact number.
Secondly, when you provide a customer service number, you can provide excellent customer service. You can resolve problems quickly, answer questions and provide top notch information. You can build rapport, and this is a very important part of building customer loyalty. When your customers know you and like you, they are more likely to continue doing business with you.
Third, you can really fine-tune your knowledge of your demographic. Charts and graphs are all well and good in determining what your target demographic likes, wants and shuns; however, talking with your demographic in person will yield a wealth of information that you could not gain in any other way. When you really know your customers, you can really provide them with what they want. Customers could be leaving your website, increasing your bounce rate without you ever knowing why.
Isn’t it difficult to provide reliable phone customer service?
Yes, it is!
If you want to provide your customers with really good, reliable phone support you almost have to do it yourself. This is especially true if you are a small entrepreneur working on a shoestring budget, but even if you have lots of money to spend, it’s hard to find good phone support personnel. Outsourcing to another country is generally off-putting to callers. If you want your phone support to be truly supportive, you need at least one knowledgeable, friendly, helpful customer service representative in-house who can handle phones, answer questions, resolve difficulties and provide good information with a smile.
Another drawback about offering phone support for your e-commerce site is that you are bound to attract some people who aren’t really serious about your product at all. They’ll call and ask a lot of questions and take up your time (or that of your employee) and then say “Goodbye” and go their merry way. Worse yet, they may take your information and buy from your competitor! This is something that can’t really be avoided altogether, but it can be managed and minimized with good customer service training.
How can I deal with the customer service difficulties?
In addition to being sure that you and/or your employee have excellent customer service skills that will help you avoid being sucked into long, pointless conversations with people who have no intention of buying, there are a few other ways you can take control of the situation and prevent having phone service become a major distraction and detriment rather than the benefit it is intended to be.
- Set up a thorough FAQ page
One of the first things you should do is set up your website so that customers can find answers to their most frequently asked questions (FAQ) with ease. Be sure that your explanations of your merchandise are complete and informative. Create a list of reference phone numbers and websites if your product may require service or maintenance that you don’t provide.
Set up a thorough FAQ page, and place your contact information at the bottom of this page. This placement will ensure that people look around for answers rather than automatically calling you. Also provide a contact tab on your site in case your visitors do not scroll all the way to the bottom of the FAQ page. An FAQ page is absolutely necessary it would be a grave web design mistake not to include one.
- Set up Multiple Ways For Customers to Contact you
Give your visitors several different options for contacting you. If your customer’s question can be answered by email, live chat or on your blog, forum or social media page, that will save you a phone call. In addition to these options, provide your phone number and a physical/mailing address for old-school shoppers.
- Set Specific Hours for Phone Support
You should also understand that you do not have to provide phone support 24/7. Setting specific hours for phone support will help you keep the situation under control. Be sure to post these hours right next to your phone number to save your customers frustration and to prevent having lots of phone messages to answer. Providing three or four hours a day of phone support should be plenty, especially if you offer other contact methods. You could also schedule an hour or two a day for returning calls. Of course, this does not have to be every day! Make a schedule that will really work for you and/or your employee(s) so that you can be consistent.
Should I automatically set up this kind of schedule?
No, not necessarily. You may not need to offer very much phone support. If your product is straightforward and your website provides thorough information, you may not receive many phone calls. In this case, you could set a phone policy whereby your business calls go to voice mail and you return calls or respond by email daily. Be sure to create a very friendly and welcoming outgoing message that solicits all of the caller’s contact information and be sure to promise to respond within 24 hours. This is also excellent customer service, and it makes a lot more sense than sitting around waiting for the phone to ring when you don’t need to!
Is it expensive to provide phone support?
It can be! Naturally if you go with a standard landline and an 800 number, it will cost you a fortune; however, there are so many excellent alternatives, you’d just be a fool to go that route. To determine how much you can afford to spend on phone support, estimate the percentage of your sales that will be made by phone. Evaluate this number from time to time to be sure you are not over-investing in phone support.
It isn’t entirely necessary to provide a toll-free number since most people use cell phones and the minute charges are the same either way; however, a toll-free number does add a touch of professionalism. There are several toll-free services you can choose from if you decide you want to provide a toll-free number. They can cost as little as $12 per month, do keep in mind that the cost can scale quickly depending on the features (vanity numbers) and the amount of users you add.
You might also consider offering phone support using VoIP services such as Skype or other alternatives, such as Google Voice. Depending on the size of your business and the percentage of sales you expect to make by phone, this type of free service may be all you need. Connection can be slow with free services and calls can drop which could do more harm then good.
So do I really have to offer phone support on my ecommerce website?
It’s certainly possible to run an ecommerce website without phone support; however, if you have a complicated or unfamiliar type of product, people are going to want to talk with you. If your product is very expensive, your prospective customers will be very likely to want to talk with you. You’ll have to have excellent customer support in other ways, anyway and offering at least minimal phone support adds a lot to your credibility.
You may not make a large percentage of your sales by phone, but it is still valuable to have a contact phone number. The bottom line is that business have phone numbers so in that regard it validates and legitimizes your business and adds a great deal to your customers’ level of trust. Even if your customers never call you, the fact that you have a phone number may make you a substantial number of sales. With all of the options for phone service these days, there is really no reason for not offering phone support for your ecommerce site.