I recently was working with a B2B company that does no tracking of how its digital marketing leads to offline sales. Because the great majority of its orders are phoned in, it would seem to be obvious that they want to employ some form of call tracking. But they don’t. When I asked about it, they turned on their thinking caps.

Their first idea was a good one. They decided to start asking every caller whether they had been on the website. It’s not the best idea, but is better than not asking at all. If you aren’t doing anything, then asking is the right first step.

But it’s not the right last step.

Having your call center reps ask the question is far from foolproof, because:

  • Sometimes the agents will forget to ask and you get no data. (Human beings do $%#$ like this.)
  • Sometimes the agents will feel that the conversation makes it a bit uncomfortable to ask and they will make up the answer for your measurement. (Human beings do $%#$ like this.)
  • Sometimes the customer will not remember and give an inaccurate answer. (Human beings do $%#$ like this.)
  • Sometimes the customers will lie because they don’t want to tell you. (Human beings do $%#$ like this.)

As an alternative, I’ve been suggesting companies put a special phone number on their website and use Google Voice to forward calls. The forwarding is free and you know that the calls came from the website.

Of course, you can always do both–use Google Voice and ask questions. Then you have two sources of data to correlate. (By the way, if the agents know that you have a second source, they won’t forget or make things up so often. And it might be very interesting to analyze the situations where the customers forget or lie.)

Google Voice number is no panacea. (Nothing ever is, so not even sure why that word exists.) But it might be going away. There are rumors that Google is replacing Google Voice with Google Hangouts, but there have been no announcement as to how that affects its function.

If you aren’t tracking the sources of your phone calls, what are you waiting for?