Previously we wrote about the virtues of implementing a call tracking program.  Call tracking can be applied to virtually any form of marketing and helps to bring clarity and direction to a marketing plan.  Next, let’s address the considerations you must make when setting up call tracking and some other helpful tips.

In case you hadn’t noticed (though I’m sure you’ve noticed the distracted drivers, oblivious pedestrians and non-responsive family members who are glued to them), there are somewhere around 1.5 billion smartphones on this planet.  While these devices may largely be used for anything but placing a call, the fact is that people are able to place a call more conveniently than at any other time in history and customers are increasingly more likely to call your business as a result.

When designing your call tracking strategy, the first thing to keep in mind is that you have options.  It’s important to understand your specific business needs and to lay out exactly what you hope to achieve.  There is a fairly wide array of technology providers in this space and they each have strengths that might suit one scenario better than another.

When selecting a technology provider for call tracking, here are some considerations to help inform your decision:

How do they handle local phone numbers?  Can they provide hyper-local numbers with both area codes and prefixes matching your actual routing number?  If not, you run the risk of customers receiving an error message if, for example, they are not accustomed to having to dial an area code and the new number requires them to do so.  Also, if a hyper-local number is not available, then you may need to consider whether providing a toll-free tracking number in lieu of a local number is acceptable.

Do they charge for phone numbers?  A provider may or may not charge a monthly fee to source tracking numbers.  If you have only one location, a $1 per number per month charge probably won’t cause a problem.  However when you start adding multiple locations and then multiplying that by three or more marketing channels, your bill can start to add up even before receiving your first tracked call.

Now let’s say that you are tracking calls from paid search and want to understand not what channel a call came from but what keywords generated that call.  Technology providers handle this differently and while one may have a dynamic solution allowing you to only have one number per channel, another may require you to source pools of numbers for each channel.  You can see how this starts to add up in terms of the complexity and the cost of the program.

How do they calculate usage charges?  It’s normal for a provider to charge a per minute usage fee.  That calculation can take on many iterations.  First, the rate can vary largely and is often based on volume estimate discounts applied for incrementally higher monthly usage.  Negotiating a good rate can be difficult for a smaller business and this is one area an agency relationship can come in handy.  Most providers round up the minutes from each call and you’ll want to understand this in advance.  For example, if a call is 2 minutes and 1 second in length, you’ll get charged for 3 minutes.

Finally, some vendors will let you determine the minimum length of time a call must be in order to be charged for it.  This helps if you know that it takes 10 seconds for the customer to actually get to a real person or perhaps that you need 30 seconds to acquire information for a lead.  If offered this pricing model, be aware that your per minute rate will likely go up the higher you raise the threshold for counting calls.

What reporting is available?  You spend money on a call tracking program to get actionable data so it thus stands to reason that you’ll want to know what data you’ll get and how you can access it.  This is where establishing goals in advance comes into play, as not all reporting capabilities are equal.  Some businesses want the ability to call back customers who were not connected with an employee and did not leave a message.  Some providers make a report for this very accessible while others do not and this isn’t something you want to be surprised about after the fact. Similarly, if you have specific needs regarding whether data is available in real-time and who has access to it, then you need to discover that in advance.

Is call recording available?  There are various reasons a business might want the capability to listen back to calls at a later time.  You may want to listen back and match those initial leads with revenue that was realized further down the road.  Others may want to monitor their employees’ phone etiquette or figure out why their close rate is so low.  Or, perhaps you are training for a job with NSA and need to sharpen those surveillance skills.  Regardless of the reason, call recording capabilities and costs can vary by provider.

What technology and processes are in place to ensure that my customers can reach me?  Let’s face it, when you start sourcing what could be thousands of new phone numbers and re-routing calls from various sources there is the potential for something to go wrong.  Proper advance testing before launch will solve many of the potential problems but you still need to know that your chosen vendor has processes in place to detect and fix issues as they arise.

Make sure you are asking about their overall reliability, how they monitor the network and how quickly they can react if something goes wrong.  Ensure that even if the vendor’s call tracking service goes down, the caller is still connected to the desired location.  Lastly, test the numbers yourself and make sure there are no delays, no strange clicking sounds and that call clarity is good.  Call tracking done right means that your customers won’t notice a thing has changed.

The benefits of good call tracking are immense, but obviously there are many things you need to plan on before diving in.  These are just a few of the considerations you’ll need to make and, while not an exhaustive list, it should get you off on the right foot.  Regarding the distracted drivers, oblivious pedestrians and non-responsive family members, you are on your own!

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