The contact form on a website is yet another way for people to test whether or not there are real people behind a business. They are hoping that there are, that those people genuinely care about their problem or question, and will respond in a timely and thorough fashion. Sounds like a tall order for a business owner (or whoever it is that writes back to these inquiries) who might be receiving a bunch of these a day. But I believe that a little extra time and attention given to these emails can go a long way toward growing a business and improving on its reputation.
Allow me to tell a story of how website contact forms should not be handled. The other day I was checking my email and had one waiting for me from a company, but I could see that it looked to be an actual personal message written directly to me. So I opened it out of curiosity (usually I would just delete something like this, but for some reason I was intrigued this time). Apparently I had visited their website and had filled out a contact form with some sort of question….IN JULY. I don’t even remember going to the website, let alone what my question was at the time. Now granted, the person who wrote me back did give a detailed response, and was apologetic about the delay. But still. Come on people.
A poor response to a contact form sends some pretty negative messages to customers. It says that a business is disorganized, or doesn’t care, or is overloaded. Any one of these could cause a customer to move on and find another business to fill their needs.
When you take the time to fill out a contact form, you are reaching out to a business with genuine interest in what they do. And usually you are not already a customer of said business, or else you most likely wouldn’t go through their website to contact them.
Which is what makes the contact form/email a perfect moment to shine if you’re the business. It’s the chance to show that person that you care about them and are a friendly, helpful, and REAL person. I know I’ve emphasized the humanity thing a lot this week, but it’s only because I think it is extremely important to people. And the further away one gets from actual reality (face-to-face interactions), the more effort it is going to take to prove to them that a business is real and personable.
When this is done successfully, then people will be willing to take the next step in working with the business. Responses should be informative, attentive, and actually helpful. It’s an opportunity to show potential customers that a business is organized, technologically sound, and excited to possibly work with them. As with all the other forms of customer service, you get out what you put in.