[This post was originally posted on B2B Voices on Wednesday, 28 April 2010]
I recently found myself in a conversation with a woman who was in charge of redoing the website for her company, an electrical distributor. At one point she explained how they were not offering email contact information on the new site, no change from their current site. The company’s decision was based on their desire to suggest (force?) people to pick up the phone and call them.
As I had just met her and we are in casual conversation, I refrained from commenting, but I couldn’t help thinking about how darn limiting this mindset was.
The truth is though, it’s a pretty common justification and not only concerning just providing email, but also not using any form of social media outreach whatsoever.
To some extent, I can see the line of thought behind this decision. When you’re in more traditional industries – ones that rely primarily on contact via phone and have not yet shifted to other forms of communication – there’s a tendency to fear change in terms of how relationships can be developed and managed (we won’t even get into the general stigmas around using email and social networks in this context, as that’s certainly a big barrier for many).
Additionally, if you’re part of a long supply chain, there’s a reliance on long-term relationships, and there’s an understanding that they’re built with the blood, sweat and tears from in-person and phone contact. Connecting digitally or using social media platforms is usually considered to be impersonal and definitely can’t foster long-term strong relationships. Right?
Wrong. This mindset needs to change and it needs to change quickly. Here’s why.
It doesn’t consider the long-term process of building relationships.
Just as people value the above mentioned long-term relationships, they’re forgetting that they’re just that, long-term. Each of those usually involved several points of contact, a mix of different methods of outreach (is a fax more personal than an email?), and an ongoing strengthening of the relationship. They didn’t occur just because someone called. They occurred because an opportunity presented itself and it was nurtured over time. So to have someone’s first point of contact be a phone call or an email is rather inconsequential, wouldn’t you say? It’s the effort you put into the whole process that will make or break the relationship.
It’s a missed opportunity to offer an easy way for customers to reach you, and an easier way for you to address smaller issues.
Essentially, you’re shutting off entire channels of communication for both current and potential customer to reach you. Did you hear that? ENTIRE CHANNELS. That translates into straight numbers. You’re losing potential leads. Period. Some people just plain want to email at first. Would you rather they request a quote from four other competitors that allow them to do so quickly on their website and not request one from you because you made it difficult?
Additionally, some current customers, the ones you already have a relationship with, and the ones whose lives you want to make as easy as possible, might find it so much easier to just contact you via email, or bop you a message on Twitter or something. Why would you want to force anyone to call you every time they need something?
To read more reasons why you shouldn’t limit yourself to one communication channel, head over to B2B Voices.