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Adding a phone number to LessAccounting increased our paid user base

written by Allan on February 17, 2011

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:

Implementation

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.

Fact-Based Assessment

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).

Theory-Based Assessments

  • Emotional connection of knowing we're here to help.
  • Everyone is trying to automate their web apps—turning customers into cogs. We're trying to reach out and touch customers. We want them to feel our love. We want to be different. We're pushing for our support to be as well-known as Zappos'. Knowing we're way different from the competition is a good thing.

Breaking the Old Phone Support Stereotype

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.

Phone Support with Constraints

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.

Which Companies Give Great Phone Support

  • Apple.com Support – They know what the hell they're talking about.
  • SurePayroll.com – They call to check up on you, making sure to answer any questions you might have.
  • Zappos.com – They talk to you like a friend. The exchange isn't cold at all.

Not Just Support: Call Lists

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.

  • Call all customers with billing information that didn't process.
  • Fix the issue before they know about it. Call anyone with a bank account that didn't import and needs to get reconnected.
  • Make sure they're seeing the value of the app. Call all new users 3 days after they sign-up.
  • Utilize the power of the app. Call any paid user that hasn't setup a bank account after 10 days. Are there steps in your app a user must do to find value? If they haven't taken these steps, call them, help them get setup and feel the value.

I Lied. This Isn't About Support…It's About Sales.

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.

Iterate Support, Too.

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.

How Many Calls?

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.

Business Owners: save hours per week with LessAccounting. It's like Quickbooks, just not total shit.

8 Comments

Rick Reich
Rick Reich said on February 17, 2011

Thank you for sharing this – great insight! This is something we struggled with during my first start up (ettend.com), and are contemplating doing for our second company. I really think it matters to have that personal connection with customers and for your customers to know the company they invest their time in, is run by humans and can be trusted.

We started to use LessAccounting recently and love it – great job guys!

Thanks,

Rick Reich

Jay Owen
Jay Owen said on February 17, 2011

I have used an 877 number for a long time, but recently switched to a receptionist service from http://www.callruby.com/

When people call our number, they get a person. A real, knowledgeable, friendly person that knows our staff. The receptionist is then able to field the call based on our availability (which can be set via their iPhone app). I can decide if I am able to take calls and from specific people.

Regardless if I or any of the rest of the staff are available for calls, the caller gets a real person and everyone seems to love that. Granted, they are not cheap, but I believe it increases the quality of our business and the sales conversion rate enough to justify the cost.

If a staff member is not available, they will take a message over the phone or send them to voicemail. Either way, I get an e-mail from them right after the call with who called, what their number was and what the message was. Ruby has incredible service.

Eric Anderson
Eric Anderson said on February 17, 2011

> Having a phone number on our site raised our
> conversions from site visitors to sign-ups and
> paid users conversions +1.8%"

Does this mean:

a. Previous conversion rate 10%, new rate 11.8%
b. Previous conversion rate 10%, new rate 10.18% (i.e. 10% * 1.018)

Allison
Allison said on February 17, 2011

Hi Allan- Thanks for the Grasshopper mention!

Jan
Jan said on February 17, 2011

Allan — great post. We have similar experience here at Planio. Since we’ve put our phone number on the web page, we drastically improved conversions and regularly get feedback from customers who love to be able to speak to someone real.

We also use a receptionist service instead of voicemail but all they really do is dispatch the calls and take notes when we’re in a meeting or not at the office.

We’re a German company and we have some but not many customers from the U.S. Right now, we don’t get many calls from overseas which is definitely due to the German country code in the number. We’ll probably be getting a U.S. number for the english language version of the site. It will be interesting to see how this will affect conversions compared to the german site.

allan@lesseverything.com
allan@lesseverything.com said on February 18, 2011

Eric, to clarify the answer is A.

Jonathan
Jonathan said on February 09, 2012

hold on, where is your phone number on your home page. I don’t see it.

Allan Branch
Allan Branch said on February 09, 2012

@Jonathan: It’s just above the navigation

About Allan
Allan loves his family more than breathing. He lives in Panama City, Florida & grew up washing cars at his family's car washes. Oh and Allan hasn't worn underwear since 2004.

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