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Phone Orders versus Online

2:50 pm on Mar 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I've heard in some industries people say 2/3 of orders come via phone orders.

Do you guys have any guesses as to which industries people prefer to phone as oppose to just buying online?

The factors that I can come up with are:

- phone number is visible on all pages
- older demographic prefer the phone
- high order amounts so people feel safer phoning
- business was/is a mail order company
- people need more info


6:50 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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>>>>To keep people off the phone, and costs down, you need to find out what drives those calls and resolve them on the web site.

Yes, we try and reduce phone calls by turning the questions and answers into web content.

So we are adding aprox. 400 to 1000 words of new text a day .... which it turn triggers more web traffic ... which in turn generates more phone calls and web orders.

Like somebody and myself has mentioned, a phone call is an opportunity to close a sale and possible add more product to the order.

We can handle the phone calls so it really is not a big issue. The people who are taking the phone calls are also the people who invoice the orders and pull the product out of inventory.

[edited by: Rugles at 6:51 pm (utc) on Mar. 26, 2007]

9:58 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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We have about 30% of new business ordering by phone their first time around.

As far as returning customers and repeat business 95% of the customers order directly from the web.

10:58 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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as far as your opinion it may fit your business but

I wasn't discussing my business, I was discussing other people's businesses I used to fix before I got out of the ecommerce consulting business.

Besides, I wasn't suggesting NOT to take orders over the phone, I was just suggesting you ask people if they had issues with your site and correct them is all. If they call giving good service is the only thing to do, but it never hurts to find out why they started on the site and ended up on the phone.

My only point was that taking orders by phone is more limiting to easily ramping up sales growth than the seemingly endless capabilities of your average website. One website can take way more orders per hour than a couple of people sitting in an office. A good site typically does the work of 15-30 people taking orders or more. You can afford to grow a company much quicker when you don't need to add 15-30 more call center people, and all the equipment, seating space, benefits, etc., that was my main point AND it's a lot of lost profits too.

There is a whole generation out there that still likes to do business via telephone.

Then there are people like me that would prefer to shoot themselves vs. spend what seems like an eternity giving an order over the phone to someone that keeps getting your credit card rejected because they didn't type in the name, address or card number right and wouldn't you know it the email verification never arrives because they got that wrong too.


11:13 pm on Mar 26, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I'm an affiliate marketer..I do have a couple programs with a dedicated number; this certainly helps closing more orders. The trick is, know your affiliate program. there are some good ones out there that have honest people running the phones and will give you credit for your sales.
3:36 am on Mar 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hi, I work with a store where the store owner is hearing impaired. It is very important to keep the calls down to bare minimum for this shop owner. I make sure the products are easy to locate, the checkout is process is cave-man proof the contact info is on all pages. The site is a busy little site and at times brings in more than the B&M. He does get calls from customers who just don't want to pay online but the ratio is low. Another factor is making the customer feel secure shopping on a site. If the customer feels like your operating out of your bedroom closet he/she is more likely to call.
1:47 pm on Mar 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

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The checkout is process is cave-man proof the contact info is on all pages.

Turns and walks away in disgust. Think Geico...

9:25 pm on Mar 27, 2007 (gmt 0)

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We sell software. Options are instant download and CD-ROM and both can be ordered online using PayPal. We have a toll-free phone for inquiries and ordering. Our ratio is about 85% download and 15% call to order the CD-ROM.

> older demographic prefer the phone
Most of those calling sound older so I would agree with that.

Only problem with toll-free number is that too many call for help. One guy a week ago calls "I just go your software and installed it. Now, what do I do?" RTFM (Read the Friendly Manual). This is very infuriating when the same person calls a few times a day for a day or two for simple things. Plus, he could have downloaded and tried the demo. Ugh!

1:54 am on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Lucid, i agree.

7 or 8 years back, you got silly calls (at least that seemed silly to the more experienced) just because folks didn't know any better.

No problem.

Now, the silly calls are from people who have absolutely no respect for anyone else's time - just as you said, they're too lazy to RTFM (or even open the cover) - makes you wonder how they actually get through life in general.

As others have pointed out, as your business grows, so do the problems.

99% of folks are great, it's those other 1% that make you want to hang yourself with your mouse cord.

1% of 100 orders = 1 problem a month.
1% of 1000 orders = 10 problems a month.
1% of 10000 orders = 100 problems a month.


Most important thing is to keep your sense of humor.

2:30 am on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I have two clients that generate and considerable of their sales over the phone.

One is selling furniture, that is a high ticket item, and the other sells a product line that can customized to fit different requirements.

I track their online sales closely, and often call them to say the likes [ last month sales looked good ] and they always say, you don't have any idea how much phone sales we did.

They are getting better over time, converting the calls into cash.

Learning how to convert over the phone is important and not doing so is a lost opportunity.

6:54 pm on Mar 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I guess phone orders are more if its a TV shopping method but do you really call it an e commerce?

I guess if it is through an website then it is e commerce.

7:32 am on Mar 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

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This fact may help, we tested this for our email marketing campaigns. We gave a separate 800 number that routed through a tracking system. On 80-100 order emails, we would get 6 - 10 phone orders. The 800 number was listed at the top of the email very prominently. ~ $100 avg. order value.
8:13 pm on Mar 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I recently had an experience where I purchased software over the web. The cart process worked great but I found that the registration code that they sent me was already expired. The vendor had no phone number, so I was stuck waiting DAYS before someone decided to respond to my e-mail. Even when they did respond, they sent me the typical "customer avoidance" e-mail saying essentially, "It should work so send us every possible detail about your system and every other piece of software you have installed and we'll get back to you in another week or two". Again, it was an invalid registration code but they didn't bother actually reading my e-mail. I'm sure at some point they've figured out that a certain percentage of customers will go away rather than reply to their irrelevant questions.

As a result of this, I have sworn a blood oath to NEVER again do business with a company that does not provide a phone number. It's just a matter of respect for my time and for me as a customer. I'd be willing to bet that there are other folks that feel the same way.

[edited by: TonyMc at 8:35 pm (utc) on Mar. 31, 2007]

10:19 pm on Mar 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I feel similarly to incrediBILL, the level of phonecalls we fielded from the public who just wanted free general advice was too high, if we continued to promote our phone number long term, our business model was going to have higher labour costs than intended.

We removed the phone number from prominent display... call levels continued to grow... we began charging to process telephone orders... calls continued to grow... we removed all telephone numbers (except in email confirmations, damages/returns section etc.) and stopped processing telephone orders completely. We now only accept orders online, and get a few by fax and post.

We took the decision we didn't want to service every sort of customer segment possible, just the ones who are comfortable ordering online. They tended to be the cheapest to service... and in return we offer them very good value for money.

Those who require telephone ordering tend to go to our competitors, and are consequently charged a higher price to cover the cost of provision. There is plenty of business to go around... we're not greedy... we don't want to be jack of all trades and master of none...

We still get lots of phone calls from customers who want to place orders by phone... we turn them all down... no matter the reason... at first it was surprising to see orders placed online from customers who just 30 minutes earlier had claimed that their computer was broken etc. etc.

... the fact is you can't satisfy all the people, all of the time... its been better for us to focus on doing what we do well.

We think we've made the right decision... short/medium term sales growth has been sacrificed for a leaner, more pragmatic business model which offers long term sustainable growth.

We think that taking telephone orders does offer faster growth potential. However over the longer term, the cost of servicing a customer base who you have made reliant on this form of ordering could become a threat to the business. Overheads which are too high, price offerings which are no longer competative, and the realisation that the business has also become hopelessly reliant on this type of customer... but as I say... it's not for everyone.

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