Contact us? Some would obviously prefer you didn’t

Brands take a hit when sites make it hard to reach a real person

Question for the day: What does it say about a company if its website makes it quite clear that they don’t want to hear from you either by phone or email? 

Hint: Whatever YOU decide it says about them is correct, fellow web surfer. 

In my case, when a website contains no phone number and no direct email contacts with specific people, I think it says a number of things about the company, including:

  • They obviously don’t want to hear from customers or anyone else.
  • Maybe they are afraid of what they will hear if they actually connect with someone.
  • They’re just too important to be bothered by riff raff like me.
  • They want to “talk” (that’s what the website does for them) but they don’t want to listen.

Yes, of course, they could defer to channels like Twitter or Facebook for one-on-one contact.  But from my experience it seems companies that discourage customer contact via their website don’t tend to be much more open through other channels like social media.

Which brings me to the real point.  When you make it hard for anyone to connect with your company, you damage your brand. Period.

Think about it. If your website’s “Contact Us” link is buried waaaaaay down at the bottom of the home page, underneath dozens of other links, you might as well call it the “DON’T Contact Us” button.  That’s the message you’re sending.  I’ve seen countless websites designed exactly this way.

And if your site lists key staff but doesn’t include any way to reach them directly – a phone number or email address – you’re sending the same “leave us alone” message.   

Only slightly better is the generic “send us a message” form approach.  These faceless forms ask us for our name, email address and perhaps our phone number but they’re just too sexy to share any personal contact info with us.  What’s the message?  For me, it’s “We’re high and mighty and we’ll probably never even look at your puny email but we’re at least trying to look like we care what you have to say.  But we really don’t.”  

Here’s another hint: When someone clicks on a link called “Contact us,” they want to contact you. A real person.  When they see a list of names of your people, they want to be able to contact those people, too.  Easily.  Go ahead and include a phone number and an email link.  You'll send the message that you are eager to hear from your customers and stakeholders. And you can use their input to improve your product or service.

If you’re afraid to open yourself up to direct contact with anyone who lands on your website, you need to ask yourself what you and your company are afraid of.  And you need to recognize that you do damage to your organization’s brand every time someone who is trying to contact you gets the feeling that you really don’t want to hear from them. 

Doing business online or offline is about making it easy for customers to like you.  It’s hard to like a company that clearly doesn’t want to talk to anyone.  

- Eric Whittington