This is a guest blog post by Maddy Martin, Head of Growth at Smith.ai
Gone are the days when us marketers could get away with selling our bosses on impressions and clicks alone. Today, we’re measured on conversions. “Reach” is just a means to that end.
Boosting a Facebook post? Better have that pixel attached to show how many purchases result. Exhibiting at a conference? You’ll need to show how many attendees signed up for free trials. Buying a dedicated email to promote your latest white paper? It’s about dollars, not downloads.
When it comes to these and other marketing activities, three ways to increase conversion are to improve the speed, accuracy, and efficiency with which you capture leads. Passive lead-capture and conversion methods like email drip campaigns should be a backup, secondary option, only. Proactive methods that leverage live agents to connect with prospective customers through web chats and phone calls are far more effective. Why? Here are a few reasons among many:
- Questions are instantly asked and answered at a time of high interest and intent
- Concerns are addressed promptly and countered by value propositions
- Information is gathered from leads that can later be used for highly targeted communications that offer greater chances at conversion
- Initial responsiveness to leads sets expectations of future high-quality customer service and establishes positive sentiments toward the product and/or company
- “Bad” leads are filtered out, leading to a truer, “cleaner” sales pipeline
Live agents needn’t be expensive in-house hires. North America-based virtual receptionists, like those provided by Smith.ai, are not only fully capable of answering calls, chats, and texts 24/7, but also far more cost effective and scalable.
Here are seven benefits of a virtual receptionist.
7 benefits of a virtual receptionist: simple ways to use outsourced live agents to improve lead conversion and accelerate growth:
1. Immediately capture leads at the time of greatest intent
Whether a lead came to your website or called your business from a paid marketing campaign, as a result of a referral, or out of an organic search, when they’re on your website or phone line, it’s critical to communicate with them before they bounce or hang up. Don’t let calls go through a lengthy IVR or send callers to voicemail, or assume they’ll complete your “contact us” form on your website. One of the key benefits of a virtual receptionist is personalization: When you make live agents available to answer their web chats and calls, you deliver a personalized experience that immediately distinguishes your brand from the competition.
If a lead does complete your web form, these same agents can also be tasked with instantly calling them back, which conveys a high level of customer service they’ll later come to expect from your company. Just have new leads funneled to the receptionists’ call-back list and they’ll reach out. This behavior says to leads, “We take you seriously, and we genuinely want your business.”
2. Answer critical questions to qualify leads & filter out the rest
Whether you’re running PPC ads or hosting webinars, leads come to your website or call with the hope that your product or service can address their needs. However, as intuitive as your website may be, there will always be folks who can’t find the answer to their question, or aren’t sure if the answer they’ve found applies to their specific situation. Or, they just want confirmation that the information on your website is up to date.
Don’t expect leads to send you an email. If they don’t find the answer they’re looking for, and you don’t provide a number or chat agent to help them immediately, they may give up and move on to the next product or service offered by a competitor.
Live agents, armed with essential FAQs about your business and knowledge of your ideal client profile(s) can qualify leads, complete intake, answer basic questions in real-time, and speak about ways your product or service matches their needs.
Just imagine the free time your team will have if you don’t have to do the basic screening & intake in-house every time. Welcome to the interruption-free zone (it’s not a dream!).
3. Improve accuracy of targeted conversion-funnel messaging
Sometimes even after everything is asked and answered by chat or phone, a lead still isn’t ready to commit, and that’s to be expected, as disappointing as it often is.
Your chat and phone agents can take notes during the conversation and pass them into noCRM to kick off marketing automations and sales cycle “events” or actions by your in-house team, That data can be used to determine which messaging the lead receives over the next days, weeks, and months as you work to convert them.
Idea: Instead of sending them a blank “here’s why you need our services” email drip campaign, you could create different campaigns for different groups of leads.
- For example, let’s say your business is an IT managed service provider (MSP). You’ll have different packages for different types and sizes of businesses. Agents can ask about their company size, industry, number of employees, software they’re using, and more, to get them into the campaign that addresses the reasons your services meet their unique needs.
When you connect Smith.ai to noCRM via Zapier, every call, chat, text, and Facebook message we answer is logged in your account, with call notes and full chat transcripts added for new contacts, or logged in existing contacts’ records. Follow-up is a breeze when you have the full context of the receptionist’s conversation with the lead, and there’s no time wasted getting “up to speed” during that next scheduled call or outreach attempt by your in-house sales team.
Bonus tip: SEO is a bonus benefit of a virtual receptionist. Indeed, it’s the chat transcripts are also SEO gold. Review these transcripts between your leads and our live agents, identify common questions, and write blog posts or FAQ on your website to proactively address those questions and attract search-traffic leads seeking those answers. The questions leads ask are often one of the best indications of their fit for your business. Only write articles that answer questions asked via chat by your most qualified leads.
- For example, if you only work with residential customers, don’t bother writing articles on commercial topics.
4. Live-transfer or triage leads to in-house specialists
Live agents can also transfer calls, turn chats into calls, turn chats into call-back appointments, and more. Your company may provide a service that requires leads to have a conversation with a specialized or highly trained staff member before signing up. However, since their time is more expensive than the agents’ time, it’s wise to let the less expensive agents pre-qualify the leads, and then only when leads are determined to be a good fit, transfer them to your in-house team.
Agents can transfer calls to a line that “blasts” your salespeople all at once (so the first available person picks up), in a sequence (based on a priority order), or other path you define.
Or, agents can access your staff members’ calendars and schedule a call-back appointment. Agents can even create a record in your ticketing program like Zendesk or Help Scout, so your team can call them back based on their availability.
5. Initiate new-client onboarding (with & without payment)
If a lead is eager to get started with your product or service, sometimes no further discussion is needed. In that case, live agents can convert them to a customer immediately in the following ways:
- Complete a new client intake form by chat or phone
- Accept payments or deposits
- Guide them through signing up for a free trial
- Transfer the call or schedule a call-back with a specialized new client “onboarding” team member
Of course this is not an exhaustive list, and agents can adjust to the specific new-client workflow your company has defined.
6. Establish positive brand sentiment
Sometimes potential clients just want to know there’s someone real behind the curtain, and gauge the level of responsiveness they’ll later be able to expect if they become a customer. One of the primary benefits of a virtual receptionist is making real, live people available to answer questions on your website and phone lines may not immediately convert them, but effectively establishes positive sentiment with your brand, which gets seated in their brains. When the time comes to make a purchasing decision, that feel-good experience can sway them to become your client instead of a competitor’s.
Tip: Stay top-of-mind by adding leads who are reluctant to give their full contact information (e.g., only their email and not their name and phone number) to email newsletters and other less sales-driven marketing communications.
7. Filter out “bad” leads and spam
And then there are the inevitable callers and website visitors who, through a conversation with live agents, are determined (by them or by the agents) to be unqualified, ill-fitting leads for your product or service. It’s best to let agents filter out these individuals and businesses, so in-house team members’ time isn’t wasted. A good chat and phone service will also block spammers, unsolicited salespeople, and “wrong numbers”. For instance, going back to the IT MSP example, if that business only works with businesses and not residential/individual customers, those leads would not qualify for a call back with one of your staff members. How agents filter out “bad” leads is completely up to you.
If you have a list of recommended, non-competitive companies to whom you refer these bad leads, the agents can make referrals on your behalf. If you earn referral fees, then your agents can help you monetize these “bad” leads through this secondary revenue stream.
Choosing the Right Virtual Receptionist Service
It’s important to note that not every call answering and web chat service offers lead qualification, new customer intake, outbound calls, and referrals. Make sure you ask about these features when shopping around, and also ensure you have a service that offers 24/7 coverage. 27% of leads come in after hours, and you may not realize that because they’re not leaving voicemails.
And once you begin with a service, even a trial of a service, “secret shop” your calls and chats to confirm the promised work is being carried out accurately and effectively. Your receptionists should sound “in-house” and not like an offshore call center.
Get started with Smith.ai Virtual Receptionists & Live Chat
Smith.ai offers live agents 24/7 for calls, chats, texts, and social messages and we do much more than “greet” leads, triage, and take messages. Our North America-based agents are your sales conversion and client happiness team, booking appointments for pre-qualified leads, calling back leads who complete web forms, and following up on those late payments so you don’t have to make that uncomfortable call. And much more.
To learn more and sign up for a free 20-call / 20-chat free trial, visit https://smith.ai.
Bonus: As a noCRM reader or user, you’re invited to use the code NOCRM to get $100 off your first month of live chats and calls, in addition to the free trial.
Questions about live chat or virtual receptionists? Book a free 15-minute consultation with our expert sales team to learn how we can accelerate growth for your business.
About Maddy Martin
Maddy Martin is the head of growth and education at Smith.ai, which provides superior 24/7 virtual receptionist services for live calls, web chat, texts, and Facebook through a combination of live agents and AI. Smith.ai specializes in serving businesses of all shapes and sizes, from law firms to restaurants, agencies to SaaS startups. Maddy has spent the last decade growing tech startups from New York to California, and has expertise in digital marketing, small business communications, lead conversion, email marketing, SEO, and event marketing. She can be reached at email@example.com, and you can also connect with her on LinkedIn.