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In this the Next Must Have Tool for eCommerce Sites

Why it's cool to offer your prospects a way to call you for free - while they're "hot." A few months ago I had a rather unpleasant experience of losing my web hosting server. A large power failure at their data center, plus their failure to backup properly caused them to go out of business and it was not possible for me to renew my domain name or hosting. So I had to transfer everything over to a new server.

My database with all my business contacts was locked out as was any data received from new visitors. I had to abandon the contact forms on my site and rely on prospects contacting me via the phone or email. One new service I installed during this time helped fill the gap: click-to-talk. Click-to-talk, also known as click to call or push to talk, is a website to phone contact service which enables a website visitor to contact the business easily, immediately and free of charge. The visitor clicks on a hyperlink or icon, enters their phone number, clicks "Talk" and a few seconds later is connected by phone (cell/mobile or landline) to the business. It 'humanizes' the sales and support process and this is what many website visitors want according to a Jupiter Research report where "55% of travel and hospitality web site visitors prefer to speak to someone before booking.

" Most businesses will have their contact phone number on their sites, maybe including a freecall number, so what's the attraction of Click to Talk? Well, firstly there's the 'wow' factor ? although click to talk has been around for a few years it's still not common on e-commerce sites, so it's regarded as cool. Also many businesses find that customers no longer want to fill out lengthy contact forms when they want answers now. The successful sites which use the service tend to have it deployed at strategic points in the sales process to aid their prospects' decision making process or address support issues. The service may include a number of features not found with other phone systems. Each number is logged, allowing the business to call back if they are called out of hours.

To prevent abuse, all IP addresses are also logged and a phone number or IP address can easily be banned. Some services allow the business to change their incoming number at will or to set up different numbers at different times of the day and week. Callers using the service after hours may be greeted with an appropriate message on screen and with some click to talk services the interface screen is fully customizable with the company logo and text. One advantage offered by some providers of click to talk services over traditional freecall numbers is that there may be no monthly fee, so the business only pays for the calls they actually receive. Such providers may charge a one-off set up fee instead, so look for a lifetime upgrade and support as part of the deal. So is Click to Talk suitable for your website? Well, it won't bring in any more traffic to your site, its job is to increase your website response rates once the visitors arrive and thence your sales.

So if you have the traffic but your conversions could do with a boost, click to talk will be a part of your strategy. Next, do you do business locally, nationally or internationally? Different service providers may cover different geographic regions, so check that out. When it comes to fees, do you opt for a monthly subscription or a one-off lifetime license? If you opt for the latter, check that it includes support and future upgrades. Does the service provider offer other telecommunication products ? such as international redirected numbers - that your phone account may be used for? Check the type of phone connection being offered ? PSTN (traditional phone service) or VoIP? Is the quality of VoIP good enough for your needs? Are you being offered a guarantee? According to some research, customers' concerns about privacy may be an issue when deciding to use a click to talk service.

Just as with gathering email addresses, the website owner needs to have their privacy policy and legal statement in a reassuring position before the prospect enters their details. Does the service have an option to enter this statement on the login screen? Perhaps the most important question to ask is "Is it worth paying a dollar to talk to a prospect who has just seen and is still seeing our website?" Service providers obviously think so, with websites claiming the value of "talk to your prospects while they are hot for your product!" So only you can decide. Click to Talk is being used in all sorts of businesses: real estate, training consultants, lawyers, hotel and accommodation bookings, holidays, furniture manufacturers and many others. As one client put it "It is easy to install, cost effective and provides immediate results. I would recommend this to any company that wishes to be in closer, more immediate contact with their potential consumers.

This low cost Click to Talk technology will soon become a 'must have' tool.".

Michael Taylor is Director of CAN Telecom in Australia and New Zealand, licensee for the Parlay Click to Talk? service. See http://talkaus.com.au/clicktotalk.php He is also a Marketing and Media Placement Consultant and can be contacted at ukphones@talkaus.com.au phone +613 6243 6390

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