Miscellaneous

Should online businesses list a phone number on their website?

Kaitlyn Wightman
Kaitlyn Wightman

How valuable is it for an online business to make space on their homepage for a phone number? CEOs from digital companies both big and small explain how seven digits can increase sales and improve your customer relationships.

It’s frustrating not being able to get ahold of a company by phone. Just ask Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction.

He was so upset that he couldn’t just pick up the phone to call a company that he tweeted about it.

Dear small businesses: put your damn phone number on your website. Free advice. You're welcome. — Adam Kleinberg (@adamkleinberg) July 21, 2015

He’s not the only one that feels this way. According to this B2B Web Usability Report, 55% say that a company’s credibility is reduced when they do not list their phone number on their website. That means over half of your potential customers look down on your online business simply because they can’t call you.

Fortunately, online businesses don’t have to limit the way they communicate with customers to online chat and email. In fact, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh highly recommends adding a phone number.

tony_hsieh

“A lot of people think it’s strange that an internet company would be so focused on the telephone, when only about 5% of our sales happen by phone,” says Tony. “But we’ve found that on average, our customers telephone us at least once at some point. If we handle the call well, we have an opportunity to create an emotional impact and a lasting memory.”

Tony made sure customer service was in the company budget. As he explained in this Harvard Business Review post, not only did he staff an in-house Customer Loyalty Team, but he even relocated the entire corporate headquarters from San Francisco to Las Vegas to ensure he could hire the best customer support team.

“We view each call as an opportunity to build the Zappos brand into being about the very best customer service,” he says.

“Our philosophy has been that most of the money we might ordinarily have spent on advertising should be invested in customer service, so that our customers will do the marketing for us through word of mouth.”

Smaller online businesses have also seen the benefits of listing a phone number on their company website. Jonathan Kay, Ambassador of Buzz at Grasshopper, is such a firm believer in listing a phone number that he teamed up with KISSmetrics to test his theory.

Jonathan’s hypothesis was that when a company lists a phone number on their website, customers are more willing to do business with that company. Together, Grasshopper and KISSmetrics launched a phone number challenge to see if he was right.

flowr-ab-test

Flowr took the bait. KISSmetrics set up an A/B test on Flowr’s homepage to see if listing a phone number would increase sign ups. The only difference between the two homepages was that Homepage A on the left listed the phone number (see the red asterisk: “Want to have a chat? Call us at…”) and Homepage B on the right did not.

The results are in : 54% of signups came from Homepage A and 46% of sign ups came from Homepage B.

the-flowr-results

Flowr CEO Davorin Gabrovec instantly noticed a change in his business.

“Even though we didn’t receive a lot of calls,” he says, “having a phone number visible on the website gives more credibility to our product and trust to our visitors.”

Founder of eCommerceFuel Andrew Younderian agrees, but he cautions online businesses before making the move.

“Deciding if and how to offer phone support is one of the hardest things I’ve wrestled with as an eCommerce entrepreneur. It’s a really tough issue, especially for small independent merchants with limited staff.”

While he points out many benefits to listing an online company’s phone number on their website in this eCommerceFuel article, he also explains challenges small businesses tackle when adding a telephone number:

  • It’s Expensive: “From a staffing perspective, providing good phone support is downright expensive. But if you’re selling smaller items, or working with thin margins as a drop shipper, it can be very difficult to offer phone support and still be profitable.”
  • Outsourcing is Difficult: “How many times have you had an incredible outsourced phone experience? Yeah, me neither. Usually it’s a terrible experience that leaves you thinking less of the company you called. If you’re going to do it right, you’ll need to keep your phone support in-house.”
  • It’s Time-consuming: “The problem is that for every ‘ideal’ phone customer, you’ll field numerous calls that aren’t necessarily a good use of your time. They’ll ask dozens of questions and then order from the competition, or they might disable your productivity with a meandering conversation for the better part of an hour.”
  • It Must Be Monitored Constantly: “Taking calls throughout the day makes it hard to focus for long periods of time, breaks your concentration and makes it more difficult to be productive.”

Andrew recommends making the best decision for your company. If your online business doesn’t have a lot of time to support taking calls, he suggests limiting your phone hours or investing in online tutorials to reduce the need to call your company.

So, should your online business list a phone number on your website? Most industry leaders agree that it’s a smart decision as long as it supports how much business comes in by phone.

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