Search And Click-To-Call: Is Anyone On The Other Line?

In late September, Google released research on the role of click-to-call in the path to purchase.  Surveying 3,000 consumers who recently made purchases from their smartphones, the study found that 70% of them called businesses directly after making a search.  Calls were identified as the most important way to contact businesses for those consumers who were “ready to buy.”  Categories included in the study were Travel, Auto, Local Services, Finances, Retail, Restaurant and Technology.

But is anybody answering the phone?  I’ll share some data that may surprise you. But first let’s take a step back. 

Over the last decade, digital marketers have forged close relationships with the graphic designers, Web developers and IT pros who keep our websites running to perfection.   We sit near each other, share the same managers and wear the same ironic T-shirts.  In short, we’ve organized around how consumers search on a PC.



As a digital marketer’s world increasingly collides with offline phone calls, search marketers need to break out the employee directory and start taking to lunch a new set of folks – those who work in a far-off land known as The Call Center.  In mobile, this organization is your landing page, uptime, cookie, branding and user experience, all rolled into one.

Why are call centers so important? Visualize a world where your Web site is unavailable one-quarter of the time.  This is the parallel reality happening on the phone because as many as 25% of all phone calls to local businesses from mobile marketing sources go completely unanswered.   What’s more, those consumers who do get through usually don’t “leave a detailed message after the beep.” In fact, 75% of all calls that reach a business voice mail result in a hang-up. 

A call center may solve the problem of answering the phone, but it introduces another : hold times.  Long hold times occur in nearly every vertical, and abandon rates (hang-ups) can be 12% or higher when hold times are long. 

With that, here are some tips for tackling a click-to-call world:

1. Plaster your phone number across mobile. Hopefully, Google’s research has convinced you to consider call extensions, also referred to in the study as “call buttons.”  Now, make sure that every mobile advertisement and every in-app or mobile Web page has a prominently displayed phone number, as it is directly in a consumer’s path to purchase. 

2. Measure your calls as you would your website. Put another way, OBSESS ABOUT THIS. This becomes a new frontier for improving the effectiveness of your campaigns.  Paid search engines will provide some data about the calls, and a call center may be able to provide you with a handful of phone numbers.   But if you really want to get serious, use “call analytics” as you once  used Web analytics.  Call analytics can provide unique and/or dynamic phone numbers for every Web page or keyword, and a host of advanced metrics. 

3. Start to establish processes with your call center. When a marketing department and call center are in sync, both groups can benefit from improved call handling, better conversion rates, and efficient advertising spend.  As a marketer, you’ll want to understand why the call experience is what it is, the process and logistics behind changing it, and how changes to the greeting, choices and script can be tested.  You should also discuss how to reduce hold time, and when campaigns should be day-parted to best work with the staff available. 

4. If your phone rings locally, monitor your calls and consider an answering service. Local businesses as well as local outlets of national businesses are often surprised to find out how often they fail to answer the phone during business hours, and it’s often for good reason: the person answering the phone may also be responsible for greeting people who walk in the door.  One solution is to hire staff to ensure the phone is always answered.  Another is to use a service that answers, or “rescues,” your calls for you.   This additional investment will likely more than pay for itself.

As the combination of online search and offline calls continues to grow in importance, we as marketers should take leadership in setting parameters that can result in better experiences and results for all involved.

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