How To Handle Customer Support With Little Or No Staff Using A Virtual Phone System

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With just about any business these days, how well you handle customers is crucial in defining your reputation and how fast your business spreads via word of mouth. One of the early problems that my wife and I faced with our online store was how to deal with incoming calls from customers.

After all, it was just the two of us and we weren’t equipped to handle large volumes of calls nor did we have an easy way to manage the calls that we did receive.

Photo By Dan Brady

Especially if you have small customer support team or even just a single person manning the phone lines, it is important to have some sort of virtual phone system in place.

By handling your phone calls via the web or through a computer virtually, you can make it appear as though you have a large customer support team even though you might have only one or two people.

Not only that, but you can easily correlate and track your online marketing efforts with the customers that call. Voice over IP technology has improved a lot over the years and there’s a lot of cool things that you can do with it. Here are just a few.

You Can Easily Track Conversions From Outside Marketing Campaigns Like Adwords

One of the main problems with Adwords or any other PPC marketing campaign for that matter is that if you end up taking an order over the phone, the conversion tracking that Google provides does not log the sale.

This is problematic because it could completely throw off the way you evaluate your keywords. Certain keywords might only bring in phone customers which may make them seem less effective than they really are.

With a virtual phone service, it’s really easy to allocate different numbers to different marketing campaigns. As a result, you can assign a special phone number just for people that arrive at your online store through Adwords and display a completely different number for everyone else. That way when they call, you can easily log and correlate a sale to a specific Adwords customer.

This method of tracking works for any marketing campaign that you might want to run. Adding and subtracting phone numbers is as easy as clicking on a tab on the virtual phone system’s website.

By tracking your customer calls through a specific number, it also makes it easier for you to pinpoint a particular customer using the live tracking features of your shopping cart. For example if an Adwords customer calls, I can usually narrow them down, pull up their statistics on the spot and see which products they were looking at as well as which keywords they used to arrive at our site. It’s very powerful.

You Can Route Calls To Different Departments

So what if you only have one or two people running the phone lines! By setting up a greeting with menu prompts to route calls to different departments, you can easily track the types of calls you get with your business.

Are the majority of your calls about returns or delivery times? Are the questions mostly about a particular product line? By analyzing this data, you can easily observe trends and figure out ways to tweak your website to reduce these types of calls.

Most importantly, separating your calls into departments allows you to prioritize your calls so that you know which ones to follow up with ASAP.

For example, you might want to address all angry customers in the “complaints” department first before calling back those customers with regular product inquiries. In any case, you get the picture. The other side benefit is that your small customer service department will appear larger than it really is.

You Can Easily Record Calls

It’s weird listening to yourself talk, but recording and replaying previous customer calls is a great way to improve you customer service skills. Did you handle that last irate customer the right way?

Is one of your employees not treating customers that way you would like? At one touch of a button, you can easily record any call that you receive.

Keeping recorded calls comes in especially handy if there’s any dispute in regards to store policy or if there’s a discrepancy between what was promised and what was actually delivered.

You Can Manage All Calls, All Voicemails, And All Call Transcripts From A Single Interface

When you first open your online store, this might not seem like that big of a deal. But a virtual phone system allows you to manage all live customer interaction by logging into a single website.

As soon as a customer calls, you can immediately pull up their entire call history. Did this customer order via phone before? Was this customer difficult to deal with in the past?

You can even jot down notes about a particular customer based on their phone number so that you can provide a more personal experience the next time they call. Good virtual phone services have easy integration to popular CRM software packages as well. After a conversation is over, you can log the customer’s details in a database for future reference. This is extremely powerful especially if you want to provide a customized experience for your customers.

A good example of this is with my dentist. Even though I see my dentist once every six months for my cleaning, she always seems to remember specific details about my life. “How’s your son doing? He should be 6 months old by now”.

“The last time you were here, you mentioned it was your anniversary. How did that go?” I used to be completely flabbergasted that my dentist remembered our conversations so clearly until I accidentally peeked at her notebook and saw that she pulled this data from a printout. Even still, that personal touch really worked on me until I discovered the truth.

You Can Forward A Single Number To Any Phone That You Want

This feature is awesome. With a virtual phone system, you can give out one number to your customers but have it ring any phone that you want. You can even have it ring different phone numbers in a round robin fashion if you want to evenly distribute customer calls to several employees.

If you have two people in your customer support team, you can route all morning calls to one employee and then route all afternoon calls to the other employee. If you happen to be on the road or away from your desk, you can simply set the forwarding number to your cell phone at one click of a button. If you don’t have the answer to a customer’s question, you can simply forward the call live to someone else who can help.

Having full control over your phone calls saves a lot of time and headaches. One of the most important features of a virtual phone system is the ability to queue up calls. Every phone call matters and it’s always better to have a customer hold for a few minutes rather than turning them over to voice mail. There’s no way a regular phone line can do this.

You Can Track Your Calling Trends

By analyzing the patterns of when and where your calls are coming from, you can observe certain trends about your customers. Do you get more calls in the morning or at night? Are most of your callers from a specific region?

Our business for example gets most of its calls in the morning and the phone lines almost go completely silent after 1pm PST. In addition, most of the calls we get are from the Midwest. Why is this information useful? It means that we can optimize our efforts by skewing our support hours more heavily towards the morning. If my wife has to schedule an appointment, she’ll schedule it in the afternoon.

It’s Not That Expensive

After reading about all of the cool things that you can do with a virtual phone system, you might assume that the service is too expensive. Wrong! If all you want to do is forward calls from a single number to any number that you want, Google Voice will do that for you for free.

But even if you want the fully featured phone system, a service like Ring Central only costs $10 dollars month. No what the size of your business is, it makes sense to have a virtual phone system. After all, your reputation is at stake.

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16 thoughts on “How To Handle Customer Support With Little Or No Staff Using A Virtual Phone System”

  1. What I love about this blog, other than the refreshing writing style, is your nerdy love of collecting information and putting it to use. You know what time your customers call and from where when most of my clients can’t even tell me simple stuff like cash or sales! I just did something on VoIp; I’ll take another look at it and see if I can’t link to this article.

    1. @Tyler
      Thanks! The funny thing is that every time before I hit submit, I get apprehensive about whether I’m writing about stuff that everyone already knows and does. After all, shouldn’t tracking and stalking your customers be second nature to someone running an online store?

  2. We have used Accessline for years in conjunction with Vonage. I don’t think that I could live without it. Our clients call into one number, but as you mentioned with the prompts, you can transfer them to other “departments” or wherever. Also, you can connect to both services over the web and manage calls from there.

    Good article on breaking down the really neat things you can do with virtual phones.

    1. @Carol
      I’ve found that there are many services out there that have similar functions and they are all reasonably priced so it’s a no brainer. Thanks for sharing your experiences

  3. Carmen Sognonvi says:

    Awesome post! I see that you recommend Ring Central but that doesn’t seem to include call recording. Any tips for a service that includes call recording? Thx!

    1. Hi Carmen,

      eVoice® also offers call recording, in addition to other features like web conferencing.

      Hope this helps!


  4. Carmen Sognonvi says:

    Ah excellent – thanks, Steve! By the way your blog has the best header graphic I’ve ever seen. Love it! :)

  5. Virtual phone system boost up business image and accessibility.

  6. Great and very insightful post! Virtual Numbers can be such a benefit for small businesses. I wanted to add another suggestion – Tossable Digits. They provide a virtual phone number service to customers with plans starting at $3.50/month with a long list of free features included: call recording, voicemail, call rules, call forwarding. Thought that would be helpful information for your readers to know!

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