Introduction

There are heaps of challenges when expanding your business to a new market, whether to a new city or the other side of the world. Establishing the right channels for customer support is vital for your e-commerce company.

Even if you do business online, you’ll need a phone number or two–or two hundred–in order to best serve your customers, wherever they may be calling from. So let’s dive into the ways you can provide local, trusted phone numbers that will help you better connect with the folks you serve, no matter if you offer a physical product or bits on the web.

01. Choose your numbers

As a growing e-commerce company, you need be as efficient as possible, and a great way to do so is to offload your telephony infrastructure to the cloud. This is where IP-based phone numbers, or DIDs (Direct Inward Dialing), have made setting up your “local” contact center (which could be virtual, too) way easier and less expensive than the old way of doing things.

Now, a DID number is a regular phone number that is not directly associated to a (traditional) telephone line, and can hence be offered as a cloud service, on a global scale. Not having to deal with local traditional telcos in many countries gives your company more time and resources to focus on your core business.

What kind of numbers do you want? Now’s when people start to judge your book by its cover, that is, your e-commerce business by its phone numbers and offline presence. Here are some potential numbers you might need:

Landline:

In order to show you’ve established your business in regions it serves, landline numbers is a sign to your customers to say, “We’re here. We’re local.”

Research shows that featuring a local number in search results will increase clickthrough rates by 3X.

Believe it or not, your callers will pay attention to your number prefixes, to see whether they should expect–and trust–customer service or a sales experience that’s close to home. For a global company, this also means that your callers won’t need to pay international rates in order to get support.

Toll-free:

Obtaining a country-specific, toll-free number is a move that signals that you care about establishing a dedicated customer service line in the market you serve. It’s more about offering a familiar channel for local callers to get help, rather than the fact it’s free. Because most telephony bundles nowadays include in-country calls at no extra charge.

For companies looking to offer a single, centralized number for an entire country, toll-free numbers are the way to go, as they’re not associated with a specific city. You can even spice up your contact info with a vanity number like 1-800-AWESOME to stand apart from your e-commerce competitors.

Mobile & Messaging:

More and more, communication between retailers and consumers is becoming mobile. In fact, research firm, BIA/Kelsey, predicts that calls to businesses from mobile phones will reach 162 billion by 2019. In particular, companies are increasingly reaching out to customers via text with messages that can range from delivery updates, to account information and other personalized info that have a better chance to be opened right away or increase customer satisfaction.

In some cases, you can offer your customers the ability to reply to the message with a text or even with a phone call. In order to do so, you would need two-way SMS enabled numbers. Remember that in North America, landline and mobile numbers share the same number ranges, so you won’t need separate numbers for sending or receiving texts.

However, the majority of countries in other parts of the world have a different range for landline and SMS-enabled numbers, which means you’ll need both.

In-browser Calling:

You’ve bridged the gap between “oldschool” phone communications and cloud technology–now you can offer a way for customers to get in touch with your business with a seamless, in-browser or in-app experience. Think buttons within your site or mobile app that can connect customers to your contact center with a single click.

Services that feature web-based VoIP calling (powered by WebRTC, the technology that WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger use) can make it easier for your customers or prospects to call you, which has an impact on the performance of your ad campaigns, as well as on bottom line.

Research from google showed that adding a call button to search ads increased click through rates by 8%, with an average call length of six minutes. An AdWords case study showed that a conversion rate with click to call was 26 times higher than a standard mobile campaign.

According to Invoca Call Intelligence Index 2016, 65% of people prefer to contact a business by phone than fill a web form.

Besides increasing traffic and boosting conversion rates, other benefits of In browser calling (or click-to-call) can include:

  • Reduce handling time by delivering vital web data for customers’ support and sales teams
  • Improve customer experience by directing calls to the right agents or departments with web-based screening (no more annoying IVR press “4” to hear these options again)
  • Simplifying services like call tracking used to measure marketing campaigns

If you want to learn more about the ways Voxbone is opening doors to these kinds of connections, check out its developer Labs.

02. Use the API

Now that you know what DIDs you’ll need and how you’ll use them, it’s time to make sure your communication machine stays well-oiled. With APIs, typically offered by CPaaS providers as well as companies like Voxbone, you can instantly provision and cancel numbers, configure your services and control your communications (such as sending/receiving text messages). The best part is, you can use an API sandbox–with virtual money and, ahem, virtual virtual numbers–to test your integrations without breaking your applications.

Having an on-demand service to buy numbers and send/receive phone calls and text messages (or even faxes) is crucial in the fast-paced world of e-commerce. As the number of your customers begins to skyrocket, an API gives your company the flexibility to scale in any part of the world, with other potential benefits.

Want to assign specific numbers to track a marketing campaign or a specific product? It’s API time. Need to increase capacity to support a surge in calls or peak hours? It’s API time. Have your agents been taking calls all morning and want to take a break? It’s lunch time. But while they’re away, an API can help with distribution and capacity in order to ensure there are no queues of angry customers when they get back.

Besides reducing costs and complexity, using an API will really set your contact center–based on virtual numbers–apart from fixed lines and telcos that make it a nightmare to make changes. No matter where your e-commerce business is based or where your customers are located, tools like an API can offer your e-commerce company better support and will adapt to meet your rapidly changing needs.

03. Find a provider

Setting up communications channels the old-fashioned way, with a network of telecom providers, can be a complicated and expensive task, especially on a global scale. For example, say you’re an online fashion retailer with customers in both Europe and North America. Traditionally, you’d need to reach out to local telecom providers in each country you serve. This means managing different pricing models (per minute versus per month, etc.), currencies and contracts–while establishing and maintaining interconnectivity between them all. Whew! Sounds like you’ll need a fully dedicated team. Or maybe there’s another way.

One option for setting up your contact center is to hook up with one of the growing number of UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) or CPaaS (Communications Platform as a Service) providers. Services like these can offer extra value including customer interaction tools, call-tracking services and other automated services via API. They are a smart choice for a lean company that is looking to offload its communication services and get all their numbers from a single place. But how about going to the source?

You might not know this, but Voxbone supports many UCaaS and CPaaS providers with their DID numbers and SIP trunking services. Another option, especially if you choose to manage your telecommunications infrastructure yourself, is to work with Voxbone directly. As Voxbone is a licensed telecoms provider in 60 countries, you get fewer “hops” that are needed to be made from provider to provider, before a call or SMS reaches you or your customers. This means you’ll get fewer dropped calls or undelivered texts. Voxbone offers carrier-grade voice quality to ensure the best connections are made using their virtual numbers. When it comes to customer interactions, the sound of the call should go hand in hand with the quality of your service, right?

Conclusion

E-commerce companies thrive online, but they still need one foot in the offline world. When customers have a problem, the phone is still the go-to method for finding a resolution. But that doesn’t mean that you need a complicated telephone service. The use of virtual phone numbers is a valuable tool for connecting with your customers and they come at a fraction of the cost of traditional telephony.

Whether your e-commerce company is based out of your garage, or it’s a massive global marketplace, everyone has the access and ability to establish a global contact center. Your customers, no matter where they’re located, are going phone in with questions or concerns. There’s no doubt about it. What can change everything, however, is how you answer the call or deliver your message.