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Original Article

Adding a phone number to LessAccounting increased our paid user base

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.