You are preventing customers from contacting you. frustrated__rex

The reason this is the #1 way to lose a customer is because you are losing a customer at the moment when the customer finally decides to contact you after your marketing and sales funnel has successfully engaged them.

This final step, where the customer actually wants to speak to you, is almost universally abused.

This is how you do it

Almost every single company I work with is putting up one or more of the following barriers to contacting them:

  • Not listing a phone number on their web page.
  • Forcing customers to fill in a form rather than just send an e-mail (Negative side effect: the customer can put in a fake or misspelled e-mail address, but if they sent e-mail you’d automatically have their contact information)
  • Not having a human being answer the phone if they do give a number.
  • Not having voice messaging in case the human being can’t answer the phone.
  • Not having 24/7 phone service.
  • Having 24/7 phone service where you could potentially reach a human being but not with fewer than 5 push-button menus or voice commands.
  • Having phone service where the person who pushes the wrong button and gets to the wrong human being has to call back and start from the beginning to get the correct human being.
  • Having a main number where the receptionist has limited information for transferring a call. For example, a directory of names with no titles or departments, or a list of departments with no names, or a list that is updated every few weeks, so they can’t find new employees.
  • Having a “chat with us now” window on the web site that answers only during select hours, but appears on the web site all the time.
  • Having a “chat with us now” window that routes you to a non-human with automated answers.
  • Having the non-human ignore all questions and try to upsell you rather than answer the questions.
  • Having the non-human say “I am sorry, but I am only an automated machine and not a real human being. Please ask a question in a format I can understand.”
  • Having a twitter account that is barely used, so DMs are routinely ignored.
  • Heavy spam filtering so not all mail reaches your info@ mailbox.
  • Infrequent checking of your info@ mailbox because it has too much spam in it or because you just forgot.
  • Not getting back to customers in the time frame mentioned in your autoresponder.
  • Using autoresponder instead of a human being for potential customers.
  • Screening calls that are not from a familiar phone number.
  • Not regularly checking your voice mailbox.

And you know what’s even worse? Your marketing and sales departments are often almost completely powerless to change many of these problems.

But it’s not my fault!

My favorite story was of a company that literally manufactured voice forwarding technology, but the main number listed was to the CEO’s secretary during the day, and to the guard booth after hours. Did I mention the guard did not speak English and that there was no way he could transfer the call from the guard booth? After several weeks or months of frustration with the operations department, the marketing manager finally was forced to create a new incoming number, implement the company’s own voice forwarding system as a 24/7 answering service, and re-print all of the marketing collateral to reflect the new phone number. That solved everything except for people who used the actual phone directory to look up the company’s number. Fortunately, almost nobody does that anymore.

I hate that!

I don’t know about you, but as a customer, it makes a poor impression on me when a company doesn’t take decent care of me during the sales cycle. I think, “If they don’t answer the phone when I’m trying to buy something, I’m going to really suffer if I ever want support after I’ve made the purchase.”

The only thing that saves companies with crappy sales and service is that their competitors are just as bad.

Most of the time, though, if I can’t get in touch with the company quickly and easily, the relationship ends right there. I don’t have time for companies who don’t want my business.

Why are you throwing away business?

When I ask people or companies why they don’t make it easier for people to contact them, they give a variety of reasons. Here are some typical answers:

  • If I put my phone number on my web site, I’ll get a ton of calls. (You wish.)
  • I don’t control the switchboard; that’s the operations department.
  • Those are separate divisions, so we can’t have one secretary answer all calls.
  • It costs too much to answer calls or chat boxes personally.
  • It’s easier for us to use a web form, because we can direct it to the right department when they choose the type of problem from a drop-down box.
  • Auto-responder handles the problem 80% of the time, and for the rest, the customer can write back.

All of these answers may be correct, but they all have one thing in common. The customer’s needs are subverted to the company’s needs. Of course they are, you think, we are the company, not the customer.

Precisely.

What’s the worst experience you had when trying to purchase something? Did you buy it anyway or go to the competition?