Smart Insights Summit: Improve Lead Quality with eSales Hub’s AI Powered Call Tracking
eSales Hub’s AI-powered call tracking platform has over 230 clients in the UK – and many saw a downturn in leads since the lockdown. In this blog entry, taken from a Smart Insights Summit webinar series recorded in July 2020, CEO Mark Taylor takes us through how next-generation call tracking can improve your sales conversion and sales volume.
Why tracking call volume only doesn’t work
I set up at eSales Hub about six years ago purely because I realised how valuable calls were. My previous roles include marketing director of Hilton Hotels, before a role at Virgin and then a move to Halfords Autocentre as Commercial Director.
I was charged with driving website sales and we created a fantastic site focused on driving bookings online. It went from £6 million in revenue to £18m in 12 months.
One day I was in one of the Halfords Autocentres and I could hear the phone ringing off the hook and I was thinking to myself ‘are any of those calls being generated via the website?’ We were promoting the telephone number of the Autocentre on the web page but we weren’t attributing any of those sales or even any of those calls or any of our marketing.
I realised I could be missing sales, but if I did track these calls, how could I make sure that all the calls that generated are attributed to my marketing spend?
Throughout my career I have worked to discover the channels that worked and those that didn’t so I could optimise my marketing.
Getting rid of those channels that might drive visitors or inquiries but don’t convert, getting rid of that wastage, is why I started to develop eSales Hub. It’s only recently that we’ve added AI to our platform because it gives you a lot more flexibility and a lot more visibility of call outcomes and categories.
Why track phone calls from your website?
People often ask: ‘Why focus on calls? Surely the traffic I drive transacts online, everybody transacts online, so surely calls are a dying business?’.
Well actually 65 percent of people prefer to contact a business by phone. I liken it a little bit to my daughter – she’s 14 years of age going on 21. When she’s in her bedroom, if she wants something urgently she’ll call me from her mobile. If it’s not urgent she’ll text me and I think that is the way contact will move forward – I don’t think you’re going to see a sudden drop-off in calls.
I think you’re always going to get them, but the key to it is understanding why people are calling you.
This quote is about 100 years old, but it’s very relevant today as Nielsen Research estimates 45% of online ads don’t reach their target audience. If you’re trying to optimise your campaign, the more relevant the target audience that sees your advert or your online marketing, the more effective your strategy is going to be.
Being able to track, identify and categorise calls so you can identify those who want to buy from you, and those who don’t drive the right response is key.
So, why focus on calls? Google’s data suggests that 70% of mobile searches use click to call. This is skewed by local search and callers phoning direct on Google My Business.
Mobile users have exploded with almost over 50% now searching on their mobile, making it a massive segment of the market.
57% of people called because they want to speak to a real person – there is always going to be a need for people to phone, particularly when there are variables in a transaction. I always remember one of the first calls that we had for one of our conveyancing clients.
One of the first calls we had for one of our conveyancing clients was a woman who phoned up and needing a conveyancer to buy a house. I thought: ‘Great, she’s called the right place.’
She said that she had a problem as the person she was buying from was in jail, and it was her ex-husband. The caller thought that she had a problem, but it was an easy transaction and they converted straight away. Consumers will struggle to get this situation across in an online booking or form – they need to phone when they have questions about the product or service.
The final stat, which is very interesting, is that sales conversion from telephone calls is a lot, lot higher than online. Google estimates that the difference in conversions from callers compared to online is 18%.
We tend to find that our clients, once we’ve been working with them a while to optimise their campaign, actually convert calls anywhere between 33% and 50%, which in today’s online marketing stat pack is difficult to believe. But these are a different kind of sales lead – they are phoning you as they want your product or service. If you can fulfil their requirements, you’ve got a sale.
Not all calls are sales leads
I quickly learned not all calls are sales leads when we started to do call analysis at Halfords.
The problem with a call tracking system that only tracks call volume is you don’t categorise the calls, so you could optimise your campaign to drive more non-sales calls than sales calls, wasting your marketing budget.
Not every single call is a sales lead and on average we find that 58% of the calls our customers receive are actual sales calls, 29% are customer service calls from existing clients, 8% of calls are people looking for a job or trying to sell you something, and about 5% of calls are missed.
So if you are optimising your online campaign, particularly Google Ads or Bing, and you’re optimising it on call volume, you could be optimising for the wrong type of behaviour to happen. Being able to categorise those calls and categorising the outcomes is key to getting your online strategy right.
What is phone call categorisation?
A lot of our clients, where they’ve got multiple sites, locations, or branches, know if they’re tracking calls on volume they can see more calls are going into the business but can’t connect those calls to sales. Knowing that your marketing is having a benefit and improving the revenue and the return on investment is critical, which is why call categorisation can be so important.
Without knowing what the outcome of each call is, you’re just going to drive more calls, and those calls might not have any revenue associated with them. Therefore, you could be wasting 50 to 75% of your marketing budget online.
It was one of the reasons we developed eSales Hub. I was very frustrated trying to optimise my online marketing and I was doing it based on call volume. I was driving more calls but I wasn’t seeing the revenue increase on the other side and it started to get frustrating.
One day myself and my business manager, we were sat on the sofa in my house doing some content management work and we came up with the idea of better call categorisation through trying to find out those keywords that not only drive a sale but a high-value sale.
We knew that would make a big difference to our revenue. I’d like to say we did it because we wanted to get more revenue, but we wanted to hit our bonus!
Tracking sales from call from offline data isn’t accurate
You could leave your call categorisation up to your sales guys, but let’s be honest, your sales guys are there for one reason. To sell. They aren’t there to track your sales.
I always remember when I was at Esporta Health Clubs, we launched a new site that I was very proud of. We created quite an intricate lead tracking system within the clubs that had to be manually updated by the sales manager each week. When we launched the site, sales went up, but I later found out it was my sales manager trying to keep me happy.
I was doing these regional roadshows and I picked on this one specific club, Wimbledon, and I said; ‘It’s amazing how you’re getting a lot more membership sales from online you’ve ever had before.’
The sales manager admitted there and then that the manual tracking wasn’t accurate and he just filled out the online section with more leads because he thought that’s what I wanted to see as I was his boss.
Not a horrible way, but it made our tracking totally unreliable. If you leave your call categorisation to your sales team it won’t be accurate.
They could be busy on the phone, or trying to close sales, and just forget. So your call categorisation is never going to be 100% in my experience. You’ll be lucky to get 50%, particularly if you are using a drop-down box to record the source of each call as its highly likely they’ll pick the first one on the menu for ease and speed. It’s very easy to click the first option rather than click the one that makes the most sense or is accurate.
When I’ve used call categorisation models based on manual data input, it has led me down a completely different path than what actually happened.
It was frustrating. I could see the calls coming in, I just couldn’t bridge the gap.
AI Powered call tracking bridges the data gap other call tracking platforms leave behind
To bridge this gap, we use artificial intelligence. AI has come on dramatically over the last few years and there are many different elements to it. There’s machine learning where the AI learns over time itself, which can seem a pretty scary thing.
We use AI to determine the outcome or the category of the call because it can be analysed so much quicker. I used to do it manually and to do one day’s data for one client used to take me a week.
Using AI we can do the same thing in two seconds. We had more than 700 calls go through our system in one day recently as we’ve got over 240 clients in the UK. To categorise that volume before would have taken me about six weeks. It was all done in two seconds.
Artificial intelligence can understand the words used in the call to define the outcome as a sale, an appointment, a quote, or a sales opportunity that wasn’t converted. You can quickly get an up to the minute picture of exactly what is happening within your business. It can even tell you who your best salespeople are.
Because of COVID, many of our clients are getting a lot of calls into their branch network.
They’re using our tool to make sure the branch employees are following company procedures and are complying with operational procedures. They are also discovering what their sales conversion is, with data being produced in real-time.
As a marketing director, I was frustrated that I was one step away from the customer because I was not physically doing the selling. Either my website’s doing the selling or the selling is being done in-person by a colleague on the phone or in a branch.
The beauty of using AI means that, at scale, you can analyse a lot of data very quickly. You can get data insight at a granular level to understand why people are calling you and what changes you could make to improve your sales funnel.
You can even go to the next level and demographically analyse the data. You can model the customers you are converting versus those who don’t convert and which demographic groups they represent, measuring those that are repelling your marketing and are therefore going to be wasted marketing spend, so you can make decisions very quickly.
As soon as the call is finished, it immediately goes through our AI to establish what has happened on the call so our reporting can even more responsive to clients’ needs.
I can see calls as they come in and get them analysed within seconds. It’s a real game-changer because the insight gives you the ability to optimise your online campaign. You not only to focus on those keywords and those channels that generate sales, but more importantly those users who aren’t converting, or all those keywords that aren’t even driving a sales call, but are driving customer service calls.
The difference is bridging that gap between what you know the customer is calling about and your sales reporting, by actually reporting what happened on the call and being able to attribute all the sales you drive over the phone.
You are probably attributing your online sales no problem at all because they’re easy to track.
But being able to attribute those sales offline and push that data into your CRM system, into Google analytics or into third-party systems that you use, you can see that the keyword, the source, and the time of day enabling you to optimise to such a greater level than you’ve probably been able to before.
It gives you the chance to see sales growth and it might be that you are spending a chunk of your budget on the wrong keywords.
I always found that just by pausing your pay-per-click on a couple of keywords that are driving customer service calls, you’ll probably get those anyway through a natural search. We tend to find that if the customer has made an order with you and then feedback because they’ve got a customer service issue, they’ll sometimes press the first telephone number or the first thing that they see which is generally Google Ads.
However, if you take the ad off and they go straight to natural search and find you that way, you won’t have a customer service issue, but you’ll utilise your budget more and get rid of a lot of that wastage.
You could be reporting your sales conversion adversely when in actually fact you sales conversion is much higher
If you are measuring call volume you’re probably thinking: ‘I’m doing a great job generating 10 calls.’ But if four of those are sales calls only, then you are not utilising your budget effectively.
A lot of our customers find that when they are measuring call volume, they are artificially lowering their conversion figures, making their marketing not look as strong as it possibly is.
As an example, if you ae generating ten calls, five of those calls are sales and you convert two of them, you’re talking about a 40% sales conversion. Yet if you are measuring call volume, it would be two out of ten, so your sales conversion would be 20%.
You are underplaying your value as a marketing professional and how effective your marketing strategy is.
The answer is clear, you must understand the data so you get a full view of what the customer service or what the customer sales journey is, ensuring that you’ve got more data to make a more informed decision so that you can optimise your marketing to get a much better result.
AI call tracking enables you to spend the time you have discovering why your customers are calling you, not wasting enormous amounts of time listing calls to discover the same data.
It’s using that data intelligently to optimise your marketing budget. Most clients can identify their wasted areas within only a few months, and enjoy big data discoveries. It’s not always about spending less on the campaign, but generating more from what they’ve already. We find our data is often used to get more budget from the board because of the value your marketing is driving.
How effective is eSales Hub’s call tracking platform?
Thanks to us, one of our customers discovered they were spending half their marketing budget on keywords that didn’t drive an appointment or sale. There was a massive opportunity to optimise their keyword strategy once they were armed with the right data.
Rather than spending money on customer service calls, which they were getting no reward for, they transformed not only their conversion but their sales from online. By categorising the calls they were able to generate a lot more sales.
They had the same budget, it was just about making that budget target more of the customer base that they wanted and more of their audience that would drive physical sales on the phone rather than driving call volume that ended up being customer service calls. This is just one example of where we have helped a client optimise their strategy to another level.
We offer our clients a 14-day trial and we often get asked if that is long enough. Within 48 hours, they usually have enough data to start seeing some trends. A lot of our clients are surprised to see the data discoveries we make within the first 24hrs. In the first three hours, the amount of data and the amount of insight really can be an eye-opener. It’s a real game-changer for them, for their marketing budget, and in the way they are measuring their conversion.
The visibility of which keywords drive what outcome on the phone is also key. We work with several location-based service providers and there is always a huge difference in brand terms vs non-brand terms. Also, Facebook can look like the cheapest lead channel, but sometimes it can drive a lot of customer service calls, which can affect both your conversion and cost per lead adversely.
Working with clients large and small
eSales Hub works with businesses large or small depending on their strategy. If you are looking for a source of cost-effective leads, our fully managed services utilise our platform and cover your media costs for one inclusive lead price. We pay for Google, Facebook, and Bing, you pay per lead. It’s a great service for smaller businesses or those wanting a cost-effective lead generation campaign set-up.
For larger businesses or firms who are already generating leads, licensing our platform gives you full access to our call tracking platform for your lead generation strategy. This is paid on a monthly licence fee structure and gets you full account management support too. To find out more click here.