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Is voice about to make a comeback?

By Chris Dawson September 21, 2012 - 1:04 pm

I recently found a website I might have been interested in bar the fact that they made it too difficult to contact them. Their contact page simply had a contact form saying that they have so many enquiries every day that they only accept questions via email. As well as no phone number their website also had no physical address details.

Whilst you may be busy running your business contact information (not only a legal requirement for distance selling!) gives buyers confidence that if they do need to contact you that they can.

Writing on eSeller recently, James Critchley, CEO of cloud-IQpoints out that callback buttons boost sales by upwards of 10% for online retailers. He quotes Forrester Research as finding that for every £100 organisations spend getting customers to a website, only £1 goes into converting them. Attracting traffic is the first step to conversion and closing the sale is what needs focusing on.

Callback buttons are great, they enable a buyer to instantly click to talk to you, but even displaying a good old fashioned phone number can make the difference between getting a sale and wasting your SEO funds. If you do display a number remember that whilst 0845 type numbers may be billed at local rates from a land line they’re rarely included in the free minutes on a mobile tariff – offer your geographic number as an alternative to enable customers to call you for free.

I’ve never understood retailers, whether on eBay or their own website, don’t make it easy for customer to call them. Sure there are times of day you don’t want calls such as the middle of the night, that’s what answering machines are for. However as James concluded people buy from people so embrace good old fashioned voice (even if with the latest technology) and then people get to do business with people again.

  • Alex
    5 years ago

    This is a subject of great frustration for me.

    I buy many things online and can not believe that so many sellers (especially on eBay) neither publish a contact number or provide one when requested.

    I am mainly referring to “Business Sellers” although a great number of private sellers also refuse to give a tel number when asked, choosing instead to say “please communicate by email or ebay message”.

    I have no confidence in sellers like this and if I spot a Business Seller with no telephone contact info then I always purchase elsewhere. In the case of private or occasional sellers I wonder two things: A) Are they hiding something, and B) If the ad was in a local paper then they would have to provide a phone number, so why not now?

    I am sure there are others who feel the same and I wonder how much business these sellers are losing.

    Are they afraid to talk?

    I sometimes think, after speaking to some sellers, that in this day and age the general ability to communicate and converse (especially by younger members of society) is seriously deficient or perhaps even retarded. They seem to do everything possible to avoid talking to a prospective buyer. They even make excuses like “I’ve had problems with eBay members calling me in the past!!”.

    Its both sad and very pathetic!

    • 5 years ago

      Are they afraid to talk?

      I was under the impression that “Business” sellers on eBay were required to provide a number and address. Am I wrong on this?

      For the others it could be a resource issue. Having a published phone number is a commitment to answer any call that comes in at any time or at least during reasonable hours. In the extreme case that can be 12 – 14 hours a day. On the otherhand having a webform allows one to answer immediately or as soon as it is possible. This also gives a chance to research the answer if it is not immediately known.

      Email and webforms are also recordable. Studies have shown that people are far more likely to lie over the phone. Email keeps people honest.

  • rick
    5 years ago

    yes were afraid.we dont need every half wit and idiot ringing us day and night asking idiotic questions,

  • rick
    5 years ago

    in addition we are not a social service or a lonely hearts club, we provide clear terms,descriptions,images, if you cant understand this information we dont need your business

    • board_surfer
      5 years ago

      Ah, The buy it or feck off school of selling.

    • rick
      5 years ago

      compleatly correct sir!

      or we could always set up a call centre to give you the run around ,pass you from dept ,to dept ,from country to country until you get bored or mad

    • rick
      5 years ago

      we dont kid ourself with a smug Self-righteousness sanctimonious, holier-than-thou attitude, we sell for profit

    • 5 years ago

      I’ve often been grateful for a buyer phoning me about a transaction. It’s better to rectify the matter than it is to have an open resolution case or bad feedback.

      I’ve also had some great transactions on the back of a phone call along the lines of “You’ve got this on eBay, how many have you got and would you do a deal for a large quantity”.

      Phone’s are a great sales tool

    • rick
      5 years ago

      we used to often receive phone calls along those lines too!

      thats why we dont make our phone number easily available,
      we make it clear how many are available, with the price required, we dont need pikeys

    • 5 years ago

      I’m not sure if you’re saying you don’t want to resolve customer problems, or that you don’t want large bulk orders.

      Either way that’s weird! I’m more than happy to source more stock than I have on eBay if there’s a shilling to make and I definitely want to resolve any issues with customers rather then get bad feedback or open cases than could affect my selling status.

      I also don’t consider someone wanting to get a better deal when spending hundreds or thousands of pounds a “pikey”. I prefer to call them valued customers

    • rick
      5 years ago

      of course we resolve customer problems but only if its profitable to do so, we are not a charity or a help center,
      we also dont consider a customer valuble if they pressure us by telephone to bulk buy at a discount

    • 5 years ago

      of course we resolve customer problems but only if its profitable to do so, we are not a charity or a help center,

      That’s the most illegal and irresponsible comment I’ve ever heard from a retailer. Basically you’re responsible for the products you sell whether you like it or not.

      If you sell into the UK the customer has the right to return for no reason whatsoever and if a little customer support prevents a return that’s good news to me… unless you’re saying you break the law and ignore return requests or only refund the purchase price and refuse to refund postage which is also against the law.

      As for “pressure” for a bulk buy discount – I’ve never been pressured but I recognise there’s considerable cost and time savings in shipping someone say a pallet of computer TFT screens compared to packing and shipping each one individually. I’m happy to give away some of the savings for an easy profitable deal and welcome potential customers contacting me to make me money.

    • rick
      5 years ago

      Chris Dawson you will be trainspotting next , your making supposition and accusation without knowing the facts,

    • 5 years ago

      The only facts that I know are that good customer service is a pre-requisite for a successful business and that one buyer who spends £1000 with a 5% discount is generally more profitable and thus more welcome than 20 buyers who spend £50 each.

  • 5 years ago

    We welcome customers phoning us, sometimes we drop the ball and miss a piece of information, any way we can help someone to give us money is welcomed, granted they can only get through within business hours.
    An answerphone however is a really bad idea, we have ours play a message giving email details and it will not allow you to leave a message, the main reason being the amount of people who do this:

    “Hi, I have an important query [insert waffle here] please get back to me ASAP or I will destroy you!!!” and then fail to leave a return phone number or any clue to who they are…

    It still happens when customers email directly but at least there is a reply button!

    • 5 years ago

      “Hi, I have an important query [insert waffle here] please get back to me ASAP or I will destroy you!!!” and then fail to leave a return phone number or any clue to who they are…

      I really thought I was the only one who got those kinds of messages.

      Two years ago I got a support request telling me to call them ASAP or they’d unsubscribe immediately and leave a negative review. Didn’t bother giving me their phone number or telling me who they were. I reply asking who they are. Next thing I get is a new support request with just the word “ASAS”. Finally hunt them down on eBay and message them there because I still don’t have a phone number. They reply to that telling me they are sorry that they ran out of stock and can’t ship my shirt on time. I didn’t really have an answer to that.

      Of course they could have just called me in the first place and avoided the whole thing but I’m kind of glad they didn’t.

  • 5 years ago

    Not entirely related to the main topic but possibly useful for some as it relates to communication.

    We need a phone number to arrange delivery with our customers because of size of the product but it was becoming increasingly hit and miss on whether we actually are shown a tel. number when you process an order on eBay/or the tel. number is out of date.

    I discovered via TameBay (my apologies to the poster who’s name I forget) that you could flick a switch within your eBay settings and make a telephone number mandatory.

    For a month or so this ran like a dream, but at the same time, sales of our smaller items dropped off a cliff, at the time I didn’t connect this with the recent change we made to the info we required for our main products, it was only a couple of weeks ago when a guy emailed me after buying a BIN asking me “why the hell do you need my phone number to deliver a bottle of bubble bath?”

    Fair question. He wouldn’t pay and we cancelled.

    Anyway, we’ve changed back to the crappy hit and miss service we have been used to and sales of smaller items have shot right back up.

    • 5 years ago

      Very interesting…. makes a case for eBay allowing mandatory phone numbers on some listings but not on others.

    • 5 years ago

      That would certainly help us.

      Just glad this guy had a moan otherwise I probably wouldn’t have twigged.

  • 5 years ago

    Whether you can invite customers to call you or not depends to a large degree on margin.

    A company selling high-end fashion products like http://www.countryattire.com/ can reap the benefit of offering exceptional phone support.

    On the flip side, other companies like http://www.viakeys.com/ are very much focused on volume and selling via the marketplaces which means opening up a phone support line 8-5 is likely to be more hassle than it is worth.

    That is not to say that great customer service relies on the phone.

    It doesn’t.

    Look at Amazon.com. I’ve never spoken to anyone from Amazon and I’d say that their customer service is OK.

    A US bank did a survey many years ago and found that customers that only interacted online and not with a human rated the customer service higher.

    So….what does this mean for eCommerce?

    Automating customer service is critical. Customers call for 2 few main things:

    1. To check stock availability
    2. To check order status

    The remedies we are seeing work best are as follows:

    1. Show live stock on your website – which means customers don’t need to call and you never oversell.
    2. Keep them informed of order status. Try emails for ‘Your order is being picked’ ‘Your order has been picked’ ‘ Your order has been despatched’

    Shining some light on the black hole that we are all left in after ordering from a website removes our temptation to simply pick up the phone.

    In the case of both companies mentioned, employing the tactics described has seen their ratings soar.

    • 5 years ago

      I think you make some very good points re communication, but I think a phone number goes much further than that. I think just having a phone number available engenders a great deal of trust even though the vast majority of customers will never use it if you do a good job.

  • rick
    5 years ago

    Profit is the only thing that makes a business !
    if our main business were talking and writing about selling ,we would have perfect customer service too

    • 5 years ago

      I may not be the biggest online seller, but I work with plenty of other businesses who are, including those with multi-million pound turnovers.

      Oh and I’ve run a business for years with over 20,000 transactions on my own eBay accounts and packed and shipped each and every one of those orders personally as well as handling all customer service issues and enjoying all the bulk orders that came along.

    • rick
      5 years ago

      yes and you now find talking and writing about selling more viable,
      we agree customer service is important though if the tail starts wagging the dog, , then its time to move on ,as you seem to have done

    • 5 years ago

      I’m glad that at last you agree customer service is important. Bravo!

      The only reason I’ve cut down on selling is I don’t have time any more, not because I couldn’t cope with customer service.

  • rick
    5 years ago

    of course customer service is important, we dont kid ourselves were special wonderful or nice, its a means of keeping the buyers money, or making them spend more

    • Alex
      5 years ago

      WOW!!!!

      I am truly shocked.

      I can’t be the only person reading your many comments who is offended by your attitude and hopes they never purchase from you.

      Your comments are not only indicative of putting profit first and not caring about your customers, but are also rude and disrespectful.

      I particularly take offence at your calling anyone who asks questions a “pikey”, and resent your obvious and total disregard for the Distance Selling Regulations which are designed to protect consumers from uncaring and unscrupulous sellers. I also take exception to your comment about customer service being “a means of keeping the buyers money, or making them spend more”, and am further concerned with “we resolve customer problems but only if its profitable to do” and “we also don’t consider a customer valuable if they pressure us by telephone to bulk buy at a discount“.

      You’re attitude really sucks and makes me wonder if you have any regard for your customers or the produce/service you provide? Do you see any connection between good service and growing your business? I think not, it would appear that you are only concerned about profit today.

      You’re final comment about customer service being “a means of keeping the buyers money, or making them spend more” is utterly shocking and demonstrates a total disregard for customers.

      I further believe that you need to review your attitude to online business. If you are an eBay seller then I expect you will already have had negative feedbacks and low ratings and I for one am not surprised. Customers have a right to good service both before and after purchase. I feel sorry for anyone who purchases from you and later asks to return an item. I certainly hope I never have the misfortune of helping you to “make more profit”.

      Please tell us what your eBay trading name is and also the name of your company – now that would be a step towards good customer service!!

    • rick
      5 years ago

      get real you really dont think any customer service is there for the buyers benifit do you?

    • Peter King
      5 years ago

      Any ebayers who contact me prior to buying are ignored and immediately added to the BBL.

      The questions are always answered in the listing or by using your common sense: No its not fake/stolen/broke; the colour/size is as listed; no I don’t accept any payment methods other than the ones in the listing; no I will not send it anywhere other than the address supplied by paypal; no it can’t be collected; no there is no discount on 1 item; no it can’t be sent faster because its your daughters birthday tomorrow and your too cheap to go out to a B&M shop.

      Even if you do reply to their daft questions unless you give them what they want they’ll hit you with low DSRs, bad feed back or fake INR claims.

      The type of customer who needs to ask questions first is inevitably the type who will waste your time after buying too.

      The time saved by blocking these ebuyers at the first opportunity means I can provide faster service and lower prices and after sales service to the genuine customers who don’t need their hands holding.

    • rick
      5 years ago

      exactly! thats the Reality of
      the customer service your forced into by ebay and buyers to survive on ebay

  • Alex
    5 years ago

    You are unreal!!

    Do you really believe everything you have said or is it just some “attitude”?

    If it’s truly what you believe you are either very young or immature and have a really poor attitude to conducting business. I’m guessing its a bit of all three, and in future years I’m sure you will think about this and realise how much your current attitude and ethics are lacking.

    I’ll even go a step further to suggest that you are under 18 (15 or even younger maybe) and advise you to discuss your comments and views with a responsible adult or guardian who I can assure you will tell you that your approach to business is seriously misinformed and lacking in all credibility.

    BTW, what did you say the name of your eBay business is?

    • 5 years ago

      Assuming rick is the same poster that I think he is then I can attest that his age is much more than 15. His eBay business is nearly that old. Or at least that’s almost the age of the one id I was able to track down over the years linking to him. No telling if he has others. It seems to do fine with regards to feedback despite the way he speaks about business here.

      Granted I could totally be wrong regarding his identity but there has been someone posting here saying practically the same things under different names for at least the four years I’ve been here.

  • Alex
    5 years ago

    OK, if you are right and he really believes what hes said and isn’t just winding people up then I expect him to reply with another torrent of ignorant opnions but I doubt he will disclose his trading name and eBay ID – and by not stating that he clearly doubts the validity of his own views.

    Guess we’ll see…..

    • rick
      5 years ago

      ok alex you show me yours and I will show you mine [or one of them] lol

  • Alex
    5 years ago

    I’m guessing you and Peter King are related. Blocking anyone who asks a question in advance?

    Totally unreal!!

    You live in a different world mate.

    Pls don’t bother replying, i’m bored with all this now.

    • rick
      5 years ago

      we have questions switched off
      so we dont even go to the effort of blocking lol
      PS come on show us yours bet mines bigger
      lol

  • rick
    5 years ago

    come on alex stop kopping out, your the one looking down your nose from an ivory tower, show us why your superior

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