Sunday, August 13, 2006

Validating Click To Call Advertising Charges

I set up a pay per call account with this online advertiser and after a couple of months I was billed for a couple of calls. No big deal right? Couldn't cost that much? Well the problem is - I didn't get these supposed leads. I had no additional business, no messages, and no record of the phone calls in my logs. I only had some calls from some marketing research company in Canada. I wondered if they were calling and creating the charges and wanted to complain about that.

However instead, I must now complain about the advertising company. I emailed them and told them I think I was billed incorrectly because I hadn't gotten any "leads". However just to make sure I asked for the phone records so I could match them up to my phone calls and determine if I had actually received calls from other sales people rather than actual leads and that was the source of this whole thing. Maybe that research company is using their list and generating charges for people - in which case they need to stop!

Instead of simply sending me the phone logs or telling me where I could find them, the advertising company emailed me and told me to call them. I told them I couldn't right now because I'm on a contract during the day where I can't take/make phone calls and additionally, I am super busy. I use my lunch hours and any extra time to get projects done. Could they please just send me the phone records and I would look into it later.

Then they tell me they can't provide the phone records like the number that called me - for "privacy" reasons. What the heck? What kind of phone service doesn't provide you record of the calls you are being charged for? Does anyone see anything wrong with this picture? They could tell me I got 100 phone calls and have no way to prove it and I am supposed to just pay it? Even with pay per click advertising you can track back clicks to their source and validate you are getting the clicks you are paying for. Same should be true for phone.

Additionally this company told me that my phone line would not allow them to leave a message. That's odd. I have messages from this research company, vendors, etc. I also have hang up messages (clicks) from their number so if I can get the hang up why couldn't they speak and leave a message? However I realize something may have been wrong with the phone line and need to call the company providing me with that service in that case, so I asked them exactly how they tried to leave a message so I could resolve it. Were they on the main extension and didn't select a particular extension or what?

Additionally I sent some suggestions for making the service better and why it would make more sense if they could provide the phone logs. For instance if someone placed a call and didn't leave a message you could use the phone number in the logs to call them back. If nothing else you could validate that you actually did receive the calls you are being charged for. I asked if she could pass that message on because I think it would be valuable for marketers to be able to track the source of their leads and make this online advertising service more valuable if it could be associated with dollar value in terms of new sales.

In the meantime I said I would try to login and see if there was some information in the system I could match up to my phone logs to figure out what happened.

So what did they do? Did they answer my question about the voicemail so I can fix it? Did they pass my message along? Did they tell me how they tried to leave a message so I could resolve that problem on my end (if it was on my end)? Did they allow me to log in and find potential answers to my questions -- OK I should have looked there first but I didn't realize they had stats in their online system and actually just forgot about it altogether so I will say shame on me for that. But apparently the info I needed was not there anyway from what she told me.

But no...she deactivated my account and refunded all the money before I had a chance to log in. Hmmm... I did not ask for this. I did not refuse to pay the charges if they are legitimate. I did not even refuse to pay the charges if they were wrong! I was just trying to understand how they track these things because I didn't have record of these calls they were charging me for.... I just wanted to see where they are coming from!

Could it be that they closed my account because there were no record of these calls? Before I could login and prove it??

If you are paying for "pay for call" advertising online - check that the service you are using can actually prove that you are getting the calls for which you are getting billed.

Maybe this company is not even doing it intentionally...but they should think about and change the service so people can verify the charges they are receiving. The other thing is that competitors may be clicking on this link to generate invalid charges and there needs to be a way to trace this back to the source and make it stop if that is happening. This services provides no recourse for doing so. We simply have to pay for the fraud with everything else.