At Contact, we make a multichannel contact plugin to help visitors and customers reach business site owners with their questions and comments.
Our whole business relies on two ideas. First, when you make it easier for people to reach you, they talk to you more. This seems obvious, but the vast majority of business websites just provide a contact page buried somewhere in the footer and call it a day. When you look at the many options that people use to interact with each other when given free choice vs. the options they have for talking to the typical business, it’s not even close. Second, talking to visitors and customers is one of the most valuable things you can do for your business. Human contact reassures visitors that the company actually cares and that if they buy the product, they will not be left hanging. Answering questions and objections help visitors make the decision to buy. And by talking to customers, you can find out exactly what they want from your site, and what’s missing. Having 10-minute conversations with customers can give you insights you can’t get from all the heatmaps in the world.
We practice what we preach: we run our contact widget on our own site and talk to our visitors and customers constantly. Since we went live, we’ve had approximately 10,000 conversations. Here are eight lessons we’ve learned from the experience.
Lessons we have learned from talking to visitors:
- 80% of visitors have the same issues. When talking to visitors, you will find yourself answering the same questions and buying objections repeatedly. This is largely a function of your product and market, and also of your site’s user interface. If you can redesign your UI in such a way that it automatically addresses these questions, you can really improve user experience and thus retention. If you can’t change the UI to answer the question automatically, it really helps to have a canned solution on hand, either a short answer or a longer article, to which you can refer visitors.
- 5% of visitors have issues that can’t be resolved on the spot. You can’t think of everything, ever. People will bring up issues you’ve never thought about, or find rare bugs. You have to be able to give an answer on the spot-“I will look into it and get back to you within the day” works well for us. Then, you should have a workflow for addressing the question to the proper person in the company and closing the loop with the visitor. If you can’t solve an issue in 15 minutes, it is better to get back to the visitor than to eat up a bunch of his time while you research.
- Most visitors prefer a quick response to a quick solution. See above. People understand that getting their question answered can take some time, and tend to be forgiving. But when it comes to response time, you have to be Johnny-on-the-spot. It is okay to take a week to come up with an answer, as long as you acknowledge the question and promise to solve it within 30 seconds of being asked. Being instantly reachable through multiple contact channels (or having a representative on hand) really helps with this.
- Make every visitor contact a lead conversion. Make sure you have a way to respond to the visitor. That means you need to get a phone number or email as soon as possible. We’ve automated this process in our app, but if you are using other solutions, make sure to always get that contact info for the follow-up before you end the conversation. You are paying for every visitor, one way or the other. You only make money from the ones who become customers. Converting every visitor that you can to a lead is one of the ways you can maximize your customers and is crucial to your business success.
Lessons we learned from talking to customers:
- A customer who complains is a customer who cares. People who don’t care do not complain when they have a problem. They just switch to a different provider. The fact that a customer took the time out of his day to contact you means that he likes your service or product enough to ask you to fix its rough edges. Corollary: you should treat him like royalty and go out of your way to fix the issues he identifies. See above.
- For every customer who cares enough to complain, a hundred do not. They will not make you aware of the problem, they will just deal with it until they see a better option to fill their needs, then jump ship. You will not know they are unhappy until they are gone. Think about what you do if you order a pizza and it comes in burned. Will you call the pizzeria, contact the manager and explain the problem? Or are you more likely to just write it off and never order from that pizzeria again? This is why you need to treat the customers who do contact you with issues like kings and queens: they are saving you the loss of hundreds of others.
- It’s not over until it’s over. Let your customer decide when the problem is solved. Do not decide for him. Make sure that you get a go-ahead to end the conversation, meaning that the customer acknowledges your fix and confirms that the problem is solved. Especially with problems that you’ve solved before, there’s a strong temptation to refer the customer to a how-to document, perfunctorily ask “is there anything else I can help you with?” and end the conversation. Avoid doing this. People will often sense that you are trying to go and pretend that you’ve solved their issue when you haven’t, out of politeness. Don’t let this happen if you can help it. Remember, for that one customer with the problem who is chatting with you, there are 100 who aren’t.
- Every wolf can turn into a sheep. Do you know how we met some of our most loyal customers? They contacted us to yell at us about an annoying bug. That’s okay-we were grateful for the chance to make it good, and we did. People who go out of their way to complain about something often become your biggest fans if you fix it. When this happens, it feels great.
To sum up, talking to visitors and customers is one of the best things your company can do. Contact is not just something you have to deal with, like paying the electric bill and taking out the trash. Rather, it’s an opportunity to make great things happen naturally.