Poor service costs companies billions of dollars every year. When it comes to phone service in an ecommerce business, the level needs to be top-notch. Disappoint or downright annoy a prospect calling you from the other side of the interwebs, and you’ll never get another chance to get their business.
That’s the digital world we’re all now living in. As the old saying goes you really only “get one chance to make a first impression.” Understanding just how important customer service is, it’s not enough to call up the first phone answering service you see on the front page of Google, sign up, and call it a day.
You need to ask lots of questions — of yourself and then of the service you’re considering — before pulling the trigger and allowing a business to take your incoming calls for you.
Consider the following…
How professional are the agents offered by the service?
If you can view enough unbiased reviews of the service, this step might not be an issue. But, you can’t just take any services promises at face value. Ideally, you should be able to get live phone numbers and make a mock call or two to agents who don’t know that you’re considering giving your incoming calls to their employer.
Look for genuine kindness, empathy, and the ability to listen clearly to what’s said on the call.
Ask them how equipped are they to scale for increased call volumes
Ecommerce is a tempestuous business and there’s rarely any warning when call volumes are going to go through the roof. Considering what’s on the line, you can’t afford to get into bed with an answering service that doesn’t have the available staff to handle ALL your incoming calls.
Look for a guarantee clause before signing any contract with a provider. They need to assure you that all calls will be handled, with as little hold time as possible. Ask how many staff members are available at any given time to handle calls (Ie., a 1-person operation isn’t likely to be reliable if your business gets lots of phone calls!)
Make sure they have transparent package pricing and upgrade options
The FCC and other regulatory bodies around the world have firm rules in place about pricing transparency. However, these organizations can’t monitor everything, and the last thing you need is to sign a contract only to find a litany of fees such as setup costs, after hours answering fees, or costly early cancellation fees.
All costs should be clearly listed on the package pricing page of the provider’s website. It should also be easy to switch from one package to the next without incurring upgrade costs. Make sure you’re aware of all fees, including what you’ll be charged if the provider has to take more calls than your agreement specifies.
Write out the skills and knowledge the answering staff will need, then…
Determine if the service you’re considering offers what you need from the answering staff. Some phone answering services only offer to answer the phone and take a message. They’ll offer competitive pricing, but won’t offer much beyond answering the phone stating your business name, taking messages, and forwarding those calls to you.
This type of phone answering service doesn’t work in an ecommerce scenario where customers are calling to get information about your website and products. You might also need full-on call center services, featuring inbound sales support and technical troubleshooting for your products or services. Herein will come the need for a solid recruitment and training plan on the service’s end, and the ability for you to be part of the training process.
Consider if you need the answering agents to speak multiple languages
Offering to answer calls in multiple languages can have a big impact on the number of calls and sales coming into your ecommerce business. It’s rare to see sites that do this, and so you can expect a boost in business if you’re able to do so. Neglect this step, and you may lose prospects or customers who need phone support in their unique language.
While it might not be necessary, consider where the majority of your site traffic is coming from and ask the ecommerce answering service you work with if they can handle (and translate if necessary) those calls for you. English, French, and Spanish are all great options, as several Asian and Middle Eastern countries have too many different dialects to accommodate them effectively.
Ask the service about their data security protocols
Obviously, if they’re compliant with all applicable laws, there’s a good chance the service you’re considering takes data protection seriously. But, just because they’re compliant doesn’t mean internal data theft won’t occur. Consider a low-wage phone service employee who has a website in your niche.
What measures does the service have in place to prevent them from stealing customer data, or that customer’s business from you? Often, without firm data security standards in place, there’s nothing preventing an employee from stealing data and doing whatever they wish with it. If you see anything to the effect of the service not being liable for data loss in the terms, there’s a good chance they don’t have adequate security measures in place.
You simply cannot take the calls coming into your ecommerce business for granted. “Good enough” isn’t good enough. You need to carefully consider all your needs, then scan through the benefits and options offered by several phone answering services before deciding which is right for your business.
Fail to do your research and you may never know just how many prospects are being lost in the shuffle, or how many unhappy customers there are that have stopped buying your products or services because of sloppy or non-existent phone support.