Providing contact detailsPosted June 15th, 2009 by David Hamill
So you’ve got a lovely website where your customers can get all sorts of useful information. But sometimes they just want to call you or email you with a question. The approach you take to being contacted can have a big effect on customers’ perceptions of your organisation. In this post, I discuss contact details on websites.
It’s cheaper when customers use the website
If you can replace a customer phone call with a visit to your website, you’re going to save money. In the UK, it’s on average 14 times more expensive to take a phone call compared to having your customer visit your website.
Having said that, your website is just one part of the overall customer experience. Providing a good customer experience involves giving your customers what they want. So when they want your phone number, just give it to them.
We’re getting wise to poor customer service
As customers, we’ve all experienced poor customer service from companies who are trying to keep costs down by ignoring us. So some of us will do a bit of digging before we buy from a company. It’s all very well having your sales number emblazoned on the homepage. But what about the customer service number? What’s it going to be like after I’ve decided to buy?
In usability tests, I’ve noticed some people go digging for the customer service number before buying. Some even say they call these numbers, just to see what the service is going to be like. They also want to know if it’s a freephone or a local rates number.
This behaviour is a reaction to past experiences of poor customer service. The approach you take to being contacted on your website will say a lot about you to prospective customers.
When these people encounter a website that hides its contact details, they know that the customer service will be practically non-existent. So they don’t buy.
Finding contact details
People tend to look for a link that says that ‘Contact us’ when they want to phone or email the company. They’ve become used to the the contact page having this name, so this is what they look for.
This has implications when you provide your telephone number at the top of the page. The example below shows how the Talk Talk website provides its phone number.
I’ve witnessed a lot of people overlooking numbers like this in their search for the word ‘contact’. Of course, other people will notice it quite quickly. So you should never rely on this approach alone. Make sure you also provide a contact page. Thankfully, this is exactly what Talk Talk do.
Avoid the ‘Don’t contact us’ page
The contact page below from Scottish Power is an example of what I call a ‘Don’t contact us’ page. Scottish Power clearly doesn’t want to speak to its customers. We’re shoved towards an online help instead.
This page tells us a lot about the company’s approach to customer service. The link to an email contact opens a 2-page contact form that asks for every possible scrap of information about you that they can think to ask.
Hiding the phone number
A less extreme version of the ‘Don’t contact us’ page is when the contact details are smothered by alternatives to contacting the organisation. Tiscali uses such a tactic, as you can see below.
The ‘Contact us’ page here is swamped with alternatives to calling. If you want to call them, you need to find the ‘Contact us’ link on this page. Despite already being on a page of the same name. There’s nothing wrong with providing a few alternatives but these should not prevent the user from finding the contact details.
BT handles this a little better as shown below. The way the frequently asked questions are provided here is good. Unfortunately, the user experience goes down hill rapidly after this page.
BT presents the top 3 questions to the right-hand-side of the contact options.Â People who have exactly these questions, may read them and perhaps no longer need to call. Importantly, the alternatives don’t smother the main purpose of the page.
Positioning of contact options
On many websites, the phone number will be the preferred contact option for users. Some organisations however, prefer you to fill out a contact form. So they put this first and hide the number lower down the page.
When you put your contact form first, you’ll find that many people don’t get to see your phone number. We’re now very used to websites without phone numbers. So much so, that lots of people hit the Back button as soon as they see the dreaded contact form.
If you want your users to contact you at all, give their favoured options prominence on the contact page.
Contextual phone numbers
On some websites, presenting the phone number at the right moment will make the difference between getting a sale and losing one. In such circumstances, it’s not enough to simply provide the ability to find contact details. Instead the phone number should be presented contextually.
A lot of people research products on the internet but prefer to buy over the phone. If you want their business, you shouldn’t make it difficult for them to find your phone number. Consider providing your contact details contextually at points when they are likely to be useful. See the example below from the Share Centre.
The Share Centre associates the phone number with the call-to-action button by positioning the number alongside it and making the text the same colour. So people who don’t want to open an account online are presented with an alternative without the need to go looking for a number. This should lead to more calls from new customers.
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