This post was sponsored by CallRail. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.
The pandemic has caused uncertainty and lockdowns that have created ongoing hardship for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).
The smaller the company, the more likely owners and managers were to report negative impacts of the pandemic – with 60% of small businesses saying they’ve been “strongly affected” versus 43% of large businesses.
This impact was also illustrated by the decline in call volume among CallRail customers.
CallRail provides tracking and analytics for phone calls and web forms, serves SMBs in education, healthcare, automotive, legal, financial, home services, real estate, software and technology, marketing and advertising, and travel and hospitality.
During the lockdown, CallRail data showed phone calls decreased because many businesses had to close temporarily or pause operations to implement safety measures.
However, as SMBs started reopening in late spring and early summer, we saw call volume and durations rise – revealing that consumers were interested in doing business again.
We noted this finding in our report, 100M Phone Calls Show How SMBs Are Adapting in a Pandemic.
Customer engagement is a positive sign, but businesses should also be proactive in making their comebacks because previous recessions took years to recover, and small businesses were hit hardest.
The recession caused by the pandemic was unforeseeable, and so is its outcome.
However, we believe call data can offer some useful insights for SMBs trying to recover and thrive post-lockdown.
Here are some takeaways we’re seeing from the data.
1. Use Tools Like Google My Business to Connect with Customers
CallRail’s collective call data from small and medium-sized businesses in numerous industries reveals that customer call volume decreased by 26% between late February and mid-April.
That coincided with the temporary closure of “non-essential” businesses.
During the pandemic, consumers have taken advantage of Google My Business to safely find information about area businesses, including closures or changes in hours.
CallRail data shows there was a 61% increase in calls from Google My Business between January and July of this year.
It’s important that SMBs now take full advantage of tools like Google My Business that connect them with customers looking for their products and services.
SMBs make up about 48% of the economy in the United States, so their viability is important to their employees, customers, and the country as a whole.
2. Engage with Your Customers Online & on the Phone
The resurgence in phone calls to SMBs across industries shows that customers have questions and want to talk business.
By early July, call volume for CallRail clients had increased 27% from peak pre-pandemic levels.
“Once companies got their PPP money or resumed operations, many have turned to marketing to generate leads and customer volume,” Allison Reinert, Senior Marketing Partner at Cardinal, explains.
“If you’re running a business that relies on in-person customers to survive, it is essential consumers choose you over the competition. This is where marketing and advertising can help.”
While the first step to recovery might be engaging customers through marketing and advertising to let them know you’re still in business, there’s more to do to keep those customers coming back – especially as the pandemic continues.
Automotive was one industry where average call duration fell during lockdown to 2.2 minutes but rose to 2.7 minutes by mid-summer after most states and businesses had begun to reopen.
The average call duration prior to COVID-19 was 2.5 minutes, indicating that customers have more questions when they’re calling.
The automotive industry also saw higher call volume after lockdown, another indication that customers are seeking as much information as possible about products and safety procedures by phone before visiting dealerships in person.
Gayle Rogers, Founder and CEO of the Atomic Agency, explains that pre-COVID, auto buyers typically did a lot of research online and even called, emailed, or chatted with the dealership before showing up to have a conversation in person.
He notes that more than half of car buyers arrived with no appointment or contact records with the dealership.
“Now,” he says, “with ‘shelter in place’-type restrictions and people being fearful of public spaces, I think they moved the conversations to the phone. They are spending more time asking questions over the phone as opposed to just showing up.”
3. Be Present & Consistent Across Channels
Though establishments have reopened since the lockdown, many customers are still uncertain about how and when it’s safe to visit physical locations, as well as what procedures and safety precautions should be in place.
The key to weathering the COVID-19 storm for SMBs will be in providing superior customer experience and keeping communication lines – online, over the phone, and in-person open for customers.
Up to 65% of consumers said they base the probability of buying from a brand on how well the brand manages their response to the pandemic.
To help increase trust that you are managing the crisis well, make sure to convey what your safety procedures are for sanitation and social distancing across all touchpoints, such as:Emails.Voice recordings.Signage at your business location.
Online shopping has increased by 25% during the pandemic, but many customers still want human interaction.
Certain answers are easy to provide online, like hours and pickup or delivery options.
But some questions – like those about inventory or new purchase processes and safety protocols – may be better answered by phone, where you can provide personalized details or address follow-up concerns.
As customers come to rely on more channels, it’s increasingly important to provide a consistent customer experience across channels.
Customers want a smooth transition between web, phone, and in-person engagement.
CallRail provides real-time call data so you can track and compare the results of campaigns, whether from the web or offline sources.
From there, you can learn more about what’s resonating with customers and apply those efforts across channels.
CallRail call data offers even more insights that can be useful to SMBs as they look to get business back on track.
To read the full report, download CallRail’s complete report, “100M Phone Calls Show How SMBs Are Adapting in a Pandemic.”
Featured Image: Image by CallRail. Used with permission.
In-Post Photos: Images by CallRail. Used with permission.