Often one word has several meanings. And so it happened with call tracking: marketing tools with entirely different approaches are united under this term. Call tracking resembles PPC in this way: you can either spend an hour for setting it up and just make sure you add money to the account. Or, you can do the in-depth research using hundreds of indicators and your own expertise.

What is call tracking and how it works

Standard web analytics platforms (such as Google Analytics) are only fit for analyzing the users’ online activity. Meanwhile, offline conversions such as calls are not counted. Call tracking services aim to cover this gap.

Call tracking is a technology for discovering the sources of inbound calls. It helps to find out the number of calls coming from each of the advertising channels along with the keyword if it is available in the referrer field in cookies.

Quality call tracking services offer the capabilities of the most advanced virtual PBX as well as the callback widget. Moreover, the virtual PBX and callback widget are closely integrated with call tracking. With the help of a small JavaScript code on the website (just like with Google Analytics), the phone number on the website is dynamically inserted, depending on the user session and traffic source.

The algorithm is the following:

  1. Users visit the website
  2. Call tracking service assigns a unique phone number to the user session
  3. Users browse the website
  4. At some point, users decide to make a call
  5. The call tracking system connects the phone call with a specific user session

The hardest thing is to associate the call with a specific website user with high probability. To achieve this, call tracking services spend years improving their algorithms of dynamic number insertion.

In the holiday season of promotional campaigns and discount sales, businesses are thinking of giving a try to call tracking. But how to understand the difference between an advanced call tracking service and a primitive one? What questions should you ask before making a choice?

Question #1: Which call types can you track?

There are call tracking services that neglect unique call metrics. The intermediate metrics can differ depending on the type of the business.

Target call is a call that is longer than specified and is unique in the sales cycle.

Target call length is the length of conversation in seconds, which is enough to believe that the call was target (for example, there is a high probability that caller who remained on the line for more than 30 seconds did not dial the number incidentally).

Sales cycle – the period from the first contact with a client and till the moment of purchase completion (for example, in home appliances online shops it could be 2-7 days, whereas in real estate months or even years.

Repeated call is an answered call with the length greater than specified, repeated during the sales cycle.

Unique call is the first call from a phone number. The length does not matter, it might also be a missed call.

First target call is a phone call received for the first time from a specific phone number that has a length more than specified.

Unique target call – when the first call from a phone number was also a target call (with the length greater than specified).

Example 1

For an online shop of home appliances and clothes the intermediate efficiency is best defined by the metric ‘Target call’.

As repeated purchases in the online stores are common, the calls from the same phone number although a couple of months apart most probably will lead to two different purchases.

Logically, both calls are target and so they should be represented in the analytics report.

Example 2

Building companies and complex services providers (for example those, that implement CRM for 100 000 USD) will find useful the metric ‘First target call’ for assessing the intermediate efficiency of the advertising campaign.

It is pointless to consider the sales cycle for these businesses, as:

  • The sales cycle can be several months long
  • Such purchases are only made once in several years and repeat purchases almost never happen.

Question #2. What options do you have for customizing the reports?

Reports are the most important part of any call tracking service. They are the basis for decision-making on optimization of advertising and/or business processes. The users of call tracking work with this instrument 90% of the whole time. The reports might look simple and give the wrong impression that analytics is easy. However, they work well only for understanding the general picture. To get better insights you need to ‘drill down’.

Example

You have found out that there is a great percentage of missed calls – 30%. You have done what it takes to cope with the problem:

  • Told off the agents
  • Started fining them for each missed call

A week later you see the decreased percentage and number of missed calls in the reports. However, the percentage remains around 20% (total number is 40). Of course, you are quick to fine the employees, tell them off or even fire someone.

But let’s do the drill down (usually it is done with the help of various filters in the reports) and see how it works in practice:

  1. Let’s discount the calls missed during weekends and non-working hours.
  2. Let’s discount outbound calls. They also can be counted as missed, as some systems can count them in the general call statistics. However, there should be a possibility to filter them out.
  3. Discount calls with timeout below 9-12 seconds (that is the length of greeting.)
  4. In the end, we see that there are 3 missed calls instead of 40.

It turns out that ⅓ of missed calls occurred during non-working hours.

Another ⅓ were outbound calls.

The rest of the calls were missed because the client had hung up during the greeting.

Only 3 of the total number of missed calls were missed because of agents’ fault.

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And you were going to fine them for 40 calls.

Basing on personal experience, cases of our clients and partners we can say that there were hundreds of examples when the ‘drill down’ had completely changed the whole picture.

Question #3: How the service is integrated with Google Analytics?

Many marketers and specialists are used to the Google Analytics interface and prefer to have the call analysis there. Call tracking integration with Google Analytics can satisfy this need as no call tracking service can substitute the power of Google Analytics.

There are call tracking services that have rather shallow integration with Google Analytics. All inbound calls are recognized as one type of event, i.e. all the calls are piled together.

Example

What does shallow integration with Google Analytics really mean?

You are not able to discover the following data:

  • The real number of conversions from target calls/The real number of target calls that became conversions
  • Compare conversion rates of different advertising channels
  • Compare conversion rates of CPC and organic

Question #4: Can you select a status for failed calls?

Some call tracking services have developed from virtual PBX and offer a large toolbox of IP telephony. It means that they have some important analytical capabilities. Let’s look at the call statuses a good call tracking should offer.

  1. Voice mail redirection – a call that hasn’t been answered and was redirected to the voice mail.
  2. No additional number inserted/ no reaction to voice menu – when the caller did not react to the virtual secretary’s request to insert a number or number sequence for connecting with a requested department or employee/ reacted incorrectly/ did not wait for connection through the ‘stand-by’ redirection scenario.
  3. The client did not answer to callback – both call agent and client might decline the call. It is important to have the opportunity to distinguish the reasons for failed call.

Example # 1

  1. You have customized the voice menu (and that is very useful even for small companies of 5-10+ employees) and you are very pleased with yourself.
  2. However, you have to analyze the way your clients interact with the voice menu.
  3. In certain niches calls with no reaction from the caller comprised near 30% of the total number of calls.

It is hard to tell what triggers this phenomenon. It could be the lack of trust, lack of understanding of how the voice menu works or other reasons. But the fact is that having no opportunity to analyze this should make the businesses worry.

Example #2

You have set the callback widget on your website. Callback helps boost the number of inbound calls for the majority of businesses. Many call tracking systems provide detailed information on advertising sources of calls from the callback. However, a callback can drive a lot of non-target calls – the trend that got worse with the spread of this technology. Often happens something like this:

  1. Someone requests callback from your website
  2. Your call agent picks up the receiver and waits to be connected to the client. But the client does not pick up the phone.
  3. Your call agent persists and after 2 or 3 calls reaches the client.

It turns out, that who you thought was a client just randomly chose your website to use the callback function. He only wanted to get a call that would help him find his phone, that had rolled under the couch.

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Without the possibility to identify and filter out such ‘false conversion calls’ from statistics you will think that missed calls are the fault of call agents. At the same time, marketers will think that these calls were conversions, and they will be happy to see the increasing efficiency of the advertising campaigns. Regarding the callback function, some call agents ignore it for no good reason, which affects company’s image. Listening to recorded conversations—the function provided by call tracking— lets you discover this. One of our clients was so impressed by the results of following his call agents that he paid for our services 6 months ahead.

Question #5: How can you customize the tracking channels and tools?

To understand what we intend to say here, let’s recount the existing tracking methods:

  1. Static (or classic) call tracking (by source) – a tracking method, when every advertising channel has its own phone number. For example Google Adwords, facebook ads, billboards. This is the most simple method, but the least informative.
  2. Dynamic call tracking (by user session) – tracking method, when each user on the website will see a new phone number. This method allows connecting each call with a user session. In the end, it is possible to gather a lot of important information: keyword, pages seen, visits history, browser, device, IP address, etc.
  3. Combined call tracking – the method of simultaneous usage of dynamic and classic call tracking. For example, online advertising based on user session, offline – by source (billboard, fliers, newspaper ad).

Not all call tracking services offer the complete pool of tracking methods.

Example

Let’s imagine a case (which is quite widespread in real life):

  1. There is a website with median traffic by day 1200.
  • 50% of traffic comes from SEO (Google and bing organic)
  • 15% of traffic is direct
  • 35% of traffic is PPC in Google Adwords and advertising in social networks (facebook, twitter, Instagram)
  1. There are 3 offline sources:
  • Billboards
  • Fliers
  • Tv ads
  1. The tasks:
  • Track the efficiency of each channel
  • Conveniently aggregate the statistics for both online and offline channels

This task is not easily done by a call tracking service. But here’s an example of a perfect solution for this problem:

  1. Use the static method for offline ads, assigning a new number for each source.
  2. For direct traffic as well as for the paid search we use dynamic call tracking (down to the keyword).
  3. And now the interesting part: for each of organic sources we assign a static phone number (one for Google organic (SEO) and one for Bing organic (SEO).

3.1 Google encodes the majority of keyword queries (just from organic, PPC works as it should) and no external analytics service can show those, including call tracking.

3.2 Due to the flexibility of call tracking technology, it is possible to reduce expenditure for this tool at least two times, by providing a solution with fewer phone numbers. At the same time, there are almost no losses of useful data.

3.3. There are disadvantages, such as the loss of behavioral indicators for users who came from organic search, and some of the data for multi-channel reports, however for small and medium business in first half-year of using call tracking this data is not necessary.

Question #6. Which call tags are available?

If your call analytics service provides automated call segmentation by status, described in detail in Question 1 paragraph, it is great but it is not enough.

There should be more in order to get the detailed analysis of advertising efficiency. First of all, business should set a number of relevant categories.

The manual or semi-automated segmentation by categories is done based on the pre-set categories, (the so-called tagging).

  1. Manual – manual tagging of each call based on the conversation recording analysis.
  1. Semi-automated – call tagging through the voice menu for call agent after the call.
  1. After the end of the conversation, call agent waits for the voice menu.
  2. Agents is automatically redirected to the voice menu
  3. Voice menu offers to insert the category code and relative value of the call with the help of mobile phone keyboard of the cell phone/soft phone/any other device (rotary dial telephone from the 1970s is also fine).
  4. It is compulsory to insert value. If it was not inserted, the preset nominal value will be assigned to the call (how to calculate it is an issue for a whole new article).

Example

Call tagging helps to get in-depth insights into intermediate conversions (calls) and take decisions with maximum precision on the efficiency of advertising channels, discovering the insights that haven’t been obvious before. Often it turns out that the source has generated conversions, but only a few of those are valuable.

Once, an online shop started to tag calls. Basing on the results, marketers compiled a combined statistics for automated and manual categories and got the following picture:

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They figured out that:

  1. Only 30% of the calls were made with intention of buying something
  2. 24% of the calls from Google Adwords failed due to unstable work of the telephone equipment of the online shop (the office had the analogous PBX)
  3. Around 10% of conversions have been the calls for the goods that were out of stock.

Question #7. Is it possible to dynamically insert phone numbers based on geolocation?

Companies that offer goods/services worldwide need to build brand loyalty and take care of their users abroad without hurting the website usability. Dynamic number insertion based on geolocation is set to resolve these issues.

How it can be done:

  1. A user accesses the website from Germany and sees a German number.

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2. A user accesses the website from the USA or any other country and sees a USA number. (The USA number also works for the countries that are not supported by the website

This number is default for the countries, regional numbers of which are not supported by the website.

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You can use the same function on your website without connecting it to call tracking. But in this way, you will not be able to receive call analytics.

A good call tracking service can find a solution for this as well. It is definitely worth to get this function as a part of call tracking package.

Question #8. Is self-service available?

Users often don’t want to research a service and customize it, therefore more often they would go to the Customer Support and ask them for help, arguing that:

  1. They don’t want to waste time and Customer Support should be doing this task
  2. They are afraid of making mistakes (everything seems difficult and complex) and it is better to get specialists to do the customization.

All seems logical at first sight.

However, there is a spreading trend in Europe and the US—to offer broad possibilities for users so they could customize the program business tools. The self-service tool becomes more and more important for the users.

  1. Communication with Customer Support services takes a lot of time. Just try to calculate how much time you have spent talking to the support of different services.
  2. The users know the product poorly (as they did not try to learn it) and often it is hard for them to explain the task for the support. As the service’s technical support have to be sure that they understood the task 100% correctly, communication lasts longer.
  3. Technical support more often than not doesn’t work round the clock. And sometimes clients need urgent changes.
  4. Technical support is often the busiest department in the company (even if the processes in the company are customized in the best way), and they are not able to implement the changes instantly.
  5. Communication with technical support does not always happen in real time. That makes the issue solution longer.
  6. In the end, by getting to know the tool once and learning of the updates once in awhile, you will save up time. It is like the letter template – takes more time to make it than you’d usually spend on a letter; however is able to save you a lot of time in the future.

It is no good to go to extremes:

  1. By no means, we are offering to stop calling the technical support.
  2. When doing the self-service customization, make sure to check with specialists.
  3. When introducing big changes into customization, do not be shy and ask the technical support to check if everything is alright with the project.

Conclusions:

If you prefer to rely on technical support only, sooner or later you are going to face a situation, when you’d prefer to customize something on your own. So it is better to make sure you will have such an opportunity when you need it.

Question #9. Which integration tools with other services are there?

The most important system that has to be integrated with call tracking is your CRM/ERP system. Here are the main reasons:

  1. To build the system of omnichannel analytics – make decisions on advertising efficiency taking the vantage point of real sales, and not some intermediate indicators.
  2. To automate and optimize business processes in the company.

Not all integrations are the same

Great if your call tracking service is already integrated with a popular CRM and all that is required is to press several buttons in the interface so it would start working for your business. But you can call too many things an ‘integration’ (as well as call tracking). Let’s see basic features, that distinguish integration from ‘integration’:

  1. The logic for automatic deal creation for inbound calls.
  1. It is preferable that call agent that answered the call would be automatically recognized as responsible for the deal.
  2. It is good to check the existence of contact and company in the CRM and if not, have them created automatically.
  1. Automatic transmission of UTM tags and visitor identification to the deal card

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  1. Automatic addition of comments and/or tasks for the existing deals in case of inbound/outbound calls.
  1. Task completion for answered calls.
  2. Task open for missed calls.

When choosing call tracking service, make sure that the integrations they offer have basic tools for business processes and advertising analytics.

The package integration is good, but each business has unique business processes

However great the ‘one click’ integration of your call tracking and CRM might be, there always will be something that you lack.

That is why analytics services offer the possibility to customize your own integration with the help of API and webhooks. Almost every service offers API, but few can boast of multi-functional webhooks.

The key differences between API and webhooks are:

  1. API is capable of sending queries and gathering data once in a period of time
  2. Webhooks are capable of gathering data in real time

Webhooks give far better opportunities for integration. For example: even before the start of the call, call agent can receive information about the caller and the source of the call.

That is why, if you want to build a powerful integration of call tracking with CRM/ERP, make sure of the following:

  1. The service enables data transmission through webhooks.
  2. Webhooks transmission can be customized in different moments of time – before the call, after the call, after the redirection, after the call assessment menu, etc.
  3. Webhooks can transmit all data, gathered by call tracking analytics – usually, no less than 30 parameters.

Question #10. Is it possible to integrate call tracking with user-based analytics systems or BI solutions?

User based analytics services track user activity and gather information about it. It helps to analyze user preferences, in order to turn leads into customers. Integration with such services is a powerful instrument of the omnichannel analytics. It is preferable to choose call tracking that is already working with user-based analytics (such as Kissmetrics and Woopra) and here is why:

  1. The possibility of getting reports of the user behavior on the website. With the help of SEO tests, it is possible to determine the behavior models of one-type user groups.
  2. Having them, it is possible to construct various funnels and do the cohort analysis.
  3. You can see all the users’ activities before and after the call in real time. Also, you can track the user session length. Call tracking integration enables the prognosis of how to make a conversation with each potential customer.
  4. You can recognize the user’s device, the source of the call, the efficiency of the source. This data is bound to the client profile with information on the call – it’s beginning, its end and evaluation.
  5. Basing on the client info you can create detailed reports and track the clients’ call activity directly in the user’s profile.

Business Intelligence for transforming data into knowledge

Business Intelligence solutions are the synonym for omnichannel analytics, i.e. the analytics that encompasses all the stages of business processes. As the main goal of the business is not to have good conversion rates from the website, but to bring revenue.

If more than 30% of your sales are done by phone, then building a full-fledged funnel on BI platform is impossible without call tracking. As the main goal of the omnichannel analytics is gathering all the data in one place and constructing the causal relations. It helps to deduce the mistakes in the strategy and correct them.

Do you need a BI solution?

BI solution these days is a trend, but it is useful only when there are resources for working with it. Before choosing such a powerful analytical tool, it is preferable to assess the necessity of such step.

BI solutions are great for you if you are:

  1. Working in big business.
  2. Ready to spend a substantial sum on BI. The widespread practice is to spend 10-20% from advertising budget on analytics for small business and 5% for big business.
  3. Ready to employ a specialist who will be able to work with the data from the platform.
  4. Your business processes and sales funnel are complex.

If you have answered yes to all these questions, you will see the advantages of integrating BI platforms with call tracking.

How BI platforms works with call tracking

All the website data and web analytics are transmitted into the BI platform. As the conversions of companies with ‘ringing’ sales department come from calls as well, call tracking data also ends up there. Information from CRM and advertising placement services add to the analytics.

In the end, the user has the necessary information pile – contact, call, order, processing. Knowing which products have been sold, their margin and the end sum, we can make conclusions about the profitability of the deal.

If you decided to fund the BI solution, it would have been strange to choose call tracking that has no good tools for integrating with the platforms. Good call tracking can be integrated with BI solutions.

Question #11. Does the service have integration with bid management tools?

What are the bid management tools?

Bid management tools help businesses optimize the efficiency of PPC investment and such indicators as CPA, ROI, and revenue. The tools work for sales optimization and routine automation of advertising campaigns.

The key features of these tools are:

  1. Automatic management of the rates in Google Adwords, basing on optimization of CPA cost.
  2. Automatic management of the rates in Google Adwords, with the goal of retention the positions in paid search.
  3. Automatic ad generation for every product of the online shop.

In fact, these systems can do a lot, if properly customized. For example, an online shop for home and gardening products has integrated with a bid management tool and a weather forecast tool. This enabled the shop to manage the rates automatically, according to the weather forecast. Not a bad idea, right?

For small budget companies, the automation services will not be useful. However, for medium and large scale companies, they can bring positive results. If your business is in medium or big segment advertisers, make sure that your bid management tools can be integrated with call tracking services.

Conclusions

There are many services on the market under the name ‘call tracking’, however not always they offer all the capabilities of a quality call tracking service.

Let’s recap the arguments in one table.

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If you haven’t yet started using call tracking for analyzing the efficiency of your PPC campaigns and the work of your call agents, you should definitely give it a try. Even if you make a mistake in choosing a call tracking service, it is still better to have the opportunities than not to have them. The advice we give in this article is for achieving high results, and if you don’t stick to it, call tracking might not be able to help you.