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Phone Calls: Why They’re Still Important for Businesses and How to Track Them

It’s a concept that I sometimes struggle to grasp. I spend all day and most evenings on an internet-connected device, go out of my way to find an email address or online contact form when I have a question, and even bought my mom a smartphone so we could text more instead of call. So I’m always a little surprised to learn how frequently others dial a number and speak to another living, breathing human being directly. But people do, lots of them, from all ages and demographics. In fact, BIA/Kelsey predicts that phone calls to businesses will grow to 162 billion in 2019, up from 77 billion recorded from mobile devices in 2015.

Two new AdWords features help to further validate the importance of phone calls. Last week, Google started automatically using location-specific numbers on ads that have location and call extensions enabled. It’s only for ads that feature individual business locations (so it doesn’t apply to businesses that are solely ecommerce, but is relevant if you have any brick-and-mortar establishments).

The second feature, which starts on February 6, is for any business that prominently displays a phone number on their landing pages. When this is the case, Google will add call extensions on mobile ads (but not for dynamic ads). The change will take place automatically, but advertisers can opt out if they are not interested.

These new features are great for businesses, especially local ones, that use phone calls to take orders and service customers. However, some marketers cringe at the idea of pushing calls, assuming they are a black hole in attribution models and data measurement. But that’s just not true. Call tracking software can fill in these supposed gaps in data, and provides numerous other benefits to businesses and marketers. Here are six benefits of call tracking:

1. Track All Sources, Not Just Paid Media

When most people think of call tracking, they think of paid search. But that’s not the only channel you can measure with call tracking software. You can also use it to track calls from organic search, social media, display ads, email or even offline sources like direct mailers, billboards or newspaper ads. You can see the start time, location, phone number, duration, landing page and other metrics for each different source to better understand who your customers are and how they contact you.

2. Tighten Up Sales & Customer Service Process

Listening to recorded call can reveal strengths and opportunity areas in your sales pitches and customer service scripts. This information can help in training new sales or CS staff, and improving the processes for all staff.

As digital marketers, we want to help our clients get more closed deals or sales (and are sometimes held accountable for, if only anecdotally), even if our main objective is to fill the top of the funnel only. But once we drive traffic to site to fill out a lead form, our job is oftentimes complete. It’s up to the sales staff to seal the deal on follow-up calls. Those calls are out of our control though. We don’t know what’s being said or how the product or service is being positioned. Listening to recorded calls gives us insight into these exchanges so that we can better align our campaigns with the sales messaging, and offer suggestions for modifying pitches for a more integrated approach.

3. Content Ideation

Customer service calls and sales pitches are a wonderland of topic ideas for content. If you get the same questions over and over, add them to your FAQ section on the website. If customers often ask for instructions on using or fixing a particular product, create a “how to” video or blog post with easy to follow instructions. If customers commonly ask for comparisons to other competitive products, create a comparison chart and post on the website. The ideas are endless, all you have to do is listen!

This content can help to improve UX and navigation on your site, increase organic visibility, improve engagement on social channels and, ideally, reduce the need for phone support (even I will (begrudgingly) pick up the phone if I can’t find what I need online).

4. Text Messaging Integration

Call tracking software can appease the rest of us that prefer texting to phone calls. Businesses can send and receive text messages from customers through a custom number, that allows them to provide support in real time. This can all be managed via the call tracking software dashboard, and does not necessarily require an actual smartphone to send and receive these messages. 

5. Categorize Calls for Better Insight & Improvements

You can categorize each call to better understand who is calling in and why. Categorize by purpose (e.g., tech support, complaint, specifications inquiry, etc.) or even step in the purchase path (e.g., research, validation, repeat purchase, etc.). If all the calls are for tech support, maybe you need to provide a more detailed instructional manual. If all the calls are for validation, consider adding reviews more reviews or testimonials, or integrating social content from existing customers, to increase the credibility and authenticity of each product.

6. Prioritize Call Backs

If you have a small staff for fielding phone calls, you may not be able to answer every single call and return missed calls right away. Obviously, you should return every phone as quickly as possible, but the call tracking software can help you determine who should be called back immediately, and who might be able to wait a bit longer. This can be determined by their phone number, location, landing page or by listening to customer while they wait on hold.

There are a ton of call tracking systems out there. We've used a lot of them, but are currently partial to CallRail due to it's numerous features, intuitive interface and affordable pricing structure.

The volume of phone calls may not be as high as other channels, but they’re still an important and valuable channel for every business. According to Invoca, 75% of consumers feel that phone calls are the quickest way to get a response, and conversion rate is around 30-50%, compared to average 1-3% for paid search. Leveraging Google’s new AdWords features (remember, if eligible, you won’t have to do anything to get the new call extensions) and utilizing call tracking can help you drive more calls, provide better phone support, improve the sales process and enhance other marketing efforts.