The boom of Internet marketing and e-commerce has caused a paradigm shift in the buying habits of 21st century consumers. There is a tremendous and hyper focus on clicks, impressions, and conversions, which has undoubtedly hijacked the conversation and dominated media attention for years. Often lost in the flutter are the irreplaceable and growing value of the phone and the devastating consequences of shelving phone operations as though they’ve lost relevance to online. Direct response marketers live and breathe data, and the data on the relationship between phone support and sales is definitive: as e-commerce grows and progresses rapidly, so too do phone operations.
Human Support Increases SalesIn a world where today’s consumers are clutched to their smartphones and engaging on social accounts and checking e-mail, the need for instant gratification is prevalent. This introduces a whole host of new behaviors and trends, like mobile searches, and all of these behaviors lead to phone calls for sales and/or customer service.
Case in point: BIA/Kelsey estimates that in 2018, mobile searches will drive 73 billion calls to businesses. That is a dramatic increase from 30 billion in 2013, and the number is only expected to increase. While mobile searches balloon, so do calls, and the two will continuously climb on a parallel level. The reasoning is simple: business is still by and large conducted over the phone, despite the hype to the contrary. It is a smartphone, not a smart computer or anything else. Consumers crave and often demand the human connection when making a buying decision.
In fact, e-commerce sales are hindered by the lack of customer support that involves a human. Studies continue to corroborate this notion. According to an IMShopping Survey, 77 percent of consumers are interested in getting human support before making a purchasing decision. Ninety-three percent have a question about a purchase. And over half of those consumers (52 percent) indicate that not getting the human support they require has negatively impacted their decision to purchase. What that means is this: the vast majority of online shoppers desire customer support when making a purchase to support their decision, almost all of them have questions that need answering, and a lack of available support makes them leery and kills the sale. Even in a digital age, the power of human support is enormously impactful and cannot be circumvented.
A wide range of data also attests to the linkage between readily available support and an increase in sales. A recent article in Inc magazine says that when a customer service phone number is present in an online ad, there is a 12 percent higher click-through rate and a 15 percent higher conversion rate on lead forms. By showcasing a phone number for support, brands are indicating that they’re transparent and available. This instills trust and translates into more conversions. The telling point is that even if consumers choose not to pick up the phone and engage, the option alone for them to do that yields results.
Phone for the Customer ExperienceAs telling as the data is, it’s still important to remember that once a lead is converted, once a sale is processed, it is a real customer and his/her lifetime value—future sales—is contingent upon their experience. The customer experience has become a differentiating factor for buying decisions.
A customer service operation is a lot like a roundtable of customers telling you about what they liked and disliked about your product or service. For example, if you’re running a skincare product campaign that involves its own brush, and your contact center notices an influx of inquiries asking for clarification on how to use the brush, the brand should recalibrate as needed based on data presented by the contact center. That might mean including simple, how-to-use instructions in the packaging or a change in the brush itself. Acknowledging and accepting customer feedback paves the way for a stronger brand and better consumer experience, which increases lifetime value. It also illustrates the point that customers are calling to tell you things.
And yes, they’re actually calling. A recent study by American Express shows definitively that a whopping 90 percent of consumers in the United States prefer to contact a brand by phone.
A stronger brand and a positive customer experience are directly correlated to greater revenue. Neither can happen without a quality phone support operation. No matter how far trend lines have shifted in our new digital world, the value of human support continues to grow, as do the number of phone calls generated. Buying trends will continue to evolve, and contact centers will continue to enjoy sustained growth because they offer something consumers still require: human connection.
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Jason Levesque is CEO of Argo Marketing Group.