From the client perspective, much of the initial focus when establishing a pay per call program has to do with negotiating the terms. How much will I be paying per call? What is the billable call duration going to be? Where will the listings be appearing? These are certainly important questions to ask, but there are some other important internal questions that should be addressed that sometimes get put on the backburner. Some of these questions seem obvious, but addressing them prior to launching pay per call advertising programs, rather than mid-program, can greatly improve the initial performance of those performance based programs. These questions focus on the handling of the calls driven from the programs. Some questions to consider are: How long is my outgoing message?; What is the lag time like before a caller is connected with a service representative?; and How quickly are invalid calls disconnected?
The Need for Speed
The proverbial meter for a pay per call program begins running once the caller is forwarded to your number. Outgoing messages with routing options can be extremely helpful in navigating potential customers through the system to the right service representative. Those routing options can also yield some useful metrics. However, if done wrong, a call routing system can also be very frustrating for the consumer.
Sometimes companies simply go a little too far with the automation, and they end up wrecking the customer service experience. A few months back, I had to go through the process of changing my address as part of a residential move. While I could have done the changes online, I opted to contact several service providers by phone to make the change. In most cases, I was able to wind my way through the gauntlet of routing options to ultimately speak to a representative. However, in two or three cases, I had to work directly through an automated system to submit the change request. I would say the new address as clearly and distinctly as I possibly could, only to have the automated voice repeat back an incorrect or indecipherable version. I could either accept the change, or try again. Neither of those options was particularly appealing. Making matters worse, there was seemingly no option to ever get to a live representative. Ultimately, I had to dial back in, and take another route to get to a representative. The lesson here is that fatigue begins to set in if there are too many routing options in place prior to a caller getting to a live person. Streamlining the recorded verbiage, and the number of options, can help improve the overall initial customer experience with your business, but it can also help limit the number of calls that reach the billable duration.
Another element here to consider is transfer or hold time. Unfortunately, much of that depends on staffing, which can certainly fluctuate. Still, if the billable call duration for a given program is 60 seconds, and it is taking callers 3 minutes before they speak to a representative, you have a problem.
The Great Disconnect
It may seem to be an odd thing to consider when discussing a program designed to drive call volume, but it is really important to have the proper systems in place for terminating calls. Representatives should be trained to ask questions early in the call that can determine whether the caller meets the criteria of a potential customer. Are they located within the service area? Are they looking for a service that you actually offer? These may seem like obvious questions, but, given the wide open nature of the online space, and the different methods callers encounter various listings, simple qualifying questions upfront can make the difference in whether a call that has no actual potential to lead to a conversion is billable or unbillable. Obviously, you want your representatives to remain respectful if it turns out the caller doesn’t meet the necessary criteria for a potential customer, but dispatching the caller quickly, and politely, is crucial.
A growing issue that requires special mention here is the increasing presence of auto-dialers, and their impact on online advertising programs. Just as a home or cell phone number can wind up being targeted via an auto-dialer system, so can a business phone line. Some of these auto-dialer systems play back a message of their own, while others offer up only silence when there is no human voice on the end. This latter scenario often plays out whenever an auto-dialer contacts a business after hours, and winds up “interacting” with the company’s IVR (Interactive Voice Response). Depending upon the company’s IVR setup, those auto-dialers can wind up getting trapped in the IVR system for long periods of time. It is very difficult to defend against these auto-dialer calls. However, if your IVR system features user entry prompts, and it is sophisticated enough that you are able to disconnect any call where your prompts are greeted with silence, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of that functionality. Terminating an auto-dialer call before it ever has a chance to go the billable duration will prevent headaches, and ultimately save money as well.
While many of these tips may indeed seem rather obvious, taking a close look at how inbound calls are handled can go a long way in determining the success or failure of any pay per call advertising efforts.