In November of last year, we added a 1-800 support phone number on LessAccounting's brochure website and in the application. This wasn't an easy decision for us. Personally, I'm not big into talking on the phone. I also follow many of the conventions of 37signals who doesn't provide phone support, so it's been easy for us to justify not offering phone support.
Regardless, we made the seemingly painful change to add a public phone number on LessAccounting.com. We saw such an improvement in conversions both from A/B testing and real-world feedback that we're hiring a full time phone support person in the next few months.
Here's how we implement basic phone support and why now we we think having a phone number is one of the best things we've ever done for our app:
We purchased the phone number from Grasshopper.com, a virtual pbx application. I personally did all the phone support for the past three months which ranged from five to twenty calls a day. All calls went straight to voicemail, and I'd call them back at either 10am or 3pm. I even returned calls on the missed calls.
Side Note: I've had 2 out of 300 customer calls that have been complaints about their call going straight to voicemail. I explained we're small and growing, and we're going to improve, but our current assessment is that we can either call them back or let them sit on hold. Both of these people agreed, being on hold sucks.
Having a phone number on our site raised our conversions from site visitors to sign-ups and paid users conversions +1.8%. (A/B testing provided by Optimizely.com).
There's a right way and a wrong way to do everything, but if you can't provide good phone support, don't try to provide it at all. Don't offer tiers of support, everyone should be knowledgable. The person on the phone must be able to take direct actions to help the customer. Speak English, be easy to understand.
I don't forsee us ever having 24/7 phone support. We're going to embrace the constraint of our size and probably set the call hours from 10am – 4pm CST weekdays going forward—still utilizing the voicemail in order to call customers back. I've found customers would rather leave a message than sit on hold.
We're building daily call lists for myself and the person we hire for the phone position. The goal of every call is to help the customer. This will re-enforce our brand.
Out of the last 300 phone calls, probably 10% were tech support, the rest were sales. People want to see if the app is for them. I think tech support questions get asked and answered thru the chatroom and forum, people without and account tend to call with a question. My theory is people that call us and get the information they need in a timely manner are more likely to pay us than someone that reads text on the website.
Every day, we're learning new things; better ways to communicate and the best way to explain our app and service. We certainly don't have everything figured out, but as of late, phone support & sales has been the thing that keeps resurfacing as something we need to put our focus into.
A phone call typically lasts 3-10 minutes and I'd guess 80% of these people become paid users. We value a paid customer's lifetime value at $500 (we're hoping this goes up as we get better). So how many of these phone calls do YOU need to get on to make your application profitable? Start connecting with your customers on the phone, you'll see the difference.
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