An open, efficient line of communication is beneficial to customers and the bottom line. Yet judging by many "contact us" pages, you'd never think this is the case. Much like "about us" pages, many "contact us" pages seem like throwaways. They receive little love and even less effort.
This is easily remedied with a little thought and some planning.
Common "Contact Us" Mistakes and Solutions
Problem: Prospects don't know whom they should contact. Many companies do a great job of listing all the different contact numbers, contact info, and corresponding departments but offer very little guidance on which contact option is the best, or even correct, choice.
The Citi page lists the contact info above the fold, but whom should I call if I have a question about the credit card application I just submitted online? Do I contact the credit card contact number, the account contact number, or the online contact number?
American Airlines gives it a good try, but this pop-up is just too frustrating to be useful. It isn't obvious that clicking on the left-hand link will give you actual contact information. You must first read the incredibly small text to figure it out. If I just booked my vacation and bought the tickets from American, whom do I contact to change my flight? Do I click "AA Vacations"? "Customer Relations"? "Reservations"?
Solution: Wells Fargo does a much better job putting contact information in the context of visitor need rather than a list of information.
Problem: Contact information is invisible or hard to find. How far we have strayed from service when people look at the GetHuman Earcon Standard as a potential benefit?
Controlling call center costs is an important metric for many larger companies, but the answer isn't to hide contact information. While doing so may eliminate many knucklehead calls, it also leaves you vulnerable to frustrated and angry customers. This can waste even more time when they do hunt you down. It also robs you of an opportunity to win over customers by being more approachable. It's hard to trust a company that doesn't seem to want to talk to you.
Nobody hides its contact information as well as Amazon.com. On the upside, it does work hard to present information that's likely to answer most common questions.
Solution: If you're pressed to cut call center calls, the answer lies in planning a site that answers the majority of questions. Persuasion architecture can also be used to plan persuasion scenarios where support or customer service questions are answered online. Conversion rate optimization is not simply for transactions or leads; it can also be used post-sale in customer relationship situations where a conversion can be measured as a successful resolution.
Vonage attempts this. Its "contact us" page is a little thin and discouraging, but at minimum it presents the phone number as well as a troubleshooter. Even better is Outpost.com. The copy is encouraging and inviting. It places the phone contact information first, followed by links that address common situations in common language.
Problem: Contact options are limited. So many companies like to force consumers to contact them the way they preferred to be contacted. Some limit you to an e-mail form. Bank of America forces you to scroll through a painful dropdown menu. Why can't they just offer a clickable map, like Qwest does?
Solution: Give customers more control of how to contact you. Provide plenty of options: phone, form, e-mail, and chat. Let them contact you their way. RADirect offers a telephone number to talk to an engineer, as well as a short form and a chat option when available. The e-mail form guarantees a response in one business day. If you click on "Speak to a System Engineer" in the nav bar, you're guaranteed a response in two hours from the point of action.
We worked with a business-to-business (B2B) lead-generation site that literally did not post price and product information on its site to force prospects to call and talk to sales reps. It also made the contact form incredibly cumbersome. By introducing transparent pricing, a shorter form, and more contact options, it increased its lead pipeline over $70,000 a month. Just because you're better at selling on the phone doesn't mean every customer wants to talk on the phone. He may just surf over to a competitor that doesn't force a call.
If you're concerned about losing leads and sales, use persuasion architecture. With persuasion architecture, the most effective offline selling processes can be mapped to online persuasion scenarios.
Problem: People are left to send and pray. So many contact forms and "thank you for contacting us" pages leave visitors frustrated. They don't provide any information on what to expect when someone contacts the company via form or e-mail. Visitors want to know when and how you'll reply. Some pages won't even give the business hours.
This is even more frustrating to a visitor who comes with a support issue.
After we sent our form to Zaaz, the landing page told us the Web is fast, but not how fast the company will get back to us. Compare that to this thank-you page, which tells you the CEO has been copied on your message and when to expect a response. Which page inspires more confidence?
Solution: Tell visitors exactly what to expect when they reach out to you. Tell them what's happening and what to expect in the future. If they must have information handy when they contact you, be sure to list that on the "contact us" page, too.
The "contact us" page is a lifeline for many businesses. For others, it's what a visitor should click on as a last resort because she's failed to find answers elsewhere on your site. Either way, take the responsibility. Make sure visitors don't become frustrated before they reach out. In the end, that's the key measure of a good "contact us" page.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.
March 19, 2014