Best Practices

Call Tracking – 8 Questions You Need to Ask

image of online calls tracking

Are you thinking about using tracking phone numbers for your website and ad campaigns?

Dealers are drawn to the idea of call tracking because of the prospect of eliminating wasteful spending on ads that aren’t working. They can measure the number of responses an ad generates to gauge which types of media (or which providers) are producing the highest rates of return.

Recent breakthroughs now even allow the dealership to tie an incoming website call back to the search engine keyword and referring source that delivered the caller. All this sounds too good to be true, right? There’s got to be some fine print. Here’s the deal, ask your prospective call tracking vendor these eight questions, and you can bank on having a positive call tracking user experience.

1. Who owns your dealers phone numbers?

Some providers maintain ownership of the telephone numbers that are being tracked. Advertisers become hostages to the call tracking company that is leasing the numbers because they can’t switch to another provider without forfeiting all of the calls that their number generates. Make sure that when you acquire a call tracking number, you become the owner of that line. If your call tracking vendor isn’t doing a good job, you should be able to port the number to another vendor without any interruption in service.

2. Who owns the data?

Since you are paying for the ad that generates the leads, you should be the only party that can use the collected data. Make sure your provider isn’t planning on selling your customers’ names, phone numbers and addresses. It’s also a good idea to make sure you’ll have total control of the information that gets collected (i.e., Can the data be easily exported? Are there any limitations to how I can use the data?, etc.)

3. Can my minutes be pooled?

If a provider offers a package that includes 200 minutes per month, find out if you’re allowed to aggregate the minutes of multiple numbers. Example: If you’re paying for 10 numbers, make sure your monthly minute total is a combined 2,000 minutes that can be distributed across all numbers (you may have a few numbers that generate a majority of the traffic).

4. What steps are involved to ensure clean numbers?

When you’re trying to track all the calls that respond to your advertisements, it’s frustrating to deal with “wrong number” callers. Often times a telephone number is recycled from a previous advertiser, so people who are using last year’s phone book or looking at an old ad will call the number and disrupt the statistics of the campaign you are try to track. Ask your provider how long numbers are decompressed before they get redistributed – most vendors require at least 12 months.

5. What’s the contingency plan for misprinted numbers?

No matter how careful a publisher might be, there will inevitably be situations where an ad gets messed up. Phone book publishers, at times, accidentally print the same telephone number for multiple different companies. What you can do is insert an automated greeting that asks callers to select which company they wished to connect with…it isn’t perfect, but it minimizes the damage.

6. What’s the turnaround time for new numbers?

If a customer needs numbers in a market that’s within a call tracking vendor’s existing inventory, the provisioning process takes about 3 minutes. If the vendor doesn’t have the market covered, the process is to order lines from multiple vendors in the requested market. In the past, it’s taken about 5 to 7 business days for those numbers to be delivered – that seems to be the industry standard. However, recent advancements in the coordination among carriers has taken that wait time down to about 12 hours. I imagine this will quickly become the new standard for everyone.

7. Can the call reports be fully customized?

Every provider claims that its reports are customizable. Make sure this means that you can control what data is included and how the information is formatted; often times “customizable” just means your logo gets slapped onto the top of the page.

8. What type of fees are reasonable?

Call tracking service fees should be fully inclusive. If a proposal contains things like gateway fees, private labeling fees, programming fees, API usage fees, etc., ask for allowances in the service rates. Some add-on costs are acceptable because they’re simply pass-through costs of third party vendors. Examples would be reverse lookups (name & address of caller) and porting charges for existing numbers. Every call tracking provider incurs costs for carrying a number each month (whether local or toll-free) – this is a cost that comes from the telephone companies that provide the lines. If a provider claims to have no charges associated with carrying a number, check the fine print for minimum requirements elsewhere in the contract.

Efficient competitors in the market appreciate it when a savvy prospect solicits bids from multiple providers and makes everyone compete. This is a great way to force the providers to be upfront and clear with their offers – if you’re requiring an apples-to- apples comparison, everything gets simplified and you greatly decrease the risk of getting trapped in a misleading contract.

Call tracking is great for off-line marketing, but it can be seriously hazardous to your SEO. I've spent many hours undoing the damage our call tracking system did to our online presence.