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Most websites don’t want you to phone them. Instead, many only businesses prefer you to click on “buy now” buttons and complete your ordering without speaking to anyone. That appears to be more convenient and seems to have greater efficiency.

However, appearances can be deceptive.

Eye tracking studies, for example, have shown that when people are scanning the top of a website they are looking for two things – the navigation system and the company’s phone number.

Furthermore, exit surveys have shown that when people leave a site, one of the reasons was the lack of a phone number being visible.

Other research has shown that a phone number on a website enables greater trust in visitors – they know they can contact you easily if they have an issue. If you hide away your phone number, people feel you are also trying to hide from them and thereby trust is reduced.

Even in these days of email, social media, chat facilities and FAQs, it would appear that people still like knowing they can phone you.

Phone calls add to profits

There is, though, more to highlighting your phone number than improving trust levels in your company. A new study from Marchex shows that the humble telephone is more powerful in online business than many companies believe.

Customers that make telephone calls to an online business convert 30% more quickly than people who don’t call. That means business get the money sooner from phone callers, plus they have to do less activity to get that cash. Not only is this better for cash flow, it also reduces the work required, boosting profitability.

Furthermore, customers who call a business spend 28% more than people who do not use the phone. Not only are these individuals already more profitable, they spend more money with you. What’s not to like?

On top of all this, customers who phone tend to stick with the company for longer. There is a 28% higher retention rate in phone users, compared with other website visitors.

Get people to call you

This all adds up. It means that if you get your online customers to call you, then your business will sell more products and services with reduced costs, due to fewer engagements required. The result is both an increased turnover and a raised profitability.

So, the question is, how do you get people to phone you?

Firstly, you need to be set up to receive calls and to demonstrate you want them. That means a highly visible phone number on every web page (top right is where people look for phone numbers). Plus you need to be able to deal with calls in seconds – allowing people to hang on is worse than not letting them call you. So, you need to be well-organised internally to cope with calls from website visitors.

The second thing you need to do is to use email to trigger phone calls. The new study shows that email is the most effective method of getting people to call a business. If your emails do not suggest that people call you, then your business is missing out.

Why the phone is important

Even though we love the convenience of online shopping and the “buy now” button, the telephone allows us to speak with a “real person”. Not only doe sthis provide us with comfort and increased trust that someone is taking care of us, a phone call also creates a shorter distance between customer and supplier. One of the problems with online shopping is the increased distance between customers and companies. Even if they are in the same town, the online experience creates a perception of distance. When that occurs we feel less connected to the company and less faifthful to them.

When we talk to someone, that perception of distance plummets. We feel much closer. So, you could feel closer to a business on the other side of the planet that takes your calls, compared with a business in your town that wants to do everything online.

With closeness comes loyalty, increased trust and an emotional connection. That’s why the phone helps increase sales and profits. In the days of e-commerce and click to buy systems, the telephone may seem old-fashioned. However, it has an important and valuable place in your business. Trying to get customers to do everything online in the pursuit of convenience and efficiency is actually working against many firms, reducing the potential for their turnover and their profitability at the same time.

Don’t neglect the phone. It’s vital…!