Inevitably, you gaze around the store for a few minutes (which can be a long time when you are looking for someone) until you eventually see a sign tucked away in the corner saying “Customer Service”.  

Upon approaching this area one of three things are presented to you (or maybe all three are presented): 

  • A few pieces of paper, headed “fill out your name, email address, and phone number, along with your query and we will get back to you”.  
  • A 100 page booklet titled “Customer Service” with a sign above it saying, “please read before pressing the buzzer”.
  • A button with a sign stating, “please ring the buzzer in order to speak to an employee”. 

This scenario is not acceptable in the offline retail world, so why should be online?

Websites are clearly trying to force people to either fill out a form or review customer service content before providing an option to call.  

And, too often, phone numbers are hidden, accompanied with a lack of appreciation for the simple visual of a phone number on web properties. 

And it seems that some retailers still consider an incoming phone call as a cost – not a benefit which enables new and existing customers to move from an virtual enviroment to a physical one. 

By displaying a toll free number in the header, the retailer can benefit in many ways: 

Acquisition tool.  

First time visitors with the intent to buy want their needs to be fulfilled instantly.  

If there is insufficient information but a phone number is visible, the likelihood is that they will call a company. Their buying momentum is lost if they must fill out a form, wait for a response, or sift through volumes of content.

Symbol of customer service and credibility.  

The phone number is a symbol of customer service. 

Having a toll-free number in the header indicates the retailer is there for you and is happy to take your call. This is an instant credibility builder.

Valuable feedback loop.  

Phone calls from customers are gold. Retailers pay big money for silent/mystery shoppers to replicate a buying experience and then rate this experience.

Phone calls from customers are a true indication of real needs not being met. 

Shaping digital content.  

Review the trending data of all inbound calls – there will be a common thread (or threads) to indicate what content is missing online.

The feedback provided from inbound calls provides a framework from which to create new content

Build a more effective sales tool.  

Websites are meant to sell products in a manner that is aligned to the buying process of the target market. Shaping content around the feedback helps to build this selling/buying alignment, resulting in increased conversion rates.

Highlight usability issues.  

If incoming calls can be answered with content already on the website, this content is hidden and/or not prominent enough.     

Keeping in touch with customer needs.  

Feedback loops provide the retailer with positive and negative indicators on whether support services are in line with the needs of the target market. All methods of gathering this feedback should be welcomed.

Assists in social.  

If one customer makes the effort to call, it is an indicator others have the same query.  Gathering data from this feedback loop assists in building social communications. 

Overall, it’s no secret that Australian retailers finding themselves battling international websites and are constantly looking for methods to aggresively compete with them in the digital space locally. 

And, in this sense, the best line of defense is generally to stop overcomplicating things and go back to basics:

Display phone numbers in the header and have a team ready to respond. Searching for a phone number is frustrating, don’t hide it – welcome the increased enegagement you will have with your customers.

Is the culture in your organisation such that this feedback is embraced? Does the incoming call data assist in making changes to digital content?

Let me know your thoughts as your feedback will help shape my next article.

[Image credit: zigazou76]