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How do I track the source of phone calls?

I recently was working with a B2B company that does no tracking of how its digital marketing leads to offline sales. Because the great majority of its orders are phoned in, it would seem to be obvious that they want to employ some form of call tracking. But they don’t. When I asked about it, they turned on their thinking caps.

Their first idea was a good one. They decided to start asking every caller whether they had been on the website. It’s not the best idea, but is better than not asking at all. If you aren’t doing anything, then asking is the right first step.

But it’s not the right last step.

Having your call center reps ask the question is far from foolproof, because:

  • Sometimes the agents will forget to ask and you get no data. (Human beings do $%#$ like this.)
  • Sometimes the agents will feel that the conversation makes it a bit uncomfortable to ask and they will make up the answer for your measurement. (Human beings do $%#$ like this.)
  • Sometimes the customer will not remember and give an inaccurate answer. (Human beings do $%#$ like this.)
  • Sometimes the customers will lie because they don’t want to tell you. (Human beings do $%#$ like this.)

As an alternative, I’ve been suggesting companies put a special phone number on their website and use Google Voice to forward calls. The forwarding is free and you know that the calls came from the website.

Of course, you can always do both–use Google Voice and ask questions. Then you have two sources of data to correlate. (By the way, if the agents know that you have a second source, they won’t forget or make things up so often. And it might be very interesting to analyze the situations where the customers forget or lie.)

Google Voice number is no panacea. (Nothing ever is, so not even sure why that word exists.) But it might be going away. There are rumors that Google is replacing Google Voice with Google Hangouts, but there have been no announcement as to how that affects its function.

If you aren’t tracking the sources of your phone calls, what are you waiting for?

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing consultancy based in New York City. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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