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This 32 message thread spans 2 pages: 32 ( [1] 2 > >     
It's your first store - do you provide a phone number?
or do it on the cheap and only use email/snail mail
lorax




msg:654194
 1:07 am on Jul 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

My first store (of my own) is in the works and scheduled to go online in a few weeks. I work at home and while I really want to offer customers to my drop ship shop a phone number I don't really want to be tethered to the phone on a day to day basis. Partly because I haven't a clue as to how far I should go with setting up a "customer service center".

Could I get by with a second phone line and an answering machine or would that be too cheesy?

I read this post [webmasterworld.com...] and wondered if the opinions have changed since then.

 

jbinbpt




msg:654195
 1:38 am on Jul 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

No.. Not cheesy at all.
There is a certain comfort level obtained when contact information is easy to find.
That comfort level drops off when there is no physical address or phone number easy available.
If you are going to accept checks, you will need the address anyways.
jb

jsinger




msg:654196
 1:49 am on Jul 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

You won't get many phone calls from customers but some of your biggest orders will come by toll free phone. Depends a lot on the product of course. Yes, an 800# to an answering device would be better than nothing. Perhaps your message could state that incoming calls are only accepted during certain hours of the day.

Ankheg




msg:654197
 4:17 am on Jul 28, 2003 (gmt 0)


I shan't post any URL's, but you can get a prepaid cell phone in the U.S. for less than $10 per month, which is what I use for one site. It sits on a bookshelf, attached to the charger, always on. Phone cost me $20 new, and I can take it with me when I go someplace. Free voicemail and incoming text messages, too.

Just a thought. I don't get a lot of calls, but nearly every one converts...

onlineleben




msg:654198
 6:35 am on Jul 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

In some countries it is necessary (by law) to have detailed contact information including phone number on your site.
It is also a good indication for potential customers, that there are humans behind the site. People that care.
You can limit the number of phone calls by providing extensive FAQs about your product, shipping terms, payment terms and guarantees.
I only get very few calls. Usually when you don't expect them (e.g. yesterday afternoon (sunday)), but they were always good chances to help people and resulted in the desired call to action.

topr8




msg:654199
 7:23 am on Jul 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

Just a thought. I don't get a lot of calls, but nearly every one converts...

i've found that too, people who phone want re-assurance usually. often they call and say they don't give credit card numbers over the internet!

if your budget can stretch to an all in one phone fax then thats a bonus (i get a very few orders by fax - but more than enough to have paid for the fax machine)

and not at all cheesy - as i'm in the uk, i get calls at very odd hours which are usually fielded by the answer phone, doesn't seem to put people off (nor does the international number - although i'm selling a unique product which probably helps)

<added>PS good luck with the new store!</added>

Jenstar




msg:654200
 8:35 am on Jul 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

Do be aware that even if you state very clearly that you only accept phone calls during certain hours, you WILL get phone calls from people outside of those hours. If you don't want to be interupted by the ringing phone at 4AM, use voice mail or an answering service, rather than just an answering machine.

ecommerce man




msg:654201
 12:41 pm on Jul 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

I find that some shoppers want to call and will never place orders on the internet.

They think that the web is not safe but are happy to give their card details to the first person who answers the phone, or some even fax their CC details to us!

I say that you should always give out a phone number - even if it only allows voicemail you can always call people back.

lorax




msg:654202
 3:23 pm on Jul 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

Interesting - so the predominant thought still seems to be that having a phone is not only a good idea - but even a requirement.

The cell idea is a good one. I have one that I only use for emergencies but could easily add on a voice mail account for only a couple of extra bucks. Though it would mean that I'd need to turn it on and/or check it daily.

Big_Balou




msg:654203
 4:50 pm on Jul 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

One thing that no one has mentioned is some of the all in one messaging services. I found one that gave a toll free with the ability to redirect it on a schedule I set to any number I want, I use a cell, and announces the call when it comes in, in case you use the phone normally too. Outside of the schedule, my business hours for customer service, it goes to voice mail. There are also some other useful features on some of the services.

But to answer the original question having a phone number is a must. Several people have already pointed out you won't have a lot of calls but some people will only order if they can talk to someone and those who will order feel more comfortable, my opinion, when there is a way to get in touch with someone.

derekwong28




msg:654204
 2:33 pm on Jul 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

I really wish we could provide a phone no. But being based in Hong Kong, our working hours are out of sync with Europe and N.America where the bulk of our customers come from.

Although we are aware that we will only get a few enquiries, we are worried that

1. It could be a trade enquiry from suppliers
2. Abusive calles from fraudsters who tried unsuccessfully to order from our site.
3. Difficult customers.

Therefore, we are still not yet ready to provide a telephone no.

However, we will look into the possibility of providing live help, a fax no.

jsinger




msg:654205
 3:25 pm on Jul 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

"Although we are aware that we will only get a few enquiries, we are worried that

1. It could be a trade enquiry from suppliers"

Yes, you do get some people who use your phone charges to sell you products or (more likely) internet services such as SEO. But not a big deal.

"2. Abusive calls from fraudsters who tried unsuccessfully to order from our site."

Nah, except for perhaps one of those relay operator scams which may not work in Asia, anyway.

"3. Difficult customers"

Phone calls do take time. If most of your competitors don't have phones, you will get callers who pump you for information and then order elsewhere. Again, not a common thing.

You will get many "where is my order" calls. Those are time consuming. Some people will be calling the wrong website and that really takes time to discover!

Speaking with "difficult" customers is a good way to fine tune your FAQs and other aspects of the site to make it easier for newbies and the nervous to order online.

As a consumer, I really love that idea that I can yell at someone if something goes terribly wrong. That encourages me to buy.

====================

Overall, a big part of the difference between running an online business and merely running a commerce website has to do with using email, the telephone, and perhaps regular mail to build a great relationship with customers.

Finding new customers is just too expensive these days.

cfx211




msg:654206
 3:27 pm on Jul 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

I was wondering about this issue myself since we are going to be going live soon and will be running out of the house. I like the idea of the prepaid cell phone until there is enough success to either get an office or go through the hassle of having a second line installed at home. Has anyone had problems with this approach outside of poor reception?

lorax




msg:654207
 4:24 pm on Jul 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

Overall, a big part of the difference between running an online business and merely running a commerce website has to do with using email, the telephone, and perhaps regular mail to build a great relationship with customers.

That is an excellent point and one I often preach. Thanks for reminding me.

Robino




msg:654208
 5:59 pm on Jul 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

or go through the hassle of having a second line installed at home.

It's not that much of a hassle.

I think you absolutely need to have a phone number if your serious about your business.

A lot of people are nervous about purchasing things on line in the first place. And unless your store has an Amazon-like reputation, you need a phone number and physical address clearly displayed.

manilla




msg:654209
 6:14 pm on Jul 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure what it's like in the US, but in the UK I think that most people prefer to see a fixed line number which starts 01* rather than a mobile (cell phone) which starts 07*. It gives more credibility than a cell phone, and for the vast majoprity of people that never calls it, they'll all see it, and trust you as a supplier.

Also in the UK, BT can offer a "by-pass" number (I use this for the kids), and it gives a different ring tone for about 4 per quarter. You can greet people that call that number by identifying the ring tone.

Just my 2 shillings old boy.

Ankheg




msg:654210
 8:48 pm on Jul 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

In the U.S. there's no easy way to tell a mobile number from a landline.

I've had no problems using a cell phone, but I live on the outskirts of a large city, with excellent coverage. Using the phone at home, where it's always plugged into the wall, keeps me from having to worry about the battery... although I do keep several charged ones on hand, as we lose power a LOT in the summer.

NFFC




msg:654211
 9:06 pm on Jul 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

>I don't really want to be tethered to the phone on a day to day basis

Then I would think again about opening the store, you *must* have a phone number [B2C] and as soon as you do you will be tethered. Mobiles are a non-starter, the customer can tell even if the number is transparent, you might as well show a pop-up with "I am a small timer working from the back bedroom" on the site itself.

If you are serious about your new business then man the phones, be sure though to "hide" your physical address as nothing kills a sale more than answering the door to a customer wearing only a towel [it happens!].

Shane




msg:654212
 9:25 pm on Jul 29, 2003 (gmt 0)


Ankheg,

Just curious but, why the loss of power?

NFFC, it might make a sale one day ;)

..... Shane

jomaxx




msg:654213
 11:46 pm on Jul 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

Speaking as someone who has made many purchases online, a phone number is not absolutely mandatory but almost. I find it quite shocking how many retailers carefully hide their name, their phone number, their address, even what COUNTRY they are located in, and yet expect me to trust them with my money and credit card number.

Besides, it's rare to get all the way through an online selection/purchase process without any questions, and I really hate asking questions by email. That requires me to craft an email, wait hours or even days for a response, after which I may very likely have to ask a followup question and start the process all over again. I'll call a retailer at my own expense, even overseas, but I will usually bail before writing an email.

jsinger




msg:654214
 1:40 am on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

Note that probably half the email questions to commerce website aren't answered within 24 hours according to the surveys I've seen.

Many are never answered because the site is out of business.
Calling in an order is often the smartest way to do it.


derekwong28




msg:654215
 6:52 am on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

It looks like that there is a consensus that to provide a telephone no., but can we have some real figures i.e. what percentage increase in sales did you experience when you started providing a telephone no.?
?You will get many "where is my order" calls. Those are time consuming. Some people will be calling the wrong website and that really takes time to discover!?
?As a consumer, I really love that idea that I can yell at someone if something goes terribly wrong. That encourages me to buy.?
This is what exactly what we are scared of. Having one nasty phone could badly affect our mood and affect our operation for the rest of the day. As it is, things are quite stretched as it is.
Our conversion rate is 1-1.5% at the moment, but most of the hits come from Google where surfers may have used general search terms. However, the conversion rate from PPC and text ads is around 1 in 15 to 1 in 30, which is not that bad at the moment.
I note that most web-hosting companies do not provide a telephone no. or a physical address yet they are able to get by.

jsinger




msg:654216
 1:36 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

"As a consumer, I really love that idea that I can yell at someone if something goes terribly wrong. That encourages me to buy.? This is exactly what we are scared of. Having one nasty phone could badly affect our mood and affect our operation for the rest of the day. As it is, things are quite stretched as it is"

I've been in retailing for years. You are right that one irate caller can ruin the rest of your day. But often the customer is right, or is telling you about a major problem requiring immediate action. Very few callers are nasty if they believe you are trying to help them.

We almost always give in to the customer for exactly the reason you mention: ruining a day isn't worth the few bucks you save.

------------------

"I note that most web-hosting companies do not provide a telephone no. or a physical address yet they are able to get by."

Not true. Most have gone out of business. We passed up many before we found the ones we use...with good phone service

------------------

We receive about 15% of our web-related sales by telephone. We're in the U.S. As a brick/mortar company, our phones are answered 7 days a week anyway.

--------------

Try it: you can drop the call-in info in minutes if it doesn't work out.

lorax




msg:654217
 3:40 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

>> As a consumer, I really love that idea that I can yell at someone if something goes terribly wrong.

Yeah, I agree. It's certainly something I look for.

NFFC,
Re: tethered - I don't mind answering the phone or calling customers back. I just don't want to spend my day on the phone. I suspect that since I'm just starting out I shouldn't expect that many phone calls simply because the traffic levels will be low. But phone gets more popular I may have to find another solution. But I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

khuntley




msg:654218
 5:17 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

Lorax,
I have a toll free number and wouldn't dream of being without it for the reasons listed. How I make it work with my lifestyle:

I have it ring to my only line at home and just answer the phone "Thank you for calling (company name)." I thought that would be awkward at first but it took friends and family all of two days to get used to it. Now I think nothing of it and it's second nature.

I am in no way tethered to it. My answering machine message says "Thank you for calling (company name). Our normal hours of operation are ...... if you have received this message during those hours we are currently assisting other customers. Please leave a message and we will return your call very shortly." So during the day I can drop off shipments, go to the gym, out to lunch, etc.

I'll have to figure out what to do if I ever want to take a vacation though.

Kevin

too much information




msg:654219
 5:31 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

Here's something else to think about, I have a site that I would perfer that people send me an e-mail for questions because it's something I run part time and I can't be available for a phone call most of the time.

Funny thing is that people will run a WhoIs on your domain and get your phone number and call you if they really want to get in touch with you. I've had this happen twice in the past month. And I am always playing phone tag with them because of our different time zones.

I perfer the e-mail because I check mine often and I write back immediately, but most people don't have the same habits.

I like the prepaid phone idea, I think I'll look into that myself.

jomaxx




msg:654220
 12:34 am on Jul 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think the bottom line is that dealing with customers by telephone is good discipline - a good way to learn about how your site really works. For example...

If your customers are irate, the solution obviously isn't to shield yourself from them, it's to find out why so you can fix whatever is causing that.

If your customers are phoning to ask "Where's my order?", that's a major clue that you need to be more communicative about when an order has shipped and when it is expected to arrive. If they need to contact a different company to ask that question, then you need to communicate that better.

If potential customers are asking the same questions over and over, that tells you that necessary information is missing from your site or that it cannot be readily found.

If potential customers are so motivated that they're actually using WHOIS to track you down, that suggests to me that you're losing sales right and left. For every person who succeeds in tracking you down that way, there must be 50 to 100 who will give up and walk away.

bekyed




msg:654221
 10:43 pm on Aug 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

This is exactly what we are scared of. Having one nasty phone could badly affect our mood and affect our operation for the rest of the day. As it is, things are quite stretched as it is"

No offence but why are you in business dealing with the public if you let customers upset you? You wont last long!
We offer a customer service to all of our websites with a telephone number for complaints which rings very rarely and when it does you know that you have a complaint and can deal with it, this way there is no surprising outbursts as you know what to expect.

Bek

XtendScott




msg:654222
 12:17 am on Aug 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

khuntley;

I agree with you wanting to answer the phone and the 800# is a good idea also. But in addition to that I would suggest a 2nd phone number and point it to your main phone line. It costs a few bucks a month for the number and you set a "Distintive Ring"(2 short rings) for it. Just have to decide if that is the personal # or business. Makes it easier to know if you want to answer the phone in the evenings.

Just a thought. :)

scott

derekwong28




msg:654223
 11:14 am on Aug 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

We have offered telephone support for 2 weeks now, at a time that would be convenient to both American and European customers. However, we have not received a single call, nor have we seen an appreciable increase in the no. of conversions.

Therefore, it appears that providing a telephone no. is not an important issue for the type of products we sell, which are generally low value but highly recognizable. Since this is not causing any problems, we will leave the telephone no. on our site for the time being.

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