My email started playing up. I noticed that I was getting items out of sequence, sometimes very late. I tried the usual things: clearing the spam folders, powering the computer down, you know. But there was nothing for it: I’d have to contact the ISP.
Onto the internet, and their website. Problem 1: do I want ‘contact’ or ‘client area’? I’m a client who wants to contact. Why doesn’t the ‘client area’ drop-down have ‘client contact’ listed as an option? Tip: If you treat any user group as a special case, make sure that you offer them a special contact number as well.
So I reject ‘client’ and turn to ‘contact’. Great, they’ve listed a Head Office contact number. Extra brownie points: a human answers it within a couple of rings. Problem 2: he answers as ‘Sales’. I don’t want sales, I want support. I ask for support. He says: you need a different number. Tip: If you offer a general number, make sure it can handle any type of query.
I ask: “If you have a support number, why don’t you list it on your website?” He says: “We don’t want people to call it”. Eh? They’re an ISP. Surely they understand that many of the problems that clients have will be about connection? They won’t be able to self-serve on the web, will they? Problem: lack of thought about why users might want to contact you. Tip: Think about your users and why they might want to contact you. Offer contact channels appropriately.
I persuade the sales guy to give me the support number. I call it. I get a recorded message: “we are working on the email delay problem”. Well, at least it saved me some extra effort. Ah ha! I think that gives us a tip. Tip: If you do have a major problem, make a special announcement so that users don’t have to hang on the line.
I’m a curious type, so I thought I’d have a look on the support website. Let’s see: ‘client area’ – that’s an obvious click. Problem: it says ‘the current status page has moved to our Customer Support Site’. Tip: If you have a customer support site, list it on the ‘Contact Us’ page.
I click across to the Customer Support Site. It says: “There are currently no issues to report”. Eh? What about my email problem that you told me you knew about on the telephone? Tip: Be consistent. If you have an issue, announce it on your website as well as on your phone system.
Now I’m confused. I decide that I’d better call them. So it’s eyes to the top right corner to find the ‘contact us’ page. And there isn’t one listed! Tip: Unless you have your contact number on every page, ensure that you have a ‘contact us’ page. Tip: If you really, really can’t offer a phone number to your users, then explain why on your ‘contact us’ page. You’ll still annoy them and lose credibility, but at least you’ll repair some of the damage.
Well, by this time I’m sure that ‘what is your contact number’ is a frequently asked question, and the site is structured as a set of frequently asked questions. OK, you guessed it: it wasn’t there in the FAQs. Tip: include your contact details in or near your FAQs
I try a search for ‘contact’. And bingo! They do have a ‘contact us’ page! Tip: don’t hide your contact details. 9 steps to get to them is too many.
Well, it’s a sorry story. But at least it provoked me to pull together a few tips – I hope you find them helpful.
This article first appeared in Usability News, 3 March 2008
Picture of Contact Us by Paladin Zhang creative commons