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Starting / Business startup

The one thing your business MUST have (that Google doesn’t)

Incredibly, Google, Facebook and Amazon have all built wildly successful online businesses without offering telephone support - or virtually no telephone support. But can you?

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I’ll admit, we had “the dream” when we started Legal123 almost nine years ago.

You know “the dream”, the one where you build a beautiful website, launch your online business to rave reviews and the online sales just roll in effortlessly. Sure you’ll need to hire a virtual assistant or two, plus a gun website programmer. But the online business just runs itself, magically generating online sales 24/7.

Sadly, “the dream” had a fatal flaw that we did not anticipate: no telephone support. We just didn’t think we had the time, or that it was a priority. So the idea that: ‘if you build it, they will come’ did not work initially.

Unlike Google, Facebook and Amazon, if you want to sell online you’ll have to talk to your customers or at least give them the option to talk to you. If you don’t, you can stifle growth and even kill your online business.

"If you want to sell online you'll have to talk to your customers…If you don't, you can stifle growth and even kill your online business."

Here are five reasons you MUST offer telephone support:

1. Show you can be trusted: People want to ask questions, and need the reassurance there is someone they can contact if they have problems. They feel more confident buying from a website if they know there is someone to speak to. If your website prominently displays a contact telephone number, it adds credibility and subtly implies you can be trusted.

2. Use the feedback to guide your business: When people get in touch they are typically forthcoming about why they are considering purchasing from you, how they found your business. They may ask for additional products or services. All of this feedback is vital, particularly in the early stages of growing your online business. You may be surprised at the free ideas and advice you’ll get, especially if you are open to change.

3. Build rapport and convert sales: Potential customers who call are often on the fence. Maybe they’ll buy, maybe they won’t. But a helpful conversation, addressing any lingering doubts or just listening to their situation will often tip them over the line. Taking the time to build this rapport could turn them into a long-term customer or fan that recommends you to their friends and colleagues.

4. Resolve problems quickly: An endless stream of back-and-forth emails is sometimes the worst way to answer a simple question, address a misunderstanding or respond to a problem. A quick telephone call can often be the best way to deal with issues. And don’t think you have to wait for the call – if you have their telephone number, just call them. They’ll be surprised and pleased with the ‘proactive customer service’ approach!

5. Some people just need to “kick the tyres”: Some types just need to call and make sure you’re for real. They want assurance that there’s someone at the other end of the telephone line, sitting at a desk, preferably in Australia, waiting to help and smooth the online sales process through. Usually they’ll be surprised and you’ll hear “Oh, I didn’t expect anyone to be there and pick up”.

So the moral of the story: If you won’t be offering a phone number, you will need to have exceptional email and other support.

Amazingly, once we added customer support telephone numbers to our Legal123 business, they did come! And we ended up with some really beneficial feedback and great ideas to boot. It was surprising how quickly sales growth turned around.

How do you handle phone support in your business? Do you do it yourself or outsource it? Everyone may have a different approach it would be great to hear your suggestions and experience.

Vanessa Emilio

is a Practice Director, Lawyer, Founder and CEO of Legal123.com.au, a legal website business with easy-to-use, inexpensive legal templates, forms and agreements for everyday Australians as well as lots of useful information.

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